US pig herd 4% smaller than a year ago

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The total number of pigs in the United States, recorded on 1 September, was 75.4 million head, according to the USDA. This is a reduction of 4% compared to the same date a year ago, but 1% more than in June.

The number of breeding sows was 6.19 million head, down 2% from last year and down slightly from the previous quarter. The number of clean pigs born between June and August was 33.9 million head, 6% lower than the same quarter in 2020. The number of sows farrowing during this period was 3.05 million head, down 7%.

US pig producers intend to farrow 3 million sows from September to November 2021, 4% fewer than actual farrowings during the same period in 2020, and 6% fewer than the same period in 2019. However, intended farrowings for December 2021-February 2022, at 2.96 million sows, are up 1% the same period one year earlier. This suggests the US pig herd may now start to recover.

Together these numbers suggest tighter supplies in the coming months. The USDA forecasts pork production in 2021 to be 12.78 million tonnes, down from 12.85mt in 2020. This comes at a time when Chinese import demand has been also falling. However, the USDA recently revised up its forecast of 2021 Chinese import demand to 5mt (cwe) from 4.85mt, because of faltering progress in the recovery of China’s pig herd. Both figures are lower than 2020’s Chinese import demand of 5.28mt.