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Hog Producers Hope for Better Year

January 14, 2000

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ For the first time in more than 18 months Nebraska pork producers have something to smile about.

A recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report shows that hog inventories are down 4 percent, which has helped improve prices.

Fewer hogs plus a strong economy and rejuvenated Asian export markets have contributed to the largest upswing in hog prices in at least 18 months, said Dillon Feuz, an agriculture economist with the University of Nebraska.

``It’s looking like prices in 2000 will finally be above break even for most of Nebraska’s producers,″ Feuz said. ``Those prices probably won’t be enough to recapture all the losses toward the end of 1998, but it will be positive.″

In Nebraska, the average price per pound of pork has jumped from about 18 cents a year ago to around 37 cents now, said Steve Cady, executive director of the state Pork Producers Association.

Pork prices hit a record low in December 1998 because of an excess of hogs, which cut into prices.

Most producers are close to breaking even, but they aren’t into the clear yet, said Creston Pork Producer Stan Rosendahl.

``We still have a concern of whether the market is going to get good enough to allow producers to pay back lost equity,″ said Rosendahl, president of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association.

He estimates that producers lost about 40 percent of their net worth in the last 18 months.

Rosendahl was one of many producers to cut down his operation in order to get by.

Madison Pork Producer Merlin Oswald said he didn’t have to scale back his operation, but even with prices per hundredweight about $7 higher in 1999 than 1998, he is apprehensive about celebrating.

``That sure doesn’t generate the types of profits that would be needed to look at recapitalization or even to weigh what the future of the industry is,″ he said.


MARSHFIELD, Mo. (AP) _ Jane Livingston doesn’t think the 50 llamas she breeds are exotic and she hopes the state government agrees.

Livingston supports a Missouri bill that would reclassify llamas from ``exotic animals″ to livestock, making them cheaper to raise and more attractive as alternative stock.

``Here’s another industry a farmer could possibly use,″ Livingston said.

Even the Missouri Farm Bureau is putting its considerable clout behind the llama legislation, which would affect some 125 llama farmers in Missouri as well as those who keep llamas as a hobby.

If the bill passes, llama owners wouldn’t have to pay taxes based on the value of an individual llama, but on the same basis used for cattle and other livestock.

Livingston, who helps organize llama shows at the Ozark Empire Fair, said there are about 150,000 llamas in the United States, about 5,000 of which are in Missouri.

An increasing number of southwest Missourians keep llamas on small farms or in larger herds, said Gary Naylor, a livestock specialist.

Naylor said farmers sell the wool and the llamas are considered good guard animals because they scream when upset and are tough enough to kill dogs.