The sow slaughter for the three weeks ending June 26 was down slightly after adjusting for herd size. Gilt slaughter for the two weeks ending July 3 is down substantially from last year, says Ron Plain, University of Missouri ag economist.

Plain points out that because the gilt data is a sample, it may just be sample fluctuation. The bottomline is the decline in the breeding herd may be over. With productivity growth at an average of 3.2 percent for the last five years, the breeding herd needs to continue being reduced at least 2 percent a year to maintain production increases close to expected demand growth.

Slaughter last week under the Federal Inspection was estimated at 1.615 million head, not comparable with a year earlier because the July 4 holiday was celebrated in a different week this year than in 2003, says Plain.  The slaughter count for the last two weeks was 3.409 million head, up 4.2 percent from a year earlier.

Plain continues to find a few more hogs than indicated by the market inventories in the Hogs and Pigs report.