Mature pigs

The U.S. hog inventory continued to grow this spring as the COVID-19 pandemic slowed marketing.

USDA’s Hogs and Pigs report indicated the hog inventory was 79.6 million head as of June 1, representing a 5% increase from a year ago, and up 3% from March 1.

The breeding herd inventory was down 1% from a year ago, while the market hog inventory was up 6% from a year ago and 3% from the previous quarter.

The report is somewhat bullish, says Lee Schulz, Iowa State University Extension livestock marketing economist.

“The caveat with all these numbers is the current situation we are in,” he says. “The pre-report estimates represented a pretty wide range.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the number of pigs weighing 180 pounds or more.

“A lot of these would be slaughtered in July, but we won’t see as much because of the backlog of pigs at the moment,” Schulz says.

The March-May pigs crop was up 1% from a year ago at 34.9 million head, according to the USDA. The average pigs saved per litter totaled 11.01 for that period, the highest number in history for March-May.

Farrowing intentions for June-August were down 5% from a year ago at 3.12 million sows. September-November farrowing intentions were also down 5% at 3.09 million sows.

“The breeding herd is down 1.3%, but we were already seeing some contraction with herd prior to the pandemic,” Schulz says. “Because of the efficiency we have with the breeding herd, we didn’t need as many sows to create this record production.”

He says some of the numbers will be bearish on prices.

“I think a lot of this has already been priced into those futures contracts,” Schulz says. “Prices remain very low.”

According to the report, the total number of hogs under contract owned by operations with over 5,000 head, but raised by another producer, accounted for 49% of the total United States hog inventory, up 2% from the previous year.

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