The average pork producer has lost money in 19 of the last 21 months. This long stretch of red ink has caused some reduction in sow numbers. The U.S. swine breeding herd on June 1 was 0.4 percent smaller than the previous quarter, 2.7 percent smaller than a year earlier and 4.3 percent smaller than at the cyclical peak in December 2007.
Unfortunately, much of the impact of sow herd cuts has been offset by more pigs per litter (up 2.45 percent during the last 12 months) and heavier slaughter weights (up 1.1 percent thus far in 2009). The breeding herd has a long way to go to reach the 5.6 million head level, which equals the 10 percent reduction often cited as needed to return the industry to sustained profitability.