Last year's summer sustained heatwave appears to have taken its toll on UK pig herd performance, declining for the first time since 2010.
Breeding herd productivity declined in 2018 for the first time since 2010, and the average number of pigs sold per sow per year fell from 24.09 in 2017 to 23.84 last year.
“This was largely due to a fall in the number of litters per sow per year, from 2.3 to 2.2. This probably reflects poorer fertility levels during the hot summer last year," AHDB analyst Bethan Wilkins said.
“The impact of this was then worsened by a rise in both rearing and finishing mortality. Some anecdotal reports suggest disease levels have been a challenge for the industry.”
The overall decline was driven by the outdoor breeding herd, performance data from Agrosoft shows.
The number of pigs weaned per sow fell from 22.41 to 21.57 (-0.73) for outdoor herds.
Sows produced fewer litters, containing fewer piglets born alive than the year before. Rising rearing and finishing mortality meant pigs sold per sow declined even further (-0.84) to 21.57.
”The challenging weather conditions last year seem to have taken their toll,” Ms Wilkins added.
But indoor herds still managed to achieve a small improvement in performance. Pigs weaned per sow increased from 26.97 to 27.35 (+0.38).
While the number of litters per sow did decline, this was counteracted by increased litter sizes and lower pre-weaning mortality levels.
However, mortality was still higher at later stages, so the increase in pigs sold per sow was smaller (+0.17), reaching 25.41.