The average carcass weight of barrows and gilts slaughtered the week ending December 18 was 205 pounds, unchanged from the previous week and 7 pounds heavier than a year ago. Iowa-Minnesota live weights for barrows and gilts marketed last week averaged 274.3 pounds, up 0.5 pound from the week before and up 6.8 pounds compared to a year earlier. The average hog carcass weight during the fourth quarter has been 2% heavier than during October-December 2009. USDA's December hogs and pigs report implied 2011 hog slaughter will be down from this year. Given the trend on weights, pork production may well be higher next year.

Because of the holiday schedule, there were no USDA livestock price reports last Friday or today. Hog prices on Thursday were higher than the week before. The national weighted average carcass price for negotiated hogs Thursday morning was $71.92/cwt, up $4.28 from the previous Thursday. The average carcass price Thursday morning in the eastern corn belt was $70.17/cwt. Both the western corn belt and Iowa-Minnesota averaged $73.58/cwt Thursday morning. The top live hog price Thursday at Sioux Falls was $48/cwt. The top at Zumbrota was $46 and Peoria's top was $49/cwt. The interior Missouri live top Thursday was $49.50/cwt, up $2 from the preceding Thursday.

USDA's Thursday afternoon calculated pork cutout value was $77.63/cwt, down 4 cents from the previous Thursday. Hams and butts were lower this week while loins and bellies were higher. Packer margins have shrunk rapidly at the end of December. This may indicate a reduction in daily hog slaughter lies ahead.

Hog slaughter this week is forecast by the trade to be 1.938 million head, up 4.9% from the week before and up 1.3% compared to the same week last year. USDA's official estimate will not be released until Monday.

The February lean hog futures contract ended the week at $79.75/cwt, up $1.03 from the previous week. The April contract ended the week at $83.87/cwt, up $1.10, June hogs settled at $91.62/cwt up $2.35 and July hog futures closed at $93.05/cwt.

March corn futures ended the week on Friday at $6.29/bushel, up 15 cents from the previous week. May corn settled at $6.365 on Friday. January soybean meal futures close at $370.30/ton on Friday, up $10.30 from the week before. May bean meal ended the week at $374.50/ton.

It has been a good year for hog prices. Based on preliminary data, the average negotiated base price for barrows and gilts was $72.50/cwt, up $17.94 from 2009 and the highest since 1996. Hog slaughter in 2010 totaled about 110.266 million head, down 2.95% from 2009 and the lowest since 2007. The average price of corn in 2010 was close to $3.84/bu, up a dime from 2009 and below only 2008.

By Ron Plain, University of Missouri