By Ron Plain
On March 28, USDA will release the results of their latest survey of the U.S. swine inventory. My estimates are that the breeding herd is 1.2% larger than a year ago; the market hog inventory is 0.8% larger; and the total herd is 0.8% larger than in March 2012. My estimates of the March 1 market hog inventory by weight groups are: 180 pounds and heavier 101.9%, 120-179 pounds 99.8%, 50-119 pounds 100.4%, and under 50 pounds 101.1% of a year earlier.
December-February sow slaughter was down 1.1% compared to a year earlier. The number of Canadian sows imported for slaughter was up 3.4%. Adjusted for imports, slaughter of U.S. sows was down 1.9%, out of a sow herd that was 0.2% larger than 12 months earlier. Our gilt slaughter data shows more gilts were retained this winter than last.
I anticipate no major revisions of USDA's December hog inventory estimates. Slaughter of barrows and gilts during December-February was down 0.3% from a year earlier. USDA's December report implied fall slaughter would be up 0.1%.
In their last inventory report, USDA predicted that December-February farrowings would be unchanged compared to 12 months earlier and March-May farrowings would be 1.9% lower than a year earlier. I think that winter farrowings were down 0.0%. I'm forecasting spring farrowings to be down 1.2% and June-August farrowings up 0.7% compared to last summer.
I'm estimating pigs per litter to have been up 1.1% this winter. My estimate is the December-February pig crop was 101.1% of a year earlier.
My estimate of hogs in the 50-179 weight groups implies that daily hog slaughter during the second quarter will be very close to year-ago levels. I expect hog slaughter during the third quarter of 2013 to be up 0.6% on a daily basis compared to the number slaughtered in July-September 2012.
Look for fourth quarter 2013 slaughter to be up 0.6%. I expect first quarter 2014 daily slaughter to be up 1.9% compared to this year.
I expect live hog prices to average close to $65/cwt ($85/cwt carcass) in the second quarter of 2013 and $66/cwt ($86 carcass) in the third quarter. I'm looking for fourth quarter of 2013 to be close to $58/cwt ($76/cwt carcass) with $59/cwt ($78/cwt carcass) price average in the first quarter of 2014.