UK pig population: lowest in over a decade

Monday, 18 December 2023

Key points:

  • Total pig numbers at lowest since 2012
  • A fall in the number of fattening pigs has driven the year-on-year decline in the total population
  • The breeding pig population has remained relatively stable, supported by growth in the numbers of gilts in pig and gilts intended for first time breeding


The latest Defra figures show that at 01 June 2023 the UK pig population stood at 4.68 million head. This is a year on year decline of 10.3%, a loss of over half a million animals (537,000), and is the smallest pig population recorded in the UK since 2012.

The drop in the total pig population has been driven by a substantial fall in the numbers of fattening pigs, unsurprising given the size of decline seen in the breeding herd last year and the negative impacts the summer 2022 heatwave had on fertility. Fattening pigs are at the lowest number since 2015, at 4.26 million head, a fall of 11.2% compared to June last year. These figures support the historically low slaughter throughputs being seen in 2023, with year to date (Jan – Nov) clean pig kill sitting 9.1% behind numbers recorded last year.

However, the total breeding pig population has seen minimal change, down only 0.2% in 2023 vs 2022, with numbers totalling 428,000 head. Within the category, movements have been mixed. The overall female breeding herd saw a relatively small decline of 1.5% to total 338,000 head, with sows in pig down 3.6% year-on-year but gilts in pig up a significant 13.0%. Boars being used for service recorded a loss of 5.4% year-on-year, but the number of gilts intended for first time breeding grew by 6.5%.

The increase of gilts in pig and the number of gilts intended for first time breeding shows signs of improved industry sentiment, likely in part due to improved farm margins. While this may indicate cautious growth for some producers, we do not expect to see the industry bouncing back to the heights of 2021 in terms of pig numbers, throughputs or production. We will delve deeper into future forecasts in our 2024 Market Outlook in the new year.

UK pig population at 01 June

Bar and line graph showing the UK pig population split by fattening pigs and female breeding pigs

Source: Defra

Image of staff member Freya Shuttleworth

Freya Shuttleworth

Senior Analyst (Livestock)

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