Last Friday's USDA Quarterly Hogs and Pigs report came in a little bullish, with numbers well under trade expectations.
The U.S. inventory of all hogs and pigs on June 1 was just over 62 million head, down 5 percent from 2013 levels. According to Reuters, trade estimates were closer to a 3 percent drop year-over-year. In Iowa, hogs and pigs inventory is just over 19 million head, also lower than last year.
One reason pork chops are expensive this grilling season is a disease called Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv), which is cropping up all over the country and is nearly always fatal in piglets younger than two weeks. Because of this fact, the number of pigs per litter in the Quarterly Hogs and Pigs report has been a metric to gauge the severity of the PEDv epidemic.
In the latest report, each litter of piglets throughout the U.S. averages at about 9.78 piglets. The number is still lower than last year's figure of 10.19 piglets per litter, but is a marked improvement over the 9.53 piglets recorded in the last report.
Here in Iowa, the effects of PEDv are virtually nonexistent in the pigs per litter figure. In the latest report, Iowa sows are having on average 10.6 piglets per litter, which is in line with numbers from last year before the virus began showing up in the Quarterly Hog and Pig reports.