A select group of “visionaries” were asked to share their thoughts about the major challenges and opportunities the U.S. pork industry will face in the next 10-20 years.
These industry leaders were asked to focus on their area of expertise (i.e. swine health, genetics, meat quality, etc.), and also to offer their “big picture” view of the pork industry in 2015-25.
Over 50 individuals shared their insight and foresight. After reading their thoughtful comments, we think you'll agree that the future of the pork industry is bright, and as always, very challenging.
Ken Maschhoff, The Maschhoffs Inc., Carlyle, Ill.
“Envisioning the science of commercial pork production in the next 10-15 years, I feel there will be dramatic changes, driven by technology.
“Early adaptors will enjoy success, but not to the degree of the creators and drivers of those technologies. A few mid-adapters will survive, but technology will not wait for latecomers.
“Production units will be extremely environmentally friendly. There will be limited or no odor issues. ‘Quality-of-life’ laws will force science to develop designs and methods that deal with these concerns.
“Facilities will be customized to address the welfare of animals, because:
The public will demand it; and
We will possess a better understanding of how the environment and animals interact. In an attempt to optimize this, science will help us create the most efficient facilities and technologies.
“In 2020, the most sought-after college graduates will be those with engineering or creative design degrees.
“On the biology side, one big change will be feed conversions of under 2:1 at 300-lb. finished weights, with conversions of 1.5:1 in some cases, due to a combination of genetic and nutritional breakthroughs.
“Feedstuffs will be derived from plant varieties and inputs specifically engineered for an exact animal genotype. Constant DNA typing and mapping will be needed along with crop monitoring (feedstuffs) in order to facilitate the most precise nutritional programs.
“All feed inputs will be contracted with every acre involved in a multi-year nutritional management plan that will dovetail with the CNMP (Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan) for the same acres. All ingredient supplies will be paid on exact nutrient specifications delivered, vs. today's price per bushel or per ton.
“On the meat quality side, animals will be harvested on-site or on-farm. Mobile CO2 chambers, rendering trucks and refrigerated transport will reduce or eliminate animal welfare and meat quality issues associated with current live animal transport.
“New requirements for animal identification and animal welfare auditing will be simplified by an on-site harvest system. Whole carcasses will be transported in specially equipped trucks to designated, value-added processing plants. These will be the top 80% of today's most efficient plants. These companies can expand their processing areas, as their kill sections will be effectively outsourced.
“The added expense of transporting chilled carcasses will be offset because only 75% of the actual freight will exist. Waste or other by-products may need to be transported directly for rendering.”
Robert Baarsch, LeRoy, Minn.
“All predictions about the future must be framed with underlying assumptions.
“Consolidation, triggered and shaped by technology adoption, will continue as rapidly, or more rapidly, into the next 10 years.
“Pork production companies will grow primarily by acquisition. This growth will trigger difficult challenges in assimilating production systems such as barn and ventilation design, as well as employee culture. Variation will continue to drive these growing companies crazy.
“Process control will centralize and be staffed with the most intelligent and experienced stockmen available. These offices will house the technological equivalent of a cockpit in a modern fighter jet, monitoring all the critical factors affecting hog growth.
“The data will be consolidated and filtered using software beyond what we now know as statistical process control (SPC). It will be more similar to artificial intelligence, able to predict disease outbreaks or detect ventilation problems instantly.
“All feed tanks will be equipped with scales, and the pigs' growth and feed efficiency will be monitored constantly by weight-predicting equipment.
“The system will determine the optimal temperature for the type of pig, health status and building design. It will also optimize temperature and nutrition-based energy costs and make cost-based decisions between heating the building or feeding more energy to the pigs.
“Our number one challenge will be satisfying consumers who will continue to be more sophisticated in their concern for how we raise our animals, treat our employees and take care of the environment.
“Fewer of our prospective employees will have agriculture backgrounds and education. We will need rigorous training programs that include basics that we take for granted today.
“These well-trained employees, coupled with our electronically connected stockmen, will be a very effective team. Our e-stockmen will have remote video surveillance, which will allow disabled employees to make significant contributions. Ultimately, the animals will be better served because they will have several sets of eyes and ears overseeing their care.”
Scott Burroughs, Nebraska Pork Partners, Columbus, Neb.
“To project where U.S. commercial pork production will be 20 years from now, let's look back at the last two decades.
“The U.S. pork industry has transitioned from a ‘way of life’ to a ‘business’. Thinner profit margins and higher capital requirements have put an emphasis on economies of scale. Farms have been built or acquired by business entities, while single-farm owner/operators have moved into contract relations or exited pork production.
“The next 20 years will see further changes and refinements, but the end result will still be 105-110 million pigs marketed per year. Environmental restrictions, animal welfare legislation and global pork production will hold a lid on the U.S. industry.
“For those who can adapt to the changing environment and drive efficiencies to the bottom line, returns will be very good.
“Business and manufacturing practices have been infused into the U.S. pork industry. Although a business mentality and many manufacturing methods have been beneficial, pork production is not a manufacturing process — it's a biological one!
“Two key areas of focus for the next 20 years are pig production and business model/company culture.
“Let's tackle pig production first.
“Raising pigs for food began over 9,000 years ago and the biological fundamentals have not dramatically changed. Environmentally controlled conditions, artificial insemination, nutrition and genetic selection have all advanced. But, the basics have not changed. They must be done seven days a week, all year long, year in year out. There is no black box for production of pigs.
“Now, let's look at the business model/company culture issues.
“Incorporating a business approach into the U.S. pork industry has had a positive influence and added a much-needed dimension for long-term competitiveness. However, success in the next 20 years will not come from a manufacturing or technology business model, but rather a ‘biological business model.’ Very few of today's top 50 production entities have adopted this model.
“Let's examine the three models and why virtually all entities will need to adopt the biological business model.
“The ‘manufacturing business model’ strives for low variation and high output in a least-cost environment. Yes, these traits are vital to the biological model, but one key difference exists — a switch turns it on and off. When employees go home, the process stops. When output needs to be increased, more shifts are added or the process is sped up.
“The ‘technology business model’ develops the latest technology, then mass-produces it. Leadership in a technology business is in tune with day-to-day processes and has a strong vision for the future. This model incorporates everything from the manufacturing model, including the on/off switch.
“The ‘biological business model’ incorporates both manufacturing and technology attributes, while acknowledging that our industry is driven by a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year process. Pig production is the overriding focus.
“In a biological model, everyone at the farm and in the boardroom must be equally connected, striving for the same goals with equal intensity, every day. Communication, discipline, interaction and empowerment must be more than buzzwords. Very few entities have successfully implemented this model.
“How does integration fit into this model?
“Integration is a real component of the U.S. pork industry, and it covers many sins from the production side. The ‘integrated model’ is much better than either the manufacturing or technology model. However, it will not compete solely with the biological model.
“The ultimate success story will come from an ‘integrated biological model,’ which will likely be accomplished in the next two decades.
“Non-integrated entities adopting the biological model will be successful for the next 20 years, but the integrated biological model will be at the top. The board and senior management team that can accomplish this ultimate model will be something to mimic.
“There is a bright future for those who are focused on producing pigs in an environmentally sound, welfare-conscious and people-oriented business. Contract production will continue for growers who adapt their focus to producing pigs.
“The days of raising pigs to sell buildings, add value to a veterinary service, sell more tons of feed or sell management services are numbered.”
Bob Brauer, Oakford, Ill.
“For the first time in 29 years, Oasis Hog Farms does not own pigs. We made the decision to get out of the business in December 2003. Many in our community were surprised and asked why.
“Our short answer is, we doubled the size of our operation the year prices dropped 80%. Good timing, huh? Our projections showed that we could survive the lowest hog prices we had seen in the last two decades ($28). The projections did not show the effect of $8 hogs or chronic PRRS! We just never recovered.
“The good news is that our timing to liquidate could not have been better. We sold the last pigs at the home place in December 2004, and we have contracts to sell it and the three farms we built in 1998.
“It has been a very difficult period, but there is life after pig farming. Rich (Brauer) is now an Illinois House Representative; our sister, Jane Feagans, is a seed company office manager. I am an investment representative for Edward Jones.
“I loved the work and I loved the people. I will miss both.
“There are still pigs to raise, and it seems to me there will be three segments of the industry:
“The contractor who owns the pigs, takes the risks, provides the technology and services to the growers;
“The growers who provide capital and labor in return for less risk and a better night's sleep; and
“The traditional, independent producers who will have to form alliances to keep their costs low and attempt to extract a reasonable price out of the market.
“Our business with my brother and sister was great for 22 years. The problem is, we were in it for 29 years.
“We were very lucky because our 401(k) at the farm did provide some off-farm investments. As my finance professor says, ‘If you are going to put all of your eggs in one basket, watch that basket very carefully.’”
Linden Olson, Worthington, Minn.
“One of the major challenges facing the global pork industry will revolve around the increasing globalization of world economies, including food production and processing.
“Multi-national food companies will look closer at where the lowest-cost raw product that meets their standards can be procured and processed, whether that product is 100 or 10,000 miles away.
“This will allow market segmentation to provide pork to consumers who demand, and will pay for, pork and pork products that are produced and certified under their requirements, which will include environmental standards, production practices, food safety, health and nutrition ideals and social concerns.
“For the U.S. pork industry, one major challenge will be transitioning from being the lowest-cost pork producer to something yet to be determined. The opportunity will be to transition to a goal that captures what the global consumer will be demanding.
“This will require producers and processors to first agree, then work together to put the new goal into practice. The integrated processors will have an advantage in moving quickly in a new direction.
“A second challenge will be working in the legislative arena to ensure that laws, rules and regulations are enacted to give the pork industry a fair chance to compete in the global marketplace without emotionally charged, special interest restrictions.”
Bill Prestage, Prestage Farms Inc., Clinton, N.C.
“As I try to view the next 10 to 20 years for our pork industry, I see many current trends continuing.
“I think there will be even greater emphasis by packers and consumers on meat quality, safety and consistency. This means we will have to produce hogs with the sizes and carcass traits that packers demand.
