USDA’s January Monthly Hogs and Pigs Report showed the December 2001 pig crop was 3.4 percent larger than the December 2000 pig crop.

Pigs per litter numbers were up 1.6 percent from the previous December, the first time pigs per litter increased from year ago levels since the May 2001 report. Ron Plain and Glenn Grimes, University of Missouri agricultural economists, say that the rate of productivity growth will have a great deal to do with how profitable 2002 will be.

The fall pig crop implies that spring 2002 hog slaughter will be equal to or below year ago levels. This could mean live hog prices mostly in the upper $40s with some low $50s, say Plain and Grimes. Any upward revisions in the fall pig crop numbers, would imply a summer peak in the high $40s.

December’s daily hog slaughter was 4.2 percent higher than that of the December 2000 report. The June pig crop wasn’t adequate to generate that amount of slaughter, nor can a 4.4 percent smaller July pig crop explain this month’s slaughter. Plain and Grimes look for some revised number when USDA issues its next quarterly report– in March.

A 0.3 percent increase in females bred in December, and a 0.1 percent smaller female inventory on Jan. 1, indicate that there is no significant expansion occurring in the swine herd, say the Missouri economists. Improved productivity and increased live hog or pig imports (from Canada) will be the reason for increases in slaughter, but expect the gains to be moderate.

With feed costs remaining low, Plain and Grimes look for 2002 to be another profitable year, though not quite as profitable as 2001.