Report shows 8% increase in cost of UK pig meat production

The costs of pig meat production in rose 17 European countries during 2017 according to a new report produced by AHDB Pork.

The latest of the annual reports provides producers with a wealth of information about the country’s technical performance, and enables them to make comparisions with competitors both locally and in other countries.

New to the 2017 report is data from Hungary, which has been included for the first time.

Closer to home, the report shows that the cost of pig meat production in Great Britain increased by 8% in 2017, to £1.37/kg.

The average cost of production in the EU also increased, to £1.36/kg – a 7% increase in sterling terms.

In contrast with 2016, this reflects an increase in the costs of production across all sampled EU countries. Comparing Great Britain’s cost of production with that of one of its main competitors, Denmark’s cost of production during 2017 was a much lower £1.18/kg.

It might go some way in explaining Danish Crown bosses’ disappointment with the performance of its UK arm Tulip, earlier this month.

Pigs weaned per sow increases

The report also shows an increase in surival rates with the overall average number of pigs weaned per sow per year in the 17 countries included in the analysis up nearly a 2%, from 27.32 in 2016 to 27.9 in 2017.

In Great Britain, the increase was slightly greater, at 4%, bringing the average number of pigs weaned per sow per year up to 25.75, overall.

This breaks down to an average of 26.97 pigs in the indoor herd and 23.95 pigs in the outdoor herd. Although still below the national average, British outdoor herds showed the greatest improvement in performance, up 5% compared with 2016.

The lower numbers of pigs weaned per sow per year in all systems in GB is thought to be one of the biggest factors behind the high cost of production.

It compares with Denmark, for example, which had an average of 33.3 pigs weaned per sow per year in 2017. Analysts highlighted that this is area that needs for the UK to be competitive with the rest of Europe.

Narrowing the gap in costs

AHDB Pork’s senior analyst Carol Davis explained that increasing the average number of pigs weaned was likely to a challenge for the industry.

“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,” she said.

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.

“This may be using lower value land for outdoor production, or adopting modern technology to target attention on and selection of individual pigs.”

Steve Dunkley, head of pork knowledge exchange, added: “Significant gains in physical and financial performance could be made by retaining more young sows in the breeding herd.

“Our current Gilt Watch programme, one of AHDB’s Farm Excellence activities, has brought together more than 30 independent producers from both indoor and outdoor units to monitor gilt performance and identify where improvements can be made.

“Through Gilt Watch, we will increase our understanding of why young sows are failing in the first place and share the experiences of those involved, with the ultimate aim of ensuring gilts reach their full lifetime potential.”