“We will have to be more efficient. Consumers should not have to pay for our inefficiencies and, in the long term, they will not.
“Within the live production segment of our industry, we will continue to see some mergers and acquisitions. There will be more acquisitions of live production assets by packers. However, I also believe there will always be a place for producers of any size, if they have a competitive cost structure.”
Jim Ledger, Washington, Iowa
“In the next 10 to 20 years, I envision uniformity (of pork products) will be achieved through cloning and gene altering.
“A new approach to disease management will be achieved through genetics. The livestock industry needs to use a different method of gene altering than the crop industry. We must convince consumers that altering genes is more conducive to food safety than using chemicals and drugs to control diseases and pests.
“There could be four categories of commercial producers in the future — ultra-large, large, medium and small. I will focus my thoughts on the medium and small producers and their survival against tough competition.
“The following points may not have a lot of impact on an individual basis, but combined into total practice, you will be a survivor:
Establish good relations with your banker and veterinarian. They will require you to keep good financial and health records.
Seek advice from someone who has been successful in business.
Use a genetic package that produces good numbers and a product that is in demand, domestically and globally.
Strive for efficiency, no matter how small. A small amount of wasted time or material doesn't seem like much, but over a year or a business lifetime, it could be the price of owning your own business.
Get as much information as possible on innovations. Adopt new concepts only if they have promise to improve your bottom line.
Good, caring production practices are still the key to producing a nutritious protein source.
Work to assure consumers that you are providing a wholesome, safe product.
Relax. Don't get so involved in business that you forget to enjoy your family, relatives and friends.
The Keppy Family, Davenport, Iowa
Three generations of the Keppys offered their thoughts about the future of the pork industry.
Patriarch Roy Keppy: “Myrtle and I were fortunate to have farmed when we did. I was able to raise good crossbred pigs because of great purebred breeders. Together, we made great progress in producing consumer-acceptable, lean pork.
“I am concerned that the industry has gone too far on the lean concept. I'm very aware of the eating quality problems that should not be happening. The aging population is part of the fastest-growing consumer group. Tender, flavorful pork is very important to them. Someone needs to step to the plate to solve eating-quality problems before we lose market share.”
Next generation, Glen Keppy, son of Roy and Myrtle: “The organizations that helped provide an opportunity for profit — and even the right to farm — have been changing since the start of modern pork production in 1950 until today.
“The industry will change, so the needs of an organization will change also. Producers of all kinds need to provide the leadership to keep the pork industry in front of the issues and proactive as we face detractors and global competition. Don't take things for granted.”
Third Generation Chad Keppy, son of Glen and Carol Keppy: “We, the producers, need to adopt and embrace change to keep pork a competitive protein source. For producers in a situation similar to mine, I believe one way to accomplish this is to utilize niche markets. It is a smaller, more specialized market trying to give consumers exactly what they want. We will continue to work together to produce pigs in the U.S. and add value to the pork we produce.”
Maynard Hogberg, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa
“Environmental impact of swine operations will continue to be a major issue in the next 10-20 years.
“Problems that need to be addressed are:
Excessive and obnoxious odors;
Nutrient leakage from storage systems;
Gas emissions, especially ammonia and hydrogen sulfide; and
Reduction or elimination of pathogens.
“These problems became issues through the gradual shift to larger production systems and as society became more environmentally sensitive. As operations grew in size, environmental concerns increased exponentially as the technology to deal with them did not keep pace. This has led to the call for, and implementation of, regulations as a means to correct the problem.
“To reduce odor and nutrients in manure, nutritional programs will more precisely meet the nutrient needs of pigs at different stages of growth.
“Nutrients excreted by the pig will be captured and preserved for use in land application or other uses as we shift our emphasis from treating manure as a waste to recognizing it as a resource. Rising commercial fertilizer prices, along with regulations that limit emissions of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, will drive this trend.
“Lagoons, which typically lose approximately 75% of the nitrogen to volatilization, will be closed unless covered. Some systems will evolve from liquid to dry, such as composting. Dry systems will significantly reduce odors and pathogens, increase flexibility of alternate uses, and make it easier and more economical to transport longer distances.
“New businesses will emerge to take the manure from farms and serve as plant nutrient brokers, adding value to the product. Larger units will find ways to process manure into alternative, value-added products.
“As energy prices increase, it will become more feasible to convert swine manure into bio-diesel or alternative energy sources. Significant technology changes will reduce environmental impacts on air and water and find new uses for swine manure. Future systems will not use lagoons or under-floor storage tanks, as emphasis is placed on minimizing gas emissions inside and outside the buildings.
“The cost of operating an environmentally sound swine system will escalate as new technologies are developed. If done properly, the products from manure may be a larger profit center for swine operations than the pigs themselves.”
Leonard Bull, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C.
“The way the swine industry deals with the issues of residuals (waste and other) from concentrated animal feeding operations will determine the industry's future.
“Regulatory pressures will continue to increase on a global basis, along with increased expectations for clean water and air.
“While many of the allegations against the swine industry are unfounded, especially in the last half decade, the perceptions are well-entrenched in the regulatory mindset. There will continue to be a ‘not in my backyard’ attitude in developed countries against CAFOs of all kinds, swine systems in particular.
“Technology development for mediation of the environmental issues will continue, and systems that achieve desired results will emerge carrying realistic price tags.
“Until recently, biological treatment of animal waste has received inadequate attention because of abdication of the primary responsibility by the biological science side of the research industry. That will change, bringing significant advances at realistic costs.
“At the same time, value-added by-products and co-products and processes will be developed to enable the industry to deal with problems of translocation of residual nutrients from distant sites of feed production to sites of animal production.
“The issues that will remain for each country or area will be the balance between the economic value of the swine industry and willingness to provide whatever subsidies are needed to retain that share of the economy.”
Al Sutton, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.
“Sustainable, profitable and efficient pork production in concert with good environmental stewardship will be required throughout the world. Advances in scientific information and development of technologies, equipment and management practices will be needed in the following areas:
Precision application of manure on cropland;
The ability to accurately and rapidly measure manure nutrient contents on-farm and make rate adjustments during applications;
Economical treatment and resource recovery systems producing value-added products and the option to discharge treated effluent;
Elimination of pathogens, and reducing or altering gas emissions and odors from pork production facilities, manure storage and land application practices;
Discovery of safe feed additives that provide increased utilization of nutrients, provide health protection and control the microflora in animals;
Biotechnical and scientific breakthroughs to produce precision feeds for specific animals, and production purposes to enhance nutrient utilization;
Discovery and manipulation of microorganisms and their ecology in the animal, and through the manure management system and soils, to minimize environmental impacts and benefit pork production.”
Ron Thibault, Osborne Industries Inc., Osborne, Kan.
“Perhaps no part of the pork industry has changed more in the past 50 years than equipment and systems engineering, which in recent years, have become greatly standardized across the U.S. industry, largely owing to their practical success.
“As production systems have become larger, size of operations, internal process development and the need for standardization have enabled many producers to view their equipment and engineering suppliers in a new way. This will become the norm in the next 10 to 20 years.
“Product development, field-testing and customization to match unique production requirements will also become the norm. Unique concepts or commodity designs will be replaced by capabilities and services.
“Equipment and engineering suppliers will serve as consultants to the producer, who will provide the product requirement specifications and the testing venue for jointly developed solutions. Such consultative relationships include significant, continuous collaboration within a confidential environment.
“This is a great departure from competitive product and service development using consumer marketing methods. This future does not remove competition, but it does leverage the strength and capabilities of both customer and supplier in a more efficient and productive way.
“In 2013, gestation crates will no longer be permitted in the European Union. This fact is creating a momentum for basic changes in the way animals are managed, which must be met if the U.S. is to remain in the world meat market.
“‘Business as usual’ will not work. The customer of the future will have no sympathy for the realities of pork production, but will be driven by popular public perceptions, which will be marshaled against the North American producer as surely as they were against smaller and perhaps less vulnerable producers in the European Union.
“The other side of this problem is an important opportunity to use information technology as part of large-group management to set new standards for care and well-being of animals, and for the quality and safety of pork. By adopting such methods, the North American model for pork production is in a unique position to out-perform any other producer in the world in both quality and cost of production, converting inevitable changes in production methods into an unbeatable competitive advantage.”
Jerome Mack, Swine Robotics, Inc., Leola, S.D.
“The U.S. pork industry will become much more labor efficient and productive in the next 10-20 years. Our industry is still incredibly labor intensive, but automation and new tools will become more prominent.
“I believe the biggest challenge will be to find highly qualified people to do the high level of work that the industry demands. Success in that area will overcome all other obstacles.”
John Lawrence, Iowa State University, Ames, IA
“Economics is the bottom line by which all other ‘categories’ in the pork industry will be measured.
“The industry has made significant improvements in production efficiencies and cost reductions in the last 20 years. Cost reductions are the nature of the business, and I'm sure they will continue, however, they will not be made at all costs, so to speak.
“Rather, they will focus on the low-cost methods to produce a higher-quality product in an environmentally superior manner. The expectations on the product and producers will continue to increase, and only a portion of these higher outcomes will be rewarded in the marketplace. The rest will be paid for by producer innovation and efficiency gains.
“On the revenue side, there will be a continued trend toward branded products and organized supply chains. Retailers and consumers will come to expect predictable products and identify them by brand rather than by cut or store name. Brands will differentiate themselves further on price, but only a portion of the difference will be due to meat quality.
“Consumers will pay differences for seasoning, packaging, advertising and image. Pork may simply be the carrier of the eating experience. Producers will benefit from the improved demand for pork and by producing pork with traits that provide a better carrier.
“The export market will continue to grow, as will competition for those markets.
“Competition from Canada will continue and will grow from Brazil. Canada is emphasizing exports of meat over live animals after they saw the vulnerability of a border closing based on the bovine spongiform encephalopathy experience. Brazil has the resource base to produce pork efficiently and is working through their foot-and-mouth disease restrictions. Once they have animal identification fully implemented, they will become a more reliable supplier to the world market.
