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Articles from 1999 In January

Low Prices Give New Meaning To Managing Risk

Raising hogs this past year gave new meaning to managing risk and what it will take to survive.

For their part, lenders at a risk management seminar in early December said they would support credit-worthy producers in the tough months ahead.

'Every producer is losing money today, essentially, whether they have packer contracts or not,' declares Lee Fuchs, AgriBank, St. Paul, MN.

'If you do n't have a contract, it's clearly a crisis. How lenders will deal with that, the jury is still out.

'But I think our approach is that if you've got a good system put together, you manage it well and you have your costs under control, we are going to be very flexible,' says Fuchs.

'If essentially all your financial problems are due to low hog prices, I think we are going to be very flexible and give you time to ride this out, and hopefully prices will come back,' he says.

But for marginal operations, Fuchs says AgriBank's positioning might be different. More likely, they would advise those producers to exit the industry while they still have some equity left.

'But again we are going to be flexible with good operations and I can point to a few cases already where we have said we are going to extend this thing for up to a year,' adds Fuchs.

Tom Vincent of Brenton Bank, Perry, IA, also expressed support for producers who are doing a good job of managing risk. Pork production and agribusiness are looked upon very favorably by the banking business, he notes.

But he points out that bankers don't have very deep pockets. While the balance sheet of the average pork producer usually is made up of half equity and half debt, the amount of equity or capital carried by a bank is much less, he says. Most banks carry 8-10% of capital.

That means that the degree of variability in returns can't be as great and still return a profit to its owners, Vincent explains. Losses greater than one-half of one percent can place a bank in financial peril.

Prepare For Bank Visit Many pork producers will be visiting their banker this winter to review their financial situation, he says. Before making that visit, make sure you are prepared to review the period of time since your last appointment. 'That will give your banker comfort that you are on top of things and taking the appropriate actions that you can,' Vincent told producers attending the National Pork Producers Council-sponsored seminar.

During your visit, make sure you update your banker on the business plan you used to secure your loan. Discuss contingency plans.

Use of outside experts can bolster your chances of success if you are experiencing difficulty in your operation, plus it will lend additional credibility to your business plan and your operation in the banker's eyes, Vincent says.

Having good quality records that show actual performance compared with projections on your business plan carries a lot of weight, too. Provide your lender with both detailed production and financial records. Records provide the means for maintaining communication and objectivity, key elements in a lender/client relationship.

'I am convinced that a number of farmers who went out of business in the '80s might still be around had they had better records,' observes Vincent. With better records, those producers would have made better management decisions and been better able to communicate with their banker, he says.

There are three reasons to keep records: for management and decision making, for the bank/investor and for Uncle Sam.

Obviously, most producer client records won't reflect much success from 1998. How will bankers view performance this past year?

Regardless of the current situation, bankers tend to review trends for 4-5 years, Vincent explains. Trend analysis usually focuses on such production factors as sow productivity as it relates to facilities, mortality, feed conversion and carcass performance. Financial trend analysis typically covers return on investment, return on equity, leverage, liquidity and trends in cash flow performance.

Variability in performance is also noted by bankers, especially as profitability varies from year to year.

'If the producer has demonstrated the ability to be profitable in the past, I think it is safe to say most lenders are going to continue to work with these folks,' affirms Vincent.

Restructuring current debt into non-current debt reduces current liabilities. But debt restructuring should not be the first alternative in trying to solve liquidity problems.

Allan Lash of AgriSolutions Inc., describes five ways to add working capital or solve liquidity problems.

Generate more profit. Though this is the long-term preferred option, it may take several years to reverse negative working capital. Other alternatives may need to be tried to provide a faster infusion of capital.

Partial liquidation of non-current assets. If an operation has non-essential or non-producing assets, selling them can provide an immediate liquidity solution.

Use gifts or inheritance or equity options. Gifts or inheritance are usually not a reliable source of liquidity. But if they are available, they can help solve a current working capital crisis.

Another option is for the owner to spin off a portion of the business with the accompanying debt (a piece of land, for instance) into a separate corporation or partnership. The owner then sells an equity interest or an investor could assume debt for equity.

Restructure current liabilities. This method doesn't solve the issue of long-term profitability and current cash/credit limitations. Without a resurgence of profits, owners will be faced with this same working capital crunch in a few years.

In short, restructuring only buys time and should only be applied where there is a practical action plan and time for the plan to work.

Write down debt. This is the option of last resort. Debt write-downs usually only occur when borrowers and lenders have to go to bankruptcy court to resolve debt issues. This occurs when debt can't be repaid from profit and/or total liquidation of assets.

