News reports noted that traders say the decline in the pig crop is evidence of widespread cases of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv). The virus was first detected in US swine herds in mid-May. PEDv poses no food-safety risk, but piglets are especially vulnerable to the disease, which kills up to 80 percent of the piglets that contract it.
Breeding inventory was down 1 percent from a year ago and down 1 percent from the previous quarter at 5.76 million head, according to NASS. News reports put analyst projection 1 percent higher at 5.87 million head. Analysts say the smaller breeding herd could indicate reluctance to expand the swine herd despite the availability of cheap feed. PEDv could be motivating grower-producers to hold back fewer sows for breeding, according to news reports.
Market hog inventory slipped 1 percent to 60.2 million head. The inventory also declined 2 percent from the previous quarter.
In the September-November period the pig crop was down slightly at 29.3 million head, NASS reported. Sows farrowing during the period also declined slightly to 2.88 million head. The sows farrowed during the quarter represented 50 percent of the breeding herd.
NASS noted that the average pigs saved per litter was mostly unchanged but still a record high at 10.16 for the September-November period, compared to 10.15 last year. Pigs saved per litter by size of operation ranged from 8.00 for operations with 1-99 hogs and pigs to 10.20 for operations with more than 5,000 hogs and pigs, NASS reported.
Farrowing intentions for the December 2013-February 2014 quarter was to have 2.83 million sows farrow, up 1 percent from the actual farrowings during the comparable period in 2013, and up slightly from 2012.
Farrowing intentions for March-May 2014, at 2.86 million sows, gained 1 percent from 2013, but were down 3 percent from 2012, according to NASS.
The total number of hogs under contract owned by operations with more than 5,000 head, but raised by contractees, accounted for 48 percent of the total US hog inventory, up from 47 percent a year ago.