“European pork markets may well open as environmental pressures build in the leading pork production countries.
“China's pork market will also grow — in Taiwan and the mainland — as their economy grows faster than their feedgrain and pork production capabilities.
“Opportunities for growth and profitability in pork production will be tied largely to demand for pork. While the demand shift of 2004 was unusual, in that production and prices both increased, it did show us what happens when demand is strong.
“As new efficiency-improving technologies are adopted, demand will have to continue to grow if there is to be a profitable future.
“Challenges (to the pork industry) include increasing demand for corn for energy manufacturing. It is great for corn growers, but there are plans to use over half of the current Iowa corn crop for ethanol production.”
Glenn Grimes, University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo.
“The growth in the amount of pork produced per animal in the U.S. breeding herd in the last 50 years is almost unbelievable — up 241% from 1955 to 2004, which is an average growth of 4.82% annually.
“About 3% of the recent 4% growth has been the increased productivity of the U.S. herd, with the other 1% from increased imports of live hogs from Canada.
“Productivity growth is needed to stay competitive with other pork-producing countries. However, 3% productivity growth is nearly double the long-term average demand growth in the U.S. Productivity growth of 3%, demand growth of 1.5%, and a sow herd that is hard to downsize because of the ownership structure, will likely keep profits low, based on historical levels.
“In 1954, there were 2,365,708 hog farms in the U.S. On Dec. 1, 2004, this number was down to 64,420. Hog farms have declined an average of 6% annually for the past five years.
“The structure of the U.S. hog industry is expected to continue to concentrate in the next decade. In 2005, 22 firms accounted for over 40% of the pork produced. There are economies of scale in pork production, so this concentration will probably continue for the next 10-20 years. Twenty to 25 firms will account for approximately 75-80% of production by 2025.
“About one-fourth of the hog industry is now vertically integrated, and growth in this type of ownership is likely to continue. To compete, individual producers will probably need to network to gain economies of scale.
“In 1999, about 36% of U.S. hogs were sold on the negotiated or spot market. In January 2005, this number was less than 11%. There has been nearly a 12% decline in spot market sales, on average, for the last six years.
“Finding a base price to use for developing marketing contracts will become a problem in the next few years. Currently, the small amount of pork sold on the negotiated or spot market is a very thin basis for contracts. Meat prices were the basis for about 11% of the formula marketing contracts for hogs or pork in 2003. Mandatory reporting of meat prices would probably be the best solution for identifying a base price.
“The odds are probably quite high that the industry will either adopt mandatory meat price reporting or new legislation will require a certain percentage of hogs, probably around 25%, to be priced through the spot or negotiated market. Mandatory reporting of meat prices would probably be the best alternative for most of the industry, especially the small producers.
“We see growth worldwide for the pork industry. In the past five years, the increase in world pork production has been about 1.5% annually, and world trade in pork has, on average, increased over 5% annually.
“Increased world trade will provide U.S. pork with some export opportunities, but there will be challenges. Canada and Brazil are now positioned to give the U.S. the most competition.
“Along with this world competition will be environmental, animal welfare and other issues that will complicate pork producers' lives. The industry needs to keep a strong organization to address these issues and influence policy decisions and regulations, as well as keep pork competitive for the center of the American consumer's plate.”
Mark Greenwood, AgStar, Mankato, Minn.
“I believe the swine industry in the U.S. will continue to consolidate. Today, producers with more than 5,000 sows raise 53% of all hogs. Over the next 10-20 years, that number will be closer to 80%.
“The packing industry will consolidate as well. Three or four packers will control 80% or more of the industry.
“The trend toward vertical integration will continue. Today, 25% of the industry is integrated. That number will double, at least, over the next few years.
“Small producers who remain will have opportunities to fill niche markets (such as antibiotic-free, organic, etc.), because large producers will not want to fill those needs.
“Pork is the meat of choice in the world. The world population will grow by almost two billion over the next 20 years, so the potential for the U.S. pork industry to fill that market is great.
“I believe we can grow our exports to 15% of the products we produce. However, if we export more than 15%, we may become very vulnerable if something happens or some trade policy adversely affects our ability to sell our products.
“Our biggest challenge is to keep our pork products safe. A disease outbreak, such as foot-and-mouth disease, would bring our industry to its knees. We need to develop systems that keep our products the safest in the world.
“Animal identification and traceability are ‘givens’ in the future.
“The pork industry needs to raise the bar in animal welfare and environmental areas. Everyone must adhere to sound, practical science in both areas.
“I think the future of the pork industry is very bright. I believe we all need to work together to help feed the world and keep pork the number one protein choice among consumers.”
Max F. Rothschild, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa
“A great deal has happened in genetics to alter the pig industry in the past 50 years. The next 10 or 20 years hold much promise for change as well. For example:
“Selection of superior animals using estimated breeding values will accelerate, particularly for individual gene effects.
“Gene mapping and gene identification will continue at a very rapid pace. This will lead to identifying many individual gene effects and accelerate sequencing of the genome.
“The complete genome sequence (all known genes) of the pig will likely be obtained in the next three years. This will allow breeders to select for reproduction, growth, feed efficiency, disease resistance and meat quality, possibly disposition and behavior, and even reduction of waste output. And, it will allow breeders to create niche products with enormous value.
“Cloning will become easier, producing copies of outstanding animals used to produce more uniform pigs for certain production settings.
“The production of transgenic pigs (adding genes from other species) for biomedical uses. A large part of the swine industry will be devoted to producing pigs for the human health industry. With certain human genes expressed, these ‘biomedical pigs’ can be grown to help produce organs for human transplantation.
“A number of challenges face the field of pig genetics, most importantly sufficient funding for discovery research and (gene) sequencing. This could be a disadvantage for pork compared to other meat sources, especially chicken, where the sequence is already known.
“A second challenge is the need to quickly reduce antibiotics in pig production. To do so, geneticists will need to identify pigs that are genetically less susceptible to disease.
“Environmentalists present another challenge. Strict regulations can hamper genetic improvement. With improved genetic knowledge, breeders will be able to produce pigs that produce less manure, a long-term, positive effect.
“Finally, we will be challenged to contend with welfare and animal rights issues, which hamper large-scale production. Geneticists with adequate funding will be able to select pigs more likely to resist stress.”
Steve Moeller, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
“Genetic improvement over the last 50 years has clearly been driven by advances in technology and the ‘art’ of mating. It appears the speed of technological change has not reached a plateau.
“History and our understanding of the two most important principles of making genetic change — selection and mating systems — tell us that change in traits of economic importance will remain relatively slow.
“The influence of artificial insemination on selection intensity is the key genetic benefit for the swine industry. More importantly, future genetic opportunity with AI will be observed when semen sexing becomes economically feasible.
“Sexed semen offers the opportunity for increased selection intensity of replacement females — an area where the industry currently has little opportunity due to poor sow longevity and high cull/death rates in commercial herds.
“Market differentiation will also drive genetic decisions. High-end restaurant and consumer markets will demand quality attributes that will be dictated, to a large extent, by the genetic supply that is capable of meeting those needs. Processed verified pork products, driven by genetic inputs, will become more prominent and drive selection objectives toward new traits.
“I see selection for disease resistance, using both quantitative and molecular approaches increasing in antibiotic-free and ‘natural’ production markets, plus a continued resurgence in the breeds that inherently possess attributes influencing pork palatability.
“Entrepreneurship, along with a good understanding of selection and mating, will drive breeders and their commercial customers to focus outside the proverbial ‘box’ to remain competitive with commodity pork production.
“Advances in molecular genetics will continue to provide a fundamental understanding of the underlying genes, genetic mechanisms, gene action, gene expression, and regulatory pathways that influence observed phenotype.
“While I feel many more genes will be identified, in the absence of some major mutation, I don't expect to find new genes with the magnitude of effect that the mutant Porcine Stress Syndrome (PSS) gene and the Napole genes have had on phenotypic expression.
“Large corporate breeding companies may have an advantage over smaller breeders due to cost. Privatization and accessibility of discoveries will clearly be in the forefront of future use and application of molecular data and databases.
“I go back to a question frequently posed by Dr. Lauren Christian, my mentor and major professor at Iowa State. When confronted with a new technology, application of a procedure or discovery, he would ask: ‘But, are the hogs any better?’
“As we look 20 years down the road, we can surely say, the hogs will be better if the right people are involved and they have utilized not only the tools but their intrinsic knowledge of pigs, along with selection and mating, to make them better.”
Tom Baas, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa
“The majority of genetic progress made in the swine industry over the past 50 years resulted from individual breeders and breeding companies applying genetics principles.
“The goal has been to exploit genetic variability to identify the best animals within and between breeds and lines to produce pigs that are the most economical to raise. Most of the genetic progress in traditional quantitative traits (growth, carcass, sow productivity) has been made by selecting on performance records and an estimate of breeding value, without knowledge of the specific number of genes that affect the trait or the effect of each gene.
“As we move into the next 50 years, the genetic principles of selection will remain applicable, but will have molecular tools, such as gene markers and quantitative trait loci, available. As swine genome information is expanded, the potential use of these tools will increase.
“The likelihood of success weighed against the value that can be generated by improving a specific trait must be evaluated when emphasis on any trait is considered. Molecular methods offer great potential, but they will not replace quantitative methods. Their best use will be in conjunction with, and as a supplement to, traditional selection programs.
“Genes and markers can be found, but the key is to find those with measurable effects and economic value. There's a tendency to think we will find a ‘silver bullet’ to solve many of the industry's problems. But, there's also a danger in waiting for new technologies to improve our industry in lieu of continuing to utilize proven quantitative methods.
“We face a major challenge to reduce the economic impact of various swine diseases, specifically porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome. Molecular methods offer great potential here. The concept of selection for disease resistance is not new and probably offers geneticists the greatest opportunity for improvement in the swine health area.
“Because resistance to most diseases is likely due to several genes, we must identify all genes involved and learn how they affect disease resistance before effective selection can take place. As with most advancements, it will take the efforts of both quantitative and molecular geneticists, along with veterinary experts, to accomplish this task.”
