Improved GB breeding herd performance contributing to higher pig numbers

The physical performance of the British breeding improved over the summer, contributing to higher pig production.  

For the 12 months to September 2021, the number of pigs weaned per sow per year in Britain averaged about 26.75, up 0.3 pigs more than in the previous 12-month period and the highest level on record, going back to 2009, according to the latest Agrosoft data.

This improvement came from a breeding sow herd that was relatively stable, AHDB analyst Bethan Wilkins said.

The indoor herd average reached 28, up 0.3 compared with the 12-months to September 2020. It was also over 0.4 more than the 12-months to June 2021, showing that performance in the most recent Q3 period was greater than during the same quarter last year, Ms Wilkins added.

It was a similar picture for the outdoor herd, although the performance improvements were milder. The average for the 12-months to September 2021 stood at 24.8, an increase of about 0.2 compared to both the previous year and the 12-months to June.

GB average pigs weaned per sow per year over time

Rising numbers of pigs born alive per litter have been primarily responsible for the increasing numbers of pigs weaned.

In the 12 months to September 2021, indoor herds recorded an average of 14.2 born alive per litter and outdoor herds averaged 12.6. Looking at an overall average, this was an increase of about 0.2 pigs per litter compared to the 12 months to September 2020. The latest figures are a record high.

GB average pigs born alive per litter over time

With the British pig sector continuing to face high feed costs and difficulties getting pigs to slaughter on time, it is expected that sow numbers will have noticeably declined in the second half of this year.

However, this is likely to be countered by the improved productivity in terms of the impact on slaughter pig availability, Ms Wilkins said.

“This will be supporting the number of slaughter pigs available this winter. Performance improvements would normally be positive for pig producers, but limits to processing capacity further up the supply chain means these gains have likely contributed to the challenges dealing with the numbers of live pigs available. The number of breeding sows in the UK was relatively stable in June,” she said.

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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.