The number of breeding sows in the Australian pig herd is expected to remain stable in 2014 at 240,000 head, according to the Australia Livestock and Products Annual 2013 USDA Gain report. Pig production is expected to increase marginally from 4.6 million in 2013 to 4.7 million piglets in 2014.
According to industry sources, the Australian pig industry has reached a point of balance between supply and demand. Industry rationalization over the last five to 10 years has forced most of the less efficient pig operators out of the industry. Those that remain have consistent long-term contracts with major retailers or exporters, and have balanced their sow numbers to meet these demands. Grain prices, which account for 60 percent of input costs in pork production, have remained relatively high during 2013 due to the high demand for exports and competition from the cattle feedlot sector.
However, industry reports that the majority of pork producers are returning reasonable profits because of good management.
The Australian industry has committed to a voluntary phase-out of gestation crates by 2017. Research suggests that pig producers can expect a slight reduction in sow productivity immediately following the removal of gestation crates. This reduction is expected to be temporary as pig producers adjust feeding and husbandry practices in the altered system. As the phase-out is voluntary it will occur gradually across the industry thus is not expected to create any significant impact on overall pig production.
Total pig slaughter for 2014 is expected to be marginally higher than 2013 at 4.7 million head for total production of 350,000 tons, up 1.5 percent from 2013.
Pork consumption in Australia is relatively stable from year to year although consumption generally increases during December due to the popularity of Christmas ham. Historically pork consumption has then fallen in the first quarter of the year however in 2013 a focused marketing campaign by Australian pork prevented this from occurring.