New Zealand farming production systems – Pigs

Monday, 8 August 2022

In this section, we look at how pig farming in New Zealand compares with that in the UK.



Compared with beef, sheep and dairy, New Zealand’s pork sector is relatively modest.

Around 620,000 pigs are produced in New Zealand each year, with around two thirds produced in South Island and a third in North Island. The UK pig sector is much larger with pig numbers at around 5 million (2016-2020 average). The New Zealand breeding sow herd is under 29,000 head whereas in the UK, the female breeding herd is over 400,000 head.  

Although New Zealand’s sow productivity (average number of piglets born alive) increased from 11.9 in 2007 to 13.1 in 2017. Sow productivity in Great Britain in 2017 was 12.5 (13 for indoor sows and 11.7 for outdoor sows).

The three main production systems used in New Zealand are:

  • Indoor – the system of choice for many farmers. Pregnant sows are housed in groups but once they have given birth, they are housed individually with their piglets. Different housing systems are used for pigs after weaning.
  • Free farmed – sows and boars live outside for their whole life and are provided with shelter. Individual huts are used for sows to give birth and pigs are raised on bedding in barns after they have been weaned.
  • Free range – similar to free- farmed except newly weaned pigs may be kept in an outdoor, sheltered fenced pen before they are ready to be farmed outdoors full time.

According to the NZ Pork website, ‘As of 2021, 55% of the commercial herd is indoors, 42% are in free farmed systems and 3% are free range.’

In the UK, it is estimated that 40% of sows are kept outdoors. Most outdoor bred piglets are finished indoors in the UK. In 2017, around 13,000 (45%) sows were being farmed outdoors, which is comparable to the proportion kept outside in the UK.

Click below for:

New Zealand production systems - Overview 

New Zealand production systems - Beef and Sheep

New Zealand production systems  - Dairy