Commentary: USDA Hogs and Pigs Report

US - Dr Mike Brumm, Extension Swine Specialist, University of Nebraska comments on the latest USDA Hogs and Pigs report.
calendar icon 29 October 2008
clock icon 4 minute read

Corn and soybeans are the fuel for pig growth. In spite of record high costs for these inputs, few alternatives are as readily available to the US production system. The following maps show where the US corn and soybean crop was produced in 2007. The maps for 2008 are expected to be very similar. Iowa is the leading state for both corn and soybeans, with Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana and Nebraska also having considerable acreage.

Thus, it is not surprising that Iowa and Minnesota account for 41.3% of all US inventory in the Kept for Market category. With a continued upward surge in transportation costs further raising feed costs, the North Carolina industry continues its gradual decline in market pigs relative to other US locations, with 14.9% of the Kept for Market inventory in the September 1 estimates. Together, the big 3 states of Iowa, North Carolina and Minnesota now account for 56.2% of the US Kept for Market inventory and 55% of all hogs and pigs on farms.

Surprisingly, Illinois, the second largest corn and soybean production state, continues to very gradually decline in the Kept for Market category. On September 1, 1988, Illinois farms had 10.5% of the US Kept for Market inventory. In the 20 year period since then, they have declined to 6.3% of the inventory. The very slow growth in the breeding herd in Illinois when combined with the on-going very gradual decline in market hog numbers means an increasing number of pigs born in Illinois are being fed to slaughter in other states, most often Iowa and Southern Minnesota.

Another piece to the puzzle of the future location of the US inventory is the following map of the estimated 2007 US population. The growth in Iowa and Southern Minnesota can also be linked to a relative low population density versus Illinois and other states in the eastern cornbelt.

While the Canadian sow inventory is declining and the number of slaughter animals entering the US from Canada is relatively low compared to previous years, a large number of Canadian feeder pigs continue to fill US finishing facilities, with a majority of these pigs entering facilities in the western cornbelt (Iowa). There is no evidence in the data to date to suggest that MCOOL regulations, which become effective on September 30, are slowing the flow of Canadian feeders into US finishing facilities.

Productivity of the US breeding herd continues to climb. For the months of June, July and August, the USDA estimated that the average number of pigs weaned per litter were 9.48, 9.52 and 9.53, respectively. The rapid improvements in reproductive performance noted in the past few USDA inventory reports suggest that even larger reductions in the US breeding herd will be required in the coming months for long term profitability to return to the US industry.

Further Reading

- You can view the full article and graphics by clicking here. (PDF 16 pages)
- You can view the September 2008 Quarterly Hogs and Pigs report by clicking here.
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