Government urged to act as UK sow herd shrinks by 22,000

Government urged to act as UK sow herd shrinks by 22,000

The National Pig Association (NPA) has renewed calls for action after the latest Defra pig survey revealed the UK sow herd lost 22,000 pigs in the past year.

Defra’s December 2021 survey data has revealed the female breeding herd in England stood at 295,000, compared with 317,000 in December 2020 and 313,000 in June 2021, representing a 7% year-on-year decline.

The reduction was driven by a 14% fall in the number of sows in pig to just 201,000, down from 233,000 in December 2020.

The NPA said that an increase in the number of ‘other sows’, which included sows being kept for further breeding, suggested that in some cases where sow numbers are not being reduced producers are holding back on breeding.

However, overall pig numbers on farms in England at the end of 2021 were significantly up on the year, at 4,087,000, compared with 3,748,000 in December 2020, a 9% increase. NPA said that this was driven by a 10.6% increase in fattening pigs, meaning there were 356,000 more fattening pigs on farm than a year ago.

Figures “not remotely surprising”

The NPA said that the latest figures, while concerning, “are not remotely surprising, given what producers have been enduring with the ongoing backlog of pigs on farms caused by shortages of butchers in pork plants, combined with record feed costs and falling pig prices.”

NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies said: “These worrying figures highlight what we have been saying about the need for action from government and the supply chain to prevent a serious and permanent contraction of the UK pig industry.

“We fully expect a further contraction in the first half of this year, as for many producers, the situation is simply not sustainable.”

Davies said that the sector needed more support from government to reduce the backlogs, and that current measures were making minimal impact on the situation. She added that NPA will continue to request that Defra Secretary George Eustice convenes a roundtable of producers, producers and retailers “to try and thrash out solutions before it’s too late for the British pig sector.”

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