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Articles from 2019 In September

It’s not a party without the pork

filipefrazao/GettyImages NHF-filipefrazao-GettyImages-ChinaNationalDay.jpg

On Oct. 1, 1949, Mao Zedong declared the formation of the People’s Republic of China, with a ceremony and a public parade taking place in Tiananmen Square that day. Seventy years later, the Chinese still celebrate the National Day of the People’s Republic of China, with a variety of government-organized festivities, including fireworks, concerts, sporting and cultural events throughout mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. However, as the public holiday kicks off Tuesday, and another six days of celebration follows, the big question surrounding this year’s Golden Week will be: Does China have enough pork for the party?

Pork is in short supply in China because African swine fever has ravaged the Chinese hog herd and significantly reduced the production of pork. According to Xinhua, China released 10,000 more metric tons of pork from its central reserves to ensure there is enough market supply for the national holiday. This is on top of the 20,000 metric tons of reserve pork, 2,400 metric tons of reserve beef and 1,900 metric tons of reserve mutton released since early September. The Ministry of Commerce has also assured that the price of protein will be stable.

However, even with a guaranteed adequate and affordable meat supply this week, some Chinese are turning up their noses to frozen pork and beef, as it can be difficult to change taste preferences at the drop of a hat. Instead, many are opting to still purchase fresh pork, but not as much.

I can understand the Chinese sentiment there surrounding the National Day celebrations and their preference for pork on their platters. Halloween is just around the corner. Can you imagine not having enough candy to go around the country for the trick-or-treaters? What if we didn’t have enough turkey to go around Thanksgiving Day? Chicken would be an OK substitute I guess to mix with the gravy, stuffing and mashed potatoes, but what if an avian influenza break took that protein away, too?

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a pork fanatic. It’s a staple in our home. I can’t imagine Christmas or Easter without that traditional holiday ham and having to celebrate with mutton instead.

With China recently exempting purchases of U.S. soybeans, pork and other agricultural products from the tariffs, I hope this action not only leads to more sales of U.S. pork, but also contributes to a resolution of U.S.-China trade restrictions. I hope for the Chinese sake that this year’s National Day pork shortage is just a 2019 issue and that in 2020, even if ASF is still breaking there, they have an ample supply of fresh pork they can source from countries willing and able to help, such as the United States. I hope our U.S. herd remains ASF-free and we are still able to bring the pork to the party.

MIDDAY Midwest Digest, Sept. 30, 2019

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Smithfield Foods recognized for veteran employment efforts

Smithfield Foods Inc. Smithfield Foods received the Virginia Values Veterans Triumph Award for creating employment opportunities for veterans.
Smithfield Foods received the Virginia Values Veterans Triumph Award for creating employment opportunities for veterans. From left to right: Virginia Deputy Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Kathleen Jabs, Virginia Department of Veterans Services Acting Commissioner Steven J. Combs, Smithfield Foods Chief Human Resources Officer Lisa Swaney, DVS Deputy Commissioner Annie Walker, and V3 Program Manager Ross Koenig.

The Virginia Values Veterans program has honored Smithfield Foods Inc. with two awards during the 7th Annual V3 Awards Luncheon at the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Virginia Veterans and Military Affairs Conference in Richmond, Va. The awards recognize Smithfield’s Operation 4000! hiring initiative — aimed at employing 4,000 veterans or 10% of the company’s U.S. workforce — as well as the company’s efforts to support veterans and military families in Virginia and across the country. V3 is a training and certification program created by the Virginia Department of Veterans Services to help employers implement best practices in hiring, recruiting and retaining veteran employees.

“Smithfield has proven to be a leader and an example for other companies when it comes to embracing veterans and the military community in the Commonwealth and beyond,” says Ross Koenig, V3 program manager. “Smithfield has developed strong hiring and retention initiatives and philanthropic support programs focused on empowering our veterans and military families, and the company’s long-term commitment to these efforts is evident across the entire organization. We are proud to recognize Smithfield’s ongoing dedication to supporting our nation’s military.” 

Smithfield was awarded the 2019 V3 Triumph Award for creating employment opportunities for veterans and its transformative hiring process, recognizing Smithfield’s Operation 4000! veteran recruitment and hiring initiative and its mentoring and training programs for veteran employees. The award also acknowledges Smithfield’s active participation in the Virginia Transition Assistance Program, which focuses on veteran and military spouse employment, education and entrepreneurship. To achieve its veteran hiring goal, the company created military talent acquisition positions to lead this effort and participates in on-base recruitment events throughout the year. Once hired, veterans have access to mentorship and training programs to hone their talents, grow skillsets and advance their post-military careers through opportunities across the global food company’s expansive footprint.

