Defra figures show English pig herd growth in year to June

The total number of pigs in England grew by around 5% to approximately 4.23 million head in the year to June, according to provisional figures for the England June Agricultural Census.

While there is little change in the breeding herd pig numbers, the growth in these provisional figures is driven by a 6.1% increase in fattening sows to 3.84m. Sow and gilts in-pig were somewhat lower, but maiden gilt numbers were higher.

AHDB is, however, advising some caution over interpreting the June Census results. “However, the increase in fattening pig numbers this year would help explain why we seem to have difficulties with pigs backed up on farm and processing capacity challenges, despite numbers coming through since June being similar to last year,” AHDB analyst Bethan Wilkins said.

“The breeding herd results don’t clearly point towards herd contraction, which is the general expectation at present due to poor profitability and succession concerns. Indeed, maiden gilt numbers were actually higher than in the past couple of years.

“Nonetheless, it may be that more contraction has happened since the June survey took place, as the challenges faced by the industry have increased since then. If so, we might expect to see a lower breeding herd number by the time of the December census, ultimately constraining production in the latter part of 2022.”

Final numbers, and results for other UK regions, will be released in the coming weeks and months.

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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.