The December 2013 pig census figures published by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development indicate a 1 percent year-on-year increase in total pig numbers in Northern Ireland, to 455,300 head. The increase was largely a result of a notable 10 percent rise in the female breeding herd, of which sows in-pig rose by 21 percent while in-pig gilts fell by 5 percent on the year.

However, according to a report from BPEX, a change in methodology for the June survey was behind an increase in the figures for the Northern Ireland breeding pig population, indicating it is possible that this may be the case again. In addition, maiden gilt numbers also increased by 31 percent when compared with December 2012. This could indicate some improving producer confidence.

In contrast, numbers recorded in the 'other pigs' category, which includes piglets, weaners and finishers, remained mostly unchanged.