US pig herd continues to grow

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As at 1 March, the US pig herd stood at 72.9 million head, 3% higher than March 2017, , according to the latest quarterly report from the USDA.

This figure is 3% higher than the March 2017 inventory and the largest March pig herd on record going back to 1988. The total number of pigs available for slaughter was also 3% higher on the year at 66.7 million head. Similarly, the breeding herd was up 2% on the year in March, at 6.2 million head.

At 32.3 million head, the December to February pig crop was up 4% from last year, as the number of sows farrowing during this time rose by 2% from 2017 to 3.06 million. Sow productivity also increased on year earlier levels from December-February, with the average number of pigs weaned per litter rising to 10.58, compared to 10.43 in March 2017.

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The rise in the number of pigs on farm in the US in March is partly due to relatively strong margins at the beginning of the year, due to lower feed costs, combined with a rise in packing capacity. According to the latest North American Agribusiness Review by Rabobank, packer competition for pigs helped to support lean pig prices at the start of the year. However, to date US hog prices have fallen by around 15% since the beginning of 2018 and are now possibly around breakeven levels for some. Despite this, in the period March to May, producers intend to farrow 3.08 million sows, 2% more than during the same period last year. With the US being one of the EU’s main competitors on a global scale, the increase in production could affect the demand for EU pig meat.

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Duncan Wyatt, Lead Analyst

duncan.wyatt@ahdb.org.uk, 024 7647 8856