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Numbers Higher than Expected in Hogs and Pigs Report

More than last year; not as many as earlier this year.

The quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report as of Dec. 1, released Thursday by the National Agricultural Statistics Service put the nation's hog numbers at 65.1 million head. That's an increase of 4% from last year at the same time, but a drop of about 1% from the report on Sept. 1. Most of the numbers were higher than most analysts average guesses.

According to Dr. John Lawrence, a livestock analyst at IowaStateUniversity, the March-May farrowing intentions that shows it basically unchanged from last year is the closest thing to a light at the end of the tunnel.

"That would give us fourth quarter slaughter in 2008 essentially equal to what we had this year," Lawrence says. "Nothing really to cheer about, but it does show maybe a tapering off of expansion. Historically we have to go through about a year of losses before we see a reduction in the breeding herd."

Lawrence says that considering the feed costs, profit margins next year may be a tough row to hoe.

"Let's say $4 corn and $300 meal, that puts my carcass break-even around $70," Lawrence says. "We may see some blank ink for a short period of time during the summer highs, but for the most part I've got us in red ink throughout the entire year."

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