“Cautiously optimistic” was the perfect description of Iowa pork producers’ attitudes attending the 44thIowa Pork Congress last week. For the most part, the spirits were upbeat but many hog farmers are carefully moving forward this year as profit margins at the beginning of the year and most likely in the last quarter of the year will be nothing to get too excited about.
It does not matter how you look at it, more hogs are in the pipeline whether it is a result of enhanced productivity with record litter sizes predicted or new expansion projects completed. Steve Meyer told Iowa pork producers to expect pork production to be huge in 2016 with the largest breeding herd in over a decade at 6 million head. As a result, Meyer, other market analysts and pork leaders raise the concern that packer capacity this fall will be tight and no one wants history to repeat itself with a back-up at the packer level. At this point, one thing hog farmers can control is weight which ultimately impacts the annual production total.
On a positive note, Meyer says pork demand has been good for three straight years with 3% growth forecasted for 2016. Still, the export market will face challenges this year as competition becomes more aggressive, free trade agreements are stalled and a strong U.S. dollar continues. According to Meyer, if U.S. pork exports grow 5% in 2016 then the industry can call it a victory.
Despite FBI agents and dogs being in the house at the Iowa Events Center, hog farmers showed up in large numbers gathering valuable information and training in the jam-packed educational session.
Beyond the daily production concerns, hog farmers will also be wading through the new Veterinary Feed Directive this year. While the antibiotic issue is a carryover from last year, hog farmers need to have a good handle on the Food and Drug Administration’s new antibiotic regulations that go into effect in January 2017. The way antibiotics will be used on the farm is changing. The National Pork Board is urging producers to take action now with the six key steps producers need to complete in 2016.
Although swine disease challenges can vary from farm-to-farm and year-to-year, it was obvious hog producers are still seeking strategies to prevent disease outbreaks and protect the farm from the next big foreign animal disease.
Still, the actual networking opportunities and the conversation on the tradeshow floor and at other social activities might actually be the priceless benefit of a convention. I know I enjoyed discussing the pork business with our readers. On behalf of the National Hog Farmer staff, I salute the Iowa Pork Producers for a great convention!