Hogs feel drought's pinch
The U.S. drought could hurt livestock producers more than farmers, who often are protected by federal crop insurance.
July 20th, 2012
08:35 AM ET

Hogs feel drought's pinch

By Chris Welch, CNN

Washington, Iowa (CNN) - For Rachel and Dan Berdo and their four young children, hogs are everything:  They're the source of nearly all of the family's income.

The couple from the small town of Washington are particularly worried this year because of the drought, considered the worst in a generation.

“Obviously it's unsettling not knowing exactly what the coming crop is going to look like,” Rachel Berdo said as she sat in the kitchen holding her baby, speaking over the sound of her  three other little ones playing in the next room.

“Because that heavily influences what your coming pig decisions are going to be, what you’re upcoming household decisions are going to be.”

The Berdo family grows corn to feed to their hogs, but this year, there’s no telling what kind of corn harvest they’ll get. Farmers across the state and the rest of the Midwest  are seeing significantly reduced yields.  Some estimate they’ll get 30 to 60 bushels per acre, down from 150 to 200.

So if they don’t have a large enough harvest to keep their pigs fed, they’ll either have to purchase extra corn at a pretty penny because of the drought  or reduce the number of hogs they keep.

“It’s definitely going to impact our family in more ways than one,” Rachel said.

“In general, it bothers me quite a bit as far as the long-term financial situation,” Dan Berdo said, standing next to one of their hog barns. “But I try not to let it eat at (me)  day to day.”

Missouri farmer: Everyone will be affected by drought

In many ways, the drought could prove worse for livestock producers than for farmers.  For example, corn and soybean farmers have the option of buying federal crop insurance. Roughly 90% of Iowans take advantage of that — it doesn’t cover everything, but it helps get them by until next years harvest.

But there is no equivalent federal insurance for livestock. So if hog or cattle producers can’t afford to purchase the higher priced corn feed, they’re essentially out of luck.

And that'll mean higher prices at supermarkets across the country.   On average, food prices typically rise 1% overall for every 50% jump in corn prices, according to  Richard Volpe, an economist for the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Analysts and economists predict that prices of beef, pork and poultry will jump the most, as corn is the main feedstock for chicken, cattle and pigs.

CNNMoney.com: Corn, soybean prices shoot up as drought worsens

CNNMoney.com: Drought's impact on small businesses

For now, the Bardos say all they can do is wait for harvest season before they’ll have a better idea of what they’ll be faced with.

Until then, they say, they pray and try to stay optimistic.

“When it starts to upset me, I remember that God’s got a plan,” Rachel said. “Maybe God’s plan doesn’t have us raising hogs in the future. But it’s going to happen regardless of if I’m mad about it or fretting about it.”


Filed under: Agriculture • Heat • Iowa • Weather
soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. Taybor

    Permaculture.

    July 20, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  2. bobcat(in a hat) ©©

    I enjoy a pound of bacon on my pizza washed down with my Crown.

    July 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Meredith

      Oh, I get it – you're a troll.

      July 20, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat (in a hat)©

      Cute. Hijack someone else please.

      July 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. paul

    Finally, mother nature doing it's part in balancing out the messed up, genetically altered, mass bred USDA poultry and meat epidemic.

    July 20, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Meredith

    There's no shortage. You just proved that.

    July 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bobcat (in a hat)©

    The devout cowboy lost his favorite Bible while he was mending fences out on the range.
    Three weeks later, a pig walked up to him carrying the Bible in its mouth.
    The cowboy couldn't believe his eyes.
    He took the precious book out of the pig's mouth, raised his eyes heavenward and exclaimed, "It's a miracle!"
    "Not really," said the pig. "Your name is written inside the cover."

    July 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • kristinacious

      Awesome joke, Bobcat ! thanks for the chuckle amongst all the kids fighting on-line ! have a good day

      July 20, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Rawr:
      Well done!

      July 20, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lila

    1) Regardless of job choice, always prepare for the worst case scenario financially. 2) these hogs are living creatures, these farmers should have prepared for their care during the hard times. Always function below your means not just expand when you are doing well. They should have been saving more money during the years they were doing well to cover the hard times. I have little sympathy for them, but I do feel bad for the welfare of the animals who can't fend for themselves.

    July 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. larry5

    If they take hogs to market early wouldn't the price of bacon drop dramatically instead of raise?

    July 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      The problem is that a farmer can raise only a finite number of pigs and they have to let the young ones mature enough to be taken. So if they start butchering the baby pigs in summer they would be way smaller than later in the year. The only way to allow the young hogs to mature is to feed them. They will need to buy feed that is expensive so that they can get the young pigs to a size that can be harvested. Once they are large enough to take they would have cost the farmer much more to produce and would cause the meat to be expensive.

      July 20, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jeff

    I raise hogs, but I let them live like hogs. They run around a pasture eating grass and whatever goodies they find themselves. They have a luxurious wallow for when they get hot. They root and nap all day. They produce meat that most people wouldn't even identify as pork as they're used to what they get at the local SuperMart. Rising feed prices aren't going to hurt me and my hogs will stay fat and happy.

    July 20, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Church Of The Posioned Mind

      Yea, Id'd rather eat the pork from YOUR hogs, than eat the stuff passing as pork in the supermarkets. Wanna know what gives pork that appetizing pink look? Aresenic. Look it up.

      July 20, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. HIDE BEHIND

    where did the tradition of eating pig on Easter begin, and why was it necessary for a man called Jesus to drive demons out of the head of a pig farmer in a country where eating pigs was banned and then slaughtering the hogs by drowning.
    What mystery lies behind the finding of pig bones mixed with human ones within a cave below the summit of Masada in Israel.

    July 20, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Church Of The Posioned Mind

      What does this have to do with anything? It doesn't. Not to mention that there were not only people of Jewish extraction at Masada. Oh, and those people in the caves? People trying to escape the advancing Roman Army who were not restricted to the dietary guidelines od the Jews. Crud! Now I'M off topic! Thanks for nothing.

      July 20, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Church Of The Posioned Mind

    Ah, I see the stupid troll is hijacking names again. Grow up, little pesty, grow up.

    July 20, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Church Of The Posioned Mind

    Is there even a Bennigan's in existence still? They've all closed down in my area.

    July 20, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Church Of The Posioned Mind

    I see you'rdoing well here, troll.

    July 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Fister Rogers

    Hi, Banasi. Doing a good job of hijacking in my absence. I'll take over from here, thanks.

    July 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Fister Rogers

    Hey, fako. My replacement is doing a bad job jacking you.

    July 20, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Fister Rogers

    Slice off a piece of your fat belly and grill it, budda.

    July 20, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
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