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Quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report Preview

The USDA will release their Quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report on Thursday of this week. Steve Meyer, consulting economist for the National Pork Board, says producers will be watching for three things—the size of the market heard, demand for pork and the pigs-per-litter figure.

Meyer leads off with attention to the market herd size.

“I think, critical obviously right now is going to be what is the size of the market herd. There’s been so much uncertainty about that over the last 12 months with animals backed up, with euthanasia of pigs, with a number of things. So, I think we have to watch that pretty closely. I think we’re going to have a slightly larger market herd than we did a year ago, some others have already been noted to be underneath that number, but that’s going to be critical as we go into the summer because that determines the market hog supply that’s going to be there.”

Meyer says understanding that demand for pork was actually up in 2020 is key, as producers look ahead in 2021.

“Pork demand was up last year, even with that problem with food service. Now, as we looked at ahead, logically we would say as vaccinations occur and we approached herd immunity as a population, we’re going to start reopening the food service channels and that should help demand. Well, hey, last year we shut it down, it didn’t hurt demand so why do we think it’s going to help demand this year, because you’re going to have that trade off, last year was food service home, and now you’re going to have some trade off of home to food service. And I don’t know exactly what’s going to shake out here, I’m a little concerned about it just from the fact that $1 will buy less pork in the foodservice establishment than it will add a grocery store, and I think that was the thing that helped demand as we spent dollars and purchased larger quantities last year, and now as you go the other direction will that work against it.”

According to Meyer, the most important number in the report will be the pigs-per-litter figure. He reminds producers that the litter size this quarter won’t impact marketings until June, July, and August.

“The most important number in the report is going to be the pigs per litter figure. Last year we were basically flat on pigs per litter, that kind of defies the pattern of the last ten years, when we’ve grown between one and one and a half percent per year on pigs per liter without any growth last year. And that was because in my opinion, management decisions. And so, I think that flat litter size last year was management driven, not genetics driven or health driven, and I think we’re going to have to watch that pretty closely this year because we could see a pretty robust growth and litter size, and if we do that will obviously add pigs to the supply as we go on out.”

The National Pork Board will host a webinar for pork producers, featuring expert insights and analysis on the Quarterly USDA Hogs and Pigs Report, on Thursday, March 25 at 4:30 p.m. Eastern time. Register at

Webinar analysts will include:

•             Dr. Steve Meyer – Partners for Production Agriculture

•             Dr. James Mintert, Director, Center for Commercial Agriculture, Purdue University

•             Joe Kerns, President, Partners for Production Agriculture

•             Daniel Bluntzer, Director of Research, NFC Markets