A spot of bother in pigs

By Peter Crichton

ONE of the big problems faced by non-contract “spot” abattoirs in the UK is the sheer shortage of pigs on offer.

Recent slaughter statistics are pointing to a weekly kill of under 200,000 head, and the trend is still downwards.

The reasons can be traced back over the past five years according to pig analysts.

In May 1998 the Malton decision to move away from an All Average Pig Price heralded the start of a sharp drop in UK pig prices.

The AAPP fell from a high of 140p/kg in the spring of 1996 to a low of 68p/kg three years later, a reduction of 48%.

Consultants Signet have reported that the weekly kill dropped from 310,000 pigs in 1996 to 195,000 now.

Over the same period, producers reduced herd sizes or re-served older sows, leading to a significant reduction in the UK breeding herd.

A further blow arrived almost two years ago, in the form of the deadly viruses PDNS and PMWS. Having spread to many parts of the UK, it is hitting output by about 20% on affected units, with mortality as high as 40% on severely affected farms.

In April 2000, the then Minister of Agriculture Nick Brown announced the Pig Industry Restructuring Scheme.

This provided almost 56 million for producers to either restructure their business under the Ongoers Scheme, or leave the industry for a minimum of 10 years under the Outgoers Scheme.

DEFRA (MAFF) have reported that the Outgoers Scheme has been heavily overscribed with an estimated 127,000 sow places being taken out of production.

Because of these trends, pig industry consultants are pointing to a further downturn in the number of finished pigs produced in the UK, for the next two years at least.

As a result, several of the major UK abattoirs are offering some attractive contracts to secure pig supplies for up to three years.

Many abattoirs have also looked at increasing the top weight ceiling on their contracts to 85kg deadweight, with tolerance up to 90kg.

Providing that probe levels can be lifted to 14mm, these new contracts look attractive, and are starting to line up with abattoir specifications in many other EU countries.

The trend continues for producers and abattoirs alike to “lock in” to future supplies, rather than to chase their requirements on a weekly “spot” basis.

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


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