Canada’s hog herd rises slightly

The number of hogs on Canadian farms edged up slightly since last year, but inventories were still second smallest in more than a decade, according to Statistics Canada data released Friday. 

After a long period of decline for the industry, farmers also held onto more of their breeding stock, suggesting the industry may be stabilizing, said Jesus Dominguez, an analyst with the federal statistics agency’s livestock and food section in Ottawa.

Prices may be the main reason, he said. Chicago live hog futures are up about nine per cent so far in 2011, on track for their fourth straight year of growth.

The Canadian hog industry came under intense pressure in recent years from a strong Canadian dollar, higher feed costs and the U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law on meats, leading Ottawa to offer incentives in 2009 for farmers to cease production.

This year, hog inventories rose 0.9 per cent year over year to 12 million hogs as of Oct. 1. 

The estimated number of sows and gilts (female pigs that have not yet had litters) was flat from the previous year, at 1.29 million, ending a six-year decline.

Hog exports in the third quarter totaled 1.4 million head, down 4.3 per cent from the same quarter in 2010.

The strong Canadian dollar and weak U.S. economy hampered exports, Dominguez said.

The data is based on analysis, not a farmer survey.

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