“We recognize the importance and value that veterans bring to our workforce and the communities they call home, and we must serve them as they have served us,” says Lisa Swaney, chief human resources officer for Smithfield Foods. “We are proud to support the V3 program and the Virginia Department of Veterans Services’ efforts to create meaningful opportunities for veterans and their families to enhance the strength of the business community and our nation.”

Smithfield also received the 2019 V3 Impact Award — Enterprise, recognizing employers with over 1,000 employees, for its efforts to go above and beyond in creating positive and long-lasting impact in military communities. The company’s veteran-focused employee business resource group, Smithfield Salutes, supports recruitment, outreach and internal engagement for veteran employees and military families. In addition to easing the transition into a post-military career, members of Smithfield Salutes participate in several recognition and volunteer activities throughout the year, including veteran-focused employee luncheons and community events.

“As a veteran, I have seen first-hand Smithfield’s dedication to creating opportunities for those who have served their country, from community support to job descriptions geared toward veterans’ unique skillsets and talents,” says Troy Vandenberg, military talent acquisition manager for Smithfield Foods. “It is a privilege to work for a company focused on enhancing the quality of life for our veteran and military communities. I take great pride in representing Smithfield and showing my fellow veterans the many growth opportunities that are available to them.”

Source: Smithfield Foods, which is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

ASF response planning goes from tabletop to real world

Iowa Pork Producers Association NHF-IPPA-ASF Exercise at SEOC.jpg

Over the last year, pork industry members across the country have sat around tables talking through response exercises if African swine fever ever should ever break in the United States. Last week 14 of the top swine-producing states were given the opportunity to test drive their crisis response plans and to see if they could effectively respond to and mitigate an ASF outbreak.

“It gave us, I think, a better perspective of real-world response to this kind of crisis,” says Roy Lee Lindsey Jr., executive director of the Oklahoma Pork Council. “We’ve done tabletops before, we’ve done exercises before where we sat in a room and then somebody said, ‘Ok, so this just happened. Now what are you going to do?’ As a part of this functional exercise, we were able to say, ‘Ok, we’ve issued a stop-movement order. What does that mean? What do we have to do to implement that? Who do we get to enforce that?’”

Led by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services National Training and Exercise Program, the four-day full functional exercise brought together pork producers, allied industry members, state and federal government officials and even members of law enforcement and the legislature to act out every scenario that would happen in the face of a foreign animal disease outbreak. Each of the 14 states — Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Texas — participated from their departmental operations centers, initiated the appropriate scale of an Incident Command System and deployed personnel as needed.

While most states like Oklahoma conducted the exercise with one site as the acting FAD break, the state of Iowa “pushed the envelope” further by having a sow farm and two finishing units across three different counties, as well as two packing plants participate.

“I think exercising the extreme stressed the system and it occasionally made producers mad, but I think that’s really the only way to get better,” says Jamee Eggers, producer education director for the Iowa Pork Producers Association. “I’m proud of them for sticking their necks out and really trying to exercise through hard stuff, instead of just talking about it. I think every day we had good details that we worked through. IDALS (Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship) and USDA had sought producer input previously so that just led to being able to make really solid decisions and already having a lot of stuff in place.”

After dealing with a highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak and pseudorabies eradication, Indiana is one of those states that already has quite a few protocols in place before last week’s exercises, including mandatory premise identification.

“Our Board of Animal Health has been pretty proactive, especially in getting into the big systems first to get as many pigs verified on Indiana’s version of the Secure Pork Supply Plan and getting the premise IDs validated as quickly as possible,” says Josh Trenary, executive director of the Indiana Pork Producers Association. “That’s a leg-up for us versus states where they are not mandatory.”

Even with states having some protocols in place for dealing with an FAD outbreak, the exercise unveiled response steps, both large and small, that needed improvement and more clarification. For example, on Monday, when each state conducted an FAD investigation and subsequent coordination and engagement with the National Veterinary Services Laboratory’s Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory and other appropriate laboratories in the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, Iowa learned it was at capacity with the three breaks.

