Ohio Pig Population Booming After Last Year's Deadly Virus

July 13, 2015 11:20 AM
Ohio Pig Population Booming After Last Year's Deadly Virus

A rebound in Ohio's swine population since the loss of hundreds of thousands of pigs to a virus last year in the state is expected to continue to help lower pork prices for consumers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says Ohio was reporting a 16 percent year-over-year increase in its pig population as of June 1. The state herd of almost 2.4 million pigs as of June 1 was Ohio's largest in 25 years, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

One reason given for the increase this year is that farmers anticipated another season of the deadly porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, but weren't hit as hard this year.

"When you go through any type of crisis, you overcompensate for things," said Pat Hord, of Hord Family Farms in Crawford County.

He said some farmers tried to breed more sows to be better prepared for the virus.

Federal agriculture officials say other states have also seen rebounds as producers responded to last year's losses by breeding more pigs. The U.S herd had grown 9 percent to nearly 67 million.

Consumers are expected to benefit from the surge in the pig population, with pork prices nationally falling nearly 7 percent from last May to May 2015, according to federal agriculture officials who say that trend is likely to continue.

Steve Moeller, swine specialist at Ohio State University Extension, said Ohio's swine growth should continue, even if it is at a slower, incremental rate.

"A couple of things are happening that are important for the swine industry in Ohio," he said. "The industry overall is expanding. We have some forward-thinking producers in the state, and those producers have maintained positions to expand."

Ohio farmers grow a lot of the food pigs eat, including corn, soybeans and byproducts of ethanol production. That makes pig production an easy add-on operation for many grain farmers, Moeller said.

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