Steve Murphy, National Pork Board, Des Moines, Iowa
“Global competition, customer satisfaction and key relationship-building between complementary segments of U.S. agriculture will be the key drivers for success of the U.S. pork industry during the next two decades.
“Without critical attention to details, such as food safety/security, pork quality and animal welfare, the industry could lose ground to global competitors who are willing to provide the final product desired by the marketplace.
“The U.S. pork industry has a bright future because the Pork Checkoff has laid the groundwork through research, education and promotion to continue to be the best overall supplier of pork in the world; 96% of the world's pork consumption occurs outside of U.S. borders, and we must prepare to capture more of that market potential.
“As other countries continue to lower their cost of production, we will need to drive technologies to be competitive. Make no mistake, Brazil will change the global marketplace in the next five years.
“Over the last 25 years, we have changed our product dramatically to meet consumer demands. Pork demand rose by 2.8% in 2004 alone. Now, it is time to listen to the global market, respond to its needs and reap the rewards.
“Issues such as food safety/security, pork quality and animal welfare will be driving factors in how U.S. pork is perceived worldwide. Pork producers must take control of the security of their product until it reaches the customer.
“Continuing to identify and incorporate desirable meat quality traits will also add value to U.S. pork. Quite clearly, one of the most critical actions will be assuring customers that U.S. pork is raised in a humane manner. It is highly likely that we will see a global version of the Swine Welfare Assurance Program.
“As U.S. pork competes in the world market, now and in 2025, we must remember that we are not just competing against other protein supplies, but against pork from many other countries.
“Finally, pork producers and all of agriculture must learn to work as a team to fend off advances from environmental and animal rights activists, the vegan community, and regulations that could drive livestock out of business, thus eliminating the largest market for U.S. grains.
“As we look to the future, it may be time to take a page from the past. In 1966, in Moline, IL, 90 pork producers banded together and changed the course of U.S. pork production forever. Understanding who will move our industry forward and who will attempt to halt its success is critical. The challenge we need to accept is to look outside the gates of agriculture and determine how we best move forward.”
Jerry H. Godwin, Murphy-Brown LLC, Warsaw, N.C.
“The world population is projected to reach roughly nine billion people by 2035. With that growth will come a demand for even more efficient and economical food production.
“Along with advancements in biotechnology, instant access to information via the Internet, better medicines and other scientific advancements, there will also be an increased demand for higher quality food — specifically meat as a protein source.
“There are few places left on earth with the natural resources and infrastructure necessary for large increases in acreages for agricultural production. It will be necessary to produce more from existing resources.
“Biotechnology offers enormous promise to help us protect the environment by reducing the destruction of forests and other resources.
“Breeding for genetic resistance offers great potential to protect crops from insect losses, thus minimizing the need for synthetic pesticides. Likewise, significant improvements in animal genetics will result in increased feed conversion efficiency, more disease-resistant animals and improved meat quality.
“And, a more informed consumer, one who insists on a safe, high-quality protein source, will also demand that food be produced in ways that protects the environment and ensures animal well-being.
“The future belongs to the efficient and the productive. Perhaps the most successful model for sustainability is the integrated business model, which controls all the raw material input and processes at each stage of production. This model also controls quality and takes advantage of economies of scale. Through these and other efficiencies, an integrated organization is able to produce a predictable throughput of high-quality product at the lowest cost.
“The organizations with the ability to manage and control the variables and expenses of producing a product have the best chances for sustainability. Agriculture in general, and pork production specifically, are not exceptions.”
Robert “Bo” Manly, Premium Standard Farms, Kansas City, Mo.
“Productivity of the U.S. pork industry is very low at an average of 16 pigs per sow per year. This splits the industry into efficient and inefficient segments that respond to economic and political signals differently.
“We will not achieve world-class competitiveness until we reach a more productive platform. We will react to market signals, politics and international competitiveness issues when we achieve an industry standard of 20 pigs/sow/year.”
Dave Culbertson, Geneseo Pork Inc., Geneseo, Ill. (National Pork Board President)
“As our industry continues to consolidate and mature, I think we will see added incentive to have one industry organization, voluntarily funded. I can foresee a new organization that would assume most of the activities of the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council.
“With less revenue available, the new organization will need to be more streamlined and more focused on early issues identification and management.
“To offset revenue reduction, the new organization will need to cultivate innovative sources, such as partnerships and grants. As in the past, state and/or regional associations will be crucial partners in accomplishing all of the tasks that producers have come to expect.
“Several states will have their own voluntary checkoff, so arriving at one equitable split of duties and revenues with a national organization will be a challenge. This new organization needs to be as inclusive as possible and appeal to a large range of producers and production styles.
“We are a resilient, innovative, high-energy industry, one that has always handled challenges in a positive, proactive manner, arriving at solutions to serve and enhance the greater good.”
Craig Christensen, Ogden, Iowa (National Pork Board past president)
“Future industry organizations will be more proactive, fast-acting, specific and focused on limited priorities, with limited funding.
“There will be more collaboration between groups and other industry partners to tackle certain issues. This collaboration may have to be broad and diverse to attract enough resources and make the necessary impact.
“The pork industry has a great opportunity to move more product and increase our share of the consumption pie — if we stay in front, change, and lead in areas such as animal welfare, animal identification, antimicrobial usage and production trends that produce a better product and quality of environment.”
Craig Jarolimek, Elite Swine Inc., Forest River, N.D. (National Pork Producers Council Past President)
“The U.S. pork industry has undergone many challenges and changes in the last 50 years, but we cannot begin to imagine the changes we will face in the next 25 years.
“In the near future, leaders of the National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board need to come together and once again unite the industry under one governance and leadership. A solution to the checkoff challenges needs to be sought and one source of funding established.
“It was with great pride that former leaders took the bold step to establish the mandatory checkoff. They moved NPPC to a major leadership position in U.S. agriculture policy. That type of leadership is needed again to move to the next level of producer leadership.
“As communication and technology advances make our world smaller, the U.S. pork industry needs to look at its neighbors to the north and understand the benefit of forming a North American pork industry.
“Issues like the trade dispute (anti-dumping, countervailing), bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and country-of-origin labeling drive the U.S.-Canadian industries further apart.
“Environment, animal health, worker safety, packing capacity, food safety and product movement are just some of the issues we share. And, we share a continuous border, culture and language. This should be used to our advantage, not viewed as a threat.
“A larger issue is inventory reporting and managing production growth. With the movement toward a united North American industry, market signals will be more readily transferred and responded to on both sides of the border. Unused packing capacity and excess farrowing production could be shared with easier movement in both directions.
“Producer leaders, packers and processors need to realize the strength of a united North American pork industry. A world trade advantage could be realized with cooperative efforts.”
Larry Graham, Graham Strategic Marketing Inc., Clive, Iowa (former National Pork Producers Council CEO)
“I believe we will, and should, have one industry organization led by those who control the majority of the hogs. Whether funded by mandatory or voluntary contributions, those who own the hogs should provide the leadership and direction.
“From a production aspect, we will continue to be the world's most innovative and least-cost producers of pork, assuming the industry will be able to avoid burdensome restrictions caused by government agencies and/or animal activists.
“The U.S. pork industry has an unprecedented opportunity to provide increasing amounts of quality products to a global market. We have the technology, the infrastructure and, most importantly, the people to make it happen.”
Jeff Luckman, Smithfield Foods Inc., Smithfield, Va.
“Pork procurement, once driven by cost, is now driven by the consumer's desire for product uniformity and consistency.
“This trend will accelerate over the next 10 to 20 years as the pork industry continues to focus on genetic selection, technology, feeding practices, animal well-being programs and environmental safeguards to improve meat quality and satisfy consumer demand.
“Our industry continues to adopt procurement programs to meet consumer demand. For example, our Farmland Foods division has introduced a new premium program rewarding producers for achieving the highest quality standards while allowing them to reach optimal production economics.
“Also, Smithfield Foods' subsidiaries, in conjunction with our genetic company, developed a special breed to meet Japanese consumers' preference for more heavily-marbled pork cuts.
“Price discovery will also continue to be a major issue. Smithfield Foods, a major buyer of open-market hogs, will continue its commitment to buy hogs from producers on the open market, emphasize cooperation among producers, packers and retailers, and, offer producers risk management services.”
Julie Craven, Hormel Foods Corp., Austin, Minn.
“Hormel Foods has been a leader in product and packaging innovation to meet the changing lifestyles of consumers. Continued simplification in the preparation of meals by consumers will be a key component in the future, involving the development of new products that will be appealing in the marketplace.
“Packaging enhancements will be an important part of the solution to deliver quicker, easier meals with maximum quality. More diverse flavor profiles rooted in more cultures from around the world will continue to emerge.
“Products designed to be foolproof for consumers to prepare, while still delivering flavor satisfaction, will be the winners.”
Robert G. Kauffman, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
“The consumer demand for meat is now at an all-time high, especially in the United States — and the trend seems to be catching on internationally. I predict this demand will continue indefinitely.
“As long as grain production continues to be economical, at a price that can be efficiently converted to lean, high quality pork, pork should remain in demand, worldwide.
“The current trends to produce pork in mass quantities should help minimize cost of production. New technologies in slaughtering and further processing to improve quality, safety and shelf life should continue to insure a high demand for pork.
“Technologies such as electrical stimulation, rapid chilling and additions of safe chemicals (such as sodium bicarbonate) should continue to improve the qualitative properties, such as water-holding capacity, color, juiciness, flavor and tenderness.
“Challenges and opportunities for all segments of the industry include:
“Safe, sanitary, disease-free pork must continue to be a high priority.
“Pork carcasses must be heavier to minimize costs of slaughtering; leaner by minimizing fat production and increasing muscle:bone ratios via heavier muscling; and, of higher quality through breeding, antemortem handling, proper slaughtering procedures (prevention of cold shortening and rapid pH decline), and maintenance of an ultimate water-holding capacity and desirable pinkish-red color.
