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August 24, 2007 A Penton Media Property



Table Of Contents
Canada's Herd Shrinkage Slows
A Cautionary Note When Selecting Replacement Gilts
Opposition to Increased RFS for Ethanol



What's new on National Hog Farmer?
- News: China Suspends Some U.S. Pork Imports
- News: Manure Isn't What it Used to Be
- Sow Housing Debated
- August issue: Focus on Animal Welfare

NationalHogFarmer.com



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Market Preview
Canada's Herd Shrinkage Slows
Canada's inventory of hogs and pigs continues to shrink. Statistics Canada's quarterly Hog Statistics report, released last week, indicates that the Canadian sow herd continues to decline slowly and that the large death losses of 2005 and 2006 have abated somewhat. I am confident that the latter occurrence is largely due to wider availability and use of circovirus vaccines.

Figure 1 shows the year-over-year percentage change in the United States, Canadian and combined breeding herds. Note that the 1% decline for July 1 breeding animal inventories represents the smallest year-over-year decline for the Canadian breeding herd since the fourth quarter of 2005.

The declining reductions in the Canadian herd suggest more stability, but that may be an illusion for two reasons. First, the Canadian dollar continues to creep closer and closer to par with the U.S. dollar. It was $0.95US last week and the stronger it gets, the more it hurts Canadian producers and packers. Second, mandatory country-of-origin labeling (MCOOL) is a certainty and it will put pressure on Canadian weaned pig and market hog prices. That will be a help to Canadian packers in the short run, but will exert new economic pressure on Canadian producers.

Readers should note that Statistics Canada made some major revisions to some past data in order to square it with last year's Canadian Census of Agriculture. The revisions went all the way back to the first quarter of 2003. It doesn't appear that they changed the year-over-year numbers much, but the raw numbers are definitely different.

Canadian producers farrowed 1.2% fewer sows in April-June 2007 than they did during the same period in 2006. The second quarter pig crop, at 8.597 million pigs, was only 0.5% smaller than last year. Canadian producers plan to farrow 1.5% more litters than they did in 2006 in the third quarter and 1.1% fewer litters than last year in the fourth quarter.

Deaths and condemnations were 21% smaller this quarter vs. one year ago and were the lowest since the third quarter of 2003.

The July report also included information regarding the number and size of hog farms in Canada. Those data indicated that the rate of consolidation since 2001 has been more rapid in Canada than in the United States. Canada had 11,497 hog farms in 2006, 25.7% fewer than in 2001. The number of hog operations in the United States fell by 19.2% during that period. The average Canadian farm grew by 45% from 2001 to 2006, when the average inventory was 1,308 head. The average U.S. farm grew by 28.6% to 948 head during that same period.

Variability Spurs Wild Ride
It has been a wild ride for pork packer margins recently -- as can be seen in Figure 2. The normal implication is to expect a wild ride for hog prices and that could well be the case here. But a source of this recent volatility is variability in the cutout value (See Figure 3).

It's not often that we see that kind of bouncing around and I have to attribute it to the rumors regarding potential shipments to China. They are still playing hardball, apparently, but several sources report orders are being placed. Packers are talking to producers about removing ractopamine from feeding programs in order to provide more product that is acceptable to Chinese buyers this fall.

There have been a number of articles appear in the past week that claim to know of large numbers of pigs dying in China. The articles in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and an online scientific journal point to large losses, underestimates by government officials and, most telling to us economists, an 85% increase in Chinese pig prices. The Chinese government will not allow tissue samples to be sent to international agencies, leading some to believe that the problems are due to more than just a virulent strain of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). PRRS would not harm China's export status, but the active presence of classical swine fever, foot-and-mouth disease or some other trade-impacting disease certainly would.




Click to view graphs.

Steve R. Meyer, Ph.D.
Paragon Economics, Inc.
e-mail: steve@paragoneconomics.com



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Production Preview
A Cautionary Note When Selecting Replacement Gilts
In the most recent issue of National Hog Farmer (Aug. 15, 2007, "Parity Distribution Will Affect Your Bottom Line," p. 32-33), Ken Stalder wrote about the potential role of parity distribution on a herd's bottom line. In his data summary, he noted a trend in herd productivity with respect to average parity, average parity of farrowed sows and average parity of culled sows. Specifically, these averages went up with increased rank in pigs weaned/mated female/year.

