AHDB Pork said that UK clean pig slaughterings in January totalled 935,800 head, around 2.5% above the same month in 2018. Finished pig numbers picked up following a slow end to 2018, perhaps influenced by fewer pigs pulled forward for Christmas last year.
The number of pigs killed in England and Wales in January increased by almost 3% while in Northern Ireland throughputs were up a more modest 1.5%. In contrast, slaughterings in Scotland decreased by just under 1% compared to the same month last year.
Bethan Wilkins, a market intelligence analyst at AHDB, said the average clean pig carcase weight in January was recorded at 83.9kg, which is 1.4kg lower than year-earlier levels.
“This rather contrasts with weights recorded in the AHDB SPP and APP samples which have been some of the heaviest on record,” Ms Wilkins said. “A change to the makeup of the Defra carcase weight sample has likely influenced this significant year-on-year decline.”
Adult pig slaughterings in the first month of the year totalled 24,500 head, over 14% higher than January 2018 levels, which were already elevated. Although GB cull sow prices are not available, trends in the EU sow market suggest the GB sow price will have remained low in the first weeks of the year.
Ms Wilkins added: “As such, the high slaughter may reflect producers now scaling back herds due to the poor financial conditions. Some may also be culling early in anticipation of the potential for a no-deal Brexit to devalue sow carcases.
“Combining these factors meant Defra recorded pig meat production for the month at 82,000 tonnes. This was up 1.5% on the previous year’s level, though the relatively low carcase weight may mean this growth is understated.”