Almost every number in USDA's most recent Quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report was down from a year ago, but by only 1% or less. The spring quarter pig crop, at 32.9 million head, was down 1% from the same March through May period a year ago. Likewise, sows farrowed during that same period were down 1%.
The breeding inventory June 1 was about 6.2 million head down, a decrease of 1%, and the total June 1 inventory of all hogs and pigs, at 72.5 million head, was down from last year by 1%.
As for production over the next year, the report says producers intend to have just over 3 million sows farrow during the summer quarter, and about the same for the fall quarter, with both figures 1% below a year ago.
"The watchword is probably uncertainty," says USDA Livestock Analyst Shayle Shagam. "Uncertainties in terms of grain prices, in terms of demand in this economy for pork, which would obviously then translate into demand for hogs.
"The report would indicate a little bit of a negative tint in the sense that we're not looking at any expansions and farrowing intentions. They didn't expand farrowings but nor did they show really significant levels of contraction."
According to Shagam, the most recent USDA projections have 2022 pork production down about 1.6% from a year earlier, with 2023 production up about a half of a percent.
As to the forecast for hog prices, Shagam says the USDA expects average prices for the national base lean price used as a marker on a live equivalent basis being about $71 a hundredweight in 2022, compared to about $67/cwt in 2021, and then remaining fairly steady at about $71/cwt in 2023.
With a pretty steady outlook for production and prices, Shagam says on the surface, "I think the industry is taking a very measured approach."
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