Baby pigs

Larger hog numbers will continue to send massive amounts of pork down the pipeline. Last week’s USDA Hogs & Pigs report revealed larger than expected numbers of pigs on the horizon.

“The highlight was pigs per litter for the sows farrowed during the March-May quarter, up 3.5% from a year earlier,” write economist Len Steiner and associates in the Daily Livestock Report June 28. “Expectations were for a 0.8% increase with the top of the range at 1.5%.

“Based on this stellar productivity accomplishment for the hog industry, the pigs born during the March-May quarter was up 3.7% compared to report expectations that averaged up 2.6%.”

This translates into higher slaughter numbers over the fourth quarter than previously predicted.

“Sow farrowings in the March-May quarter were estimated to be 3.108 million sows, below expectations by 1.5% and close to unchanged from a year earlier,” they said. “Producers stated intentions to farrow 3.119 million sows during the quarter, as of March 1. The slippage is a surprise, given the recovery in production profitability that had been underway since the start of the year.”

Farrowing intentions for June-August were down a half percent from a year ago, a figure that surprised analysts.

“This is surprising given the positive profitability since February and the premiums in hog futures prices for delivery later this year,” Steiner and associates said. “These intentions also exclude the negative impact on hog production margins of corn prices that have risen to the highest levels in five years over the course of June.”

Corn prices tumbled sharply June 28 after the USDA reported corn acres were higher than expected, while soybean acres were much lower than pre-report predictions.

Overall hog inventory as of June was up 3.6% from a year ago, compared to pre-report estimates of 3%. Breeding numbers were up 1.4% from 2018, compared to pre-report estimates of 2.1%.

Kept-for-marketing numbers were up 3.9%, compared to estimates of 3.1% prior to the release of the report.

The March-May pig crop was up 3.7% from a year ago, with estimates in the 2.5% range ahead of the report.

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