Positive gains in breeding herd performance in Q1

Thursday, 4 June 2020

By Felicity Rusk

The latest data from Agrosoft shows that GB breeding productivity improved year-on-year in the 12-months ending March 2020. Improvements in performance, along with a larger breeding herd, are expected to increase supplies this year.

Pigs weaned per sow

The average number of pigs weaned per sow per year increased to 26.22, 0.28 pigs higher than the 12 months to March 2019.


While both indoor and outdoor systems recorded an increase in the number of piglets weaned per sow, the rise was more marked in outdoor systems. In the 12-months to March, the number of pigs weaned per sow per year in outdoor systems averaged 24.30, 0.42 more than the 12-month average at this time last year. This improvement came from a combination of more litters per year and more piglets born in each litter. However, a slight increase in pre-weaning mortality hampered potential gains.


The productivity from indoor sows also improved, with the number of pigs born per sow per year up 0.17 compared to the same point in the previous year. There was a considerable uplift in the number of pigs born alive per litter. However, this was somewhat counteracted by a reduction in the number in of litters per year and a rise in pre-weaning mortality.

A considerable proportion of the gains made in the 12 months to March 2020 were made in Jan-March this year alone. The number of pigs weaned per sow per year was 0.11 more than in the 12-months to December 2019. This was particularly due to an increase in pigs born alive per litter.

Both indoor and outdoor systems recorded improved performance when looking at Q1 alone. Outdoor sow performance was 0.18 higher in the 12-months to March, compared to the 12-months to December, indicating a better herd performance in Q1 this year. Meanwhile, indoor sow performance also recorded a rise, although this was comparatively smaller at 0.06.

Pigs sold per sow

Over the 12 months to March 2020 overall, increases in piglets weaned, as well as a decline in rearing mortality, translated into additional pigs sold. In the 12-months to March 2020, an average of 24.30 pigs were sold per sow per year, 0.39 more when compared to the 12-month average at the same point last year.

However, these improvements were particularly driven by Q2 2019, and more recently, the number of pigs sold per sow has been similar to year earlier levels. Higher rearing and finishing mortality levels have offset increases to the number of pigs weaned. This perhaps reflects the significant disease challenges the UK pig industry faced last year.


Looking ahead, rising numbers of pigs weaned presents the potential for growth in pigs slaughtered per sow in the latter portion of the year. Though of course, this will depend how the rearing and finishing herds perform. Periods of hot weather, as we’ve seen recently, can also have a knock on impact on fertility and productivity; we did see numbers of pigs weaned per sow fall in the months following the hot summer of 2018.

To read more about the latest herd performance and cost of production figures, click here.


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