Scottish pig herd now declining

As at 1 June, the Scottish pig herd stood at just under 326 thousand head according to data released by the Scottish Government. This represented a 1% decline on the year earlier and is the first time the Scottish herd has fallen since 2013.

The breeding herd grew by 3.5% year-on-year, to 32 thousand head. Within this, the number of sows in-pig was 3% (0.6 thousand head) higher than the same time last year, at 22 thousand head. Growth was also driven by a 15% (0.7 thousand head) rise in the number of gilts in-pig, to 5 thousand head. This might imply that retention rates have been increasing, perhaps encouraged by improved producer profitability this year. However, the number of maiden gilts fell by 10% (0.4 thousand head), to just under 4 thousand head, inferring that the breeding herd might be expected to stabilise, or even contract, moving forwards.

Despite the expanding breeding herd, the number of feeding pigs decreased by 2% to 288 thousand head, with those between 20kg and 50kg recording the largest decrease (-4%) year-on-year. While smaller in absolute terms, the number of finishing pigs 80kg and over also noticeably declined (-4%) on a year earlier, although the other categories remained virtually stable. These declines may impact the slaughter volumes over the coming months when compared to year earlier levels. Looking forwards, the expansion in the breeding herd might suggest more pigs could start coming forwards next year, although this could be tempered in the longer term if the decline in maiden gilt numbers continues.

The provisional UK June survey results were published earlier this month. The final UK figures are due to be published on 21 December.

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