The March 1 U.S. inventory of breeding pigs came in at 5.82 million head, 0.55 percent greater than 2011 numbers and the fifth consecutive quarterly increase since March 2011, according to the Quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The modest size of the increase may suggest the extent to which expansion optimism in the sector continues to be tempered by risks surrounding feed costs and prices, said the USDA. The report also showed that breeding herd productivity continues to climb. The litter rate for the December 2011–February 2012 quarter was measured at 9.97 pigs per litter, an increase of 1.73 percent over the same period in 2011. Although a bit smaller than the 2011/2010 increase (1.98 percent), the steady string of consecutive litter rate increases since 2003 suggest that producer adoption of innovations in genetics and nutrition, together with enhanced management skills in animal care, can boost hog sector productivity, according to the USDA.


The data is forecasting a 2.1 percent increase in commercial pig meat production for the second half of 2012. Part of this change in expected production is premised on assumptions of the higher second-half dressed weights that forecast lower feed costs will likely bring about. Total commercial pig meat production for 2012 is expected to be 23.3 billion pounds, an increase of 2.2 percent above 2011.