Last Friday’s quarterly USDA Hogs & Pigs report largely met expectations, with the September 1 U.S. swine population reaching 68.395 million head or 103.6 percent of last year. This was also the largest total since the USDA went to quarterly reports in 1988, but it didn’t greatly exceed the peaks of 2008 and 2013.
The summer pig crop rose 0.6 percent annually to 30.585 million head, thereby reflecting a 1.6 percent reduction in June-August sow farrowings and a 2.3 percent annual surge in litter sizes.
The number of pigs in the various weight classes suggests October supplies will run 8 percent - 9 percent over year-ago levels, which would fall modestly below the major increases experienced through the first nine months of the year. However, the report also suggests pig numbers could average only about 3 percent over year-ago rates in mid-to-late autumn, then roughly match late 2014 to early 2015 numbers this winter. Fall-winter farrowing intentions seemed rather large. When combined with the strong upward trend in litter sizes, these suggest spring-summer 2016 supplies won’t decline substantially below 2015 levels.
The hog and pork markets behaved well early last week. The industry seemingly expects market-ready hog supplies to prove comparatively tight during the weeks ahead. Pork offtake also seems robust, thereby likely reflecting reduced retail costs.
Seasonal weakness, likely exaggerated by equity index and cattle market losses, seemed to emerge last Thursday, but the expected late-year slide may prove rather modest.