WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2015 – The U.S. hog and pig inventory stood at 63.8 million head as of Dec. 1, USDA said today in a report. That’s the highest number since quarterly estimates began in 1988.

The figure is up 1 percent from Dec. 1, 2014, and up slightly from the Sept. 1, 2015, according to the report. About 62.3 million head were destined for the market, up 1 percent from a year earlier and also the highest market hog inventory since quarterly estimates began 27 years ago. The average pigs saved per litter for the September-November period also set a record at 10.53, compared to 10.23 a year earlier.

The pigs-per-litter number is “rather amazing,” said Ron Plain, an extension economist with the University of Missouri, in a conference call following the release of the report. In the call, sponsored by the National Pork Board, Plain noted that the pig crop had been “devastated" in the winter of 2013-2014 by the PED virus (porcine epidemic diarrhea), resulting in record hog prices.

“We’ve certainly bounced back from that,” Plain said. “It looks like, at least for the time being, producers have learned how to live with the PED virus.”

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Plain and other livestock experts on the call said the big inventory numbers and high pigs per litter figure suggest that producers should consider locking in prices now before they fall further.

Other highlights from the report:

--Breeding inventory, at 6 million head, was up 1 percent from last year, and up slightly from the previous quarter.

--The September-November pig crop totaled 30.3 million head, down 1 percent from the same period in 2014.

--Sows farrowing during the quarter totaled 2.88 million head, down 4 percent from 2014. The sows farrowed represented 48 percent of the breeding herd.


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