Danish sow herd remains above 2020

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Provisional figures from the 1 April pig census show that the number of pigs in Denmark had increased compared to the same point last year. The total number of pigs was 13.2 million head, an increase of 3%. This continues a trend that began towards the end of 2019.

There was an upwards trend in the breeding herd (+1%), driven by an increase in the number of gilts intended for breeding (+4%). The number of in-pig sows was stable, though there was a small increase in the number of in-pig gilts (+1%). Altogether, this suggests expansion of the Danish herd is still underway, with the potential to boost supplies going forward. Breeding pig numbers have been falling in Germany and the Netherlands, both key producers in Northern Europe. Any expansion in production from Denmark would act to compensate for losses elsewhere.

By now, the heaviest pigs recorded in the survey will have already been slaughtered. Pig slaughter in Denmark has been 10% higher than year earlier levels for the year so far, reflecting the significant growth in slaughter pig numbers recorded in the census. This was probably influenced by lower live exports to Germany as well as previous challenges with slaughter capacity. The number of young pigs was also somewhat higher than last year (+2%), likely a reflection of previous breeding herd growth. We would therefore expect production to remain higher in the short-term, though perhaps not to the same extent as earlier in the year.

Interestingly, the number of piglets was stable. Although the breeding herd was larger, this growth was primarily from gilt numbers and the number of lactating sows was the same as last year. So, while there might be long-term potential for slaughter growth, in the medium-term, there may be a more stable period once the larger number of older pigs has been worked through.

Throughout 2021 so far, the Danish pig reference price has increased from around €143/100kg to nearly €175/100kg by the end of May. Such price growth while slaughter levels have been strong points to robust demand for Danish pork. Access to the Chinese market, and tighter supplies elsewhere in Europe, have likely facilitated this. With supply growth not looking as strong for the coming months, this could lend further support to prices moving forwards.

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