What is happening on pig farms, the causes and possible solutions – Q&A


By Alistair Driver, Pig World (UK)

October 10, 2021


The NPA has put together a Q&A to explain what is happening in the pig sector, the main reasons and possible solutions.


What is the situation on farms?


Thousands of pigs on farms across the country are backed up on farms, primarily because of a lack of processing capacity in pork plants due to labour shortages. Many farms have seen 25% fewer pigs slaughtered each week, which has seen numbers rapidly stack up on farms.


It is difficult to gauge the overall number, but the NPA estimates it to be in the region of 120,000?


The situation is worse in some supply chains than others and on some farms than others. In many cases, contingency plans have now been exhausted and there is no more room for pigs.


The NPA is aware that in a handful of cases, culling has begun on farm to ease the pressure. In some cases, farmers are using the knackerman, rather than doing it themselves or asking staff. Some producers have also stopped mating some sows, although this will take 10 months to feed through in terms of reduced production.


The very real concern is that if nothing is to fundamentally ease the backlog, this small-scale thinning out of herds, will turn into a mass cull – the NPA is adamant this shouldn’t happen on farm.


This is first and foremost a pig welfare crisis and the situation is extremely distressing on farms up and down the country.


What is being done to ease the backlog in the supply chain?


Some processors are putting on extra kills, for example on Saturdays, with pigs exported with minimal butchering to markets in Asia paying relatively low prices. In some cases, this has affected the main measure of the UK pig prices, the Standard Pig Price (SPP), which fell by nearly 5p last week.


What else are pig farmers have to cope with?


What is causing the pig backlog?


Is it about low pay and poor conditions in plants?


Are there any solutions?


Is labour the only issue?


What about pig production?


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