Sow Slaughter Levels on the Rise

Sow group housing
( National Pork Board )

U.S. sow slaughter has outpaced last year’s by 2% through the first 45 weeks of the year. The December Quarterly Hogs and Pigs report, which will be released on December 21st by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), will provide an updated look at the breeding herd inventory. But, even with higher sow slaughter levels, there is little evidence pointing to contraction in the U.S. hog industry. This year, the number of animals kept for breeding, as published by NASS, increased year-over-year by 3.5% in the March 1 and September 1 quarterly reports, after rising 1.8% as of March 1. Since the last Hogs and Pigs report (dated September 1), weekly average Federally Inspected sow slaughter has increased 3% year-over-year, but that is less than growth in the breeding herd. Barrow and gilt slaughter have been at levels confirming more breeding animals earlier this year.

Higher sow efficiency (pigs weaned per litter) has changed dramatically over the years and reduced sow slaughter relative to production. That factor and likely others have caused the old text book hog cycle to no longer exist. Still, within the year, production and prices are highly seasonal. Regarding sow slaughter, the highest levels tend to be in the fourth quarter of the calendar year. U.S. sow slaughter numbers also include animals from Canada. Adjusting U.S. sow slaughter for imported animals from Canada provides a key indicator U.S. breeding herd changes. Slippage in that relationship is due to the pace that gilts are retained for breeding purposes.

Year-to-date imported slaughter sows and boars from Canada are up 13%. The data do not break down sows and boars, but the majority of those animals are sows. Those high volumes average about 9,000 head a week, roughly 15% of weekly U.S. sow slaughter.

On balance, the U.S inventory data and the rate of domestic origin sow slaughter indicate that the U.S. herd has not contracted, to date. However, looking at sow slaughter in Canada plus cull breeding animals that have been sent to the U.S., suggests the Canadian breeding herd may be eroding.