USDA’s February monthly Hogs and Pigs Report showed the January 2002 U.S. pig crop, at 8.17 million head, was 4 percent higher than January 2001. Sows farrowing during this period totaled 929,000 head, 3 percent above for the same month a year ago.

Ron Plain, University of Missouri agricultural economist had projected a 3.1 percent increase in the January pig crop and a 2.1 percent increase in sows farrowing over 2001 levels. However, the 1 percent discrepancy between expectations and the report is not likely to make waves in the hog market.

“The report would have to be off a lot before most people get too worried,” says Plain. “The monthly reports still don’t have the track record and people don’t have the confidence in the monthly reports to pay as much attention as they do to the quarterly reports.”

Plain sees the pig crop as the key element, because it most directly effects slaughter. Plain is calling for slaughter and prices in the first half of this year to be near 2001 levels. In the second half of the year, Plain expects slaughter to be 2 percent to 3 percent higher, which will result in substantially lower live-hog prices.

The February monthly report– released last Friday– also showed the breeding-herd inventory on Feb. 1, 2002 to be 6 million head, which is 1 percent below Feb. 1, 2001 totals. That means that fewer sows had a larger pig crop, with pigs per litter coming in at 8.80, which was up from 8.71 for the same time in 2001.