Analyzing The Economics Of High-Oil Corn

University of Nebraska researchers, recognizing current interest in the growing and feeding of high-oil corn (HOC) to pigs, recently discussed early results from a feasibility study. However, they cautioned that the information should be treated as a progress report, as more results are forthcoming.

Larry Bitney, Duane Reese and Robert Caldwell wondered if there were economic benefits to growing and feeding high-oil corn to pigs in Nebraska.

The trio of researchers feel it is important that producers gain a better understanding of high-oil corn technology. And, they remind producers that the value of these enhanced grains may change as feed costs change and/or yield limitations are solved.

Understanding High-Oil Corn DuPont is the primary company involved in high-oil corn production, having licensed its high-oil corn genes to 80 seed companies. The DuPont TOPCross system is the most common method of producing commercial high-oil corn.

The same general production practices are recommended for normal corn and high-oil corn. There is a disagreement over the extent of separation needed between high-oil and normal corn to prevent cross-pollination. Estimates range from 200 ft. down to no separation requirement at all.

High-oil corn hybrids are likely to yield less than their normal counterparts. The yield loss is expected because of two factors: the physiological cost to the plant of making the oil, and the competition between the male and female parents in blended hybrids.

The researchers say, all other things being constant, a 2.5% yield reduction would be expected for every 1% increase in oil content of the corn.

Because the yield of high-oil corn compared to normal corn is uncertain, the Nebraska researchers thought it may be best to evaluate the impact of a range of yield reductions. The researchers say it appears high-oil corn will likely yield within a range of 85-100% of normal corn. That range was selected for evaluation and the results are presented in Table 1.

Because the production practices for high-oil corn and normal corn are identical (except for isolation requirements), other than the seed, the production costs per acre are the same. There is often a $30/bagtechnology fee for high-oil corn seed. This amounts to about $10/acre. If high-oil corn yields the same as normal corn, this $10/acre is the only added cost, which amounts to 6.8 cents/bu. with a 150 bu./acre yield (Table 1).

If high-oil corn yield is 90% of normal corn yield, the added production cost is 32.5 cents/bu. (this includes the 6.8 cents cost for the technology fee). The added production costs would increase slightly if seeding rate was increased by 2,000 seeds/acre. Thus, the yield of high-oil corn that producers expect is a key variable in their decision to adopt this technology.

Yield comparisons of high-oil corn to normal corn are difficult to make, due to the isolation needed for high-oil corn. A study conducted in Ohio found the average yield of high-oil varieties was 90% of the normal-corn hybrids. Two normal-corn hybrids in the Nebraska experiment had high-oil counterparts. Considering those two hybrids only, the high-oil versions averaged 92.3% of the yield of the normal-corn hybrids.

Researchers expect yields will be in the 90-93% range, given the current stage of the technology. This would result in added production costs of 25-32 cents/bu. for high-oil corn.

The storage requirements for high-oil corn are similar to those for normal corn, but it is important to store them separately if the added feeding benefit is to be realized. This separate storage may add to the cost or inconvenience.

High-oil corn processes and handles at least as well as normal corn, researchers add.

High-oil corn contains more protein, lysine, fat and metabolizable energy than normal corn (see Table 2). Because there seems to be significant genetic and environmental effects on the final nutrient content of high-oil corn, a range in composition is presented.

High-Oil Corn In Pig Diets There is a shortage of data comparing the performance of pigs fed high-oil corn (5.5-7.5% oil) to normal corn (3.5-4.2% oil). However, a large database exists regarding the effect of adding animal fat or vegetable oil to swine diets. Recent trials indicate when the total amount of fat in normal-corn-based diets is equalized to that in a high-oil-corn-based diet by fat supplementation, pig performance is similar. Using this analogy, researchers assume high-oil corn would elicit a similar response as if a similar amount of fat were added to a normal-corn-based diet.

Feed efficiency improves an average of 2% for each 1% increment of added fat to the diet. Diets containing high-oil corn contain between 1.5% and 3% added fat, depending on the oil content of the corn. Therefore, feed efficiency should improve from about 3% to 6% when high-oil corn is substituted for normal corn in the diet.

Generally when growing-finishing pigs are fed normal-corn-based diets containing 1.5-3% added vegetable oil or animal fat (an amount similar to that when high-oil corn replaces normal corn in the diet), daily gain remains constant. Daily gain may increase up to about 3% in some cases, especially during hot weather. Thus, until further data from high-oil corn feeding trials is available, the Nebraska researchers suggest that average daily gain will remain the same, but may improve up to 3% when high-oil corn replaces normal corn in growing-finishing pig diets.

