Rise in slaughter pig numbers drives modest US pig herd growth

As at 1 September, the national US pig herd experienced modest growth, standing at 79.1 million head, up 1% from the same point last year according to the latest figures from the USDA.

According to a report from AHDB analyst Hannah Clarke, a rise in the number of slaughter pigs drove the overall increase, particularly an due to an increase in the number of heavier pigs.

“Industry reports suggest that labour issues caused by COVID-19 disruption, and producers slowing pig growth rates have contributed to the higher numbers,” said Ms Clarke.

The breeding herd contracted by 2% on last year, and sow slaughter is 12% higher than last year for the year to August, which Clarke said aligns with expectations for lower farrowing going forwards.

She also said that despite the higher numbers, US pig prices have rallied since June-July, suggesting strong demand for pork, and that the recent discovery of African Swine Fever in Germany has buoyed optimism in the US that China may turn to it to fulfil its import demand.

Ms Clarke added: “Industry reports suggest that a backlog of pigs caused by COVID-19 disruption to slaughter capacity is decreasing. Indeed, total pig slaughter for Jan-Aug is now 2% above last year’s levels, according to the USDA.

“Some industry reports have questioned the official numbers, suggesting the slaughter statistics and inventory don’t align. They argue that the USDA inventory is too high, and that numbers on the ground are actually tighter, a sentiment supported by the price trend.

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