The Northern Ireland pig population, at 716,800 head, is the largest on records covering the last decade, according to the Agricultural and Horticultural Board’s (AHDB’s) analysis of recent figures published by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

These figures from the provisional results of the June Agricultural Census 2021 show that the Northern Ireland pig population in the year to June 2021 rose 5%, compared to June 2020, to meet the number aforementioned.

There was also a sizeable 8% increase in the breeding herd, the AHDB notes, with numbers reaching 58,000 head.

This growth in Northern Ireland means the UK population figure is now higher than the original estimate published back in October, the AHDB said.

The UK pig population in June is now reported as 5.32 million head, with a breeding herd of 503,000 (including maiden gilts). The total pig number is about 5% higher than last year, while the breeding pig population is virtually unchanged from 2020.

There are expectations, the AHDB notes, that the UK breeding herd will have gone into contraction in the latter part of the year, though official data supporting this is lacking so far.

This could be as a result of the supply chain issues that lead to a backup of pigs on farms throughout the UK in this period. AHDB analyst Bethan Wilkins said that this rise in population supports the evidence that pig farmers faced these difficulties.