“The leanest, most efficiently produced pork will not be acceptable if it is dry, off-flavored, tough and most of all, tainted with bacteria and filth. The industry must continue positive efforts to eliminate the pale, soft and exudative (PSE) pork, which remain a major quality problem worldwide.
“Ongoing concern about pig welfare, from farrowing to slaughter. Packers must be equally concerned about safe and desirable working conditions for their employees.
“More effort is necessary to vertically integrate the industry for more efficient production and processing, to maintain the highest level of quality control during the life of the pig and after it is harvested.
“As third world countries continue to raise their standards of living, pork must be marketed and distributed effectively at an affordable price.”
Rob Knox, University of Illinois, Urbana, Ill.
“In the next 10 to 20 years, advances in reproduction will segment into specialized technologies for the sale and supply of genetic materials or for commercial production.
“In the production of fewer nucleus animals with unique genetic material, technologies will include transgenic animals, cloned animals, sexed semen, embryos, more dependence on computerized semen analysis and more specific laboratory semen fertility tests.
“In the advanced stages of this technology, it is conceivable that we will see the sale of a litter of frozen embryos containing a valuable transgene, which was produced from sexed, frozen semen. The litter will have been implanted into a recipient sow following the hormonal synchronization of estrus.
“In commercial production, the need for improved diagnostics will dominate changes. There is a clear need for tools to more accurately indicate estrus and ovulation, ovarian status, fertility of sperm, occurrence of fertilization, establishment of pregnancy, the number of fetuses, time of farrowing and fetal condition during delivery.
“Indicators for any or all of these reproductive events or measures would allow adjustments in management procedures that would limit the excessive reproductive losses common today.
“Advanced diagnostics to measure reproductive behaviors at estrus, in combination with detection of hormones at estrus, will enable precision artificial insemination (AI).
“In AI technology, fewer sperm per insemination will likely be used in combination with intrauterine insemination (IUI) methods. In an integrated production system, the ability to use superior sires over more animals will help increase product consistency and quality. Using fewer sperm with IUI opens the door to greater use of frozen semen.
“There are many challenges for the commercial use of frozen semen, but the advantages in on-farm availability, day-to-day consistency, limited bacterial growth and ease of use may outweigh limitations in shipping and storage.
“In the larger breeding herds, we will likely see less dependence on the boar to stimulate ovarian function and expression of estrus, and to facilitate breeding. This labor-intensive procedure will shift toward hormonal control.
“If improved synchrony in breeding, litter size and farrowing dates is attained, consistency in marketing animals will also result.”
Harold H. Hodson Jr., Swine Genetics International, Ankeny, Iowa
“Almost 80% of commercial sows are presently bred by artificial insemination (AI). This will increase until AI services 95% of sows.
“Export of liquid and frozen semen has recently increased, a trend that will continue due to health precautions and the cost of importing live breeding animals.
“As more gene markers are identified, their use will rapidly spread through the industry via AI. In 10 to 20 years, AI boars will be identified not only by their feedlot, carcass and reproductive performance, but also by the beneficial genes they carry.
“Two AI innovations will probably continue to develop in the next 20 years:
“Use of intrauterine insemination will increase, thus reducing sperm per dose and the number of boars needed in the industry.
“Semen sexing is not yet practical, but the technology will likely develop to make it more feasible, particularly if combined with deep intrauterine insemination.
“I am concerned about the narrowing genetic base within the purebred industry. This is particularly true of the commercially-oriented purebred seedstock industry.”
Bill N. Day, University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo.
“I believe producers will have commercially available ‘tools’ to select an effective program for predetermined time for breeding through artificial insemination or, alternatively, the non-surgical transfer of embryos produced by in vitro maturation, fertilization and culture.”
Fields Gunsett, Newsham Genetics, Colorado Springs, Colo.
“As a participant and observer of the pork industry the past 25 years, who would have envisioned the rate of consolidation we've seen?
“In the early 1980s, group-farrowed, pasture-raised, family-owned, rotational crossbreeding systems that used natural service boars were still prevalent. Buying systems were based on grade and yield, while carcasses were valued on their length with no consideration for leanness. Artificial insemination was a novelty.
“The estimation of BLUP (best linear unbiased prediction) breeding values was an intriguing idea promoted by a few statistical geneticists, but the computing power to run the models was still well off in the horizon.
“My vision of the genetic aspect of our industry is as follows:
“For the short term, the industry will continue to consolidate. Fewer and fewer people will decide which genetic resources to use. This increases the probability that genetic resources will be lost — resources that may have unrecognized value today.
“With consolidation, some innovators will exploit the need for niche markets, such as pasture-raised or antibiotic-free pork, or a product with unique properties. These producers will either develop their own breeding stock or partner with suppliers that meet their niche market needs.
“New molecular genetic technologies will be utilized to genetically differentiate individuals within the population. The federal government will support an international effort to sequence the pig genome. This genome mapping information will be in the public domain, allowing any research organization access and providing more genetic information to the genetics community than any single study previously conducted.
“The merit of new genomics technology will not be limited to the development of markers to be used in breeding programs. New technologies will allow better understanding of pathogens and disease agents that may have their own genotypes. Manipulation of these genotypes may allow us to produce healthier animals, enhance traits that are difficult to measure, and differentiate animals to assist niche markets.
“Understanding how genes interact, when genes are turned on and off, how imprinting is controlled and how genetic information is interpreted by the target metabolic pathway will remain challenges for the future.
“Allied to the genetics area will be technologies, such as sperm sorting, that allow the production of same-sex litters. Large gilt systems, for example, will make production more efficient and the animals more uniform.
“Genetics programs can make large numbers of terminal sires from specific matings to insure the greatest selection differential when producing sires of a specific genotype. This technology will need to be coupled with deep uterine insemination, which reduces the number of sperm needed for insemination.
“Other allied technologies that may impact the application of genetics include non-surgical embryo collection, in vitro fertilization, embryo washing and non-surgical embryo transfer. These technologies will facilitate the movement of germ plasm across populations with differing health status.
“We have been successful at changing traits that impact current economics — growth, leanness, efficiency and reproductive capacity. We may need to refocus our attention on other traits that will gain in economic importance, such as behavior traits (competition, aggression) for group housing situations.
“There is little doubt that the inclusion of genetic markers into marker-assisted, genetic evaluation programs will accelerate genetic change. The paradox is using this technology in a cost-effective manner.
“There is no incentive to adopt new ideas unless they improve the product for our customers. Due to the small profit margin associated with most products used by producers, the implementation of new technology may be delayed because the cost of implementation cannot be justified.”
Darrell D. Anderson, National Swine Registry, West Lafayette, Ind.
“The next 10 to 20 years will yield some very interesting developments in seedstock production. As the industry addresses some serious pork quality issues and strives to deliver a superior eating experience, there will be many opportunities for genetic improvement.
“In addition to the current BLUP (best linear unbiased prediction) technology for evaluating genetic improvement, there will finally be some significant ‘marker-assisted’ genetic selection tools. This genomic technology will allow for more rapid genetic improvement as genetic suppliers raise the bar for muscle quality.
“There will be a plethora of opportunities for those who can design specific genetic lines to fit the expanding branded and specification markets.
“There will be a dramatic increase in ‘story pork’ as consumers demand to know more about the origin, handling and history of the product they choose. They will be willing to pay a significant premium for a consistent, tasty product that yields a superior eating experience.
“The emphasis on high herd health will continue, and the national animal identification program will have an enormous impact on how hogs are identified. This will set the stage for an effective traceability program.
“Breeders who successfully design systems that maximize heterosis will rise to the top of the industry. Genetic lines selected for a high degree of predictability, and focused on emerging traits of importance, will be in great demand in the U.S. and throughout the world.
“Another segment of the industry that will thrive will be the producers of club pigs, as youth pig projects continue to be utilized as a teaching tool for life skills. In an effort to keep youth interested and involved in animal agriculture, the continued success of this segment will be vital to the industry's future.”
Dean Compart, Compart's Boar Store, Nicollet, Minn.
“The advancement of the swine industry will be laid on the shoulders of many segments.
“Access to biotechnology is a concern for relatively small or regional seedstock suppliers. With the tremendous genetics and abilities of these breeders, this segment must be included in shaping the industry's future.
“U.S. seedstock has been popular in the advancement of swine genetics internationally. The demand for diversity of animals is great.
“A ‘cookie cutter’ approach cannot satisfy all of these markets, so breeders with philosophical differences have an opportunity in these foreign markets. This diversity is good, as future demands likely will not remain static.
“Maintaining high herd health will continue to be a challenge to all seedstock suppliers. Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome has decimated breeding herds and, despite research commitments, seems to be thriving. Having dealt with the infection in both our breeding herd and boar stud facility, I can tell you it is difficult to watch lifelong efforts depopulated and lost forever.
“The need to protect the breeding herd is critical. The investment in facilities property and the start-up costs of high-health farms are staggering. Protection from other nearby swine facilities should be considered.
“For those seedstock suppliers who offer high health along with a documented performance testing program, including third-party verification, I feel the future is bright.
“The value of traceable genetics (pedigreed) will increase as science advances. Research needs accurate data and information to interpret.”
Allen E. Christian, Iowa State Breeding & Teaching Herd Manager, Ames, Iowa
“For those in the business of producing seedstock, genetic markers for important traits will be found.
“Maximizing heterosis will continue to be an important factor, and pure genetics will play a big role. Pure lines of hogs with high muscle quality will be sought.
“Technology will help us make fewer mistakes, but good sense and the ‘eye’ will be important in the development of the ‘super’ hog. Perhaps it's here and we just haven't identified it yet!
“There is a lot of creativity involved in swine breeding — creativity to do bold and outlandish things, which sometimes produces unbelievable results. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer breeders available or willing to do this, for the results aren't always profitable nor acceptable.
“With our growing knowledge base, it should be much easier to accomplish lofty goals and to make future generations of pigs better.
“Old-fashioned thinking? Perhaps. Idealistic? Maybe. Some have tried. It is my hope and dream that others will continue to try.
“At the consumer level, I think building confidence that our product is safe, healthful and raised in a humane manner is both a challenge and an opportunity.
