Signs of slowdown in the US
The US pig herd recovers from PEDv and productivity hits a new record but farrowing intentions down as low prices bite.
The latest USDA hogs and pigs report shows that the US pig herd on 1 June was 9% larger than a year earlier. However, June 2014 was around the peak of the impact of last year’s PEDv outbreak. Compared with June 2013, the current figure represents a more modest 3% increase. The increase is largely confined to market hogs, particularly in the heaviest weight categories, reflecting the higher carcase weights seen over the last year. The breeding herd, however, was only 1% higher than a year earlier and was down on the previous two quarters.
The quarter-on-quarter decline in the breeding herd may be a sign that the producer confidence apparent a few months ago has dissipated, given the low hog prices since the turn of the year. This is further reinforced by estimates for sows to be farrowed between June and November, which are 3% below actual farrowings in the same period last year. This contrasts with 1% growth in the March-May quarter, which was itself a slowdown compared with the preceding six months. Despite this slow growth, the pig crop for March-May was up 8% on the year, with pigs weaned per litter up to a record 10.37. This confirms that finished pig supplies are likely to remain plentiful for most of the rest of this year, which will ensure prices are likely to remain under pressure until early 2016, at least.