Pig output still languishing

HIGH MORTALITY and disease challenges continue to undermine pig output, despite advances in genetics and breeding techniques, the Meat and Livestock Commission has found.

Analysis of pig output and performance figures for the 1996-2004 period, farrowing index figures, pigs born alive and pigs reared/sow/year have all fallen.

The latest litters/sow/year figure of 2.21 compares with 2.25 in 1996, while pigs born alive has dropped from 10.84 to 10.74 and pigs reared has also fallen from 21.7 to 21.3.

Breeding herd mortality levels have risen from 4% in 1996 to 6.7% in 2004. 

Feed conversion ratio has increased from 2.59 to 2.77, but daily weight gains have improved from 587g to 630g.

Another positive factor is a significant rise in carcass weights, from 66.2kg to 73.7kg.

Signs are also emerging that the effects of PDNS/PMWS are starting to ease, which should help to reduce current high mortality levels.

With feed now accounting for up to 60% of the total cost of producing a kg of pigmeat, lower feed costs will also help boost bottom line returns.

Despite drought in southern Europe, UK feed grain prices have remained generally firm with quotes off the combine ranging from £61–£64/t.

Pigmeat imports remain a major challenge to domestic pig prices and will influence producer returns more than feed price fluctuations and disease challenges.

According to Mike Sloyan, chief executive of the British Pig Executive, 50% of the pork and pork products eaten in the UK are imported.

Two thirds of these imports did not conform to welfare standards required under UK legislation, he added.

These higher standards including the widespread use of straw are estimated to add between 5 – 8p/kg to UK producer costs.

Evidence of the general unprofitability of the industry and negative margins is flagged up by a sharp drop in annual slaughterings. 

At the end of 2004 9.1 million pigs were slaughtered in the UK compared with 14 million ten years earlier.