According to the latest figures from Statistics Denmark, the number of pigs in Denmark on 1 October 2018 was 2.3% above year earlier levels, at 13 million head. Although the herd is still in growth, this represents a decrease in the rate of expansion since the July census, when the total pig herd had grown 3.3% on 2017.
This was driven by continued slowing in growth of the sow herd during the year, reduced to just 1.4% above year earlier levels in Q4. In the July census, the stock of in-pig sows was up 2.7% on the year, now reduced to a 1.2% increase on the year. For the first time, in-pig gilts stock was unchanged compared to a year ago, whilst the stock of maiden gilts was reduced by 6.7%.
Compared with the same period in 2017, there were more growing pigs in Denmark in October this year. Piglets were up 3.3%, young pigs under 50kg up 2.5% and pigs for slaughter over 50kg up 2.1%. These year-on-year changes, however, follow the trend seen with the sow herd and were lower than in the previous census, particularly for the pigs for slaughter over 50kg, which recorded a 4.8% rise on the year rise in July.
The slowdown in growth of the herd is not surprising considering that pig prices in all major EU producing countries have been on a general downwards trend since the middle of last summer when the EU average pig reference price peaked.
Contrary to the other major European pig producing countries, however, the Danish pig herd continues to grow. As a key supplier of pig meat to the UK, any changes in the market there will have an effect on both UK and wider European markets.