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Baby it's Cold Outside

3rd Mar 2018 / By Peter Crichton

The recent spell of arctic weather conditions has played havoc with the pig market and also put farmers and hauliers under pressure, but for those who were able to trade pigs prices were generally firm, despite the SPP slipping by 0.41p to stand at 145.66p. 

However, across the Channel European pigmeat prices are continuing to rise with the German producer price adding another 5 Cents in its recent surge, which over the last five weeks has seen the price rise from 1.30 EUR to 1.55 EUR, which works out at 138.4p in our money. 

Spot buyers are also painting a slightly better picture as far as sales are concerned with legs moving up in price and several empty shelves following the spell of winter weather waiting to be filled. 

As a result, spot bacon was reported to be trading in the 136p – 138p/kg region, which ties in with most weekly contribution prices which have stayed around the 137p/kg mark in the main. 

Improvements in European prices will be music to the frozen ears of UK producers and have narrowed the gap between UK and EU pigmeat values. 

Cull sow prices have also reflected firmer European pigmeat values with export abattoirs lifting their bids by around 2p/kg and prices are in the 74p – 77p/kg range according to spec. 

A firmer Euro has also helped the trading front worth 89.26p at noon on Friday compared with 88.03p a week ago. 

However, UK cull sow prices are still lagging well behind their German counterparts and further rises should be on the cards in this sector. 

The recent winter weather has, however, put a fairly big spanner in the works as far as weaner movements are concerned with finishers unable to take in full numbers of replacement pigs, with transport and abattoir problems slowing down the cycle. 

But the latest AHDB 30kg ex farm average of £50.18/head could rise in the weeks ahead and the 7kg ex farm average of £36.85/head has remained at similar levels on the week. 

As previously, there is still a fairly wide gap between spot and contract weaner prices and for those finishers prepared to take a bit of a punt, now might be the time to start filling those empty pens. 

Protein prices have however risen significantly with 48% soya meal ex-Liverpool traded at £355/t compared with £304/t at the start of the year and 34% rape meal ex-Kent is also on an upward track trading close to £190/t. 

Global grain prices are painting something of a mixed picture with UK and Paris futures up on the week due to concerns over the weather and on the UK LIFFE futures market, May feed wheat was trading firmer at £143/t and January 2019 at £148.65/t. 

Time spent in the farm office (where it is warmer too) studying grain and oilseed markets is generally well spent and, although pig prices will always continue on their rollercoaster basis, risks can be reduced by astute forward buying of feed. 

And finally, spare a thought for all pig producers, especially those with outdoor herds, during these arctic weather conditions where much of the time is spent carting lumpy water (ice) to thirsty stock and the heroic efforts of livestock and feed lorry drivers to get their 40t trucks to off lying pig units to ensure that pigs get feed and are moved. 

A huge responsibility and we are lucky to have drivers and workers who are prepared to get the work done, whatever the weather. 

Dean Martin