WASHINGTON — The number of pigs saved per litter for the
December-to-February period was down significantly in the U.S. Department of
Agriculture’s Quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report, reflecting the impact of the
porcine epidemic diarrhea virus on swine herds.
According to the USDA, the number of pigs saved per litter
was down 5.5 percent from the same period one year ago at 9.53 head.
“That breaks the trend of year-to-year increases in that
number,” said Jim Robb, director at the Livestock Marketing Information Center
in Lakewood, Colo. “During my career this is probably the most anticipated hogs
and pigs report we’ve had.”
Prior to this report, the pigs saved per litter number was
increasing 1.5 percent to 2 percent year over year, reported John Nalivka,
president of Sterling Marketing of Vale, Ore.
Although the most current number was impacted by the virus,
the analyst said, “we were starting to see a little bit of reduction anyway in
the litter number because you can’t continue to go higher and higher on some of
these efficiency standards.”
For December to February, the USDA reported the total pig
crop at 27,316,000 head, down 2.8 percent from one year ago. Sows farrowing
during this period totaled 2,867,000 head, up 2.8 percent from last year.
Sow farrowing intentions for March to May are estimated at
2,884,000 head, up 2.4 percent from last year, and for the June to August
period, up 2 percent to total 2,960,000 head.
“During February to March, there have been producer margins
of $62 per head, and that compares to a loss of $30 per head during the same
period a year ago,” Nalivka reported. “So there is motivation to expand with the
profitability and the expectations of profitability intermediate to long term in
The USDA calculates a sow utilization rate, Robb said.
“The rate of sows being utilized is at 50 percent, and
that’s the largest number since 2009,” he reported. “That indicates management
things going on in terms of trying to get sows rebred, holding sows longer,
As of March 1, the number of all hogs and pigs totaled
66,899,000 head, down 3.3 percent from the 2013 total. The number of hogs kept
for breeding was even from one year ago at 5,851,000 head. The market hog
inventory totaled 67,048,000 head, down 3.7 percent from last year.
For the market hog numbers by weight groups, the USDA
estimated under 50 pounds at 18,101,000 head, down 4 percent from one year ago;
50 to 119 pounds at 15,717,000 head, down 3.3 percent; 120 to 179 pounds at
12,793,000 head, down 2.9 percent; and 180 pounds and over 10,436,000 head, down
The supply of pork is declining, Nalivka said.
“But we’re not going to run out of pork,” he stressed.
“Although it’s been a long time since we’ve seen these kinds of reductions in
total meat supplies.”
“It’s been over a decade since we’ve seen prolonged period
of pork production down more than 5 percent,” agreed Daniel Bluntzer, director
of research at Frontier Risk Management in Corpus Christi, Texas. “This is
something we haven’t dealt with in a long time.”
And, Bluntzer said, the beef complex also is experiencing
“It’s been a long time since both of these red meats have
been in short supply at the same time,” he noted.
Based on the Lean Carcass Values for Western Cornbelt,
Nalivka said he expects prices for the first quarter of 2014 to average $94.50,
for the second quarter around $110, fall closer to $108 during the third quarter
and to average around $94 for the fourth quarter.
“I’m quite a bit more bullish than that,” said Bluntzer, who
tracks prices based on the CME Lean Hog Index.
“For the second quarter, my prediction is in the $128 area,
third quarter $124 area and dropping down to $102 or $101 for the fourth
quarter,” he added.
“Depending on how things unfold, we could potentially have
the lowest prices of the year during the fourth quarter,” Robb said.
For the National Weighted Average Base Price, Robb said the
first quarter will range from $90 to $92, which is up 12.2 percent from one year
During the second quarter of 2014, he expects pork
production to decrease 4 percent to 5 percent and prices to increase 33 percent
to 35 percent from one year ago to $115 to $123.
“There will be a similar year-to-year decline in the third
quarter for hog slaughter of 4 to 5 percent and pork production of 2 to 3
percent,” he predicted. “That will put prices 26 percent above a year ago at
$115 to $125.”
The analyst expects fourth-quarter prices to range from $85
“That will be 8 (percent) to 9 percent up from last year,”
“Early 2015 is anybody’s guess,” Robb said.
“Depending on how the disease unfolds, we could see modest
or slight year-to-year declines in hog prices,” he added.