EFFORTS to increase the size of the British pig herd are being stepped up as new figures showed a fall in numbers.
The British Pig Executive (Bpex) is introducing the Breed +3 initiative to help each herd wean an extra three pigs per sow each year.
It said British pig producers are efficient at finishing pigs but are not producing enough, and despite some progress, there is still a big gap between Britain and the rest of Europe.
Bpex added that because around 40% of the British breeding herd is outdoors, the industry average is not perfectly comparable with other EU countries.
However, the number of pigs born and weaned in the UK has only increased by an average of half a pig per sow each year since 2006.
This compares with other countries where the number has increased by at least two per sow. Bpex knowledge transfer manager Lis Ravn said: “The aim is to help every producer move towards an extra three pigs per sow year weaned, whether they’re currently about average at 23 pigs weaned or if they’re already at 27 and want to get to 30.
“We have identified some priorities to help achieve this. Keeping performance records and, importantly, spending time understanding the data is something that high-performing businesses have in common, as is doing all the ‘small’ daily things to a high standard, which is where training and skills development help too. All businesses, including the top performers, need to keep monitoring how they are doing and keep their finger on the pulse.”
Bpex is organising a number of local meetings for pig producers this year on the Breed +3 theme and will cover topics including performance recording, gilt management, litter management and staff communication.
The initiative was announced as the latest figures from the Eurostat pig census showed that the EU breeding herd has declined by more than 4% year on year.
The figures, mainly collected in November and December 2012, cover 19 member states which account for 80% of the EU breeding herd.
There was a smaller fall in in-pig sows and gilts, with numbers dropping by 3.5% and 1.4% respectively.
However, maiden gilt numbers were down 5%, which Bpex said suggests there is now imminent recovery in herd numbers.
The aim is to help every producer move towards an extra three pigs per sow year weaned