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September 13, 2010
In this issue:
  Corn Crop Estimates Lowered by USDA
  An In-depth Look at Sow Mortality
  Economic Analysis of GIPSA Rule Requested
  July Pork Exports Dip But Value Exceeds Last Year

Corn Crop Estimates Lowered by USDA
Friday’s Crop Production and World Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) reports from the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) contained mixed news for U.S. or Canadian pork producers. USDA’s latest forecasts for the corn crop called for lower yields and production and higher prices, while the soybean yield and production forecasts were higher than forecasts in August, as were forecast prices of soybeans and soybean products. Tables 1 and 2 are updated supply and utilization tables for corn and soybeans, respectively.

The 2010 average corn yield is now estimated to be 162.5 bushels/acre, down 2.5 bushels from last month and lower than the average pre-report estimate of 163.1 bushels/acre. USDA did not change its estimate of harvested acres (perhaps they believe that water-damaged acres will still be harvested but will negatively impact the average yield), but the lower yield put the estimated crop at 13.16 billion bushels – smaller than last month’s 13.365 billion-bushel estimate – but still 50 million bushels more than last year and still a new record corn crop.

Lower production, lower beginning stocks (due to increasing ethanol use and exports for the current crop year) and higher forecast 2011 exports offset a 100-million-bushel reduction in feed and residual usage to drop projected 2011 year-end stocks to 1.116 million bushels, nearly 200 million bushels lower than the August estimate. That level of stocks represents only 8.3% of projected usage, the lowest ending stocks-to-use ration since 1995-96. You may recall that year saw record-high prices that were not influenced by $140/barrel oil!

USDA increased their forecast range for the national weighted average farm price for 2010-11 corn to $4.00 to $4.80/ bushel. As can be seen in Figure 1, the midpoint of that range would represent the highest such price in history.


An In-depth Look at Sow Mortality
Over the last 5½ years, the Swine Management Services (SMS) database has grown to 770 farms with 1.3 million females and still growing. The database profile continues to change as it grows and more very productive farms are added. For example, the number of farms in the Top 10% has increased from 15 to 77, during this period, and average herd size has grown from 800 to 1,140 sows.

Chart 1 shows female death loss data broken down as Top 10%, Top 25%, Top 50%, and All Farms. The trend lines, from September 2006 to July 2010, shows the red trend line indicating average female death loss for all farms has dropped from 9.4% to 7.2%.

In the Top 10% farms, female death loss increased from 5.7% in September 2006 to 7.8% in May 2008, and then dropped to 7.1% in August 2010. A closer look at the trend lines left us wondering why female death loss has dropped over the last three years. The improvement could be attributed to improved animal husbandry skills of farm staff. We feel the PQA Plus and TQA certification of employees and PQA Site assessments have had a positive effect. The emphasis placed on these programs over the last 3-4 years has reinforced the importance of making timely culling and euthanizing decisions for animals with body condition issues or injuries.

Also during this timeframe, packers that harvest cull animals stopped taking sows with body condition problems, lameness, abscesses, etc. This may have contributed to the increase in sow mortality in the top farms. Farms that wanted to sell cull sows had to do a better job of reducing these problem sows.


Economic Analysis of GIPSA Rule Requested
Members of Congress are beginning to ask the administration for an economic impact analysis of the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration's (GIPSA) rule on livestock and poultry. In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA), ranking member of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, raised the issue, stating: “While many in the affected industry and Congress have focused on what the proposed rule includes, also troubling is what it does not include – a sound economic analysis for interested parties to judge both the need and utility of the proposed rule. In my view, it is unprecedented for a federal agency to propose such a wide-sweeping regulation and not conduct an economic analysis.” Kingston asks that a comprehensive analysis be completed on the proposed regulation in time for individuals and organizations to review before the comment period ends. We can expect more calls from members of Congress and others asking USDA for an economic analysis.

Workshops, Webinar on Proposed GIPSA Rules Announced — The National Agricultural Law Center (NALC) at the University of Arkansas has announced it will conduct a series of workshops and a webinar on the proposed GIPSA livestock and poultry rule. NALC staff will provide an overview of the proposed rule, review the USDA rule-making process, and explain how to submit comments on the proposed rule. The schedule of workshops in Arkansas include: Sept. 21 at Fayetteville; Sept. 28 at Russellville; Oct. 19 at Nashville. A nationwide webinar will be held on Oct. 14 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (CST). Workshop organizers are requesting participants to visit the URL,, to confirm their ability to connect to the server. For more information, contact NALC at (479) 387-2331.


July Pork Exports Dip But Value Exceeds Last Year
U.S. pork exports fell in July compared to a year earlier, but value exceeded year-ago levels, based on data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Pork export value in July rose by 4% over last year at $385.8 million, pushing the January-July 2010 cumulative total to $2.74 billion, according to USMEF. This level of value is 8% higher than in 2009 and just 1% below the all-time record pace set in 2008. July export volume was 4% lower than in July 2009, but the cumulative volume of 2.42 million tons was still 2% above last year.

USMEF points out that strong performance in the top three markets for U.S. pork – Japan, Mexico and Canada – has helped offset poorer performance in South Korea, Vietnam, China and Russia, maintaining export results ahead of last year’s pace.


Sept. 13-16, 2010:International Symposium on Air Quality and Manure Management for Agriculture, DoubleTree Hotel Dallas
Dallas, TX
for more information contact: Sharon McKnight by phone (269) 932-7033 or e-mail

Sept. 15, 2010: Midwest Pork Conference, Hendricks County Conference Complex
Danville, IN
for more information contact:

September 18-21, 2010: Allen D. Leman Swine Conference, RiverCentre
St. Paul, MN
For more information contact: (765)-463-3594 or



As positive margins return to pork producers’ ledgers, owners and managers are recounting the hard lessons learned as they redouble efforts to improve risk management skills, measure and manage production variance with greater precision, and produce quality pork in a safe and sustainable manner. At the heart of the 50th edition in the Blueprint series, published April 15th, 2010, is a focus on new and improved pathways to profitability.

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The August 15 edition of National Hog Farmer magazine focuses on swine care and housing. Feature stories include an Iowa farm’s vigilance to reduce preweaning mortalities by 5% in just six months, a trial studying free-access gestation stalls, high-tech screening of sows for lameness, and the reappearance of swine dysentery. These stories and more may be found at

NPPC conducts public-policy outreach on behalf of its 43 state associations, enhancing opportunities for the success of U.S. pork producers and stakeholders by establishing the pork industry as a consistent and responsible supplier of high-quality pork to domestic and world markets. Click here to learn more and support your industry.


National Hog Farmer offers 10 posters targeting key production areas, offering guidance in critical areas such as feet and leg soundness and reproduction traits soundness in replacement gilts. Others include pig anatomy, heat detection, sow condition, etc. All posters are in English. Select posters are translated to Spanish, Chinese and Japanese.


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