Thousands of hog producers and others involved in the swine industry gathered in Des Moines last week for the Iowa Pork Producers Association's annual Iowa Pork Congress. They heard from livestock economists speaking on the program that a return to hog profitability is predicted for 2013 but a lot depends on the weather and how large of corn crop is produced this year. It's still quite dry in Iowa and the western Corn Belt this winter, looking ahead to the 2013 crop growing season. Iowa has approximately 8,000 hog farms in the state.
"Hogs are currently losing about $5 per head, but hopefully by summer the situation will return to profitability," says Bill Tentinger of Le Mars, who has served as president of IPPA for the past year. Greg Lear of Spencer took the reigns as the new president at the meeting in Des Moines last week.
The U.S. pork industry is being supported by strong exports of pork, particularly to Asia, says Tentinger. Demand was strong through the recent Christmas and New Year's holiday season and is expected to stay strong this year as beef prices remain high, due to cattlemen reducing their herds. "We expect more demand to switch from beef to pork this year," he adds.
Despite the drought in 2012 and falling hog prices, Iowa still leads the nation in producing hogs. Iowa's inventory in the latest USDA survey released in late December shows the same number of hogs in the state through all of 2012 and Tentinger expects that number to stay there in 2013. "Sure, feed costs are high," he notes. A typical hog will eat 9 to 10 bushels of corn during its six-month life to reach a 270 pound market weight. Ten years ago those 10 bushels would have cost $300, today they cost $700.