There were few surprises in last week’s USDA Hogs and Pigs Report.

Inventory numbers were up 3.4 percent from a year ago, with the herd totaling 73.45 million head. Market hog numbers were also up 3.4 percent from a year ago, while breeding herd numbers were up 3 percent from 2017.

Most pre-report estimates pegged the inventory number at 3 percent higher, wrote economist Len Steiner and associates in the June 29 “Daily Livestock Report.”

Larger numbers will direct attention to slaughter weights in the coming months.

“With more hogs coming to market, a key to tonnage produced in the months ahead will be barrow and gilt dressed weights,” Steiner and associates said. “During the last two weeks of available data (through the week ending June 16), dressed weight has declined significantly and have returned to the year ago and prior five-year average levels.”

This resulted in commercial pork production growing by 3.7 percent over the first quarter of 2018.

“The Livestock Marketing Information Center projects the second quarter’s output will be up 3.1 percent compared to 2017, and forecasts the summer quarter rise at 3.6 percent. This year’s fourth quarter is forecast to be 5.1 percent above 2017.”

The fourth quarter will have one more slaughter day than a year ago, contributing to the higher number.

“Year-over-year, the rate of growth in pork production is forecast to moderate during the first two quarters of 2019, but should still post gains,” Steiner and associates said.

The report indicated the March-May pig crop was up 4 percent from a year ago, representing the largest crop for this quarter since estimates began in 1970.

Sows farrowing from March-May were up 4 percent, and represent 50 percent of the breeding herd, according to USDA.

The average pigs saved per litter was a record 10.63 pigs for this time period. In 2017, the average was 10.55

The report also indicated farrowing intentions at 3.17 million sows during June-August, up 2 percent from a year ago and up 4 percent from 2016. September-November farrowing intentions are up 2 percent from a year ago, and up 4 percent from two years ago.

According to USDA, the total number of hogs under contract owned by operations with over 5,000 head but raised by contractors, accounted for 47 percent of the total United States hog inventory, down from 48 percent the previous year.

Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.