British pig farmers need to focus on improving the number of pigs weaned per sow per year in order to be competitive with their counterparts in Europe.
The cost of pig meat production in Great Britain increased by eight per cent in 2017 to £1.37p/kg, with the average in the EU up at £1.36p/kg, according to AHDB’s annual Pig Cost of Production in Selected Countries report.
EU average 1.36
We could perhaps omit the EU average and Ireland if we don’t have space
And in 2017, pig producers in the UK were among the most profitable, with margins estimated at 16p/kg, with the EU average just 7p/kg. But the financial positions of producers across all countries will have worsened more recently.
In the week ended November 24, the EU-spec SPP fell 0.05p/kg to 143.52p/kg, the lowest weekly price since October 2016.
Bethan Wilkins, AHDB analyst, said: “Pig prices have also declined sharply across the globe, meaning many producer margins will have weakened during 2018, with some likely starting to lose money.”
While the number of GB pigs weaned per sow per year increased by four per cent to 25.75, this fell well below the Danish level of 33.3 pigs, which was reflected in a 0.19p/kg lower cost of production in Denmark.
The UK has a significant proportion of pigs kept outdoors, but the lower numbers of pigs weaned per sow per year in all systems was a major cause of the relatively high cost of production.
The UK’s outdoor herds showed the greatest improvement in performance, up five per cent at 23.95 pigs compared with 2016, with indoor pigs at an average of 26.97 pigs.
AHDB Pork’s senior analyst Carol Davis said: “While our improvements have been driven by a combination of increased number of finished pigs at increasing carcase weights, the greatest challenge for our pig industry is maximising the number of pigs weaned per sow per year, whatever the system.
“We have a challenge competing like-for-like with some of our global competitors, therefore we need to look for more novel innovations to lower our cost of production."
She suggested this may include using lower-value land for outdoor production, using technology to target attention and selection of individual pigs and retaining more young sows in the breeding herd.