Scottish pig sector output dropped 2.5% in 2013

Despite significant industry restructuring, Quality Meat Scotland’s 2014 Scottish Red Meat Industry Profile reports that output from the pig sector North of the Border contracted by only 2.5% in 2013 as producers were able to find a better return from the marketplace.

Output from pig farming fell to £82mn, and its share of overall agricultural production fell slightly to 2.5%.

December’s census figures indicate that, following two years of considerable decline, the Scottish sow herd grew slightly in 2013. Numbers increased by about 400 head to 28,500 head – a gain of nearly 1.5%. Nevertheless, compared with December 2010, the breeding herd was more than a quarter smaller; on the decade, it was down by 42%.

With some optimism returning to the sector at the end of 2013 as producer prices reached record levels and feed costs fell sharply, the number of gilts retained for future breeding rose 14% year-on-year to 5,900 head; an eight-year high.

However, the total number of pigs in Scotland in December 2013 decreased by 30,600 head (9.5%) to 293,500 head. This was due to the increased export of live weaner pigs from Scotland to English farms.

North-east Scotland is home to the vast majority of the country’s sows. However, industry restructuring saw the region’s share of the national herd fall by three percentage points to 60% in 2013. The region lost 3,000 sows, taking numbers down to 17,200 head. By contrast, there was some expansion of sow numbers in the South-west region.

In the North-east, the average holding kept 156 sows in June 2013 – three times the national average. The average North-east holding kept 628 fattening pigs compared with a national average of 222. Both statistics reflect the concentration of commercial pig production in this area of Scotland.

Pig production remains highly concentrated within a small number of businesses. In 2013, just 11% of holdings with breeding female pigs accounted for 92.5% of the sow herd, while 97.5% of fattening pigs lived on only 15% of holdings.

The number of pigs slaughtered at Scottish abattoirs has been significantly affected by industry restructuring in recent years. Whereas the addition of a slaughtering plant in September 2011 boosted production as fewer pigs needed to be transported to England for slaughter, this reversed in the final quarter of 2012 when the largest abattoir ceased operating, leaving production about half its previous level. The total number of clean pigs killed at Scottish abattoirs during 2013 was 299,400 head, 48.5% lower than in 2012.

The full report can be downloaded in PDF format from the link below.

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