NI pig numbers up, boosting overall UK population

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

By Bethan Wilkins

The latest figures published by DAERA report a 5% increase in pig numbers in the year to June 2021. At 716,800 head, this is the largest population on records covering the last decade.

There was also a sizeable 8% increase in the breeding herd, with numbers reaching 58,000 head.

The growth in the NI pig population means the UK population figure is now higher than the original estimate published back in October. The UK pig population in June is now reported as 5.32 million head, with a breeding herd of 503,000 (including maiden gilts). The total pig number is about 5% higher than last year, while the breeding pig population is virtually unchanged from 2020.

As in the rest of the UK, the strong pig population figures come despite high feed prices throughout 2020. There are expectations that the UK breeding herd will have gone into contraction in the latter part of the year, though official data supporting this is lacking so far.

Looking at UK clean pig slaughter numbers from June-November, numbers were only 2.5% higher than year earlier levels. We always urge caution over interpreting the census results, as the figures are not always borne out in subsequent slaughter levels. Nonetheless, there have clearly been difficulties in recent months with live pig supplies outpacing the rate of slaughter, and the strong increase in pig numbers seen in the June survey supports this.

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