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U.S. hog numbers down, but ham market stays strong

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The Quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report shows hog numbers are down 1 percent from September of last year, but up 2 percent since June. 

On inventory, there are currently 73.8 million head of hogs in the U.S., of which, 6.15 million are breeding inventory. Market hogs represented 67.6 million out of the total inventory. 

»RelatedUnited States cattle inventory down 2%

Pig crops represent 33.6 million head with farrowing sows totaling 3.02 million and 49 percent of the breeding herd. Right now, the U.S. breeding herd is down about 38,000 head from a year ago – and, tightening of breeding supply could impact future farrowing numbers. 

Each sector of the U.S. hog inventory was down 1 percent, except for the 2.97 million sows that were intended to farrow during the September-November 2022 quarter, which was down 2 percent from last year, and 6 percent from the same period two years ago. Intended farrowing numbers for December 2022-February 2023 are at 2.90 million sows, which are down 1 percent from both one and two years prior.

The largest holders of swine inventory are Iowa with 23.4 million head, Minnesota with 8.80 million head, and North Carolina with 8.30 million head. 

October slaughter is projected to be about 1.5 percent below a year ago. Despite predictions by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a decrease in hog numbers of about one million, pork markets have stayed strong in part due to volume purchases by the U.S.’s largest customer, Mexico. With a shortfall of turkey numbers predicted, ham demand should stay strong moving into the fall. 

Lower numbers may be attributed to producer’s hesitation to expand numbers. The higher cost of feed, export uncertainties, and the looming Prop 12 may all be contributing factors to producer concerns.  

Other key report findings:

  • Under-50-pound category — down 1.6 percent from last year
  • The 50-119 pound category — down 1.6 percent from last year
  • The 120-179 pound category — down 1.2 percent from last year
  • 180 and over category — down 1.5 percent from last year

The quarterly NASS survey includes about 4,700 swine operations from around the nation. Surveys were conducted during the first half of September by electronic data recording, mail, telephone, and face-to-face interviews.

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