The December 2011 census showed a surprisingly large fall in the size of the female pig breeding herd, including in-pig gilts. This was partly offset by a substantial rise in the number of maiden gilts retained for future breeding. Taking these into account, the English breeding herd was unchanged from December 2010. The remaining fall was due to a significant drop in the size of the Scottish breeding herd. However, data from the Scottish assurance scheme suggest that the true position was a much more modest fall in the herd.
This suggests that the true size of the UK breeding herd is still broadly stable. With signs that the financial situation of producers may improve later in the year, the herd size is likely to continue at a similar level over the next 12 months.
Last year, UK clean pig slaughterings were at their highest level since 2002. With the breeding herd stable, the most significant factor in the increase was a significant improvement in sow productivity. The number of pigs slaughtered per sow averaged 21.3 during 2011, up from 20.2 the previous year.
UK clean pig slaughterings in 2012 are forecast to be up by around two per cent compared with 2011, with a similar rise in pig meat production. Slaughterings are expected to be more than two per cent above 2011 levels during the first half of the year and again in the fourth quarter.
May 2012/ Outlook for UK pig meat supplies/ BPEX/ United Kingdom.