“Since we were the only state that had three producer players, we really maxed out the capacity for state and federal staff to be doing animal disease investigations,” Eggers says. “Our big takeaway there is figuring out ways to increase that capacity so that if we did have more than one site, or if, as an example, it was found that first positive came through a packing plant or through the diagnostic lab and just all of that epidemiological work that would have to happen and all of the state and federal staff, veterinary staff, to do on-farm foreign animal disease investigations. We’ve got to find a better pathway to increasing our capacity for that.”

On Tuesday, Iowa was the first state in the exercise program to declare a 72-hour standstill for livestock, as well as feed. According to Eggers, North Carolina also tried to stop feed movement, but after producer pushback, allowed feed to move again. Oklahoma had it in their plans to do feed permits, but never actually ordered a feed movement stop during the exercise.

“We discovered that when we did the stop-movement order, we said that we would still allow feed to move. We didn’t want to create a humanitarian issue with animals, and when we said we’re going to permit movements, we said we wanted to permit feed movements,” Lindsey says. “Well, those two things don’t match. So then, which way do we want to change that? Do we want to start permitting feed movements immediately and not wait until we lift the stop-movement order, or do we not need to permit the movements at all? That’s something that we’ve got a note on.”

After Iowa issued its stop-movement, other states followed suit and then the USDA issued a national standstill, which Eggers says created some inconsistencies in when movements could begin again.

“Our key takeaway from Tuesday was we’ve got to work towards more state-to-state consistency on movement. And for producers, if feed is going to be in the movement standstill, we have a lot of work to do to help producers understand what that means and what steps they can take to mitigate welfare concerns on sites if they can’t move feed for 72 hours,” Eggers says.

With Wednesday dedicated to implementing and coordinating depopulation and disposal of infected and exposed swine, Lindsey says simple questions came up during Oklahoma’s exercise such as do we have an excavator near the farm that can dig a hole for mortality management. However, the situation lent itself to inject people on the Incident Command team to make those calls and get real answers now.

Indiana not only requires mandatory premise identification, but every site with 600 head or more are required to get an environmental permit every five years. During Wednesday’s exercise, Trenary says it became clear that the state’s producers not only need to work on making sure their premise IDs are accurate, but also the farmstead plans for the permit. 

“Because there’s going to have to be some reference to those, and reference to those in real time, as you figure out where you’re going to do on-site composting that you may have to do in a depopulation event or something like that,” Trenary says. “Making sure all our ducks are in a row on the environmental side is going to be important too, so those references are available to the people that need the information, and it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to loop an environmental consultant into the discussion too, as you consider mortality disposal options.”

On Thursday, pork industry members concluded the series of exercises, implementing a system to allow continuity of business for non-infected operations within a control area. The biggest bottleneck that day for several states was sampling.

For example, in Oklahoma, officials realized they didn’t have a document in place for the proper way to package samples.

“That wasn’t in our instructions and rather than trying to figure that out, in the middle of an event, we’re going to be able to go back and answer those questions,” Lindsey says. “You know, you’ve got to have packaging available on the farm to put samples in and what that packaging looks like, things like that, that we could do in advance, in my estimation, sets us up far better for success down the road than just sitting around a table talking through what these pieces are.”

Since Iowa didn’t have solid guidance on the number of samples each farm needed to submit in order to achieve a confidence level for permitted movement, they threw out a number to try Thursday. As soon as farms started running through the exercise and requesting permits though, producers became alarmed as calculations were approaching $200,000 to $400,000 per week for sampling.

“We really need some science help and some epidemiological statistic help to determine what’s an appropriate confidence level and appropriate sample collection or sample size for permitted movement,” Eggers says. “There was also a large question about whether or not movement permits are in lieu of a certificate of veterinary inspection.”

According to Trenary, Indiana’s Board of Animal Health, using USDA’s Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health’s guidance, has already set the state’s guidelines for 30 tests per pig site to clear movement. During the avian influenza break, the poultry standard was essentially two samples per site and with the type of testing that is USDA-approved right now for ASF, the state’s laboratories will be looking at a 15-fold increase in sampling, Trenary says.

“We’ve got to follow-up on conversations with our NAHLN lab about how we might be able to bring more resources to bear for them to increase that throughput and there’s obviously some of this stuff on the sample size you want to control because it’s going to be limited by what USDA is able to approve,” Trenary says. This is why Indiana is pushing for pooled samples to maximize available resources.

