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U.S. hog herd decline less than expected despite deadly pig virus

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The U.S. hog herd shrank less than feared in the latest quarter compared with a year earlier, leaving it well above average trade forecasts, a U.S. Department of Agriculture report showed on Friday.

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The data suggests the spread of the deadly Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus was not as devastating to the herd during the December through February period as some in the industry had expected, analysts said.

They said Chicago Mercantile Exchange hog futures could drop as much as the 3-cents per lb price limit on Monday, based on Friday's report.

The USDA report showed the U.S. hog herd as of March 1 at 97 percent of the year-ago level, at 62.899 million head. Analysts, on average, expected 61.493 million head, or 94.5 percent of the year-earlier herd. The U.S. hog herd for the same period last year was 65.072 million head.

The U.S. breeding herd was just over 100 percent of the year-ago level, at 5.851 million head, compared with average trade expectations for 99.6 percent, or 5.813 million. A year ago the breeding herd was 5.836 million head.

The March 1 supply of market-ready hogs was 96 percent of a year earlier at 57.048 million head. Analysts, on average, expected a 6.0 percent decline, or 55.683 million. Last winter's market hog supply was 59.236 million head.

The data showed pigs per litter during the period at 9.53 head, or 95.0 percent of the record high of 10.08 in the year-ago period. Analysts expected an average 9.75 head.

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