U.S. to go whole hog on expansion

It’s back to boom times in the U.S. hog industry.

Hundreds of new barns could be built this year, and new packers are springing up like crocuses.

“We’ve got a lot of excitement in our area from the amount of new packing plants coming online,” Bill Tentinger, an Iowa Pork Producers Association board member, said about three large plants and two smaller ones planned for the United States, including two in Iowa.

That’s got farmers back to building barns after years of stagnation.

“There’s a lot of interest in expanding the facilities,” Tentinger said.

It’s good news for Manitoba weanling producers, who suffered under country-of-origin labelling but now are well-situated to supply the rapidly expanding U.S. herd.

Jay Moore, a manager with a large U.S. hog production company, said the mood is the same in his state of Minnesota, which is on the Manitoba border and buys large numbers of Manitoba weanlings.

His company, New Fashion Pork, is building a large sow farm in Indiana, a smaller one in Wisconsin and 15 feeder barn systems in the Midwest.

Iowa is believed to have more than 130 hog barn systems under construction, while South Dakota expects eight to be built this year. Producers are pouring concrete across the Midwest.

Good profitability in the past three years has put farmers in good positions to re-invest in the industry, and their appetite for expansion has been whetted by the plethora of announcements of new slaughter plants.

“We’ve got a lot of excitement in our area from the amount of new packing plants coming online,” Moore said.

“We think that will help with shackle space, competition.”

However, Tentinger said it’s going to produce a lot of extra pork for the U.S. industry, so clearing it will become imperative.

There was much chatter during lunch at the Manitoba Pork Council’s annual meeting about the surge of meat to come and how it all could be moved into domestic markets and overseas to avoid a glut.

The potential glut poses a danger to pork and slaughter hog prices, but most think the outlook for weanling producers seems bright. The new barns will need weanlings, and the slaughter plants will be fighting for hogs.

Tentinger said Iowa farmers are backing out of sow farming. In northwestern Iowa, “sow units are getting very rare.”

It should bring much more demand for Manitoba weanlings, especially with most border impediments now gone.

“There’s a great opportunity for things to come together with (COOL) gone, now with our one industry and our two countries, I think it’s a prime opportunity for us to do business together,” said Tentinger.

“Those pigs are going to have to come from somewhere.”

Moore agreed.

“There’s probably more demand to build barns than there may be actually pigs to put in them,” said Moore.

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