USDA’s latest Quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report, released March 28, had few surprises. Still, the key to the U.S. pork industry’s immediate future may lie in the plans of Canadian producers.

USDA’s report reveals an inventory of all hogs and pigs at 58.7 million head, which is 2 percent above March 2001 levels, but 1 percent below December. The breeding inventory, at 6.24 million head is up slightly from both March and December 2001. Market hog inventory, at 52.5 million head is 2 percent above this time last year, but 1 percent below December 2001.

December/February farrowings were up 3 percent from 2001, with 2.83 million sows farrowing. Average pigs per litter for the December/February period was 8.73, compared to 8.72 pigs saved per litter last year. Still, the farrowing gains boosted the December/February pig crop (24.7 million head) by 3 percent over 2001 levels.

Meanwhile, Canada’s production report shows farrowing intentions for January/March are up almost 8 percent from 2001, say Glenn Grimes and Ron Plain, University of Missouri agricultural economists. If you combine the first-quarter pig crop from the United States and Canada and assume no productivity growth, there’s the potential for a 4 percent increase from 2001 levels.

Farrrowing intentions for the United States and Canada show the potential for a 2 percent increase in fourth-quarter slaughter– again assuming no increase in litter size. That situation would put fourth-quarter slaughter at about 27 million head, say Grimes and Plain. Fourth-quarter slaughter in 1998 was 27.586 million.

Mike Brumm, University of Nebraska, swine specialist, says USDA’s March report shows the breeding herd at 100 percent of a year ago, and the market herd at 102 percent. He points out most of the market-hog gains could be due to the increasing number of Canadian feeder pigs entering this country. As of March 9, Canadian feeder-pig imports into the United States were up 44 percent from the same period in 2001, says Brumm. In 2001, U.S. producers imported 3.14 million feeder pigs.

Economists Release Slaughter, Price Forecasts

Glenn Grimes and Ron Plain, University of Missouri agricultural economists, have made their price and slaughter projections, following USDA’s Qqarterly March Hogs and Pigs Report. Here are there current projections for the coming year: