Porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus may be having a "demonstrable
effect" on US pig numbers, but not enough to scupper expectations of a rise in
pork production this year, the US Department of Agriculture said.
The USDA acknowledged that a quarterly pig report it
released last month showed a "very real" threat to pork production from the
virus, also called PEDv, which causes high mortality in young piglets and
weight loss in older animals.
It was implicated in a breeding rate of 10.16 pigs per little
which, while a little higher than that a year before, was well below the rate
of 10.3 which would be expected if producers kept up the rate of improvement
seen since 2007.
"Because PEDv is known to strike very young animals, with
mortality rates of up to 100%, the September-November litter rate may be
picking up effects of PEDv in the breeding herd," USDA analyst Kenneth Mathews
Furthermore, its impact may also be showing up in a
reduction in the number of animals classed in the report's lowest weight band,
of less than 50 pounds.
While the overall rate of decline was modest, at 1.3%, that disguised
larger rises in states where PEDv has been more common, including in Iowa,
where the inventory for sub-50-pound animals dropped 3.3%, North Carolina, where
the fall was 10.6%, and Oklahoma, which witnessed a 30% slump.
"The vulnerability of young pigs to PEDv suggests that the
disease is having a demonstrable effect on national pig numbers," Mr Mathews
However, while the USDA on Friday cut by 325m pounds, to
23.597bn pounds, its forecast for domestic pork production this year, Mr
Mathews defended the decision to keep the estimate above the 23.212bn pounds achieved
"Other factors, such as producers' farrowing intentions and
sharply higher live weights, point to higher pork production in 2014," he said.
The quarterly hogs reported had shown that producers intend
to farrow 1.4% more sows in the first half of this year than the same period a
"Moreover, lower feed costs and excess barn space - perhaps another
consequence of PEDv - are providing significant incentives to producers to add
weight to slaughter hogs."
Lower grain costs mean that hog producers look set for
profit despite a drop in hog prices this year, expected at some 3% compared
with the 2012 average.
"Although hog prices are expected to decline almost 3% year-over-year
for 2014, quarterly feeding spreads are positive, suggesting that lower feed
costs will more than offset year-over-year lower hog prices in 2014."
Hog futures weakened on Friday in a decline blamed on
profit-taking after a revival in prices from a four-month low last week for the
spot February contract, although further-ahead lots have continued to improve.
"Summer-month" contracts have been "supported by the PEDv
concerns," US Commodities said, flagging forecasts that "increased pork
production from herd expansion will begin by late summer of 2014, and prices
will move below year-previous levels at that time".
Lean hogs for February were 0.7% lower at 86.30 cents a pound
in morning trade in Chicago, where the August contract stood down 0-.2% at
97.80 cents a pound.