Growth of US and Canadian herds could put pressure on EU exports

The US and Canadian pig herds are growing, with EU exports set to come under under pressure as a result later this year.

Last month, the US pig herd stood at 71 million head, 4% up on March 2016 and the largest March pig herd since 1988, according to the latest quarterly report from the USDA.

The number of market hogs in all weight categories was 4% higher on the year at 65m head. Likewise, the breeding herd was up 1% on the year, at 6 million head. The US pig herd has bounced back over the last few years from its trough during the PEDv outbreak in 2014, when the inventory fell below 62m head, AHDB Pork said.

The pig crop from December to February was 31.4 million head, up 4% year-on-year, as sows farrowing during this time exceeded previous expectations, rising by 3% to 3.01 million. Furthermore, sow productivity also increased, with the average number of pigs weaned per litter, from December – February, rising to 10.43, compared to 10.30 a year earlier.

AHDB Pork predicted this will result in a rise in slaughterings over the coming months, with sow farrowings expected to rise year on year over next couple of quarters.

“With this in mind, as well as other factors, we could see a continued rise in the US pig herd. Therefore, EU pork exports could be under some pressure from this important global competitor in the coming months,” AHDB Pork said.


Canada growth

The latest figures released by Statistics Canada also indicate that the Canadian pig herd has continued to increase, climbing almost 2% on 2016 levels to stand at 13.7 million head in January. This is now the fourth consecutive year of expansion.

In 2016 increases in the pig herd in early and mid-2016 did not translate into higher throughput for the year as a whole when slaughterings amounted to 20.4m, AHDB Pork cautioned. Potential growth may have been mitigated by a 3% increase in live export of weaners to the US, while the weak pig price in the latter half of 2016, a knock-on effect of the expanding production and declining price within the US, may also have had some negative impact on the number of sows farrowed in late 2016.

“Nonetheless overall, given the larger breeding herd, an increase in the number of pigs coming forward later in 2017 would still be anticipated. USDA forecasts of mid-March indicate an increase of 2% for the year but with the probability of lower carcase weights output could be flat,” AHDB Pork said.


The renegotiation of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement is another potential challenge for the Canadian pig industry, as a third of Canadian pork exports are sent to the US, and a further 8% is shipped to Mexico.

Finding alternative markets for this pork, if necessary, could be difficult, potentially bringing more Canadian pork onto the Asian market and in direct competition with European and UK pork.

Strong exports, particularly to China, have combined with tight EU prices to support strong EU and UK prices in recent months, with exports adding an estimated average £30 to the value of pigs produced in the UK, according to AHDB strategy director Mick Sloyan.

The international outlook will be discussed by prominent international speakers at AHDB Pork’s Pigs 2022 conference in Solihull in June. For details, click here


Get Our E-Newsletter - Pig World's best stories in your in-box twice a week
Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.