How many pig spaces does the US have?

World Pork Expo is over for another year and once again, not enough hours in the day to visit with everyone. Many of the readers of this blog visited with me about many topics. One topic I was asked to comment on was ‘how many finishing spaces do we have in the US?’.

Many of us have seen internet postings of open facilities. We have also seen inquiries by groups looking for sites for new facilities and grain farms with possible sites for new facilities. I’m also aware of people looking for sites to replace older facilities, sites with production problems, etc.

As a start on answering this question, as of April 1 the US had 57.048 million pigs in the ‘Kept for Market’ category. Thus, we know we had enough spaces to house this many pigs at one time from weaning to slaughter. Of course, this estimate of inventory included show pigs, 4-H and FFA projects, pasture pigs, etc.

As we think about the ‘space’ issue, we need to also keep in mind the quality of the ‘space’. We can find many Cargill finishing floors sitting empty in the upper Midwest. We can also see quite a few Nebraska style MOF’s, especially in the western corn belt region. What about all of the ‘Lester’ nursery and finisher spaces that were built in the 70’s and 80’s for the 100-150 sow farrow-finish systems that are now idle? The same goes for the first MWPS 400 head partially slatted finishers constructed in the mid to late 70’s.

When someone asks about idle finishing space in the upper Midwest, are they really asking about idle 1000-1200 head facilities? Are they idle because of a shortage of pigs, idle because of building maintenance issues or idle because of pig care issues? If they’re idle, what is the status of their manure permit?

No wonder no one has come up with any type of estimate of the number of ‘empty’ nursery, finishing and wean-finish spaces in the US.

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