US pig herd numbers fall again in March

Thursday, 8 April 2021

By Charlie Reeve

The latest USDA figures show a second quarterly contraction in the US pig herd. As at 1 March 2021, the US national pig herd totalled 74.8 million head, this was a 3% reduction since December 2020 and a 2% reduction compared to the same month last year.

Both breeding pigs and slaughtering pigs had a year-on-year decline in numbers, and slaughter pigs had year-on-year declines in every weight band. This included a 3% decrease in the number of heavier slaughter pigs (over 87kg) which had previously been high. This may be due to an easing in disruption caused by COVID-19, and pigs not having to stay on farms longer as the backlog shrinks.

The December 2020 - February 2021 pig crop fell by 1% on the previous year at 33.3 million head.  The average litter size per sow during the December- February period was 10.94, compared to 11.10 last year. 3.04 million sows farrowed during this period, down by 1% compared to the same period last year.

US pig meat and offal exports increased in volume during 2020, although were lower during the final quarter of 2020, which would match this drop back in the US pig inventory. US pig prices reached €172.55/100kg carcass weight on 22 March, according to Eurostat data, up 54% on the same month last year.

Lean hog futures have remained bullish according to industry reports, with the USDA pig inventory figures supporting the market sentiment of tighter supply. The amount of pork in cold storage facilities in the U.S. is reported to be low and this is also likely to support US pig prices further, as might bullish news surrounding a slow down in the recovery of the Chinese pig herd.

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