UK sow herd shrinking as pig sector left to flounder

The UK pig herd dropped by 22,000 breeding sows final yr in response to the multi-faceted disaster at present gripping the sector.

Trade leaders are warning they count on numbers to proceed to fall over the approaching months.

Regardless of the autumn in sow numbers, Defra’s December 21 Pig Survey exhibits there have been 4.1m pigs on farm at 1 December 2021, which is 9% larger than a yr earlier. 

The variety of fattening pigs on farm rose to three.7m, which is 356,000 greater than have been on farm in December 2020 and the biggest December inhabitants for nearly 20 years.

The survey exhibits the feminine breeding herd stood at 295,000 which is 6.9% decrease than the 317,000 sows recorded in December 2020.

The largest fall was seen within the variety of sows in pig, which dropped by virtually 14% from 233,000 in 2020 to 201,000 in 2021.

See additionally: Pig sector says extension of assist scheme isn’t sufficient

There was additionally a 24% improve in contrast with December 2020 within the variety of pigs classed as “different sows”, which is outlined as pigs that have been both being suckled or dry sows stored for additional breeding.

This indicators that producers have more and more chosen to carry again from breeding.


Zoe Davies, chief govt of the Nationwide Pig Affiliation (NPA), stated the figures have been regarding, however not stunning given the continuing backlog of pigs on farms, report feed prices and falling pig costs.

For the primary half of 2021, producers have been shedding a mean of £25/pig, a determine prone to have grown within the closing quarter.

“These worrying figures spotlight what now we have been saying concerning the want for motion from authorities and the availability chain to forestall a severe and everlasting contraction of the UK pig trade,” she stated.

The NPA estimates that the drop within the variety of breeding sows might truly be as excessive as 30,000 now, with many members reporting they’ve continued to chop herd sizes or eliminate sows to complete for others since 1 December.

“We absolutely count on an extra contraction within the first half of this yr, as for a lot of producers, the state of affairs is just not sustainable.”

The NPA additionally estimates that there are at present 150,000 pigs backed up on farms due to the scarcity of butchers in processing crops.

These are pigs which farmers are having to deal with and feed once they wouldn’t usually must.

In some situations, farmers are additionally having to resort to on-farm culling.

The NPA is pushing Defra secretary George Eustice to convene a roundtable of producers, processors and retailers to attempt to thrash out options which deal with the backlog and assist the sector earlier than it’s too late.

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