Pork industry experts have been speculating what hog prices will look like in the fourth quarter of this year for some time. While, projections have never been good for fourth quarter 2002, the possibility now exists for 1998-like low prices.

Glenn Grimes and Ron Plain, University of Missouri agricultural economists, say h og slaughter for the 9 weeks ending June 8 was up over 5 percent from 2001. This increase has been 2.5 times the increase expected based on the March USDA Hogs and Pigs report.

If October, November and December slaughter is as much larger this year over 2001 as the last 9 weeks has been, compared to a year earlier, commercial slaughter for these months will be about 27.8 million head. This would be over 200,000 head more than in the fourth quarter of 1998.

Grimes and Plain say it’s not predictable how low hog prices could be pushed, but it could likely be as low as in 1998. Really, it makes sense that with more hogs and the same slaughter capacity, prices could easily hit 1998 levels, barring a huge increase in demand.

Even though most of the pigs that will be marketed in the fourth quarter have been born, there is still something that all producers can do to at least minimize the potential for extremely low hog prices in the fourth quarter of this year.

If all producers would speed up marketing by 4 percent during July, August and September, it will pull about 1 million head in the fourth quarter into the third quarter. To reduce marketing by 1 million in the fourth quarter, producers would need to reduce marketings from normal by 4 percent in the fourth quarter.

Pulling slaughter forward 1 million head should pull average weights down about five pounds by the end of the third quarter compared to what they would have been with normal marketings. This much reduction in weights should not result in discounts for light weights.

The extra 1 million hogs in the third quarter would reduce prices from what they would be with a normal schedule for third quarter, but the average price for the last half of 2002 would be substantially higher than they would be with 27.8 million head slaughter in the fourth quarter.