The USDA quarterly Hogs and Pigs report will be released friday at 1:00 P.M. EST instead of the normal 3:00 p.m. EST release time. Yes, that is while Friday’s floor trading session is still going on and, yes, as far as we know it represents a change in the release time. There was a day when the trade and USDA both believed these reports were important enough — or at least potentially important enough — that they should be released on Friday afternoon while markets were closed. USDA released the September report on a Wednesday and will now release the December report while the futures and options market is open. Many Hogs and Pigs reports have been yawners in recent years but taking this chance strikes us a bit adventuresome. But that is the schedule — December Hogs and Pigs report, Friday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. EST/ 12:00 p.m. CST. At least we will all get to leave for home and the holiday a bit earlier!

Dow Jones Newswire’s quarterly survey of analysts’ expectations for the quarterly Hogs and Pigs report (results in the table at right) indicate that slow growth is still the trend for the U.S. swine herd. Every average estimate is above year-ago levels except that of Sep-Nov farrowings which is 99.9% of last year. This follows the pattern of September when actual USDA data shows every category slightly higher than last year except Jun-Aug farrowings and Sep-Nov farrowing intentions which were 98.5 % and 99.8% of year-earlier levels.

The chart at right, with analysts’ average estimates converted to head and denoted by the red observations for 2011, shows how these estimates fit the historical data. The market herd estimate fits a very normal seasonal pattern and the breeding herd estimate fits the slow growth trend that started in Q1 of 2010. We think it is interesting that market hog inventories have returned to almost the same trend they were on from 2000 through 2006. That trend was blown to the top side by the introduction of circorvirus vaccines (which allowed a larger percentage of pigs to survive to market weight) in 2007.  The market herd then declined sharply along with the breeding herd when costs exploded in 2008 and 2009. Note that market herd growth is generally back on the same trend but that the breeding herd is growing at a decidedly slower pace, clearly denoting productivity growth. That growth becomes even more impressive when one considers that roughly 2 million fewer feeder pigs will be imported from Canada this year versus 2007—and 1 million fewer than 2008. The market herd inventory would be even higher had Canadian imports remained at pre-2009 levels.