WASHINGTON – For 2012, US broiler production is now forecast to hit 36.500 billion lbs., 2.1 percent less than the 37.293 billion lbs. estimated last month for the year, according to the “Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook” report published last week from US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

ERS forecasted in last month’s outlook report the year-over-year decrease would be 1.7 percent. during the first quarter 2012 and second quarter 2012. US broiler production is predicted to fall 5.3 percent and 4.2 percent, respectively.

US corn prices are most likely to be “relatively high” for the remainder of 2011 and into 2012, ERS said. Predicting relatively weak prices for most breast-meat products, broiler companies are anticipated to reduce production through much of 2012.

Chicks being placed for growout continues to number well below totals from the previous year. From Nov. 5 to Dec. 3, chick placements have averaged 154 million, down 6.6 percent from the same period in 2010. Although chick placements are anticipated to stay below levels of a year earlier through the first half of 2012, they are expected to gradually pull even with and then exceed year-earlier levels in the second half of 2012, according to the study.

If 2010 broiler production totals 37.293 billion lbs., the increase over 2010′s production would be 1.0 percent. In November and December, average broiler weights are expected to be higher when the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service data is published. ERS predicts, however, the rate of growth toward heavier broilers will be far slower when compared to the first three-quarters of 2011.

In November, wholesale prices for most broiler products were higher than one year earlier. Whole broiler prices, however, which are down 6 percent, is the one exception.

Meanwhile, strong exports continue to apply upward pressure on leg-quarter prices (up 31 percent) and other leg-meat products, such as boneless-skinless thighs (up 27 percent) and whole thighs (up 44 percent). Lower expected broiler production levels through the first half of 2012 will gradually place upward price pressure on most all broiler products. In the fourth-quarter 2011, whole-bird prices are expected to be 77 to 78 cents per lb., down 3 percent from one year earlier. Prices in 2012, however, are predicted to increase and be above year-earlier levels throughout the year.