Backfat thickness should not be altered when using high-oil corn in the diet, unless the additional fat levels exceed 5% of the diet and the amino acid-to-calorie ratio in the diet is not maintained at a constant level.

Growing pigs weighing from about 30-130 lb., and lactating sows would benefit the most from high-oil corn in the diet because they have the most difficulty consuming enough calories to maximize performance.

As little as 2.5% added fat (50 lb./ton) reduces dust in confinement buildings, and in feed mills, by about 25%. Reduced dust levels have improved health implications for both pigs and people.

Bitney, Reese and Caldwell credited high-oil corn for improving feed efficiency only as part of their analysis.

There are certain instances where a producer would expect a greater response in feed efficiency than others. For example, feed efficiency and daily gain are improved more by feeding fat to pigs during hot weather than during cold. Thus, if pigs are expected to be finished during the summer, it would be better to assume feed efficiency may improve by 7% (for 7.5% high-oil corn). But during the winter, diets with the same high-oil corn may only improve feed efficiency by 5%.

Twelve diets were formulated to calculate the economic value of high-oil corn as a replacement for normal corn in growing-finishing pig diets. All diets contained 44% crude protein soybean meal as the only source of supplemental protein. Four diets were formulated with normal corn to contain 1, 0.9, 0.8 and 0.7% lysine. Four diets were formulated with 5.5% fat high-oil corn and four others with 7.5% fat high-oil corn. The high-oil corn-based diets contained the same ratio of lysine to metabolizable energy as the normal-corn based diets. An overall feed conversion rate of 3 lb. feed/lb. of gain, and an average daily gain of 1.8 lb. was assumed. Levels of 2-4% improvement in feed efficiency for 5.5% corn oil content and 5-7% improvement in feed efficiency for 7.5% corn oil content were applied to the diets. The price of normal corn was $2.50/bu., 44% soybean meal was $250/ton, and other ingredients were at current market prices. The cost savings realized from improved feed conversion was attributed to high-oil corn. Results are shown in Table 3.

Because of the high-oil corn feed efficiency advantage, the price of the major ingredients (corn, soybean meal) impact the added value of the high-oil corn. Table 3 shows a range of added values for high-oil corn reflecting high and low corn and soybean meal prices.

For example, a 5% improvement in feed efficiency means the added value of high-oil corn is 25 cents/bu. (with $2.50/bu. corn, $250/ton soybean meal). But, the high-oil corn advantage drops to 20 cents/bu. if normal corn is $2/bu. and soybean meal is $200/ton.

The average oil content of high-oil corn varieties in a Kearney, NE, Area Agricultural Producers Alliance field tests was 6.2% (12% moisture basis). Thus, feed efficiency should improve by 4-5% when fed to growing-finishing pigs. Therefore, the added value of high-oil corn is 21-25 cents when corn is $2.50/bu. and soybean meal is $250/ton.

Assuming production costs for high-oil corn would be 25-32 cents/bu. higher, the researchers conclude growing and feeding high-oil corn to pigs does not appear to be economically feasible at the current state of the technology. The conclusion is based on increased feed efficiency being the only economic benefit realized.

If pigs that are fed a diet containing high-oil corn gain 3% faster than those fed diets containing normal corn, what is the economic benefit? The effect of an increase in average daily gain is analyzed as a 'what-if' question, since the variability in feeding trial results does not produce a clear answer. In addition to uncertainty regarding any change in average daily gain, the economic value of reducing the length of the feeding period varies from producer to producer.

If producers obtain a 3% increase in average daily gain, they will likely realize an added value of high-oil corn in the 0-2 cents/bu. range (see Table 4). While an improvement in average daily gain is possible, it is doubtful that most producers are able to derive a significant economic benefit, according to Reese.

Producers who currently add fat to their pig diets can substitute high-oil corn for normal corn to achieve the higher dietary fat levels.

What is the economic value of high-oil corn when it is used to replace added fat (animal or vegetable) and normal corn in pig diets? Researchers attempted to answer this question by formulating diets with normal corn and fat to contain the same metabolizable energy, lysine and fat level as diets with high-oil corn containing 7.5% oil. Diets were formulated in the same manner as previously described. Prices of $2.50/bu. for normal corn and $250/ton for 44% soybean meal were used. Fat pricesof 10, 20, 30 and 40 cents/lb. were used in the analysis. The economic value of high-oil corn, compared to normal corn was calculated.

