Improvements in GB breeding herd faltering

Monday, 8 March 2021

By Felicity Rusk

The latest data from Agrosoft shows that the GB pig breeding herd showed only marginal improvements in the 12-months ending December 2020.

The average number of pigs weaned per sow per year increased to 26.22, 0.11 pigs more than in the 12-months ending December 2019. This equates to roughly one additional piglet for every 9 sows.

These overall gains were made earlier on in 2020. Compared to the 12-months ending September 2020, the number of pigs weaned per sow per year decreased by 0.21 pigs. This indicates that performance in Q4 2021 alone was worse than in Q4 2020.

Both the indoor and outdoor herd saw below year-earlier performance for the Q4 period. However, across the 12 months overall, physical performance actually shows diverging trends in the indoor and outdoor breeding herds. Performance in indoor systems recorded a slight reduction in pigs weaned per sow per year in the 12-months ending December 2020. On average, 27.43 pigs were weaned per sow per year, 0.02 pigs fewer than in the 12-months ending December 2019. This was due to a reduction in litters per sow. An increase in pigs born alive per litter, and some decline in pre-weaning mortality, was able to compensate for the majority of these losses.

Conversely, the outdoor herd recorded an improvement in the number of pigs weaned per sow per year. In the 12-months ending December 2020, on average 24.43 pigs were weaned per sow per year, 0.31 more than in the previous 12 month period. While the outdoor herd also recorded a decline in litters per sow, an increase in pigs born alive resulted in a considerable uplift in performance.

Despite the overall improvement in breeding herd performance in 2020, the faltering picture in the latter part of the year could potentially lead to tightening numbers available for slaughter in the coming months. However, normal slaughter timings were disrupted over the winter, leading to a backlog of pigs on farms. Any previous declines in performance may be more difficult to detect in short-term slaughter numbers, because backed up pigs will need to come through. Of course, numbers available also be depend on performance throughout the rearing and finishing stages.

The latest physical performance data for the GB pig herd can be found on the AHDB website here.


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