UK clean pig slaughterings totalled 928,900 head in January, 8% higher than year earlier levels according to latest data from Defra. While the year-on-year increase may be somewhat inflated by the extra working day in the month this year, compared to 2017, the direction of travel is clear.
Throughputs were down on the year last December, despite rising in the previous two months. It may be that plant unreliability and poorer finishing conditions generated a backlog of pigs that have subsequently come through. Nonetheless, according to the latest AHDB forecasts, supplies are expected to remain ample during Q1.
With carcase weights returning to a record average of 85.3kg, overall pig meat production was up ahead of slaughterings at 81,800 tonnes. This was 9% higher than in January 2017. These increasing supplies, coupled with higher production in the EU, have meant pig prices have remained under pressure recently. However, some tightening in supply might be expected as we move into the spring, following difficulties with seasonal infertility last year.
In contrast, sow and boar slaughterings were down on January 2017, dropping 4% to 18,500 head. This was, however, an increase on the previous month as processing returned to a normal schedule. Cull sow prices have dropped back which may be limiting the willingness for producers to replace sows at present.