Lower prices for feed during the quarter and the addition of four new pork processing plants likely encouraged producers to add more pigs to their herds. Rabo AgriFinance, in its North American Agribusiness Review in February, said prices for pork remain above breakeven, and that packer competition for hogs is driving stronger-than-expected lean hog prices.
NASS said 66.7 million of the hogs and pigs were market ready, a gain of 3 percent over 2017, but down 1 percent from the last quarter.
Another key finding in the report was the increase of pigs weaned between December 2017 and February 2018. NASS reported 32.3 million pigs were weaned on US farms, up 4 percent from the same time a year ago. Additionally, US hog and pig producers weaned an average of 10.58 pigs per litter which represents a record high for December-February period, NASS said.
Breeding inventory for period was 6.20 million head, an increase of 2 percent from the year-ago period, and slightly higher from the previous quarter.
NASS reported farrowing intentions between March 2018 and May 2018 at 3.08 million sows, and 3.16 million sows between June 2018 and August 2018.
Iowa recorded the largest inventory of hogs and pigs among the states at 22.6 million head. North Carolina and Minnesota followed with the second and third largest inventories with 8.90 million and 8.50 million head, respectively.
The total number of hogs under contract owned by operations with more than 5,000 head, but raised by contractees, accounted for 47 percent of the total US hog inventory, down from 48 percent reported a year ago.