The 25 largest U.S. pork producers grew by 84,000 sows this year. Ten of the companies on the list expanded, 12 reported the same number of sows, and three have fewer sows than last year.
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After the release of our 2010 Pork Powerhouses report, which lists the largest 25 pork producers in the U.S., I had requests for information on sow numbers around the world. These are not easy numbers to find or track, but thanks to Dermot Hayes, ag economist at Iowa State University, I have a few numbers to share.
Hog market swings up just in time for largest pork producers.
How close was the U.S. swine industry to a total meltdown this year? When the hog market finally swung black in April, many of the Pork Powerhouses® were within weeks of disaster. Bankers were scrambling to restructure loans, producers were putting back-up capital plans in place, and packers were pre-purchasing pigs and providing unsecured loans.
I pulled up my Pork Powerhouses file on Jack DeCoster this morning, since he is making national news due to salmonella contamination in eggs from his Iowa farms. I first heard of DeCoster 16 years ago when I was collecting data for my Pork Powerhouses report, an annual ranking of the largest pork producers in the U.S., published in Successful Farming magazine. At that time, one of my trusted sources in the hog industry told me an egg producer from Maine with a record of environmental violations was buying land in Iowa and planning to build sow farms. “Watch him,” I was told.
For the first time since the annual Pork Powerhouses ranking was launched in 1994, the nation's largest 25 producers have cut sow numbers.
The U.S. pork industry is squeezing down, as one producer calls it. High input costs -- mainly in feed and energy -- have made survival, not profit, the short-term goal for many companies. The 2008 Pork Powerhouses annual ranking shows total U.S. sow numbers.
Some things you can just take to the bank. Sow herd expansion among the Pork Powerhouses would fall into that category -- even in the face of the biggest run-up in feed prices in history.