Jim Long Pork Commentary, U.S. Sow Mortality Continues to Climb, December 18th 2023


Excellent article by Bradley Eckberg, MetaFarms on NHF last week about the continuing climb of Sow Mortality.

Our Observations

  • MetaFarms is a production data base with information on 300 farms, 800,000 sows. Average farm size 2,666 sows.
  • This year to date (November) U.S. average sow mortality 15.8% a new record.

Link to the article: MetaFarms U.S. Sow Mortality Continues Climbing

  • As you can see from the chart there has been a relentless increase of sow mortality 2014 – 9.0% and 2023 – 15.8% an increase of 6.8%. If we use 6 million sows as the inventory in the U.S., the increase of 6.8% is about 415,000 more dead sows.
  • MetaFarms experts have valued in the cost of a dead sow at about $1,000 USD (gilt replacement, feed, loss of salvage value, loss of pigs, etc.) cost and true dead removal lastly everyone just loves the job of hauling out dead sows. Not exactly morale booster.
  • Farmer Arithmetic 415,000 more dead sows times $1,000 = $415 million per year. Real Money.
  • If you’re in production, you know the reason for more dead sows. It’s mostly the change in genetics over the last 10 year. Prolapses from certain genetic companies have become a death epidemic. Leaner and lower appetite sows come out of farrowing crates emaciated and they never recover. Temperament of the European based genetics (almost all genetics) lead to fighting and more deaths. Structure of the feeble European females as we go to more pen gestation leads to cripple and death. Add it up. More dead sows. Loss of $1,000 each.
  • This year the sow mortality increases from last year 15.8% from 14.4% is 1.4% on 6 million sow inventory is about an extra 84,000 dead sows year over year $84 million loss.
  • A couple of weeks ago we were with a Genesus World Mega Producer customer with over 100,000 sows. They use only Genesus Genetics. They had recently toured other genetic companies to see if there are better options. In the tour they were surprised to discover all competitor sow mortality were over 15% and wean to finish over 10%. Our customers sow mortality 7% and wean to finish 7%. They were surprised by our competitor’s death losses. Knowing the reality of Genesus in their own system it was eye opening what they saw in our competitors. They continue with Genesus. 100,000 sows at 7% mortality vs. 15%, 8% difference times $1,000 = $8 million a year. We appreciate the business.
  • Having sows that live is good business. Where is the sow mortality going to stop growing when it’s at 15.8% average now. 18%? 20%? At some point it could become an animal welfare issue. Knowingly producing genetics that have a huge affinity of sow killing prolapses is an affront to our industry. Fancy Dancy GMO altering of genetics isn’t going to fix basic animal welfare issues such as death from prolapse, temperament or structure.


Growing mortality in sows is a major issue for our industry. Not only in America but around the world. The consequence of weak females’ lives gets magnified in their offspring. Not only do we have record sow mortality, but record wean to finish mortality. Pigs that live better is only good business.

Merry Christmas

My father used to say, “Don’t worry, Christmas will be here on the same day this year.”

My father grew up in the Great Depression and World War II. Real Adversity. It shaped him to what were real problems. As a farmer he lived the cycles of agriculture. Ups and downs. To be a farmer it probably helps to be optimistic to a fault. If we listed all the things that could go wrong, we could run out of paper.

The U.S. swine industry this past year have had real adversity. In 2023 7 months with losses over $30 per head. There had been only 3 months over $30 in losses in the previous 20 years. Producing Food (Pork) is a noble quest and it’s sad we have to do it at a loss. The good news we all know losses will end as the cycle of losses always does. The unfortunate part is for our industry to prosper again there has to be financial and emotional suffering of many good people. Darwinian Capitalism.

To our 28,000 weekly readers around the world. You are in a noble industry. We should be proud that we are food producers. The world needs food to sustain lives. Have a Merry Christmas. It will be on the same day in 2024.