Scots sow numbers rose 12.5% last year

Sow numbers in Scotland increased by 12.5% last year, taking total numbers to 37,300 head, according to a  report published today by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).

The increase, set alongside a 9,000 head rise in total pig numbers to 331,000, lifted the pig industry’s contribution to Scotland’s agricultural output to 3.1%, up from 2.5% in each of the previous two years. This compares with a pig sector contribution to total output of 4.9% in the UK and 9.6% in the EU.

Overall, the newly issued “Scottish Red Meat Industry Profile” records production growth trends for beef and pig herds and a slight decline for the country’s sheep flock. It also highlights the impact of falling prices at a producer level, stating that the farming of cattle, sheep and pigs made a smaller contribution to Scotland’s economic output in 2015 than in the previous 12 months.

“Excluding subsidy payments, combined output from the three species fell by 1.5% to £1.18bn,” it is stated. “Since overall agricultural output contracted more significantly, however, livestock production still increased its share of the total by a 1%, finishing the year on 40%.”

The 40-page report includes detailed statistics on each sector, with the pig industry analysis highlighting the fact that Scottish pig production is highly concentrated in the north east of the country.

While the Scottish average herd size is 63.5 sows, for example, the north east average is 201.5. The report also records that just 13% of Scottish holdings with breeding female pigs accounted for 94% of the sow herd in 2015, while 98% of fattening pigs lived on only 15.5% of holdings.

As for the sector’s financial performance, the report states that prime pig producer prices fell sharply last year, averaging 17% less than in 2014.

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