Despite these hiccups and hurdles last week in the ASF mitigation and response exercise, all three pork industry members say the experience was valuable and producer feedback was positive.

“We’ve received tremendous feedback from our members that were part of our crisis communication plan outreach, both on our text message system as well as our email system,” Lindsey says. “We know the messaging went out. We know they got it and their feedback has been very positive.”

“We have an incredible team in Iowa, and everybody was willing to listen and work together and make decisions. I don’t believe that every state has that really solid relationship between industry producers, state veterinarian’s office, attorney general office, secretary of ag and USDA leadership in the state. I was so proud to see how well everyone worked together,” Eggers says. “This is absolutely about continuous improvement. Growth and learning — this exercise was a fantastic forum for doing just that. Like Roy Lee said, feedback from producers has been positive in Iowa. Every one of them said ‘We learned a lot, and this is how we get better.’”


Pig industry continues to expand

National Pork Board Pigs eating in a finishing barn

The data from the September quarterly Hogs and Pig Report (released Friday) confirm that the industry continues to expand their breeding herd and the industry continues to achieve a record high pigs per litter. The data measured the inventory of all hogs and pigs on Sept. 1 at 77.67 million, or 103% of last year. Kept-for-breeding inventory was pegged at 6.43 million sows, or 102% of last year, and the kept-for-market category was measured at 71.24 million, or 104% of last year.

The industry farrowed 1% fewer sows in the June-August timeframe but with another record high pigs per litter, the pig crop, at 35.30 million, was up 3% from the summer of last year. Looking ahead, the September-November farrowing intentions were estimated to be down 1% from the same period last year with the December-February intentions projected to be even with last year.

This report, evidently, confirms that profits have been good enough in the industry to keep expansion continuing. The report confirms that production next year will surpass production this year and, of course, remain record large. In tandem with record large poultry production and record large beef production, the demand side of the marketplace has a major job to do or widespread losses in the industry will develop. The marketplace has never had this level of protein to clear. If any hiccups occur on the demand side of the ledger, widespread losses will occur.

The prospects for U.S. pork demand look good. African swine fever continues to spread in Asia. Not only is this disease still spreading and causing major problems in China and Vietnam, but over the last month ASF has been confirmed again in Russia, in the Philippines and most recently in South Korea. My sources indicate that South Korea will likely not have much more success at containing this disease than has China and Vietnam.

Focusing on China, the government has recently reported that ASF has decimated close to 40% of their breeding stock. This is a disaster of unprecedented magnitude and it’s not over yet. In fact, it may not even be close to being over. With ASF all over Asia, containment and control will likely take years to achieve.

Chinese authorities are still trying to down play the impact of ASF. Private sources estimate losses of breeding stock of over 50%. Eventually, up to 80% of the Chinese breeding herd may be lost. Hog prices and pork prices in China have soared to record high levels. The situation is so serious that one of the four vice premiers has been charged with specific responsibilities for overseeing government efforts to control pork prices and to increase pork supplies. In other words, this is a top priority for the Chinese government.

The vice premier has stated he’s implementing three policies to control the price of pork. First, expanding pork production and capacity. Second, increasing imports, and third releasing pork from the reserves. The first policy, expanding production and capacity will be nearly impossible until the spread of ASF is under control. As of this writing there is absolutely no evidence to suggest the spread is under control. So, this leaves increasing imports and releasing pork from the reserves.

Pork has been released from the reserves two different times recently. Each release amounted to 10,000 metric tons of pork, or less than two days worth of consumption. A drop in the bucket. The amount of pork in the Chinese reserve is unknown. However, the government can purchase U.S. pork for placement into the reserve without paying the tariff. This is likely to happen, perhaps in very large quantities while the trade dispute continues.

Data confirm that Chinese pork imports have soared this year. The data also confirm that the European Union is getting the lion’s share of the business. In the face of higher Chinese imports during the January through July period, the EU captured 62% of the imports compared to only 9% for the U.S. pork producer. Canada captured 15% of the Chinese imports with Brazil getting 10%. So, the trade war and the resulting 60% Chinese tariff on U.S. pork is stifling U.S. export business. Still, despite this fact, U.S. pork exports to China in July were 380% of the prior year.