The added values, or premiums, for high-oil corn, when used to replace added fat (Table 5) are much greater than those when it was substituted for normal corn (Table 4). A fat price of 20 cents/lb. results in a 44 cents/bu. premium for high-oil corn. This is clearly above the 25-32 cents/bu. increase in production cost. Vegetable oils, which may cost 40 cents/lb. result in an 89 cents/bu. premium for high-oil corn.

Producers should use caution when interpreting the premiums for high-oil corn in Table 5. It is assumed the producer can justify purchasing fat at 20 cents/lb. to supplement a diet, for example. Therefore, if high-oil corn can serve as a supplemental energy source in a diet for under 44 cents/bu., it will be the more economical option. Table 3 allows producers to determine quickly if high-oil corn is a more economical fat source than the one currently used. It does not imply that it is economically feasible to add fat at the prices shown, the researchers caution.

Seeking Odor Control Via Diet

An Iowa State University (ISU) researcher is studying a possible link between odor and swine rations. Wendy Powers, ISU assistant professor of animal science, recently conducted a feeding trial that studied the effects of bloodmeal in swine rations on manure composition and odor.

Fifteen, 5-week-old pigs were fed experimental rations for each of two, four-week periods. The rations included either 3% bloodmeal, 1.5% bloodmeal or no bloodmeal. The pigs were housed separately depending on their ration, and manure was cleaned from each room once each week.

Manure and air samples were collected twice weekly, for the last three weeks of each feeding period. Manure samples were sent to a commercial laboratory for compositional analyses. Air samples were analyzed by a trained human panel and by an electronic nose, which is a machine designed to measure odors.

Powers says she found a strong trend for increased odor as the amount of bloodmeal was increased in the diets. Odor also increased as the length of time the manure was stored increased from four to six days. No performance differences were found with any of the feeding regimens. Powers plans to repeat the feeding trials and conduct further research into feeding to reduce manure odor.

Researcher: Wendy Powers, Iowa State University, phone: (515) 294-1635.

New Large Pen Deisgn For Wean-To-Finish Systems

It took the harsh Minnesota winter of 1996-97 to convince Lynn Becker that something had to be done about the poor performance in the family corporation's pig nurseries.

Pigs in three, continuous-flow nursery facilities were hit with a bout of respiratory problems that forced depopulation of the barns.

Becker wanted to bypass the nursery phase altogether and wean directly into two new, large-pen finishing barns the family had just completed. He'd heard several positive reports from farms in southeast Iowa about the advantages of wean-to-finish production systems.

The Beckers followed Lynn's advice. The farm corporation, located near Fairmont, MN, includes Lynn, his parents, Larry and Linda, and brother Lonny.

Today LB Pork Inc. weans 18-day-old pigs twice a week into 26, 600-head, wean-to-finish barns and two, 200-head barns. LB Pork owns half of those facilities, the other half are contract production.

Building Features 'These are all standard, double-curtain-sided finishing barns with a few modifications,' explains Lynn Becker. Features include concrete slats, Farmweld jumbo feeders and Edstrom water pans.

Feeders and water pans are set on a 31/2-in.-high raised pad of concrete in the center of the pens. Some of the finishers have center alleys, others north or south side alleys.

During the first 2-3 weeks the newly weaned pigs are in the finishers, they are pampered with radiant heaters and recycled rubber floor mats to create a comfort zone. For the first few days, pigs are given pelleted feed on the concrete pads as well as in the feeder. Nipples are allowed to drip until water pans are full for the first 5-6 days to help the pigs find the water source.

Large Pens Pigs get an average of about 7 sq. ft. of space during their stay from 12 lb. to 250-260 lb. in large pens holding 100 or 150 head. The Beckers remodeled half of their barns, including the nurseries, to wean-to-finish. Five finishers have pens holding 150 head. Most all of the rest hold 100 head.

Becker has preferred large pens since he tried them in the nursery. 'We remodeled into large pen nurseries in the summer of '96 to mid-'97 and we just loved how those large pens worked as far as labor efficiency and the ease with which you can create warm zones with the mass of pigs,' he points out.

'We had a barn where the main heater went out during a terrible snowstorm in the dead of winter. Because we still had LP, the radiant heaters kept going. My brother said the temperature under that heater was a comfortable 75-80 degrees F., while the rest of the barn was 45-50 degrees . Pigs were piled three to four deep when he got in there. Pigs came out of it with a little cough, that was it, because they crammed into their little warm zone andbasically lived in there until we got the heat back on,' Becker relates.

