US pig herd at record size
As at 1 December, the US pig herd had increased to 68.3 million head, according to the latest Hogs and Pigs report published by the USDA.
This was 1%, or about 500,000 head, higher than the same point in 2014 and marginally up on September’s revised estimates. Yet again this is the highest number of hogs and pigs recorded since the estimates began in 1988. Diverging trends appeared amongst the different weight bands in December. The number of pigs weighing less than 50lb (23kg) and 50-119lb (23-54kg) were down by 1% and 0.5% respectively year on year and both had also declined since September. Nevertheless, the number of pigs weighing 120-179lb (54-81kg) increased by 2%, while pigs weighing 180lb (82kg) and more recorded a greater increase of 5% on the year. These figures suggest that while there may be an annual increase in slaughterings in the short-term, throughputs may drop below year earlier levels as we move further into 2016.
The US breeding herd and number of piglets produced recorded differing trends in December. While the breeding herd increased by 1%, compared to the same point in 2014, the number of piglets born decreased by 1%. The decrease in number of piglets is not due to a reduction in productivity but rather is because the number of litters farrowed between September and November declined by 4% on the year, with forecasts of sows farrowing for the next quarter down as well. The average number of pigs weaned per litter from September to November was a record 10.53 head, which is 3% up on the year and an increase of 1% on the previous quarter.
The latest USDA cold storage report records that, as at 1 December, there was 255,000 tonnes of pork in storage, 14% more than the same point in 2014, but 7% less than the previous month and 14% less than September. This would suggest that supply and demand is balancing out more and, with the possibility of slight reductions in production ahead, the market situation for US producers could eventually improve.