Much cheaper feed has led the pork industry to begin an expansion that is expected to continue throughout this year.

The current expansion means pork supplies will begin to grow more rapidly in the last-half of 2014.

Feed prices are expected to remain moderate with corn prices only increasing seasonally into the summer and then dropping again with a normal 2014 harvest.

Soybean meal prices should move downward for most of the year as South American supplies come to market in the late-winter and spring, and then as larger U.S. soybean acreage continues to put downward pressure on meal prices through the fall.

What will pork supplies be in 2014? USDA reports the current number of market hogs to be down fractionally, but weights are expected to run about two percent higher and result in a one to two percent increase in pork production for the first-half of the 2014. 

Farrowing intentions for this winter and coming spring are up one to two percent. With pigs per litter about 1.5 percent higher and higher weights, pork production in the last-half of 2014 will be up nearly four percent. Pork production is likely to continue to expand into 2015.

While farrowing intentions are up, USDA’s estimate of the breeding herd was down by 62,000 head, or one percent. The declines were led by Western Corn Belt states of Iowa (-30,000 head), Minnesota (-10,000) and Missouri (-5,000).

Reduced corn yields in those states is a possible explanation of why pork producers were not as optimistic in those areas. Most states east of the Mississippi had record corn yields in 2013.