Bigger hog herd may reflect growing sow immunity to PEDv

By Daniel Enoch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2014 - The U.S. hog and pig inventory totaled 66.1 million head as of Dec. 1, up 2 percent from a year earlier and up 1 percent from Sept. 1, USDA said today in a quarterly report.

Although the report did not mention the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), several experts on a conference call organized by the National Pork Board said the increase in the inventory may reflect a sow herd that has gained some immunity from the killer animal disease.

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PEDv was discovered in the U.S. herds in the spring of 2013 and has since spread to more than 30 states, including Hawaii, where it was found on a pig farm on Oahu a month ago. The disease has killed more than 8 million animals, mostly piglets who are especially vulnerable to the gastric distress and dehydration caused by the virus.

“The severity of the disease, up to this point (this year) is much less than a year ago at this time,” when a large portion of the breeding herd was infected, said Altin Kalo, an economist with the Steiner Consulting Group in Manchester, New Hampshire. “Those sows gained some immunity,” and this year's inventory number may reflect that, he said.

Joe Kerns, with Kerns and Associates in Ames, Iowa, pointed to the numbers of sows saved per litter to back up that point. From September through November, the average number of pigs saved per litter was a record 10.23, according to the USDA report, compared to 10.16 in the same period a year earlier. The average for large scale operations with more than 5,000 hogs and pigs - and possibly better resources to deal with the disease - was10.3 per litter.

Kalo also said that the pork industry has gained a vast amount of knowledge about the disease since it was first discovered in the U.S., and is now more capable of dealing with it, as have other countries where the virus is more common.

Today's report also showed:

  • The Dec. 1 breeding hog inventory at 5.97 million head, up 4 percent from a year earlier and up 1 percent from the Sept. 1 number.
  • Market hogs totaled 60.1 million head as of Dec. 1, up 2 percent from Dec. 1, 2013, and up 1 percent from the end of the previous quarter.
  • The pig crop for the September-November period was 29.4 million head, up 4 percent from the same period in 2013.
  • Sows farrowing during the September-November quarter totaled 2.87 million head, up 3 percent from 2013. The figure represented 48 percent of the breeding herd.
  
The USDA report suggests higher slaughter rates in the second half of 2015. This, combined weaker exports caused by a stronger dollar and the ban on exports to Russia due to the incursion into Crimea, will put pressure on prices by the fall of 2015, the experts said.

  

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