120,000 sows in outgoers scheme

By Peter Crichton

THE pig outgoers scheme is reported to have attracted bids of over 120,000 sow places which are being taken out of the system for a minimum of 10 years.

According to applicants in the scheme, most will be decommissioning their units on a permanent basis, and these are unlikely to be used for pig breeding in the future.

Mk 2 of the outgoers scheme closes on 20 April and could lead to a further 30,000 to 50,000 sow places being decommissioned.

Further falls in the size of the UK herd will also have serious implications for the slaughtering sector.

Three years ago the UK had capacity for over 300,000 pigs/week, and this figure has dropped by a third.

Those pig abattoirs currently working for the Intervention Board under the welfare slaughter scheme will be looking for more stock once this work comes to an end.

Export-oriented abattoirs will also find it hard to operate until the UK has its export status restored, which could come too late for many plants who need high throughputs to cover their fixed costs.

As a result, some abattoirs will be forced to shut up shop and redundancy notices have already been served.

To date, the welfare slaughter scheme has accounted for 106,000 pigs in total, with reports of a huge backlog of cull sows and boars which are currently almost impossible to shift on the home market.

Former export abattoirs are quoting 35p/kg (export spec) for sows and there are long waiting lists. This values the average sow at just 40 after deductions.

Welfare scheme prices for sows and boars are a flat rate net payment of 75/head but Intervention Board officials are telephoning producers to advise that they can only take pigs from units where there are welfare related problems backed up by a vet report.

Pig producers with stock entered under the welfare scheme are part of a queue of 1.2 million animals, with sheep accounting for an estimated 75% of the total.

High payments offered to sheep and cattle producers have also added to the waiting list and the difficulty of finding enough disposal sites for the slaughtered animals have reduced throughput under the scheme.

When the welfare scheme was launched three weeks ago a 350,000 all-species weekly target was set. To date only 300,000 animals have been slaughtered.

  • Peter Crichton is a Suffolk-based pig farmer offering independent valuation and consultancy services to the UK pig industry


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