“We must be vigilant about removing the stress gene from the swine population. We must improve the image of our industry by reducing the odor and the stigma now associated with pork production. Finally, we must provide help and encouragement to specialized producers in developing and creating markets.”
Michael Brumm, University of Nebraska, Concord, Neb.
“While considering the future of Extension in the U.S. swine industry, we must first take a look at the past.
“Prior to the massive restructuring of the past 10 years, the industry was very homogeneous, dominated by farrow-to-finish producers. Anyone with more than a few hundred sows was considered ‘big’.
“Producers' educational needs were very similar. Leading-edge production research was conducted at land grant universities and USDA sites across the U.S. Extension ably filled the role of transferring the new discoveries into production recommendations.
“Educational needs changed. With fewer and larger producers, the number of decision-makers declined, although the number of pigs they impacted increased. Their educational needs are more specific, often requiring application to a unique set of circumstances. Many production systems now have in-house research units that investigate and find solutions to production problems specifically for that system.
“With reduced USDA and state support for the basic infrastructure associated with applied research, there are fewer universities and USDA laboratories doing ‘applied’ research. Increasingly, public dollars are funding ‘basic’ research.
“While basic research is important to the long-term viability of the industry, the traditional Land Grant mission of translating basic research into applied recommendations has declined. This means the translation of basic into applied knowledge often happens behind closed doors.
“Extension will be less involved in the specifics of production and more involved in the education of the global community. Extension will serve as an information source for those setting public policy, concerned with food safety, etc.
“While there will continue to be extension educators, the number with specific educational abilities will decrease. There will be more regionalization of information as fewer dollars fund the infrastructure of Extension and production research.
“Producers seeking information and assistance in a specific area may have to look beyond their state boundaries. Producers will demand that information be available on an as-needed basis. Information delivery will go beyond web-based learning, email, telephone or even traditional extension delivery methods.
“A challenge for Extension will be to generate enough income to support its basic education mission. Without public funds, education access will become fee-based.
“Another challenge is the growing lack of knowledge by U.S. and global consumers about food production. The welfare movement is an example of how consumers and public policy can be influenced when this knowledge of pork production is limited.
“Finding future industry leaders is another concern. With less than 75,000 farms with pigs, pork producers must be as involved with public issues as they are with production issues. Those who are active will dictate public policy.
“The pork industry's opportunities lie with involvement in consumer education and public policy, which can pay big dividends as we compete with other protein sources for the consumer's dollar.”
John Waddell, DVM, Sutton Veterinary Clinic, Sutton, Neb.
“Yogi Berra once said, ‘Predictions are difficult, especially about the future.’ Trying to predict swine health and production trends 10 to 20 years into the future — I agree with Yogi!
“In less than 10 years, we will be looking back and asking ourselves why it took so long to solve the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome problem. The solution is coming before the end of the next decade.
“New vaccines and methods for disease control, such as genetic resistance, will further reduce our need for antimicrobials. Antibiotic resistance will still be an issue, but there will still be no evidence of use in livestock contributing to substantial risk to humans.
“Veterinarians will continue to be the primary source of health and production information, but by virtue of the PRRS solution, my colleagues will be able to provide substantially more input into such concerns as welfare.
“By this time, we will have found that sows actually prefer being housed in individual stalls, since there is less competition for food and water as well as freedom from aggressive pen mates with severe cases of MGS (mid-gestation syndrome). MGS makes sows much more aggressive and prone to biting, riding and generally causing injuries to those unaffected sows.
“We can get a sneak peak at potential levels of production by witnessing the Danes. We are now learning of Danish producers who are sustaining 30 pigs/mated female/year.
“The challenge for our generation is to learn how to transfer this technology to a new generation of pork producers in North America.”
D.L. (Hank) Harris, DVM, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa
“There will be major improvements in infectious disease prevention and control based on proper siting and construction of new facilities. Upper management will recognize the economic impact of disease and exert appropriate measures for biosecurity and welfare training.
“New infectious diseases will continue to emerge, but diseases such as porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome and postweaning multi-systemic wasting syndrome will be conquered utilizing vaccines, genetic resistance and/or management approaches. The PRRS virus will be eradicated from the U.S. by 2015 or be adequately controlled by vaccines before then. New diseases will be primarily viral, but bacterial agents will reemerge and cause economic losses.
“Breeding stock, biologics and pharmaceutical companies will form alliances (or via acquisitions) to combine the power of animal genetics with vaccine and/or drug mechanisms of action for disease prevention and control. ‘Vaccine-ready’ breeding stock will become a common marketing strategy.”
Scott Dee, DVM, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minn.
“Clearly, the largest health challenge that faces our industry today is porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome. Large populations of PRRS naïve breeding stock are available, and eradication of the disease from an individual farm is possible via a number of different time-tested methods.
“However, reinfection with a different strain of PRRS virus is a frequent event. Fortunately, identification of the indirect routes of PRRS virus transmission, along with the development and testing of scientifically sound biosecurity protocols, are nearing completion.
“My vision for the next 10-20 years regards the unification of pork producers and veterinarians, resulting in the development of regional PRRS control and eradication programs across North America.
“Following PRRS virus elimination from clustered farms, each region will wrap itself in a ‘web of biosecurity’ based, once again, on science, protecting itself from reinfection.
“This effort will be driven by a team that includes the National Pork Board, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and NC-229 scientists associated with the USDA-NRI PRRS integrated program project.
“Here's my timeline:
2005-2010 — documentation of completion of successful regional pilot projects in the U.S., Canada and Mexico;
2011-2024 — replication of results across other regions of the continent;
2025 — North America declared free of the PRRS virus.
“Producers need to unite and work together towards a common goal. They must always put their trust in their veterinarian and have faith that the science will lead the way.”
Roy Schultz, DVM, swine consulting veterinarian, Avoca, Iowa
“My vision of the pork industry in the next 10 to 20 years expands beyond the field of swine health and veterinary medicine. It envisions the pork industry as an integral part of the food industry, encompassing not only swine health, but also human health.
“A majority of animal diseases are zoonotic (possibly becoming diseases of human significance). Presently, we have less exposure than other competitive meats and disease conditions, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy in beef and Asian influenza in poultry.
“We must continue working on the image and reality of a safe and wholesome product. We must work on promoting pork as a tasty, delightful, nutritious, and life style-healthy supply of our daily protein needs. Production must be traceable to the farm of origin and verified, by third-party audits if necessary, that the animals are raised in a welfare-friendly atmosphere and on inputs monitored for safety and purity.
“We must keep our herds free of known and emerging diseases. We must take biosecurity to a higher level, controlling and monitoring all air, water, feed, mechanical vectors, insects, rodents, pigs, people and other inputs.
“PRRS, the current scourge of swine health, only affects our cost of production. It is not zoonotic and does not affect consumption of our product. Efficient vaccines, transmission barriers and production flows will control PRRS. It will eventually be subdued and eliminated. Enhanced biosecurity will play a vital role.
“I believe genetics and genetic manipulation will play a future role in the control of disease, as will immuno-modulating enhancements. Swine health will encompass the resistance of the animal, so clinical disease is not expressed.
“Vaccines with user-friendly delivery systems will be available in aerosols, water and feed inclusions. Bacterial and viral phages will be available, should the pathogens exceed the immunological resistance threshold of the herd.
“Biotechnology will have the ability to improve health, muscle growth, feed efficiency and carcass and nutritional enhancement, but will continue to meet resistance on a global basis.
“There will be continued consolidation of the swine industry on a global basis. In the United States, 80% of pork production will be in the hands of ‘food companies.’
“Exports, both quantity and quality, will be products fed and processed according to specific customer demands. Commodity products will be produced and exported where they can be produced the cheapest, much like the tennis shoe industry. This may be an area such as Brazil, where labor, land, feed and facilities are cheap.”
Rodger D. Schneck, DVM, Alpharma Animal Health, Milan, Minn.
“What a formidable task to predict swine health challenges and opportunities for the next 10 to 20 years.
“Disease control, prevention and eradication should take center stage — and a number of opportunities exist.
“Genetic selection for resistance has continuing potential, along with new and improved vaccines with superior delivery methods.
“Subunit vaccines, and those incorporating antigenic fractions, hold promise. But we must achieve needle-free administration. Safety, efficacy and ease of administration should be our goals. Oral and aerosol routes should be actively explored.
“We need to expand on our disease eradication successes. Eradication programs are only as successful as the diagnostic tests available. Diagnostic programs and submissions will evolve steadily towards preventive programs, rather than treatment options. Biosecurity has advanced, but it must be adopted more extensively.
“Welfare concerns must enter the decision process at all levels of production, as the number of days that a pig is sick or injured is a measure of swine welfare.
“Pigmanship skills can undermine or contribute to the success of all swine health interventions and they need to be honed and taken to the next level.
“Treatment regimes and disease interventions should become easier as eradication/prevention programs continue to evolve. Although some swine diseases can and should be eradicated, there are others that appear as somewhat normal inhabitants for which effective vaccines seem elusive.
“Individual treatment can never be fully avoided, and the need for strategic and therapeutic pulsing will continue. Immune modulators and competitive exclusion products hold some promise, but inconsistency and public perception will remain concerns.”
Steve A. Sornsen, DVM, Pfizer Animal Health, Ames, Iowa
“One of the most important aspects of swine production is developing and maintaining good health. Three-site production systems have improved facility utilization and inputs such as labor, but have generally failed to deliver the anticipated consistent level of high health.
“Disease is a constant threat, both in terms of catastrophic loss and reduction in throughput. It is critical to minimize disease, whether it is introduced or circulated within. Thus, biosecurity has become extremely important as economically significant decisions, such as depopulation/repopulation, are currently made with limited data.
“There is a need to develop information that gives us relatively accurate probabilities of success, such as a better understanding of how diseases are spread or the probability of detecting a disease and preventing it from entering a herd or area.
“Another critical area of research is to understand, on a genetic level, the factors that enable pathogens to cause disease. While we know the disease agents, in many cases we know relatively little about the actual mechanisms of infection. Once these factors are determined researchers armed with information of the pathogen's genome will likely be able to develop new generation, genetically-modified vaccines capable of stimulating stronger and broader protection.
