U.S. hog producers aren’t reducing their herds

reuters / The U.S. hog herd in the latest quarter was unchanged with year-ago levels, which surprised analysts who had expected a slightly smaller herd after feed costs soared to record highs last summer.

USDA’s data showed the U.S. hog herd as of Dec. 1 at 100 per cent of a year ago, or 66.348 million head. Analysts, on average, expected 65.896 million head.

The U.S. breeding herd was also unchanged at 5.817 million head.

Previous government hog data had indicated producers were liquidating herds, especially female pigs, at a record pace after the worst drought in more than 50 years shrivelled crops.

“These guys are fearless, with some producers probably seeing profits ahead,” independent market analyst Bob Brown said of the larger-than-expected herd.

Hog producers are currently operating in the red given relatively high feed costs, said Brown, but a rebound in hog prices or a drop in corn values could put them back in the black by next spring.

“This is clearly a surprise with the industry in some respects showing expansion, particularly given the pigs-per-litter outcome, rather than a modest contraction,” said Allendale Inc. chief strategist Rich Nelson.

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