BREEDING PIG numbers in the UK fell by a further 10% in the year to June 2005, according to provisional DEFRA figures.
Early results from the June 2005 Pig Survey show the UK breeding herd totalled 463,000 sows and gilts.
In 2001, there were 547,000 head. That means over the past four years numbers have fallen by 16%.
Earlier Meat and Livestock Commission forecasts that clean pig slaughterings in the second half of 2005 would be 3% higher than a year ago may now have to be revised.
Although sow productivity has improved, the June 2005 census has flagged up that 6.2% fewer slaughter pigs will be available between now and the end of the year.
The UK pig herd now accounts for less than 4% of the EU total. But there are signs of an end to the decline in the size of the herd, helped by better EU prices.
EU pigmeat values have also been much more buoyant during the June/July trading period.
The EU pig reference price rose on a weekly basis throughout the June/July period to average €1.48/kg (100p) in early July, 7% up on the beginning of June.
Pigmeat prices in tourist areas such as France and Spain rose by nearly 15% between May and June.
According to the Brussels forecasting group, third-quarter 2005 EU prices are estimated at €1.42/kg, easing back to €1.33/kg for the final quarter.
UK pig prices are however forecast to be higher for the second half of 2005 than a year ago.
On the feed price front, spot and forward quotes remain at moderate levels. Current ex-farm off-the-combine prices of feed wheat are about £61/t and forward prices over the next three month period at no more than £2 – £4/t above this.