“Antimicrobial agents that have both a high level of efficacy and a good safety profile in terms of both swine and human medicine will continue to be developed.
“One of the biggest challenges the U.S. swine industry continues to face is creating equity to encourage future investment. Capital expenditures will be required to maintain and grow the current infrastructure.
“Environmental regulations and policies will need to be consistent with the goals of the industry in order to provide the framework for this growth. The opportunity to create this equity lies in the industry's ability to understand and meet our consumer's needs, domestically and globally.”
Steve Henry, DVM, Abilene Animal Hospital, P.A., Abilene, Kan.
“During my 43 years in the industry, the focus of producers and veterinarians has broadened tremendously.
“Larger issues related to disease — those of industry impact, food safety, product quality and even capital acquisition — are still developing and pointing the way to the future.
“The changed definition of swine health, from meaning ‘no sick pigs’ to ‘healthful, safe product,’ radically expands our perspective of microbes, toxins and parasites.
“Speculating on the future of swine health is always dangerous and probably personally foolish, yet too tempting to pass by. Therefore, these opinions are mine alone. They reflect 43 years as a producer/veterinarian dedicated to pigs. I offer these observations:
“Production wastage has many compartments that have produced less than satisfying results. Total in-production mortality results in less than 70% of fetuses completing the production cycle, despite monumental advances in genetic improvement, pharmaceutical and biologic interventions, dramatically improved environment and assured nutrition. Understanding and correcting these losses offer huge opportunities.
“Specific pathogen elimination, is not a new idea. Eradication of hog cholera, pseudorabies and brucellosis are excellent examples. The Specific-Pathogen-Free program, successful porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome elimination from herds and mycoplasma elimination strategies are clearly effective. The incentives to move away from ‘living with it’ through drugs and vaccines, both having limited effectiveness and high cost, are increasing.
“Swine health through drugs is not the concept that the end-product consumer or the pork seller has in mind. Large populations free of specific pathogens will be the new standard.
“The public funding of institutions for research and basic knowledge is fading in the U.S. There is a vacuum that must be filled if the technical tools are to be developed.
“One example with a huge impact on swine health is the necessary biosecurity collapse that attends the entrance of new genetic material into populations.
“The need to integrate advancing genetic values into herds is unquestioned. But, on a commercial scale, we have yet to find secure, reliable and economical methods to capture the genetics without endangering herd health through pathogen transfer.
“Similarly, the hygiene needed and the biosecurity protocols that can confidently be implemented for animal health, as well as food safety, must be a part of future knowledge and operating protocol.
“The productivity and efficiency strides made in the past 50 years have been enormous, but I believe the best is yet to come. We have a unique industry with a great drive to progress and prosper; we are early adopters of technology, and adaptation is not feared. These attributes are most powerful.”
Don Mahan, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
“Greater nutritional emphasis will be placed on sow nutrient needs, particularly nutrients affecting longevity and survivability of sows in the breeding herd. Current National Research Council recommendations do not meet the needs of the high-producing sow.
“Phase feeding of sows during gestation, feeding practices two to three weeks before farrowing and better feeding practices during lactation will address special nutrient needs.
“Seedstock companies will need to provide more accurate models of nutrient requirements for their genetic lines at various productivity levels. For example, genetic lines with different appetites, lean growth levels and responses to various rearing practices will have different nutrient requirements.
“The current practice of eliminating poor performers may be because of inadequate nutrition when diets were formulated and fed to higher-producing animals. This practice effectively eliminates good genetic material from the gene pool.
“Greater emphasis will be placed on mineral (macro, micro) balance, dietary level and source (organic, inorganic) in swine diets. The role of dietary enzymes and phytase in mineral nutrition will continue to be investigated.
“Dietary additives will be developed that will greatly reduce or eliminate swine odor.
“Genetically-modified swine capable of secreting enzymes for digesting feedstuffs that have been difficult to use by the pig may be developed. Supplemental enzymes capable of bypassing the stomach to remain active in the digestive tract will be available.
“Nutrient excesses commonly formulated in swine diets were largely because the grains and nutrients were in ample supply and relatively cheap. Environmental concerns, and in some cases poorer performances (caused by nutrient excesses), will encourage more critical definition of minimal requirements.
“Feed processing and by-product quality and consistency will improve over the next two decades. New technology will produce products of higher quality and of known and guaranteed nutrient quality and composition.”
Mike Tokach, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan.
“Looking at the long-term in swine nutrition, I will focus on each phase of production:
“Sow nutrition: Improved, low-cost methods to provide proper feeding levels to sows in groups will facilitate those who wish to, or are driven to, adopt this housing alternative.
“Weight variation of incoming gilts will be controlled. This will reduce the variation in sow body weight at farrowing and simplify feeding in subsequent gestations, because variation in sow size will be reduced within each parity.
“Simplified, sow-controlled, automatic feed delivery systems will replace other feeding methods in the farrowing house.
“Increased batch farrowing and flowing to wean-to-finish systems will help capture the benefits of all-in, all-out, large groups, plus decrease transport costs, improve average daily gains and decrease downtime.
“Nursery nutrition: With current and subsequent recapitalization of the industry, I anticipate that nurseries will disappear as wean-to-finish becomes the norm.
“Diet complexity will decrease greatly as weaning age increases and other tools are developed to help get pigs started on feed.
“Finisher nutrition: The number of phases will decrease to reduce the diets delivered to a site. Driven by costs and increased nutrient requirements in late finishing, this should lead to some ‘leveling out’ of nutrient requirements.
“We may see increased diet blending on-site or blending of amino acid/protein supplements into a common diet to simplify feed delivery. The push for improved feed efficiency will escalate with the desire to drive down energy costs through decreased feed milling and diet delivery.
“I also worry about openness of research in the future. Decreased federal and state funding and pressure on checkoff programs will decrease university research. With the number of private research sites built in production units, I'm not concerned that production research will disappear; however, I am concerned about the potential lack of openness and sharing of research data.
“Lack of peer review can lead to tunnel vision on how one interprets the data, and greatly increases duplication of efforts. Sharing of information between production systems will increase in importance as public research and number of ‘data connectors’ decrease.”
John Goihl, Agri-Nutrition Services Inc., Shakopee, Minn.
“Nutritional requirements and feeding programs will continue to be fine-tuned for optimal production at the most economical cost.
“More information is needed on how nutrition affects the immune status and resulting health of the pig.
“The traditional corn and soybean meal diets will be challenged by an increasing availability of synthetic amino acids and co-products from industries like ethanol. Soybean usage in swine diets could be significantly reduced in the future.
“Macro and micro minerals will receive greater attention, for more exacting requirements and according to the source of the mineral or enzyme supplementation needed to minimize excretion into the environment.
“Some of the greatest challenges and opportunities I see in swine nutrition will be driven by the amounts of by-products from the food and other industries. These will need to be consumed by pigs because of the increased restriction of disposing of such products in landfills.
“The pig of the future will be an excellent recycler of many non-traditional or waste ingredients.”
Stanley Curtis, University of Illinois, Urbana, Ill.
“We in the U.S. stand at an impasse on the farm-animal welfare issue, primarily because there is a credibility gap among animal welfare scientists, as well as between some scientists and animal producers. Consequently, conflict resolution is impossible.
“The route we take to eventually come to terms on this issue will have to be uniquely American. Because socio-economic and socio-political climates, cultural traditions and human values differ from place to place, so inevitably will the evolution of any public issue, and that includes farm-animal welfare.
“The U.S. pork industry and its lead organization seem not to recognize this. They're still taking their cue from applied ethologists who follow dogma that has arisen in the United Kingdom (UK), Europe and Canada. They're taking their cue from scientists who've commandeered the scientific facet of the issue as they espouse the unwisely biased thinking that arose in England some 40 years ago.
“For all intents and purposes, these scientists have dismissed any approach to assessing a pig's state of being that is based on animal function and performance. They've concluded, instead, that assessment based on animal feelings is virtually the sole approach to take.
“Indeed, most animal welfare scientists outside the U.S. believe this way, as do U.S. animal activists and leaders of the U.S. food marketing and foodservice industries. But beliefs are not necessarily truths.
“I don't concur with espousing the ‘feelings approach’, and I'm not alone. But the feelings approach, having to do with allegations of conscious suffering, continues to reign in the public discourse.
“This is interesting — and alarming. Animal agriculture needs a significant paradigm shift as it deals with this critical issue, and the sooner the better.
“An axiom that long has been given short shrift by most mainstream discussants of farm-animal welfare emphasizes that a pig's performance is, at this point in time, the best indicator of that pig's state of being.
“We have to get behind the scientific testing of the hypotheses that I predict would evolve from greater emphasis on the performance axiom. Then, all stakeholders (producers, protectionists, scientists) should embrace a much-needed paradigm shift and get on with the matter to the mutual satisfaction of all, and to the benefit of the pigs.
“Here's the ‘Performance Axiom’: For a constitutionally fit animal of any kind — in the continuing absence of an adequate, scientifically informed understanding of its conscious feelings — the best single set of measurable, hence manageable, indicators of that animal's state of being will be its rates of productive and reproductive performances relative to its predicted potential to perform. Body condition index and rates of culling, morbidity and mortality also will provide valuable information on animal state of being.
“Management guru Peter Drucker states: ‘You can't manage what you can't measure.’
“How rational. And yet, the mainstream approach to dealing with animal state of being ignores this self-evident fact. This is weird because, as everyone agrees, we can't yet measure how a pig feels. It's unreasonable to expect producers to manage pigs on the basis of husbandry factors that can't be measured.
“I'm not saying that some of the behavioral patterns that may signify an emotional reaction by a pig can't be measured. What we still don't have any handle on are any conscious feelings of suffering a pig may experience in connection with such supposed signs of being profoundly disturbed.
“We have yet to scientifically identify any behavioral need of any nonhuman animal. So we can't yet know whether or not any behavioral needs a pig may have are being met.
