September 15, 2008


US hog slaughter sets new record for a September week



US hog slaughter set a new record and was above 2.3 million head for the first time ever in a September week.


The US Department of Agriculture estimated last week's hog figure at 2.306 million head, up 3.5 percent from a year ago.


Ron Plain, agricultural economist at the University of Missouri, said the largest hog-slaughter week in a month of September before this was 2.243 million head, which occurred the period ended Sept. 22 last year.


"This is just one of many records yet to come," Plain said. So far, slaughter rates throughout the summer have been in line with the USDA's June hog and pig inventory report.


Year-to-date slaughter is up 8.7 percent, but about this time a year ago supplies began to expand rapidly as a result of increased availability of circovirus vaccines earlier in the summer. The vaccines greatly reduced death losses from porcine circovirus-associated disease and improved the overall performance in pigs. The result was a record large slaughter during the fourth quarter a year ago.


Hog supplies are expected to be even larger in the final quarter this year than in 2007, but analysts predict the increase will be relatively small at 1 percent to 3 percent. Also, lighter hog weights due to high feed costs could keep pork production closer to the year-ago output.


Cash hog prices declined again this week, losing about US$4.25 per hundredweight on a dressed or carcass basis, according to the USDA's national weighted average prices.


Wholesale pork prices were weaker as well but limited by a gain Friday. The loss for the week was just US$1.53, compared with steeper declines of US$5.82 a week ago and US$8.60 two weeks ago. The USDA's pork cutout value has declined in 17 of the past 19 days since the record high was set Aug. 15 at US$94.41.


Despite the four-week slide, wholesale pork prices Friday afternoon were still US$7.76 above a year ago.


The seasonal trend for hog and pork prices is weaker. Last year, the pork cutout at the end of the second week in September was US$67.98. It slid an additional US$10.91 to the season low of US$57.07 on Nov. 20.


Last week's cattle slaughter was estimated at 657,000 head, compared with 593,000 a week ago and 645,000 a year ago. Year-to-date cattle slaughter is up 0.8 percent from a year ago.


The year-to-date hog slaughter is up 8.7 percent.


The USDA estimated total beef, pork and lamb production for the week at 969.8 million pounds. Last week's output was 867.1 million pounds, and the year-ago figure was 955.9 million pounds. Year-to-date combined meat output is up 4.4 percent.


Broiler/fryer slaughter this week was estimated at 168.873 million head, compared with 144.936 million a week ago and 168.326 million a year ago.


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