Hog supplies grow as U.S. hog weights rise seasonally

(Regis Lefebure photo courtesy ARS/USDA)

Chicago | Reuters –– U.S. hog weights have risen three times in as many weeks, likely confirming the onset of increasing hog numbers through the rest of the year, according to a university economist.

Affordable feed and cooler weather in the Midwest are allowing hogs to grow faster, coinciding with plentiful supplies as the industry recovers from the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) that killed at least eight million pigs in the past two years.

Hog weights in Iowa/Minnesota averaged 281.1 lbs. for the week ended Oct. 10, up 0.8 pound from the previous week, but down 3.4 lbs. from a year ago, based on U.S. Department of Agriculture data released on Wednesday.

Separate government data showed packers from January through last week processed 8.2 per cent more hogs, which yielded 7.4 per cent more pork than in the same period last year.

“Hog weights are gradually closing in on last year’s historically high levels,” said Iowa State University extension livestock economist Lee Schulz.

Less-costly, newly harvested corn and cool weather induce hogs to grow faster during this time of year, which typically results in higher hog weights in October and November, he said.

Schulz pointed out that the seasonally higher carcass weights will come at a time when hog slaughter numbers increase. Those larger numbers have already been priced in to Chicago Mercantile Exchange lean hog futures.

Larger supplies in the third and fourth quarter may exert “a bit of pressure” on hog and wholesale pork prices, although producer profit could remain above break-even into 2016, he said.

Plentiful hogs over the next few months could create a backlog of animals, testing the industry’s slaughter capability during packing plant shutdowns over the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Steve Meyer, vice-president of pork analysis for Indiana-based EMI Analytics, estimated spring 2015 capacity for a packing plant that slaughters 5.4 days per week at 2.443 million head per week. Last week, packers processed an estimated 2.29 million head.

Schulz expects a couple of slaughter weeks this fall will be close to capacity levels, “but I think we’re still going to come in under what those estimated capacity levels are.”

Theopolis Waters reports on livestock markets for Reuters from Chicago.

CORRECTION, Oct. 15, 2015: Reuters’ previous version of this article incorrectly identified EMI Analytics as an Iowa-based company. The company’s head office is in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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