Pig & Poultry Production

Pig production ranks third in importance behind beef and dairy in terms of economic value at the farm gate in Ireland. The 2010 Census of Agriculture found that there were 1,200 farms in Ireland with some pigs.

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 fact, a January 2011 Teagasc survey found that the vast majority of pigmeat produced in Ireland comes from just 290 commercial sow herds. They had a total of 150,700 sows, or an average of 520 per farm. Furthermore, over 70% of commercial sows are in herds with more than 500 sows.

Having survived the peaks and troughs of the pig price cycle without any subsidy or protection from market forces, those that remain in pigs in Ireland tend to be highly efficient and technically excellent. The best producers achieve output of 23.1 pigs per sow per year, a figure that compares very well internationally. Output grew by 9% in 2011, due to higher numbers but mainly better genetics and feeding.

Feed represents 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.

It is estimated that 1,300 labour units are employed on Irish pig farms, with a further 7,000 employed in the associated service sectors.  

In 2011, Ireland exported 170,000 tonnes of pigmeat worth approximately €395 million. The UK was the most important market, accounting for almost half of all exports. Continental EU markets accounted for 38,000 tonnes of product with an estimated value of €65 million. Based on Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) data from 2006-2008, Ireland was the 13th largest pigmeat exporter in the world.

Cork, Tipperary, Cavan and Monaghan 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.


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