So, the trade war continues to hamper the U.S. pork trade with China. The next round of talks is scheduled for Oct. 10-11 when Chinese officials will travel to the United States. It appears that both the United States and China are eager to find some common ground. A complete and total resolution to the trade dispute at this meeting is highly unlikely. However, some sort of rollback of tariffs on both sides may be agreed to in an effort to claim victory on both sides.

The industry is intent on challenging demand. Certainly if the trade dispute can be resolved, the United States is the most efficient and reliable producer of high-quality pork in the world. As these issues are hammered out, the key, of course, is for the United States to remain disease-free.

Source: Dennis Smith, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

ASF edges closer to Australia, confirmed outbreaks in Timor-Leste

Juanmonino/Getty Images NHF-Juanmonino-GettyImages-Timor-Australia.jpg

African swine fever is creeping closer to Australia, as the World Organization for Animal Health confirmed Friday 100 reported outbreaks of ASF in Timor-Leste. An island country located approximately 400 miles north of Australia, Timor-Leste is the 10th Asian nation to report an ASF outbreak.

According to Da Costa Jong Joanita Bendita, national director of Veterinary Directorate, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the outbreaks occured in small holder pig farms in the Dili Municipality. The first outbreak occurred on Sept. 9; since then 405 pigs have died. The total number of pigs in small holder farms in the Dili Municipality is estimated to be 44,000 pigs based on 2015 census data.

On Friday, the Timor-Leste Council of Ministers released the following statement.

“The Acting Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Fidelis Leite Magalhães, gave a presentation to the Council of Ministers on the disease that has caused the deaths of hundreds of pigs in the country. Samples were taken from these animals and sent for laboratory analysis in Australia confirming that these animals suffer from African swine fever. This disease is highly contagious among animals, not producing effects on humans and has affected several Asian countries. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, in collaboration with the government of Australia, has taken all necessary measures to limit the effects of this outbreak, for which there is still no remedy, cure or vaccine.” 

Sources: World Organization for Animal Health and Government of Timor-Leste, which are solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly own the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

MORNING Midwest Digest, Sept. 30, 2019

Some listeners are waking up to fog this morning, and some have flooding after weekend rains.

An assault on mosquitos in Michigan was cancelled due to weather.

Commodity speculators have turned cautious. 

A Minnesota man as 18 drunk driving citations. 

An long-time Iowa farm broadcaster has passed away. 

Farm Progress America, September 30, 2019

Max Armstrong offers more insight on dealing with the economic stresses for farmers. From those who get too much rain, to others seeing more drought, to the economic challenges. Max shares insight from a safety expert who talks about one way to escape the very negative issues facing your farm. The answer is ‘getting away.’

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

This Week in Agribusiness – September 28, 2019

Note: Start the video and all parts will play through as the full show

Part 1

Orion Samuelson and Max Armstrong start this show with a look at weather from Agricultural Meteorologist Greg Soulje, who previews the weather. Farm Broadcaster Lynn Ketelsen offers a harvest report from Minnesota where late crops are the norm. Max visits with BASF Innovation Specialist JJ Pyle, who discusses the 2019 season and the challenges farmers faced. Orion and Max talk markets with Joe Camp, Agrivisor, Bloomington, Ill., who got a good look at the crop this summer – on two wheels.

Part 2

Orion Samuelson and Max Armstrong continue their market conversation with Joe Camp, Agrivisor, Bloomington, Ill., including a look at the trade picture. In Colby Agtech, Chad Colby offers a look at the new iPhone 11 including the opportunity to trade in your old phone; and he unboxes his new iPhone 11 Pro. And Max talks about the Harvest Heros program from Mosaic MicroEssentials. Learn more at

Part 3

Orion Samuelson and Max Armstrong open this segment with a report from Chad Colby who talks about his FLIR device that can turn your camera into a thermal device. And he shares a look at the use of the technology with a drone and how it can be used in agriculture. Max talks with Carl Downs, tractor pull announcer for the Half Century of Progress about the popularity of pulling events. Orion offers and advance look at the upcoming World Dairy Expo where two secretaries of agriculture will be on hand.

Part 4

Orion Samuelson and Max Armstrong open this segment with news about a new trade deal with Japan. Max discussed trade with Darren Armstrong, chairman, U.S. Grains Council, who also offers insight on other potential markets for U.S. ag products. Challenges of new electronic logging rules are dogging the trucking industry. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., talks with Patrick Haggerty about his work to modify those rules for agriculture. Ag Meteorologist Greg Soulje looks at weather for the week ahead.

