Breeding herd performance improves in first quarter

GB breeding herd performance improved in the first quarter of the year, with gains in both indoor and outdoor productivity.

The latest data from Agrosoft shows that in the 12-months ending March 2020 the average number of pigs weaned per sow per year increased to 26.22, a gain of 0.28 pigs on the 12 months to March 2019.

This improved performance, along with a larger breeding herd, is expected to increase supplies this year, said AHDB analyst Felicity Rusk.

While both indoor and outdoor systems recorded an increase in the number of piglets weaned per sow, the rise was more marked in outdoor systems.

The number of pigs weaned per sow per year in outdoor systems averaged 24.30 in the 12-months to March, 0.42 up year-on-year, reflecting more litters per year and more piglets born in each litter. However, a slight increase in pre-weaning mortality hampered potential gains.

The productivity from indoor sows also improved, with the number of pigs born per sow per year up 0.17 compared to the same point in the previous year. There was a considerable uplift in the number of pigs born alive per litter, although this was partly counteracted by a reduction in the number in of litters per year and a rise in pre-weaning mortality.

A considerable proportion of the gains over the 12-month period were made in January-March this year alone, with pigs weaned per sow per year up 0.11 more than in the 12-months to December 2019, due largely to an increase in pigs born alive per litter.

Outdoor sow performance during the quarter was 0.18 higher in the 12-months to March, compared to the 12-months to December, with indoor sow performance up by a marginal 0.06 pigs.

Pigs sold per sow

Over the 12 months to March 2020 overall, increases in piglets weaned, allied with a decline in rearing mortality, translated into an additional 0,39 pigs sold per sow per year on the previous 12 months, taking the average to 24.30 pigs.

However, these improvements were particularly driven by improvements in Q2 2019 – more recently, the number of pigs sold per sow has been similar to year earlier levels. Higher rearing and finishing mortality levels have offset increases to the number of pigs weaned. This perhaps reflects the significant disease challenges the UK pig industry faced last year, Ms Rusk added.

“Looking ahead, rising numbers of pigs weaned presents the potential for growth in pigs slaughtered per sow in the latter portion of the year,” she said.

“Though of course, this will depend how the rearing and finishing herds perform. Periods of hot weather, as we’ve seen recently, can also have a knock on impact on fertility and productivity; we did see numbers of pigs weaned per sow fall in the months following the hot summer of 2018.”

To read more about the latest herd performance and cost of production figures, click here.

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.