Is increase in summer weight due to pigs backing up or better performance?

This past week I’ve had several conversations regarding summer pig performance. In every instance, the comment was made regarding faster gains this summer than typical.


This raises the question – is the increase in slaughter weights this summer due to increased daily gain and normal marketings, or are pigs backing up as producers keep waiting for the ‘summer bounce’ in prices?


Let’s look at weights. I have tracked weekly Iowa-Southern Minnesota barrow and gilt slaughter weights since 2004. The typical pattern is weights peak in late November and early January and then hold steady to slightly lower until late May or early June. At that point, they drop sharply (typically in the range of 8-10 pounds) through late August when they begin to dramatically rise.


This year, weights held steady (or even increased slightly) thru the week ending June 20 when the average weight was 268.7 lb versus 269.0 lb for the 4th week of January. I compare weights to later in January as the first few weeks of the year tend to be skewed due to holding of year end sales for tax purposes and 2 consecutive weeks (Christmas and New Years) with holiday disruptions.


The 2 weeks following June 20 they dropped sharply, but for the weeks ending July 11 and 18, they have increased to 264.9 and then 266.2 lb. The previous heaviest weekly average weight for the 29th week of the year was in 2007 when it averaged 263.0 lbs.


Early in 2006, Iowa and Southern Minnesota slaughter weights were the heaviest ever, averaging 271.1 for the 4th week of January. By the 29th week of the year, they had fallen to 261.0, an 11.1 pound decline in weight. The 5 year (2004-2008) decline in weight was 7.8 lb. In contrast, this year the decline between week 4 and week 29 was only 2.8 pounds.


In the Midwest, the week ending June 20 was the first week at almost all Midwest reporting points that temperatures were at or above seasonal temps since prior to June 1. Beginning July 1, temperatures across the Midwest once again retreated to below normal where they have remained until the past few days. Here in the Mankato area, we have had quite a few days when the overnight low was in the mid-50’s, with temperatures as low as the upper 30’s in northern Minnesota on one or 2 occasions.


I think the change in weight correlates very well with the weather patterns, suggesting that pigs have performed very well this summer since heat has not caused the typical reductions in feed intake that we’ve come to expect. In addition, I’ve not heard any stories of producers delaying sales in an attempt to add weight or to capture a better price if the market price should rise.


While there are empty barns showing up in the country, I’m not aware of producers renting extra barns to give pigs more space to grow. Space still has a cost and at the current levels of space allocation, the typical improvements in gain from additional space generally don’t return enough of an improvement in daily gain to justify the expense.

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