USDA’s quarterly Hogs & Pigs report put the Sep. 1 population at 79.1 million head, up less than 1 percent from Sep. 1, 2019 and down almost 1 percent from the Jun. 1, 2020 number. Usually, we see a modest increase in the hog count going from Q2 to Q3, but this year’s COVID-related disruptions in the meat processing industry limited slaughter capacity during the spring, which had a ripple effect on how many animals livestock producers wanted to support over the summer.
Hog slaughter volumes recovered during Jun-Aug, however, in part to keep up with strong global demand for U.S. pork. Q2 pork exports were 1.8 billion pounds, up 16 percent from Q2 2019, and USDA expects Q3 pork exports to be very near that level and maintain 15 to 16 percent YOY growth for the quarter. USDA is currently forecasting Q4 pork exports at around 2.0 billion pounds, up about 10 percent YOY. For the first half of 2021, however, exports are projected to hold steady at their year-ago volumes. The reoccurrence of African swine fever in some Asian and European swine herds bears watching, however, and may incentivize a slight boost in U.S. production.