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Pigs Chairman's Blog 29 March 2019

Following the release of the Agricultural Census a fortnight ago, NFUS Pigs Chairman Jamie Wyllie discusses the statistics for Scotland’s pig farms and the Scottish Industry as a whole.

The December Agricultural Census showed that the total number of pigs kept in Scotland had dropped from 382,000 to 333,000 since 2008.This is a decline of almost 50,000 in a relatively short space of time.

In my view the decline of pig numbers is largely due to the availability of adequate pig abattoir capacity after the closure of Halls. This initially resulted in a decline of sow numbers but more importantly pigs are now being moved South to be finished in England, which is a lost opportunity for the Scottish Industry.

During this time, according to AHDB, the average UK indoor unit has reported a profit per pig in the same number of years as it has made a loss. The wild fluctuations that have been seen in the market over these years have created a very difficult environment for producers to reinvest in new breeding and finishing facilities.

Even during these uncertain times, the Scottish Industry, in conjunction with QMS, has been working hard to eradicate pig diseases such as Mange and Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS). This drive to remove disease from Scottish farms will help make their businesses more resilient. Rather than relying on continued use of antibiotics and vaccines a large number of farms in Scotland have undergone expensive depopulations and repopulations with clean stock, something which they should be commended for.

Removing disease from Scottish pig farms is an ongoing process and a long term goal for the industry, entirely supported by the Union and the Pigs Committee.

This forward thinking is what the industry needs to be able to survive in this volatile market. However, to truly reverse the trend of declining pig number in Scotland, we need to increase our slaughter and processing capacity.

Author: Douglas Ross

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