USDA’s December Hogs and Pigs report showed more hogs than the trade estimate anticipated which could lead to very large slaughter numbers in 2004. Glenn Grimes and Ron Plain, University of Missouri agricultural economists project a slaughter of 102.4 million hogs in 2004, which would be a new record.

USDA’s report showed the total inventories up 1 percent, the breeding herd down 1 percent and the market herd up 1 percent compared to a year earlier.

The economists do not expect slaughter capacity problems unless the industry looses a large slaughter plant. The slaughter is expected to be more spread out throughout the whole year, rather than concentrated in the fourth quarter as it was in 1998.