WASHINGTON, June 27, 2014 -- The U.S. hog and pig inventory totaled 62.1 million as of June 1, down 5 percent from a year earlier and down 1 percent from three months earlier, USDA said today in a quarterly report. The figure is the smallest in more than seven years.
The drop reflects the effects of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), a disease that was first confirmed in U.S. herds in Iowa in the spring of 2013 and has since spread to at least 4,700 hog farms in 30 different states, killing more than 7 million pigs. The report did not mention PEDv.
The pig crop for the March-through-May period totaled 27.4 million, down 5 percent from the same period a year earlier. That's also the smallest for any quarter since 2007, the USDA report showed. Pigs saved per litter averaged 9.78 for the quarter, down from 10.31 a year earlier.
The virus, first recognized in the UK in 1971, can cause severe diarrhea and dehydration in pigs. While older animals mostly end up losing weight after infection, piglets often die. PEDv can't be transmitted to humans or other animals, and has no effect on pork quality. The virus can spread rapidly throughout an entire herd of hogs. The most common avenue is on livestock and farm equipment that come into contact with hogs positive with PEDv or their feces.
Earlier this month, USDA projected U.S. pork production for 2014 at 22.8 billion pounds, down 1.6 percent from 2013. Hog producers are trying to compensate for the reduced hog numbers by raising their animals to heavier weights before slaughter.
The reduced inventory numbers have driven hog futures up about 50 percent from a year ago into record territory. Average retail pork prices were recently at about $4.10 a pound, up 15 percent from a year ago.
Earlier this month, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued Harrisvaccines Inc. of Ames, Iowa, a conditional license for a vaccine that may help control the virus. This is the first licensed vaccine for PEDv. USDA also issued a federal order requiring the reporting of new detections of the virus and a related disease, porcine deltacoronavirus, to APHIS or state animal health offices.
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