Part 5

Ag Meteorologist Greg Soulje offers his extended look at the weather including his four-week forecast.

Part 6

In Max’s Tractor Shed, Max shares the story of a ‘muscle tractor’ a 1969 Minneapolis Moline G1000 Vista owned by Mark and Kathy Becker, Athens, Ill. Orion Samuelson profiles Waterloo FFA in Waterloo, Wis., northeast of Madison. The group has several programs and solid support from alumni. Member Jackson Christenson shares insight on the work of alumni that are involved with the organization. In Samuelson Sez, Orion Samuelson offers his take on impeachment, and his thoughts on term limits for the House and Senate.

Part 7

Orion Samuelson and Max Armstrong wrap up this week’s episode talking about beef as Max talks with Amanda Radke, a South Dakota rancher who also writes for BEEF Magazine, about the issues impacting the industry including the move toward plant-based alternatives.

Highest September U.S. hog inventory since 1988

National Pork Board large litter

The U.S. inventory of all hogs and pigs on Sept. 1 was 77.7 million head, up 3.4% from last year and 3% from last quarter, according to the quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report released by the USDA Friday afternoon. The pre-report survey average was plus-2.9%, so a bit larger than what analysts had expected, however this is the highest Sept. 1 inventory of all hogs and pigs since the estimates began in 1988. 

Breeding inventory, at 6.43 million head, was up 1.6% from last year, and up slightly from the previous quarter. This was very close to analysts’ pre-report estimates of 1.3%.

Market hog inventory was another record at 71.2 million head, up 3.5% from last year, and up 3% from last quarter. Analysts had thought that number would be up 3%. This is also the highest Sept. 1 market hog inventory since estimates began in 1988.

“Plenty of pork, plenty of slaughter capacity, but somebody’s got to eat this stuff and what we’re finding is that currently we’re estimating the next year in 2020, we’re going to have to export about 26.2% of all the pork production in the country,” says Len Steiner, president of Steiner Consulting Group. “If we fall short of that? We will probably have more pork than we can consume at reasonable prices in the United States, and certainly you know, the bet is on China. If China comes in here for big numbers, our 26.2 maybe too light, in which case, you know, hog prices will be heading higher. But that’s an awful big bet for this industry on how quickly the export market is going to continue to develop.”

For the 50-pound weight category, there were 22.616 million, 1.9% larger than last year, and close to the analyst average estimate of plus-2.1%. For 50 to 119 pounds, there were 20.89 million head, 2.4% larger than one year ago. Analysts had expected that number to be up 2.8%. In the 120- to 179 pound-range, there were 14.81 4 million head, 5.3% more than last year and somewhat larger than analysts’ average estimate of plus 3.6%. For the 180 pounds and over, there were 12.969 million head, up 6.4% from a year ago, and again, a somewhat larger number than the average analyst expectation of plus-4.3%.

The June-August 2019 pig crop, at 35.3 million head, was up 3% from 2018. This is the largest June-August pig crop since estimates began in 1970. Sows farrowing during this period totaled 3.18 million head, down 1% from 2018. The sows farrowed during this quarter represented 50% of the breeding herd. 

The average pigs saved per litter was a record high of 11.11, 3.76% larger than last year for the June-August period. Analysts had expected that number to be up 2.4%.

U.S. hog producers intend to have 3.16 million sows farrow during the September-November 2019 quarter, down 1% from the actual farrowings during the same period in 2018. Intended farrowings for December 2019-February 2020, at 3.11 million sows, are down slightly from 2019, but up 2% from 2018.

“The most pronounced number to me that jumps out on this one is pigs saved per litter, a new record of 11.11. I find this is consistent with the anecdotal information that we pick up from our producers as well as genetic companies in the barns, we are continuing to save more and more pigs, and our productivity and the proficiency of our producers is being exposed in here,” says Joseph Kerns, president of Kerns and Associates. “We’ve got some very dynamic forces at play right now, specifically with what the exports look like and the promise of what China is bringing. The optimism that we have on the board is certainly not going to discourage very many folks from continuing to produce and what the prospects of tomorrow brings.”

The total number of hogs under contract owned by operations with over 5,000 head, but raised by contractees, accounted for 48% of the total U.S. hog inventory, unchanged from the previous year.