The UDSA Hogs and Pigs Report released Friday afternoon reveals, as of Sept. 1, all U.S. hogs and pigs tallying 66.6 million head, down 2.3 percent from a year ago. Industry analysts interviewed after the release of the report, say there is a ray of hope in the numbers.

 Animals kept for breeding, a closely watched number from the report, tallied 5.874 million head, down 3.1 percent from a year ago, slightly more than pre-report estimates.

For the market herd, 60.75 million head is down 2.2 percent from year ago levels. Pre-report estimates predicted the number to be down 1.8 percent. Another important figure in the report shows a record 9.7 pigs saved per litter during the June- Aug. period.

“This is a little better report than we expected,” says Glenn Grimes, Extension marketing specialist, University of Missouri. After adding a note of caution on revisions made by USDA on the June report, Grimes predicted slaughter for the fourth quarter will be down 1.9 percent from year ago levels, at 29.67 million.

“This report came in very close to analyst estimates and suggests we’re trying to find a bottom in this market,” says Joe Kerns, director of purchasing, Iowa Select Farms, Iowa Falls, Iowa. “Although there’s not a ton of optimism in the report, there is a peek at the sun and we may at least be able to stop going down.”  Kerns expects factors such as weakness in the U.S. dollar and the number of less-than sixty pound pigs coming in below pre-report estimates will start to bolster hog prices and offer a little optimism for the future.

Daniel Bluntzer, director of research, Frontier Risk Management, Corpus Christi, Texas points to fewer feeder pigs coming in from Canada. “We have a 34 percent decline in feeder pigs coming in on a weekly basis and a 60 percent decline in barrows and gilts amounting to about 60,000 fewer animals per week from Canada,” he says. Bluntzer adds that changes in currency levels in export markets will yield an improvement in United States’ marketability of pork- a “bright spot as we head into the end of the year and into 2010.”

Read the full USDA report.