This Friday, USDA will release the latest U.S. Hogs and Pigs Report. In his pre-report estimates, University of Missouri agricultural economist Ron Plain predicts that the breeding herd is 1.9 percent smaller than a year ago, the market hog inventory is 3.9 percent smaller, and the total herd is 3.7 percent smaller than on March 1, 2008.

Additionally, the economist says total slaughter of barrows and gilts was down about 2 percent during the December-February period due to a 65 percent drop in imports of Canadian slaughter hogs. Slaughter of U.S.-raised hogs was a bit higher than expected based on the December inventory report.

Plain is predicting winter farrowings actually were down 3.5 percent and spring farrowings will be down 2.0 percent. The economist predicts summer farrowings will be down 1.0 percent compared to June-August 2008. Declining feed prices in the second half of 2008 slowed what had been a rapid sow herd reduction. December-February, sow slaughter was 7.4 percent lower than a year ago.

“I'm estimating that pigs per litter were up 2.4 percent this winter, as it was the two previous quarters,” says Plain. “My estimate is the December-February pig crop was 98.9 percent of a year earlier. Feeder pig imports during December-February were 35 percent below last winter's level, so the light weight market hog inventory should be down considerably more than the fall pig crop.”

“My estimates of the March 1 market hog inventory by weight groups are: 180 pounds and heavier 97.6 percent, 120-179 pounds 95.5 percent, 60-119 pounds 95.0 percent, and under 60 pounds 96.4 percent of a year earlier,” says Plain.

Plain also predicts that second quarter daily hog slaughter will be more than 5 percent below year-ago levels, if the inflow of slaughter hogs from Canada continues to be down. “I expect live hog prices to average close to $52 per hundredweight, or $68.50 per hundredweight carcass, in the second quarter of 2009.

“I expect hog slaughter during the third quarter of 2009 to be 4 percent lower than the number slaughtered in July-September 2008,” Plain continued. “If so, look for third quarter 2009 hog prices to average close to $53 per hundredweight on a live basis and $70 per hundredweight on a carcass basis.”