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US hog herd seen coming in at record high - and growing

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The US Department of Agriculture’s quarterly hogs and pigs report, scheduled for release on Thursday, is expected to show a record large US swine herd as well as a record number of hogs kept for marketing as of June 1.

 

A surprising bounce in weekly slaughters in June to around 9% on average over a year ago from about 2% up during the first five months of the year has led to much uncertainty regarding supplies going forward.

 

Some analysts view the sharp year-on-year increase in June as an anomaly while others look at it as an indicator of larger herd expansion in the second half of 2018 than had been reported previously.

 

Did the big bounce in June occur because slaughters were curtailed some in May?

 

Did the cool spring weather lead to better daily gains and push hogs to market weight faster than normal?

 

Was slaughter in June last year trimmed by some unusual circumstances, or did producers add to their herds last fall and winter more than had been indicated in the December and March reports?

 

Possibly a bit of all of the above occurred, and perhaps Thursday’s report will shed some light on the subject.

 

Piglets per litter

Analysts on average predict the all hogs and pigs number as of June 1 to be up 3.0% from a year ago.

 

The average of the estimates for all hogs and pigs would project 75.052m head, compared with 72.866m a year ago.

 

The survey showed on average the number of females kept for breeding at 2.0% above a year ago. The rise in the breeding herd from last year would put the June 1 figure at 6.446m, versus 6.320m a year ago.

 

The number of pigs saved per litter in the March-to-May period was expected to be up about 0.9% from a year ago.

 

That would put the projected figure at 10.73 pigs per litter.

 

Demand boost

The estimates for summer and fall farrowing intentions show additional growth of plus 1.2% and 2.1%, respectively.

 

The March-to-May pig crop is projected to be up 2.5% at 33.765m head.

 

The increase in production is being driven by expectations of stronger world demand for pork due in large part to the spread of African swine fever across China and much of Asia.

 

In addition, the recent increases made in US processing capacity will allow packers to harvest nearly 500,000 hogs a day later in the year.

 

The kept-for-marketing estimates averaged 104.9% of a year ago for the heaviest category, or 180 pounds and over, as of June 1.

 

The 120-179 pound group was estimated at 103.1% of a year ago, while the 50-119 pound category was pegged at 2.7% larger and the under-50 category was seen up 2.5%.

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