US hog numbers continue to climb

On September 1, the US pig herd stood at 75.5 million head, up 3% year-on-year and 3% higher than June 1 2018, according to the latest quarterly report from the USDA.

This positive movement reflects the trend seen over the past three years, with the 2018 figure marking the highest September pig inventory on record.

The 3% year-on-year rise was reflected in the number of pigs intended for slaughter, which was up 3% from last year and up 4% from last quarter to 69.2 million head.

At 6.33 million head, the breeding herd was 3% higher than year earlier levels, with the number of sows farrowed from June to August also up 3% from 2017 to 3.19 million head, representing 50% of the breeding herd.

Productivity has improved too. For this period, the average pigs weaned per litter hit a record high of 10.72, compared to 10.65 last year.

With this continued growth in the US pig herd, which is likely to expand further in the coming months, the supply situation in the US could well put prices under pressure in the near term, increasing competition for EU production on the international market. However, the US futures market continues to receive support for contracts that deliver next year.

The market’s expectation appears to be that African Swine Fever in China will lead to a significant increase in demand for imported product, to be supplied by the top four exporters of pork in the world; Europe, Canada, Brazil and it is hoped, the US.

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