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U. S. Hog Numbers Down

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Government forecasters underestimated the number of U. S. hogs coming to market this year by about two per cent, producers said at an industry gathering last week.

Low-quality feed, a harsh winter, and fewer hogs from Canada have reduced hog numbers. But analysts and producers at the National Pork Forum said those issues do not fully explain the discrepancy with the U. S. Agriculture Department’s count.

“Since Dec. 1, using weekly data, the slaughter has been about two per cent lower than the (USDA) December Hogs and Pigs report has said,” Steve Meyer, president of Paragon Economics, told Reuters. “It’s been about 3.8 or 3.9 per cent lower than last year, but that is about two per cent lower than the report suggested.”

Producers attending the Pork Forum from Iowa and Minnesota, where a large portion of the U. S. hogs are raised, said they have noticed fewer-than-expected hogs.

Craig Rowles, an Iowa producer with an 8,000-sow operation that markets 150,000 hogs per year, has seen his hog numbers down a bit due to the corn quality problems, disease, and reduced numbers of hogs coming from Canada.

“We have a corn crop this year that isn’t quite as good as in years past,” Rowles said. “We have seen higher instances of problems with mycotoxins and quality issues that could have an impact on performance and growth and certainly that would decrease market weights to a certain degree.”

Producers said certain diseases pop up in the winter that can reduce the output of pigs.

“In our operation we have experienced disease issues that have reduced our production,” Rowles said.

Porcine Respiratory and Reproductive Syndrome virus, PRRS, commonly shows up in hog herds during the winter and annually costs U. S. pork producers about $530 million, or more than $5 per U. S. hog sold each year, according to industry records.

“It’s a typical winter that we do see some evidence of disease outbreaks, be it PRRS, that would also reduce totals,” said Randy Spronk with Spronk Brothers, a Minnesota hog producer with a 3,600-sow operation that markets 120,000 head of hogs per year.

Spronk said he has been lucky this year because he has not seen the disease as he had in previous years.

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