The suggestion box is always open

Every day, I receive many interesting messages in my work’s email.  Some emails (from outside of the pork community) are just too hard to even imagine would ever come across the server. Nevertheless, as a person that strives to continuously provide top-notch information for the swine business, I openly welcome feedback from the National Hog Farmers readers - especially from the hard-working pig farmers and the industry leaders.  Last week, I received a frank and to-the-point response to recent columns and articles we have posted on the current hog market conditions.

“Is the goal of your publication to paint as bearish situation as you possibly can?!?!” wrote the reader. “I'm one producer tired of reading it!!”

As a straight shooter, I accept this valuable feedback at face value, welcome it with an open mind, value it and digest the comments in order to keep the publication’s coverage in to perspective.  The fact remains correction in the hog markets was bound to happen. As production increases, no one needs a crystal ball to predict that prices will fall.  There is no hiding the fact that hog farmers are having a challenging financial year; however I agree it is not the worst of the worst nor the best of the best.  It is just the profits are narrow this year and unless we have a market shake-up there is no way to spin it.

Still, the reader makes an important point-let’s focus on the positive side of hog farming.  In the swine business, great things are happening:

  • Productivity is record-high:  Average litter size and pigs saved per litter continues to set new all-time highs each quarter. This is welcome change from the years of fighting disease outbreak.  The fruits of your labor -as industry tackling challenging health issues together- are reap today.
  • Hog production input costs are the lowest since 2007: World stocks of grain are now at comfortable levels, removing the volatility in the grain market.  While the grain side of the farming operations is suffering great heartburn affordable feed and oil below $30 a barrel is great news for hog farmers.
  • Consumer confidence on a good run:  For four years, meat and poultry demand has been high.  Even during the time of high retail prices, consumers still voted with their hard-earned dollars by purchasing pork.  As more pork is available for the global producer, it is reasonable to expect that consumers will continue to support this nutrient-enrich protein at more affordable retail price. 
  • Bright trade picture: Despite the strong U.S. dollar and aggressive animal protein competitive market, U.S. pork exports posted a strong finish in 2015 with December volumes the largest since April. In comparison, U.S. beef exports did not fare so well with below year-ago levels and post the first full-year value decline since 2009. The USDA has forecasted U.S. pork exports to climb 3.7% in 2016. Moreover, this month the U.S. dollar shows sign of weakness and China is searching for more pork.
  • Research breakthroughs: Over the last few months, NHF has shared the great stories of research that could have significant impact on the pork business moving forward.  The researchers have sought for the solutions to your ever day production problems.
  • Passionate People:  As I travel across the U.S. interacting with hog farmers of all ages, it is hard not to catch your enthusiasm for the business, the high level of passion for raising pigs and the innovative spirit.  Telling your stories is the highlight of my days and reminds me to never take the pork I eat for granted.

For me, the task at hand here at the National Hog Farmer magazine is not only to tell your story but also assist you with the daily operations by sharing the technical information, the research and the hog market fundamentals.   As a balancing act, it is important to share the good with the bad.  Trust me, I rather write every day that hog prices are soaring to new heights, no regulations is going to hinder your freedom to farm or despite the narrow profit margins every hog farmer will be in the black this year but that is not really realistic.   

As a livestock producer and human just trying to make it in this world, a wake-up call is always needed and appreciated.  As a reader, I know that some articles can hit a nerve, some are easy to relate to and others are not an interest at all.   Therefore, I ask you to keep communicating with us and share your thoughts and ideas so the best balanced information is available at your fingertips always.

You keep pig farming, I will keep writing and together the world will be a better place with safe -nutritional-tasteful pork on the table.  

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