According to USDA's latest hogs and pigs report, pork producers should be able to get more pork to consumers – and more quickly – than had been expected.
Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt says the rising volume of pork production over the next year will result from fewer pig deaths from the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, known as PEDV; more farrowings from producers expanding their inventory; and higher market weights this fall and winter.
"More baby pigs survived this summer than expected, and that will help boost pork supplies by the end of the year and into the winter," he said.
Hurt said the national rate of pigs per litter might actually be above year-previous levels beginning late this fall.
He noted that while PEDV is not yet controlled, there are several reasons why its spread and the number of pig deaths could be reduced: two vaccines have been approved, there is better understanding of methods of how the virus is transmitted, and biosecurity on farms has improved.
Pork producers have incentive to expand as a result of record profits this summer, high prices they are receiving for hogs and low feed prices from projected record crops this fall, Hurt said.
Market weights could be a little higher this fall and winter, driven by low-priced feed and favorable profit margins, he said.
Hurt expects pork supplies this fall to be down about 1%, with winter supplies rising by 1%. He also projects farrowing expansion this fall will increase pork supplies next spring by 4% and by 5% by the summer.
With a bounty of corn and soybean crops now being harvested, grain farmers will want to know whether pork production will grow enough to significantly help corn and soybean meal consumption for the 2014-15 marketing year. Hurt said only about 2% more pork will be produced in that corn and soybean marketing year. But nearly 4% more pork is expected for the 2015 calendar year.
"The point is that it takes time to build the animal base and that more than one-half of the marketing year will be over before market hog numbers really begin to rise in the spring of 2015," he said. "However, grain farmers can be confident that the feed usage base will continue to build for the 2015-16 marketing year."
Per-head profits for farrow-to-finish producers, now estimated at $60 for 2014 based on average costs, are expected to decline to about $30 per head in 2015 as a result of expanded pork production.
View Hurt's complete report on farmdoc daily.