Commercial pig farming is a highly specialised sector within Scottish agriculture. The industry is made up of both indoor and outdoor breeding units and while many of these units will finish their own pigs on site, a number also sell or move their pigs as weaners for finishing elsewhere. In addition, there are specialist finishers with the last few years also seeing an increase in other farmers keeping pigs on a bed and breakfast basis with indoor accommodation ranging from simple straw bedded courts to controlled environment slatted buildings.
The Scottish pig sector is also characterised by the level of collaboration including marketing co-ops, health initiatives and long running benchmarking groups.
Most of the production is concentrated in the hands of a relatively small number of producers with the majority of the breeding herd found in the North East and Moray. Small-scale pig keepers may represent a small proportion of the sector in terms of animals reared however they account for a large proportion of the number of producers involved with 72% of producers with finishing pigs keeping less than 10 pigs (RESAS 2016).
2018 saw the publication of “Provenance and Profit” by Scottish Food and Drink. This document was drawn up by the sector with the aim to double overall sector output to £500m by 2030 from £260m in 2017. A number of recommendations were identified to achieve this, including encouraging new entrants to the sector with Scotland only 24% self–sufficient in pork.
The overall profitability of a pig enterprise depends of the price received for pig meat, the cost of feed, feed conversion efficiency and the number of pigs weaned per sow with feed representing 50-60% of total costs. The pig industry has invested heavily in genetics, technology, feeding systems, monitoring and housing, allowing for improvements in performance and efficiency to be made. Examples of this are the increase in numbers weaned per sow in the past 10 years with indoor herds now typically achieving 30 pigs weaned per sow per year with improvements in growth rates meaning that pigs are taken through to much heavier weights with little or no increase in finishing times.
In June 2019 there were an estimated 319,000 pigs in Scotland, with 36000 sows and gilts in the breeding herd. Despite the breeding herd increasing in recent years most of the pigs born in Scotland are slaughtered and processed elsewhere.
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