Let's consider some additional implications of parity distribution on both herd productivity and system productivity. Specifically, for established herds with high sow replacement rates, the effects of parity distribution are not limited to only sow herd performance parameters. George Foxcroft of the University of Alberta discussed some of these implications at the 2007 Banff Pork Seminar.

First, it is well recognized that the total birth weight of first parity offspring is, on average, less than subsequent litters. This reality is attributed to the smaller uterine capacity of gilts. As well, during gestation (i.e., days 25-90), piglets are developing all the muscle fibers that they will have for the rest of their lives. When piglets are overcrowded during development, they develop fewer total muscle fibers. In turn, these pigs' potential for lifetime lean gain is reduced. Therefore, overcrowding during the gestation phase contributes to variation at the end of finishing.

Second, for herds producing replacement females (including those using internal replacement programs), the first parity offspring have an additional consequence. All of the primordial follicles (potential future eggs) that a female will have for her lifetime are established on the gilt's ovaries by the time she is about 7 weeks of age. Smaller gilt piglets develop fewer primordial follicles -- even if they catch up in weight by the time they are selected for the breeding herd.

In other words, a gilt's birth weight is inversely related to her lifetime average litter size. Therefore, replacement females derived from gilt litters are at an overall productivity disadvantage compared to their later-litter sisters.

Because of the nature of our recordkeeping systems, it is easy to consider only relationships within a given phase of production (i.e., sow herd, grow-finish). However, in a biological system, such as pig production, there are no "islands."

Stephanie Rutten-Ramos, DVM
University of Minnesota
rutt0011@umn.edu
Editor's Note: For all your agricultural news, markets and commentaries, go to www.farms.com.



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Legislative Preview
Opposition to Increased RFS for Ethanol
Various organizations and companies sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) urging her to oppose any effort to increase the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) for ethanol. The letter states, "New fuel sources offer the potential to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil while contributing to the long-term stability of our nation and its rural economies; however, as we seek to implement policy that will move us toward accomplishing this objective, it is absolutely essential that Congress carefully weigh the impact of such actions, especially with regards to the use of corn for fuel." Those signing the letter were American Beverage Association, American Frozen Foods Company, American Meat Institute, Del Monte Foods Company, General Mills, Grocery Manufacturers/Food Products Association, National Association of Convenience Stores, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Confectioners Association, National Pork Producers Council, National Restaurant Association, National Turkey Federation, Nestle USA, Inc., PepsiCo, Inc., United Egg Association and United Egg Producers. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association in a letter to Congress said, "Mandating additional corn-based ethanol production will only serve to exacerbate an already difficult situation for cattle producers across the country."

COOL and Small Businesses -- The chairwoman of the House of Representatives Small Business Committee, Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), wrote Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns urging USDA when considering its final rule to implement mandatory country-of-origin labeling (MCOOL) to ensure that small businesses are not burdened with unnecessary recordkeeping requirements. Velazquez's letter stated, "USDA has been flexible in allowing the use of routine recordkeeping requirements for seafood. I urge the agency to be similarly flexible in this respect and others when crafting the final rule for meat, produce and peanuts so as not to overburden small businesses with excessive recordkeeping mandates."

USMEF Sees Bright Future for Pork Exports -- The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) expects the United States to "dominate" the global market for pork exports during the next 10 years. This is based on the latest reports from the Agricultural Outlook by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). USMEF believes the United States share of global pork exports will be nearly 30% by 2016. According to USMEF, "U.S. pork exports have grown from just 7% of production in 2000 to more than 15% today, and are projected to account for 20% of production in 2016."

P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, D.C.



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Pork Industry Calendar
Aug. 28, 2007: 17th Annual Swine Conference sponsored by Carthage (IL) Veterinary Service (CVS), Ltd., Western Illinois University, Macomb, IL; contact: CVS by phone (217) 357-2811, fax (217) 357-6665, e-mail reg@hogvet.com or log onto www.hogvet.com.

Aug. 28-29: Manure Management Clinic, Field Extension Education Lab, Ames, IA; contact: Angela Rieck-Hinz, Iowa State University, at (515) 294-9590 or log onto www.aep.iastate.edu/feel/manure.html.

Click here to get National Hog Farmer's complete pork industry calendar.



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