Schulz: Finding labor is challenge for hog farmers

May 5, 2020

Dr. Lee SchulzLee Schulz, associate professor, had several recent media contacts:

In a May 3 the Grand Island Independent story, "Cost of production per pound or bushel remains key to profit."

“If you’re talking hog production, feed costs is a major factor,” said Lee Schulz, Iowa State University Extension livestock marketing economist.

While corn costs for the first three months of the year were up 4%, Schulz said much of the COVID-19 impact on corn prices is being felt after those first three months. However, declining fuel demand has impacted the distillers grains supply.

Schulz said finding labor has been a challenge for the hog industry, which leads to higher labor costs.

In a May 4 Farm Progress story, "There are no easy solutions to pork producer woes."

In the U.S., 15 plants slaughter 62% of the nation's hogs, according to USDA NASS data, Schulz said. Those 15 plants slaughter over 3 million hogs per year. When these plants close, there is no simple solution to work through the backlog of hogs. The smaller processors don't have the capacity to make up for the loss of the large packers.

In a May 5 Wausau Pilot & Review story, "As slaughter numbers decline, pork prices rise."

“This has shaken the livestock markets tremendously and when we’re looking at who is suffering right now, it’s the producers,” Schulz said.

“It’s much more an availability issue,” Schulz said. “We’re finding product in the grocery store, but it may not be in the form or product that we’re necessarily used to buying.”

In a May 8 story, "Hog farmers struggles may persist into summer," in The Courier.

“This backlog is going to continue,” Schulz said. “Going into this situation, pre-COVID-19, we were operating near capacity of the packing plants. There wasn’t a lot of cushion in those plants to absorb production if plants started to decrease capacity or suspend production.”

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