Pork producers have seen an extended profit period, but they’re looking at a different story for 2007. That message has been pervasive all summer. The question is -- has it paid off?

A glance at sow slaughter, might suggest that’s the case. It continues to run substantially above year earlier levels, notes Glenn Grimes, University of Missouri. It started in early March. From March 11 through the week ending Aug. 5, U.S. producers slaughtered 127,000 more sows from domestic production in 2006 than in 2005.

“For just June and July of this year, we have slaughtered nearly 42,000 more sows than a year earlier from domestic production,” he points out. Cull sow and boar imports from Canada are removed from the data.

Gilt slaughter for the previously noted periods has been slightly larger than in 2005.

“Is it possible that we are reducing the size of the breeding herd with the average producer with 30 consecutive months of profit and still counting? I believe the odds are near zero,” says Grimes.

Still, the breeding herd reductions or a flaw in the data are the only logical options, he says.

Word on the street is that some mid- to large-production systems are growing. But what about producers with “smaller” herds? “Is it possible that all of the discussion about higher corn prices for the future is contributing to some producers reducing their herd or exiting the industry completely,” asks Grimes.

With porcine circovirus associated diseases finding its way into U.S. herds, veterinarians have been trying to drive home the point that this is not the time to crowd pigs into grow/finishing facilities. Are producers heeding that advice and getting rid of some sows in order to align production closer to facilities’ real capacity?

“We’ve been telling producers that the breeding herd needed to be cutback further,” says Grimes, “maybe they’ve listened.”

Indeed, there are plenty of questions, and few answers at the moment. It will definitely make the upcoming September Hogs and Pigs Report one to watch.