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U. S. Hog Herd Stays Small

USDA’s quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report Oct. 1 put the U. S. hog herd as of Sept. 1 at 64.991 million head, or 97.4 per cent of last year. That is the smallest September 1 hog herd since 2006.

However, the smaller herd was expected as analysts, on average, had estimated it at 97.2 per cent of a year ago.

USDA’s breeding herd was 5.77 million head, or 98.2 per cent of last year, and its market hog supply was 59.221 million head, or 97.3 per cent of last year.

“I would call the report totally neutral – very close to estimates,” said Jim Clarkson, livestock analyst at A&A Trading Inc.

The report showed the liquidation phase may be ending. But any growth in the herd may be slow in coming.

“It is an indication that we have stopped cutting back,” said Ron Plain, agricultural economist at the University of Missouri. “We really haven’t got around to growing yet.”

There were mild hints of expansion in the report as the December-February farrowing intentions were up .5 per cent. But higher corn prices since USDA surveyed producers for the report could cancel that increase, analysts said.

Corn prices recently topped $5 per bushel for the first time in two years.

“There is a hint of expansion but we’ll see with those corn values,” said Don Roose, president of U. S. Commodities Inc. “The expansion is slow and this strong corn market helps keep that in check.”

Profits on hogs should continue for the remainder of the year. But higher corn prices may narrow those profits in 2011.

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