Slaughter weight thoughts

By now the ‘trade’ has digested the hogs and pigs report and given the response by the futures market, they apparently feel pig numbers will be manageable yet this fall. Of course that doesn’t mean we won’t have big weeks, just less likely to have to run on Sundays a few times to kill all of the animals coming to market. I did receive a comment from one industry contact who suggested that the decrease in sow numbers in Iowa may have been due to accounting. That is, Christensen Farms sale of their sows around Iowa Falls was accounted for by CF when they did their March 1 inventory but the sows didn’t show up on Seaboards March 1 inventory. This would have shifted Iowa sow numbers about 50,000 or so.

As readers of this blog know, I track the prior day slaughter summary (LM_HG201). One of the items of great interest to me is carcass weight. Liveweight is less meaningful since the Hormel plant at Austin back calculates liveweight using a fixed dressing percentage since they don’t capture liveweight at the plant.

I’ve written in the past that other than the summer of 2014 when we were short of pigs due PEDv, carcass weight of pigs classified as packer owned has always been heavier than the weight of pigs classified as producer sold. In the trade volume reported packer owned runs about 30-33% of the daily barrow and gilt slaughter and so far this year they are averaging just under 3 pounds heavier than producer sold carcasses.

Both packer owned and producer sold follow the same week trend, lightest slaughter weights on Monday and Tuesday and heaviest on Friday/Saturday. That trend is even more obvious this week. With only 258,598 slaughtered on Monday (there were some plants taking Easter holiday on Monday) we killed about 100,000 fewer pigs than normal for Monday.

Carcass weights reflected the short Monday kill by dropping more than expected, especially for packer owned pigs. Why the bigger than normal drop? Easy – it all has to do with why weights are lowest on Monday and Tuesday sales.

These are the sales that have to happen in a given week to empty a barn/room/site in order to receive the next scheduled set of pigs. We sell them early in the week because we don’t have good options for pig flow at sites. Heaviest sales later in the week are the catch-up sales where we start topping barns, playing catch-up on barns where the first sales were heavier than intended, etc.

The larger than normal drop on Monday of this week just means that with fewer total pigs slaughtered, the must sell sites made up a bigger percentage of the kill versus sales that occurred because of topping of pens, etc.

I track the weighted average week carcass weight in the report – that is the average weight for the week weighted by the number of pigs killed each day. For the weeks ending January 26, Feb 5, Feb 12, Feb 19, Feb 26, Mar 4, Mar 11, Mar 18 and Mar 25, the weekly weights have been 213.4, 212.8, 213.0, 213.0, 212.8, 213.0, 213.0, 213.2 and 213.6 lb. This has been an incredible string of absolutely consistent slaughter weights. The slight uptick last week was the first change in weights in a 2 month period. With a larger Saturday kill (i.e. more heavy pigs) I expect this week’s final weighted average weight to be somewhere in the low to mid 213 lb range.

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