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Home > News > PIG round-up: Improving market boosts producer confidence but wet weather hampers production on farms

PIG round-up: Improving market boosts producer confidence but wet weather hampers production on farms

20th Mar 2024 / By Alistair Driver

While producers around the country are feeling more confident on the back of much-improved market conditions, the relentless wet weather has caused significant problems on farms, according to the NPA’s Pig Industry Group (PIG).

PIG mar 24The new-look and streamlined PIG met for the first time since the NPA elections in London last week, discussing a wide-range of topics. 

During the regional and allied industry round-up, one topic dominated. “Wet,” was the one-word assessment from a producer in the south.

A producer representative in the east of the country added: “Wet. Very wet. Straw supplies are running out now as people are using more straw, especially on outdoor units. I think there’s going to be a shortage before harvest, and prices are going to go high, which will present challenges for outdoor producer and agisters.”

He said there were also reports of health problems caused by the wet weather, including sow fertility issues on the outdoor side. “Feed usage is through the roof – producers are having to use 10% more feed for sows to achieve the same results due to poorer sow condition,” he said.

Representatives in other parts of the country highlighted similar problems.

Better outlook

There is no doubt, however, that producers’ outlooks are shifting, given the sustained high prices seen for the past 18 months or so, combined with falling feed prices.  “There is optimism around prices, but a little bit of nervousness about where the contractual practice review is going to take us,” one producer said.

The buildings and equipment representative said the market was ‘just starting to pick up’. “There seems to be a bit more confidence among producers. Some of the long-term plans that were delayed and held back have come back into place, Generally, it’s going in the right direction. The biggest discussion point is still around farrowing systems,” he said.

He added that the market for building material products had come down and stabilised, after a period of drastic increases and volatility, which made it a lot easier to budget.

The feed industry representative said cereal and soya prices had ‘dropped quite dramatically’, which is helping feed prices, but she highlighted concerns over sustainable soya assurance, and uncertainty over what will and will not be allowed by the supply chain according to various commitments being made and new EU and domestic legilsation, which is affecting forward purchases of the protein.

A northern producer representative pointed out, however, that a lot of people bought forward ‘to harvest and beyond’ when feed wheat dipped below £200/tonne. It has been around the £150-160/t- mark in recent months.

“So, the advantage of lower raw material prices won’t come through for everybody right away,” he said. “But there is more optimism over prices.”

The marketing representative reiterated that some people have locked into higher feed prices, so are not seeing significantly lower feed costs.

“There is a lot of chat about reinvestment and the amount of money required to do it, which, in turn, is raising questions over some producers’ commitment to the industry.

“There are also lots of questions about contract regulations – whether we want them, when we will see them and what will be in them – and concern about health, especially swine dysentery,” he said.

“Various units have had production problems, so many people believe the market is going to go short soon, which would mean prices will go up, especially as the gap between EU and UK pig prices narrows.”

The veterinary representative said swine dysentery was proving hard to clear up for some producers, while there is also ‘a bit of flu about’.

She also highlighted how the two-year extension to zinc oxide products already in the system granted by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate in June 2022 is about to end. The VMD has told the Pig Veterinary Society that zinc will not be allowed to be made into feed and kept for a further three months after June 2024, a possibility that was being discussed previously.  

Also discussed at PIG

Other topics discussed at PIG included the risk posed by African swine fever (ASF), particularly in light of Defra funding cuts for checks of illegal imports, the latest on Defra’s review of contractual practice in the pig industry, the future of farrowing systems and the review of farm assurance schemes in the UK. 

The new PIG


  • Joe Dewhirst, Yorkshire (PIG chair)
  • Fred Allen, Nottinghamshire
  • Tom Allen, Oxfordshire
  • Ash Gilman, Cranswick, national
  • Robin Lawson, Suffolk
  • Rob Mutimer, Norfolk
  • Phil Stephenson, Yorkshire
  • John Stockings, Oxfordshire
  • Sam Ward, Lincolnshire.

Allied industry:

  • Oliver Bown, Thames Valley Cambac (Marketing/processing) (PIG vice-chair)
  • Andy Hall, AM Warkup (Buildings/equipment)
  • Michelle Sprent, Premier Nutrition (Nutrition/feed)
  • Gemma Thwaites, Garth Pig Practice (Health).