Information for the monthly Hogs & Pigs Report is collected at the beginning of each month by officials from state agricultural statistics services.

Each month 3,300 producers in 30 states are polled through telephone or personal interviews.

Then, the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Services (NASS) compiles the data and releases the monthly report on the last Friday of every month. For example, the data to be released on Jan. 26 were collected in early January and will be for the month of December.

The report focuses only on breeding females and their productivity. The data include:

- Number of sows and gilts for breeding (breeding females and prospective breeding females) owned by the operation on the first of the month;

- Number of sows and gilts mated during the previous month;

- Number of sows and gilts that farrowed during the previous month;

- Number of pigs from those litters still owned by the operation on the first of the month; and

- Number of pigs from those litters sold before the first of the month.

The number of producers surveyed per state is proportional to the number of hogs raised in that state.

For example, in Minnesota, nearly 400 producers are surveyed for the monthly report, according to Mike Hunst, state statistician. By comparison, approximately 1,500 Minnesota producers are surveyed for the quarterly Hogs & Pigs Report, which will remain unchanged for now.

The monthly report is part of the 1999 mandatory price reporting law. The National Pork Producers Council advocated the report as a way to more quickly inform producers about industry supply changes.

The monthly reports should help producers avoid disastrous prices similar to those of 1998, according to University of Missouri ag economist Ron Plain.

"These reports, by being more frequent, should allow producers to make better use of futures and options to hedge against low hog prices and to better plan breeding decisions," Plain says.

The more timely information will help industry economists more precisely project prices and the number of hogs coming to slaughter in the next year.