The inventory of all U.S. hogs and pigs on Sept. 1 was about 65 million head, which was down 2.6% from totals a year ago. Nearly all of the breakouts of numbers from the USDA Quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report that was released Friday were lower than last year's September report. Most of the numbers fell close to pre-report estimates.
The breeding herd actually decreased more from last year than was expected. It also reversed the trend that was established earlier this year by being lower than the June numbers, which had been higher than the March figures.
University of Missouri-Columbia Extension Agricultural Economist Ron Plain says that USDA said that the quarter's pigs per litter were 9.81, which is up 1.1% than a year ago. That was a smaller increase than most trade estimates forecast. The 1.1% increase was fairly small relative to recent history with the last nine quarters averaged up 2.1%.
"As it turns out this is the smallest year over year increase in pigs per litter in the last 14 quarters," Plain said. "You have to go back to early 2007 to find the last time we were below 1.1%. We knew that once we stopped cutting the breeding herd we would see a drop off in the pigs per litter; they kind of go hand in hand but this is a little more of a drop than most of us were expecting."
Plain also commented on the recent run-up in corn prices and says that he thinks the uncertainty of feed costs is something producers will have to adjust to.
"We used to spend a long time with corn around $2 and not much fluctuation," Plain said. "I'm guessing that the run-up in corn prices may slow down expansion a little bit. One of my concerns in this whole thing is the fact that in order to expand hog numbers we don't have to pour concrete and put up new buildings. We slaughtered 116 million hogs two years ago so we've got a fair amount of building capacity in place that could be restocked. Hopefully from the standpoint of financial conditions of farmers, they will be judicious in doing so."