US pig herd expansion continues

According to the latest figures from the USDA up to 1 March, the US pig herd has grown by 4% to 71.3 million head.

The majority of the rise comes from an increase in the number of slaughter pigs which is up +4.3% on the year.

Pigs weighing under 27kg accounted for 29% of the overall increase in herd, a reflection of the expansion being see in the country’s breeding herd which, according to AHDB analyst Felcity Rusk, could suggest there has been some improvement in the physical performance of breeding sows.

There was also a considerable increase in the number of pigs over 87kg, which accounted for 28% of the overall increase of the pig herd.

While the breeding herd also recorded an increase in numbers in March, it was only a minor 0.4%.

The pig crop during December 2019 to February 2020 was up by 5% from 2019 at 34.7 million head. The number of pigs per litter during the quarter averaged 11.00.

US hog prices fell between the end of January and the end of February, as news of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic developed. Since then, prices have risen again, which Rusk attributes to demand falling as much as initially feared. Reports suggest that US consumer demand for pork remains strong, which if continued, should provide support to prices.

Labour availability is a key area of concern within the US pork industry as labour both on farm and in packing plants is highly reliant on foreign-born workers. On 17 March, the US Department of State suspended visa processing in Mexico, which will likely worsen the labour shortage across the US.

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