Defra survey records 3% rise in English pig herd

Thursday, 5 March 2020

By Felicity Rusk

According to Defra, English pig numbers as at 1 December totalled 3.78 million head. This was around 3% higher compared with December 2018, and is apparently the largest December pig herd since 2007.

Pig census results should always be viewed with caution, as trends are not always reflected in slaughter levels. Nonetheless, we do believe that pig numbers have been growing. England pig slaughter levels across December and January were 6% higher than year-earlier levels. However, our weekly slaughter estimates suggest the pace of growth has dropped back since then.

The number of female pigs in the English breeding herd totalled 320,000 head, 1% less than the previous year. However, this is driven by an unusually large (12%) decline in the number of ‘other sows’, which are classed as suckling/dry sows.

We believe there has been expansion in the UK breeding herd overall, but particularly in Scotland, so growth in England may not be so pronounced. A sharp rise in the production of breeding pig feed also points to herd expansion. In the census, in-pig sows, in-pig gilts and maiden gilts did all record an increase in numbers compared to the previous year.

The better financial positions of producers would be expected to allow expansion in some areas. Furthermore, optimism about the outlook, particularly in regards to the Chinese protein deficit may also be influencing producer intentions. 



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