The latest figures from Defra indicate that production tightened up again in December.
Clean pig slaughterings were 6% behind year earlier levels during the month, totalling 803,300 head. While this will be partially attributable to the extra working day in December 2016, compared to 2017, ongoing problems with plant reliability may have also limited throughputs.
In addition, average carcase weights returned in line with year earlier levels, to 82.3kg, following five months of substantial year on year increases. This might follow from less favourable growing conditions during the month, which perhaps also limited slaughterings somewhat.
The new figures, which include some upward revision to slaughterings in previous months, mean the total clean pig kill for 2017 stood at 10.38 million head, 2% behind the previous year.
Adult sow and boar slaughterings remained behind year earlier levels in December, totalling just 14,100 head, 17% lower year-on-year. The annual decline is partially exaggerated by the extra working day in December 2016. However, reports also suggest producers are increasingly reluctant to process their sows during the holiday period. For the year as a whole, adult pig cullings totalled 228,000 head, 10% fewer than during the previous year.
Altogether, production fell in line with clean pig slaughter during December, declining 6% year on year to 68,200 tonnes. However, if the extra working day in December 2016 is accounted for, the annual decline would be closer to 1%. Annual production therefore totalled 897,900 tonnes, 1% lower than in 2016. This decline was minimised by the notably higher carcase weights recorded earlier in the year.