Weekly Overview: US Pig Numbers Begins to Show Impact of Disease

ANALYSIS - Surveys of pig numbers in the US and Germany show reductions from the previous year. In the first case, there are signs that Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea in 20 states is beginning to impact overall output. The situation there looks likely to deteriorate further if an unconfirmed report of the greatest weekly increase in new cases so far turns out to be correct. For Germany, pig numbers - especially sows - appear to be settling down again as the industry adjusts to the introduction of the sow stall ban one year ago.
calendar icon 6 January 2014
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First and foremost, a very happy New Year and warmest wishes for a healthy, successful and prosperous 2014 to all those in the global pig community!

USDA's Quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report came out at the end of last year, revealing a one per cent reduction in each of the categories of total pigs, sows and market hogs. With an average of 10.16, the number of pigs reared per litter broke another record in the latest quarter but there are signs that the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea virus (PEDv) is hitting pig output, with the number of market hogs down two per cent from the previous report three months ago.

Commenting on the report, market analysts Ron Plain and Scott Brown wrote: "There was indication of the impact of PEDv, with pigs per litter at 100.1 per cent of last fall. That was the smallest year-over-year increase in pigs per litter since the summer of 2003."

The same authors in a later comment added: "The number of PED virus cases increased with the approach of winter and is widely believed to be the cause for the reduced pigs-per-litter in November."

Another analysis - from Steve Meyer - said the report: "will be a bit bullish for the hog market as many of the numbers came in below most of the pre-report estimates of analysts".

Jim Long of Genesus, in his Pork Commentary, wrote: "The USDA report indicates the US breeding herd down by 62,000, which means liquidation," confirming his observations of the market. He says that sow barns have been viewed as a bad investment for some time and that a number of producers with breeding herds have left the sector while none has come in to restore the number of sows.

The holidays have disrupted the reporting of new cases of PEDv in the US but the swine vets' association reports: "The National Animal Health Laboratory Network added 66 new cases to those reported during the week of 15 December, making last week's total of 185 the highest since beginning of the outbreak."

Two new papers on PEDv indicate the most important biosecurity measures to control the spread of the virus and how oral feedback of piglet faeces to the breeding herd may help protect vulnerable newborn litters from the infection.

Turning to news in other countries, the provisional results of the latest survey of pig farms in Germany, conducted in November 2013, shows there were 13 per cent fewer breeding farms and three per cent fewer sows than one year previously.

These declines show signs of slowing down, however, as the industry stabilises again after the introduction of the EU-wide sow stall ban one year ago.

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