The USDA reported in their March Livestock, Dairy and Poultry report that higher estimated average dressed hog weights in January-February were largely responsible for the increase in pork production. As noted above, January-February estimated commercial hog slaughter was about unchanged compared with the same period last year, while estimated commercial pork production was more than 3 percent greater than a year earlier.

The estimated average dressed weight for January-February 2011 was almost 5 pounds greater than a year ago, providing a healthy kick to pork production in the first 2 months of 2011. What is unusual is that significantly higher average dressed weights are coming at a time when the cost of adding another pound to a hog has increased dramatically, due to higher corn and soybean meal prices. So far in 2011, however, the higher prices of hogs and pork, which increased domestic and foreign demand are largely responsible for generating, appear to be more than offsetting the costs of feeding hogs to higher weights.

First-quarter commercial pork production is forecast at almost 5.7 billion pounds, 1.5 percent above the same period last year. Second-quarter production is expected to be 5.35 billion pounds, slightly less than 1 percent above a year earlier. Prices for live equivalent 51-52 percent lean hogs are expected to average $58 and $59 per cwt in the first quarter and $62 and $66 in the second quarter. USDA will release the Quarterly Hogs and Pigs report on Friday, March 25, 2011.