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Defra reports 'surprising' increase in English pig herd

27th Sep 2016 / By Alistair Driver

The English pig herd grew by 2% to 3.9 million head in the year to June 2016, with the breeding herd increasing by the same percentage, according to the latest Defra pig survey.

AHDB Pork has expressed surprise at the findings, which it suggested contradicted industry reports of tightening supplies.

Defra's reported overall increase to 3,911,000 head of pigs in England on June 1 from 3,826,000 the previous year includes:

  • A 2% increase in feeding pigs to 3,494,000
  • A 2% increase in the female breeding herd to 334,000, with in-pig sows up 3% to 239,000 and in-pig gilts up 2% to 44,000
  • A 4% decrease in maiden gilts to 69,000

pigsThe overall increase followed a decrease in these figures in June 2015, while the numbers are still behind levels recorded in June 2014.

Commenting on the ‘surprising’ figures AHDB Pork, which recently flagged up the prospect of tightening EU supplies in the coming months, seemed unsure of what to make of them.

Tightening supplies

Senior analyst Vikki Campbell said: “The apparent increase comes at a time when industry reports are telling of a tightening of supplies, which has contributed to supporting the pig price, which has been increasing since April.

“Slaughtering figures for the first half of 2016 show that throughputs were only marginally up on 2015 levels, although levelling off more throughout the second quarter. This would further support what the industry is saying, regarding supplies tightening.

“The figures released by Defra would suggest that an increase in slaughterings might be recorded in the second half of the year.”

The 4% per cent decline in the number of maiden gilts suggested producers are not looking to replenish their breeding herds at the same rate, she added.

“Given that sow slaughterings have been up in the first half of 2016, it is somewhat surprising to see an increase in the breeding herd. If correct, Defra figures would suggest that there might be an increase in supplies in the longer term.”

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