First-quarter commercial pork production is expected to be about 6.3 billion pounds, about 2 percent higher than a year ago. This production forecast is slightly lower than last month’s forecast due to a small downward adjustment to average dressed weights. Average first-quarter prices of live equivalent 51-52 percent lean hogs will likely average $45-$46 per cwt, more than 6 percent below the first quarter a year ago.

Hog prices began 2016 significantly below a year ago, but they have slowly trended upward as slaughter hog numbers have eased. January prices of live equivalent 51-52 percent lean hogs averaged $40.35 per cwt, more than 25 percent below a year earlier. Prices averaged $46.61 in February, about 2 percent below a year earlier but 16 percent higher than January. While still below a year ago, hog prices in the first week of March were almost 24 percent higher than they were in the first week of January.

Hog prices typically begin to trend upward in the mid-to-late winter as the U.S. hog processing industry works its way through seasonally tightening supplies.

During January, with 20 slaughter weekdays and 5 Saturdays, federally inspected hog slaughter equaled 9.7 million head, implying an adjusted daily slaughter of about 430 thousand head.

In February, with 21 slaughter days and 4 Saturdays, the daily kill averaged 389 thousand head, about 40 thousand head fewer daily than in January. Hog prices are expected to continue to trend seasonally upward into the summer months as the relatively smaller fall and winter pig crops move to slaughter.

Second-quarter prices of live equivalent prices of 51- 52 percent lean hogs are expected to average $51-$53 per cwt, more than 14 percent above first-quarter prices, but still more than 2 percent below the same period last year.