Pig & Poultry Production

Pig production ranks third in importance behind beef and dairy in terms of economic value at the farm gate in Ireland. Based on the figures returned from the 1,844 active herds in October 2018 the national pig herd consisted of1,682 active herds containing 1,724,346 pigs, which comprised 137,891 breeding pigs, 1,585,708 fattening pigs and 747 non-production pigs (Dept of Agriculture, 2018).

However, the reality is that pig farming has moved from being a common feature of thousands of farmyards to a highly specialised intensive operation.

In 2017 96.6% of all pigs were kept in 275 herds, keeping over 1,000 pigs (an average of 1,025 showing a slight increase from 2017). There were only 2.2% of herds which kept between 501 and 1,000 pigs (38,004 pigs). 48 herds (1.65%) were in excess of 10,000 pigs, accounting for 44% of the total pig population (751,914 pigs).

The pig population in 3 counties exceeded 806,026. Cavan overtook Cork in 2018 as the most pig populous county, recording 308,602 pigs, representing approx. 17. 9% of the total population.  Cork, with the second highest pig numbers (288,692 pigs), recorded 16.7% of the total. Tipperary came in 3rd place, (208,732 pigs)  and recorded 12.1%  of the total population (Dept of Agriculture, 2018).

Feed represents approximately 70% of the costs of pig production. Virtually all the protein feed ingredients, and a significant proportion of the cereals used in pig feeds, must be imported. This cost was increased in 2018 as lower yields of pig feed were brought on from droughts that prevailed across Northern Europe during that summer.

In 2017 it was estimated that 1,300 labour units were employed on Irish pig farms, with a further 7,000 employed in the associated service sectors.  The Irish Farmers Association  however,  warns that the Irish pig sector may be seriously jeopardised in the next few months (current date : October, 2019) if the current margins of feed costs remain much longer.

In 2018, Ireland exports were expected to increase to 264,000 tonnes of pig meat worth approximately €59 million. The UK was the most important market, accounting for 56% of all exports. International markets, such as Japan and South Korea, were seen as the best performance markets for Irish pig meat production with exports to Japan increasing by 36% (€30m) and exports to South Korea increasing by 29% higher (€11m) than 2017 levels.

Cork, Tipperary, Cavan and Wexford are the most significant counties in terms of commercial pig farm numbers.

An interesting trend in recent years has been the increased number of urban dwellers that are keeping a pig in their back garden. However, for disease control purposes, only persons registered with the Department of Agriculture and issued with a valid pig herd number are allowed to own or trade in pigs. Details are available from www.agriculture.gov.ie


Poultry production

Poultry production is also an important industry in Ireland, particularly in the North East. Chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys are fattened for meat production, while hens and ducks are kept for egg production. Due to a rise in global demand for white meat and improved volumes of Irish production in 2018, poultry exports rose to 8% (€316m). The poultry industry is expected however, to meet challenges due to rising volatility in grain and oilseed prices that are based on limits to global stocks of grain (bordbia, 2018 - 2019).


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