Modern-Day Sow Count Hits New Low
It is amazing how quickly things change. Just a few
months ago we were all wondering how low the breeding herd would go and
how many producers would leave the production sector. That concern has
now shifted to: “How quickly will producers respond to the promise of
I suppose we just need something to worry about – or at least we
economists do. Figure 1 shows the two trends that I think are most
important at present. The U.S. breeding herd has continued to set
records for the lowest modern-day total. I have checked USDA data back
to 1900, and there has not been a smaller breeding herd on record,
although the further back you go, the records are pretty spotty.
Sometime back in the 1800s, or at least at some point since DeSoto
walked off the boat in Florida with the first few pigs from Europe,
there were fewer breeding hogs on this plot of land we now call the
United States. It is safe to say, however, that no one alive remembers
The U.S. breeding herd has fallen from 6.233 million head on Dec. 1,
2007 to 5.76 million head on March 1, 2010. That decline of 473,000
breeding animals amounts to 7.6%. The question is whether the herd will
continue to decline. The answer depends on what kind of decline you are
considering – actual numbers or year-on-year?
Plan Can Lower Per-Pig-Weaned Cost
Swine Management Systems (SMS) defines genetics cost on a
cash flow basis as the purchase of breeding animals, breeding animal
development expenses, purchase of semen, purchase of artificial
insemination supplies, payment of genetic royalties and sale of cull
The SMS financial database has an average genetic cost/weaned pig of
$3.01. The top one-third averages $2.12/weaned pig and the bottom
one-third averages $3.76/weaned pig.
A key driver in the genetic cost is cull breeding stock income, which
averages $2.79/weaned pig, with the top one-third averaging $4.15/weaned
pig and the bottom one-third averaging $1.91/weaned pig. On most farms,
cull breeding stock income is not considered a key driver, but our data
shows it can help lower the weaned pig breakeven by over $2.00/pig from
the bottom one-third to the top one-third.
Wiechman Pig Company and SMS developed a training program for owners and
employees on how to determine which cull females to market at weaning
and which to feed to maximize their value and income. Cull sows are
broken down by weight category and body condition. The weight range
categories are: 300-450 lb., 450-500 lb., 500-550 lb., and 550 lb. and
up. Body condition classifications are: Boner 1 – wet sow, clean, lean
and without multiple abscesses or major defects; Bone 2 – very lean,
emaciated, multiple abscesses or poor quality and no value or a downer
Calls for More Meat Safety Accountability
Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) has introduced the Meat Safety
and Accountability Act which would mandate quicker, more extensive
actions by USDA inspectors to trace meat products back to their point of
origin when they are either adulterated or contaminated with pathogens,
such as E. coli and salmonella. The bill would require the federal meat
inspection program to identify all sources of original adulteration and
contamination of enteric foodborne pathogens in meat, including the
slaughterhouse source, when either lab samples test positive for
pathogen adulteration or contamination or when adulterated or
contaminated meat is found in commerce, including foodborne outbreaks.
Senator Tester said, “This bill puts more common sense and fairness
into the equation as our food travels through the supply chain to the
kitchen table. This bill will make our food safer to eat by ramping up
accountability. And it will help small meat processors in rural America
that too often get blamed for contamination that didn’t begin with
Farmers Back on Track to Making Profits in 2010
Cash flow statements are finally reflecting a positive
return for struggling hog farmers.
“Producers have lost a lot of money in the last two years in the hog
business, but right now it looks like 2010 will turn out to be slightly
profitable, with some very good profits in the summer months,” reports
Ron Plain, a University of Missouri agricultural economist.
“We’re back into profitable ranges for hog prices, right around $50
per hundredweight, or a little bit better, and with carcass prices in
the $70s. These are the highest hog prices since the fall of 2008,” he
April 28-29, 2010: Animal Agriculture
Alliance 9th Annual Stakeholders Summit, Westin at the Westin Arlington
Gateway Hotel, Arlington, VA; For more information contact: www.animalagalliance.org (703) 562-5160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 30-May 2, 2010: Go 'Walking In Memphis' at the
NJSA National Youth Leadership Conference,
Memphis, Tenn; For more information contact: alan Duttlinger at
(765)-463-3594 or email@example.com.
May 16-19, 2010: Alltech's 26th International
Animal Health and Nutrition Symposium,
Lexington, KY; For more information contact: www.alltech.com.
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