Most of the European Union’s 28 member states have now reported the results of the annual livestock census taken in December 2015, and the census results point to a decline in European breeding pig herd numbers.
With some figures to be confirmed and five countries still to report, a decline in the total number of sows looks likely for the year, according to the latest results from the EU statistics agency, Eurostat.
How countries rank regarding sow populations
Going against the general trend, Spain looks to have more than 2.46 million breeding sows at the end of 2015, which is over 108,000 or 4.6 percent more than the year before. This confirms its lead of the EU league table.
In second position is Germany, with its sow population now under 2 million for the first time at a provisional 1.97 million or 4.0 percent less than in December 2014.
With a marginal reduction in sows, Denmark retains its third-placed ranking with almost 1.24 million sows, followed by the Netherlands (1.05 million; -4.8 percent) and France (almost 1.04 million; -2.3 percent).
Sixteen of the countries have reported reductions in their breeding herds over the previous year, likely due to a sustained period of low farm-gate prices. Most dramatic reductions in sow numbers in percentage terms are reported by Estonia (-22.6 percent), Slovakia (-18.9 percent) and Poland (-14.8 percent).
Apart from Spain, the only countries reporting an increase in their respective sow herds are Italy, the UK, Austria, Portugal and Greece but only in the range of 1 to 2 percent.
The census figures suggest that at most a modest tightening of supplies can be expected across the EU during 2016, forecasts the UK’s Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) but recovery in farm-gate prices could be slow.
Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Sweden are all still to have their 2015 census figures included in the statistics.
In 2014, the total number of breeding sows in EU-28 was just over 12.5 million. The AHDB’s forecast 4-percent reduction would put the December 2015 figure at just over 12 million animals. Increasing efficiency in the sector, however, would reduce the impact on EU pig meat production of the declining breeding herd.