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Pig numbers up

The results of the latest census showed an increase in pig numbers in Denmark. Although production is expected to show a small increase in 2014, exports of weaners are likely to be maintained at high levels. A recently published DAFC survey showed that, while most pig meat sold in the UK market originates from independently assured supply chains, significant differences still exist from country to country.

The results of the December pig census showed a modest 1% increase in overall pig numbers in Denmark. Perhaps the most interesting statistic was the 2% increase in the breeding herd and a 10% increase in the numbers of ‘maiden gilts’, which may be an indication that Danish pig farmers now have a more confident view of future market prospects.

Danish pig production was virtually unchanged during 2013 at just over 29 million pigs, and is forecast to grow to 29.4 million in 2014. However, exports of weaners increased to 9.6 million head in 2013 and current forecasts suggest that the total may rise to 10 million head in 2014. Germany remains the principal market for Danish weaner exports but sales to Poland rose significantly during last year, following a significant drop in sow numbers in the country. As a result, the availability of pigs for slaughter in Denmark is expected to fall, albeit modestly, to 18.9 million head in 2014.

There is still much debate about differing pig production standards in the EU Member States. The Danish Agriculture and Food Council recently updated its report, comparing standards among the main pig meat suppliers to the UK market – Denmark, England, Holland and Germany. The report is based upon information in the public domain about pig and pig meat production in these four countries. Most pig meat arriving on the UK market comes from assured farms and production sites, which are subject to independent third-party auditing,

However, there are still significant differences in the approaches adopted in each countries. British producers would highlight welfare standards and the absence of confinement systems for pregnant sows since 1999.Danish producers would point to the action taken to eliminate unnecessary use of antibiotics in pig production and the whole chain approach to control zoonoses, such as salmonella, as well as the stricter environmental legislation applying in their country.

A copy of the report (‘A view of European pig production’) may be downloaded from the DAFC website.