Defra June Survey 2014 (BPEX 'Assuming the survey figures are accurate')

The June survey from Defra for 2014 reports that the UK pig population is shrinking. Although the BPEX Pig Market Weekly (PMW) reports this fact it includes in the PMW the comment (assuming the June survey figures are accurate). Perhaps BPEX should talk to Defra as making assumptions is not exactly precision farming and we are currently meant to be 'Going for Growth'.

The current productive sow population made up of sows and gilts in-pig and other sows (I assume that are lactating, wean to serve or awaiting cull) is reported in the survey to be 329000. The break down is 70%, 14% and 16% respectively. This equates to 230300 pregnant sows, 46060 pregnant gilts and 52640 sows suckling awaitng service or the cull wagon. If the cull rate is a generous 50% then the numbers of sows awaiting the cull wagon in this sample (a snap shot on a given day) is likely to be around 450. If the pregnant gilts are taken out of the population count because they are replacement animals this leaves a productive sow population of 282490. The percentage share of this in terms of the future herd (replacement gilts) is 16.3% taken on single day. The current average turnover of the herd is 2.27 litters/sow/year (L/S/Y) this would calculate up into a replacement rate of 37.0%. if the herd continues to shrink at the reported rate of 5.3% then this would increase the replacement rate (if gilts continue to come in at the present rate) by 2%. Within the average 2.27 LSY a minimum of 25% of all culls will be in the first two parities. This means that 39% of replacements will have left the herd before the year is out.

Assuming the the June survey figures are accurate. The national herd is effectively replacing the productive sow population at an annual rate of less than 40%...this is alomost 20% short of where the UK industry needs to be if it is to 'Go for Growth' standing still (not continuing to shrink). It could be argued that going for growth is trying to get 3 more pigs/sow/year that are healthy and more feed efficient to better utilize the finishing UK places. These places are being either made redundant or freed up by the decline in production for use to raise heavier pigs. To achieve this 'growth' producers need first of all, to be establishing the principles of a more foundational approach to productive sow replacement. The failure to do this is leading to a decline in the UK population.

There are a lot of initiatives currently involving restructuring the executive, workshop roadshows, tendering for funded trial work, promoting exports etc. These are neccessary for a vibrant progressive industry that is growing BUT 'assuming the June survey figures are accurate'...these could seem like a bit of fiddling while Rome burns.


I have highlighted the BPEX PMW questioning of the survey 'assuming the June figures are accurate'. I think BPEX are correct in questioning the survey insomuch as IF the weekly slaughterings for week 44 are annualized and the survey current annual decrease in population taken into account along with the UK average pigs sold/sow/year the population of productive sows should be nearer 370000. The survey appears to be 40000 sows short. This doesn't change the fact that something more fundamental than tinkering needs to take place.

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