“The immeasurability — hence, unmanageability — of animal feelings forms the basis of why I think current attempts to coerce and regulate animal husbandry practices along that line are futile, and might not even be in the best interests of high pig state of being.
“When bodily resources become limited because a pig is in a situation necessitating extraordinary adaptation of any kind, productive processes will be the first to decrease. Reproductive functions will be next. Maintenance processes, which ensure survival, last. So, observed reductions in measurable productive-performance traits are the earliest, most sensitive indicators that a pig's well-being has been disturbed.
“Let's stipulate that pigs do feel discomfort and pain. I think they do. And I wish scientific research on pig cognition would be increased many fold. Still, at this time, we can't describe how any pig feels in any specific situation, let alone measure the depth of any such feeling. We can speculate, surmise, analogize and anthropomorphize, but we cannot know, set thresholds, define limits or draw lines.
“I think the best direction for us to take in the U.S. would be based on the notion that a pig's rate of performance will usually be the best single indicator — in terms of availability, measurability, objectivity and sensitivity — of its state of being.
“We urge U.S. pork producers to immediately reinvigorate their commitment to a more scientifically rational approach to evaluating a pig's state of being, to reclaim a major portion of control of their own destiny in this critical matter. We also urge them to instruct their staffs to start giving serious consideration to the function and performance approach to evaluating the state of being of a pig and those who embrace it.”
Anna Kerr Johnson, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa
“The U.S. pork industry, like other animal commodity groups, is being challenged and scrutinized by groups and individuals outside of the production sector. These groups range in their demands from those who do not agree with raising animals for food (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), to groups who oppose specific production practices or housing systems (Animal Welfare Institute; Humane Society of the U.S.).
“More recently, the foodservice industry has become actively engaged in welfare guidelines from farm to fork (Food Marketing Institute; National Council of Chain Restaurants). These entities are very well organized and in some cases very well funded.
“I believe that in the next few years the debate on the way producers assure swine welfare throughout the production chain, either through assessments, certification and/or third party audits, will be hotly debated. During this timeframe, the pathway for the way we do business in regards to welfare will be secured. Whether the decision will be industry-driven, foodservice-driven or an agreement from both sides has yet to be decided. But, all parties need to be at the table when these discussions occur.
“I think the U.S. swine industry needs to become fully educated on the science vs. ethics debate in regards to animal welfare and the roles played by the producer, foodservice arena and final customer. Although the industry's mission is to base pork producer programs and education on science, those involved need to understand the science vs. ethics debates to maintain pork producer viability.
“A crucial factor will be a commitment to work across other industries (beef, soybean, poultry, dairy) and partners within the industry, (pork producers of all sizes, veterinarians, animal scientists, industry allied partners, universities, packers) to form alliances. We must also be aware of, and communicate with, humane groups in the U.S.
“Future challenges for the U.S. swine industry include:
Space allowance for the grow/finisher pig;
Caretaker skills and education;
Sow mortality and longevity;
Fatigued pigs; and
Routine husbandry practices that can be invasive (i.e. castration, teeth clipping, tail docking).
“Research is being funded by the Pork Checkoff in all of these areas, and results will help the U.S. swine industry navigate through these issues. Additionally, the industry must be cognizant of global meetings pertaining to animal welfare, as decisions made in other parts of the world can affect our export markets.”
John J. McGlone, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas
“It does not take a great visionary to see that animal welfare is currently having an impact on the pork industry — on the farm or at the processing level. However, thus far, the issue has been largely ceremonial.
“Awareness of the National Pork Board-developed educational and assessment program called the Swine Welfare Assurance Program (SWAP) is very high, but very few are actively collecting the information.
“The next step is to have an internal and external audit of pig welfare. Most farms are not doing this, but this will change.
“Pork production is a business that produces a biologic, perishable and sensitive product. Customers have certain requirements such as portion size, nutritional content and price. Now we can add societal issues, including animal welfare, food safety, environmental issues and human health/safety.
“Documentation of on-farm animal welfare audits will happen in a period of months to years, not decades. The question is, ‘What will come next?’
“It will be fine to collect objective measures of animal welfare (thin sows, lameness, wounds, etc.), but what will be done with this information? The line between ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ welfare will be important. Will it be based on science, emotion or a public relations company's focus group findings?
“In my view, the current animal welfare standards are based on about 80% science and the rest on economics and tradition.
“The major animal welfare hot buttons are not the major issues that impact pig welfare. Sow housing (i.e. crates) is a hot topic, but the scientific literature concludes that there are good and bad points about sow welfare in crates vs. pens. From a science standpoint, the gestation crate is not a clear issue of poor welfare.
“On the flip side, there is not a problem with keeping sows in pens. So the reason the industry and the activists are so worked up about sow housing is not because the science tells us there is some grave problem, but rather that activists get emotional traction with the image.
“Here are a few issues that the science indicates are pig welfare problems: pig handling, castration, tail docking, slotted floors of all types, feet and leg problems, down pigs during or after transportation, air quality, floor space and infectious diseases. If the focus is on the science, the industry and their customers will join forces to solve these real problems.
“Emotion may drive the pig welfare issue in the future as it does now. Sow housing is the leading international pig welfare issue. This is only because it is an emotional, not a science-based, concern. If the industry or retailers of pork choose the emotional approach, then we can throw science out the door and hitch our wagon to emotion. This is the activists' approach. If the issue is based on emotion, the activists will win and the animals will lose.
“My hope is that everyone jumps on the science bandwagon, but you cannot jump on and off as the issue rises and falls. Scientific improvement of the state of being of pigs will require many years of controlled scientific investigation and field testing.
“Economics is a part of the reality of pork production, but science and economics are separate. Economics must not trump science if you join the science bandwagon.
Temple Grandin, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo.
“The two major issues that affect animal welfare in the pork industry are sow gestation stalls and genetic effects.
“A gestation stall, where the animal cannot turn around, is a degree of confinement that two-thirds of the public find not acceptable.
“I've interviewed people and shown them pictures of sows in stalls and finishing pigs on totally slotted floors. Almost everybody thought the pigs on the slotted floors were OK. But the response to sow stalls is — one-third have no opinion; one-third were uneasy about them and made comments such as, ‘it doesn't seem right;’ and one-third disapprove of them. I believe the industry will have to phase out sow stalls.
“Another issue is the feet and leg problems that have occurred as pigs were selected for leanness. I have seen groups of market pigs where 50% were lame due to poor leg conformation.
“Genetic selection will be a major key in making group sow housing work and in correcting leg problems. To make any type of group housing work, vicious sows that bite and injure must be culled.”
John Deen, DVM, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minn.
“Statistical process control (SPC) is undoubtedly going to be one of the tools we continue to use in pork production. I think it has gotten off on the wrong foot, however.
“SPC is part of quality control, which is a discipline to improve the value of a product. We have tried to combine SPC with an aim to minimize cost of production in each segment of the pork industry, and failed in many cases.
“The aim in SPC should be to maximize the value of pigs and pork. This will take new management skills, more tracking of pigs and pork from stage-to-stage and better analytical skills.
“In a more general sense, I think the main challenge will be in developing some level of supply management.
This can be through the industry, as a whole or by creating branded product with strong brand equity.”
Tom Stein, DVM, MetaFarms Inc., Eagan, Minn.
“New information technology will lead to a renaissance of small- to medium-sized producers acting virtually as larger systems, focused on providing value-added products (i.e., specialty breeding for higher fat and taste) to a supply chain, such as Niman Ranch, Whole Foods and Wild Oats.
“New information technology will allow large-scale producers to capture bigger supply chain opportunities (i.e. contracts with Wal-Mart), by giving companies the ability to quickly and efficiently connect independent production systems in a ‘plug-and-play’ manner.
“Third-party orchestrators will emerge to coordinate and manage these plug-and-play supply chains.
“New production information systems that use today's emerging software technology will provide seamless data connections with processors, diagnostic labs, feedmills, boar studs, environmental systems and financial accounting systems.
“At least $9 per pig costs will be pulled out of production by using information systems that focus on business processes, not simply the outcomes (i.e. pigs weaned per week) of those processes.
“There will be business process benchmarking, not just outcome benchmarking. Producers will begin to formally identify the ‘process enablers’ that lead to above-average outcomes. Best practices will emerge, production systems will coalesce around those practices, and the insight gained by analyzing process data will be guarded jealously.
“New information systems in producer-owned packing plants will transparency producers on a product-by-product basis (i.e. loin weight preferences).
“Today, Meadowbrook Farms has an industry-leading kill sheet that will become the industry standard. Data will accumulate rapidly on the variation of primal composition within production systems and, genetic lines, as impacted by disease or pharmaceuticals, etc. This information will lead quickly to better production decisions.
“The resources (time, people, money), to put in place and feed ‘compliance systems’ will dwarf and overwhelm anything you've experienced so far.
“Compliance systems, include animal identification and movement systems, traceability, confined animal feeding operations, emissions information systems, environmental reporting, animal welfare information and process verification systems. Eventually, producers will realize massive value from these compliance systems.
“Ten years from now, you'll be asking yourselves how you could have been in business without these systems and the value they provide.”
David Farnum, DVM, Farms.com, Ames, Iowa
“Over the past 20 years, the computer has certainly changed the face of recordkeeping in pork production. Some even argue that the ability to keep track of large numbers of breeding animals contributed to the ability to build and manage larger herds.
“Over the next 20 years, three factors will have a huge influence over this area of pork production.
“First, because swine move as groups within production systems, records will be used to both implement and document traceability.
“The implementation of USDA's National Animal Identification System is well underway, and the importance of your recordkeeping system will grow with this new initiative. You will also use your records for market-based, internal traceability and chain traceability systems.
“Second, data analysis is rapidly evolving. More sophisticated tools will help analyze raw data and create useful decision-making tools.
“Third, expect greater adoption of new technologies in the short term. Radio frequency identification, wireless networks and automated data collection are already in use. Longer term, new technologies such as nanotechnology, embedded connectivity, robotics and biosensors will come into play.
“In more general terms, globalization will shape all of agriculture over the next two decades.