Pig numbers still up in US

Pig numbers on December 1 were 3% higher than a year earlier at 77.3 million head, according to latest figures from the USDA.

This was in line with growth in the number of pigs raised for slaughter. The increase in the number of breeding pigs was slightly smaller, at 2%.

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Compared with the previous quarter, the overall number of pigs was down slightly but the breeding herd was up.

Given that pig supplies challenged US slaughter capacity last year, limiting farmgate pig prices and profitability, a further increase in the breeding herd will put more pressure on the supply chain.

Pork in cold storage has also been at a record high as production outpaces demand, despite increasing sales to China.

The pig crop during the September-November quarter was up 2% from 2018 at 35.1m head. The number of pigs weaned per litter reached a record level of 11.09 for the period, offsetting a 1% fall in the number of sows farrowed during the quarter. This was in line with intended farrowings reported in September.

Intended farrowings for the December-February quarter are 1% higher than in the same quarter last year. This is a little above expectations three months ago. Intended farrowings then stabilise in the spring quarter, though if the number of pigs per litter continues to increase, the pig crop could continue to move upwards.

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