National sow herd has fallen by 5% new figures from the CSO show

The national sow herd in Ireland has dropped by 5% in December 2015 compared to the same month a year earlier, data from the Central Statics Office (CSO) shows.

In total, pig numbers dropped by 31,100 head (2.1%) in December of 2015 on December 2014 levels. This brings the total pig herd in Ireland to just over 1.47m head.

However, despite the fall in the sow herd, there has been a small increase in the number of gilts in pig.

According to the CSO data, the number of gilts in pig in Ireland increased by 1.8% (+600) in December 2015 on 2014 levels.

But, the number of gilts not served had decreased by almost 4%, which is a drop of approximately 600 head between December 2015 and December 2014.

The data also shows that there has been a significant drop in the number of other pigs, or pigs that will be finished for the pork and bacon markets.

The largest drop has occurred in the number of pigs weighing under 20kg, which fell by 7.1% or 31,000 head between December 2015 and December 2014.

Percentage changes in the national pig herd: 
  • Total pig herd: -2.1%
  • Gilts in pig: +1.8%
  • Sow in pig: -5%
  • Gilts not served: -3.8%
  • Pigs 80kg and over: +0.4%
  • Pigs between 50-80kg: -2.2%
  • Pigs between 20-50kg: +3.2%
  • Pigs less than 20kg: -7.1% 

Sow numbers drop as smaller producers quit

The drop in pig numbers is mainly due to high feed costs which is making it difficult for pig farmers to breakeven, according to Teagasc’s Gerard McCutcheon.

The Pig Development Officer said that pig farmers are losing 12c/kg on each pig they produce, due to high feed costs.

Currently, he said the margin over feed is 38c/kg, which is lower than the required 50c/kg to cover costs.

McCutcheon said that the reduced margin over feed means that some pig farmers are losing €9.72 for each pig they producer or the average Irish pig farm will lose €121,500 each year due to feed costs.

It is mainly due to the poor returns to pig producers, but a number of small producers are gone out of business.

“The farmers that are leaving the industry are the smaller operators with approximately 200-300 sows.

“Labour is stretched to the limit on these units as they are not making enough money to cover costs,” he said.

The start of 2016 has also been difficult for many pig farmers due to a further price cut which was introduced two weeks ago. This cut left prices sitting at 135-140c/kg.

At current market prices many pig farmers are losing money as Teagasc figures show that the current cost of production is 158c/kg.

The Truly Irish group, which produces Irish pork and bacon products say that pig farmers are struggling and they have questioned how long farmers can continue to lose €20 on every pig they produce.

CSO pig stats
Source: CSO