USDA's September Hogs and Pigs Report reflects more of the same in terms of pork production on U.S. farms. The breeding herd on Sept. 1 was essentially the same as a year ago. Farrowing intentions are holding steady. Total market hogs also are near year-ago levels, and the weight breakdowns show a relatively steady supply (the lighter weights indicqate 1 percent increases) heading to the packer for the rest of this fall. (See U.S. Hog Inventory up Slightly for numbers.)

Trade estimates pretty much matched USDA's numbers, so the market reaction should be nuetral to friendly.

USDA's reporting track record has been good as of late, says Ron Plain, University of Missouri agricultural economist. With the breeding herd up only modestly (0.2 percent) and the same for fall farrowing intentions, "it means we're going to continue to see very modest changes in slaughter and continued profits," he notes.

Plain is looking for 12 more months of profits, with the first prospect of red ink entering the scene in the fourth quarter 2006.

Robin Fuller, president Tallgrass Consulting, agrees that the expansion restraint in light of extended profitability is impressive. However, she does caution that "it may not be that we're lacking the expansion the report would suggest." She points to the fact that farrowings were declining going into June, but as of July and August the  trend turned higher. "It wouldn't surprise me at all to see September/November farrowings a bit larger in the end." The September report predicts 2.89 million sows will farrow, which would be unchanged from 2005.

Productivity is still a key factor. The 9.07 pig per litter average from the June/August farrowings is another high point. "I believe that's another record," says Steve Meyer, Paragon Economics. The total pig crop came in at 26. 273 million.

If productivity continues, of course, it means more pigs. By the second half of next year, Fuller looks for slaughter numbers to push 2 percent to 3 percent beyond 2005 levels. While she agrees that profitability will continue, she's giving it another 6 to 9 months.