In the wean-to-finish buildings, defined living zones have been created by the large pen concept. The heater and comfort mat have established the front part of the pen as the 'bedroom.' The middle section with feed and water is the 'kitchen,' and the back, cooler part of the pen is the dunging area or 'bathroom.'

These defined areas have helped reduce social problems, he says. Simply because of the larger area, pigs can usually avoid fights in the large pens by moving to another part of the 37 x 20-ft., 100-head pens. The 150-head pens are 60 x 18 ft.

Other industry observers suggest there are fewer problems in large pens because there are so many penmates that a social structure is never really established.

Don't Complicate Things At weaning, pigs are sorted by sex into an equal number of wean-to-finish pens. Employees once tried to closely sort by size also, but this proved to be less efficient, says Becker. The mid-size 'boss pigs' all ended up in the same pen. Growth of small and large pigs, in their own respective pens, was not very good. Maximum growth seems to be with normal grouping and social order.

In Becker's view, here are a few other wean-to-finish management ideas that are less efficient:

* Don't section off pens. 'Some people like to section off half of the pen when they first try large, wean-to-finish pens. That's an extra gate you've got to have in there, more cost and more work. We wean young pigs in there and they use the whole pen.'

* Avoid double filling. 'We have had to do some double filling. We have found when we move some of those pigs out, performance is worse in both groups, the pigs that stay and the pigs that move out when we go back to single fill. It must be stress because when we have done that it produces worse health challenges and worse close-outs,' says Becker.

Becker's point is simple. Don't complicate wean-to-finish. Stick to the single production move from farrow-to-wean-to-finish and you will save a ton on labor. He figures in LB Pork's 1,200-sow operation the total switch to wean-to-finish production will save roughly 250,000 gal. of water annually and require 52 fewer days of pressure washing.

Less manure dilution should add greatly to the quality of manure being applied onto cropland, he notes.

And the improvement in pig flow from one move translates into 10 less days of downtime per barn per year, he says, with a lot less hassle of moving and washing between groups.

Animal Health Past, Present Adding to health problems in the past was the fact it took two weeks, and often twice that long, to fill the nurseries. Today it takes an average of eight days to fill a 600-head, wean-to-finish barn. That greatly reduces age spread and the potpourri of respiratory problems that used to plague the farrow-to-finish operation. 'We've never had pigs this healthy up to 150 lb.,' says Becker.

But then problems have set in for the operation. More than a year after the first new, wean-to-finish units were built, another respiratory foe has emerged in the form of Porcine Respiratory Disease Complex (PRDC).

Becker says serology testing has shown that Mycoplasmal pneumonia is setting up 150-lb. hogs for Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) problems. 'It's the 18-week wall that everyone is talking about,' he says.

But he is optimistic that the treatment programs being put into place will soon get the disease complex under control and performance will rebound.

Why does pig performance seem to soar in wean-to-finish barns?

Paul Ruen, DVM, Fairmont Veterinary Clinic, Fairmont, MN, sees 11 key reasons for the success:

1. Forced all-in, all-out pig flow. Pigs are no longer being sent into nurseries on a continuous-flow basis.

2. Multi-site production has provided more space options for a wider range of sow herd sizes.

3. Feeders used in wean-to-finish units are superior to those used in existing nurseries.

4. Budget feeding is more accurate.

5. Water is more available and managed better.

6. Space needs of nursery pigs were underestimated in the past.

7. Less 'downtime' (days).

8. Group integrity is maintained with no mixing and disruption of social order.

9. It's easier to create eating, sleeping, dunging zones.

10. Workers are happier because less time is spent washing, moving and treating pigs.

11. Producers seem to be more conscientious and keep more accurate records.

Cost Matters Standard wean-to-finish facilities (not large pen design) with zone heating, comfort mats, etc., will likely cost $5-10/pig space more to construct than a standard finisher, says Ruen.

Assuming there are an equal number of pig spaces for nursery and finishing as in wean-to-finish, it would cost $30/pig space to convert the whole farm.

Amortized at 10 years and 10% interest, that figure becomes $5.50/pig space, about $2.25/pig marketed.

Some of this cost can be recovered by fewer culls (82 cents/pig) and deads (97 cents/pig). Better average daily gain will mean $3.66/pig more gross profit. Add in labor savings of 90 cents/pig, there will be $3.95 extra profit for each market hog sold, according to Ruen. He says that figure includes no improved performance in feed-to-gain ratio nor use of any double-filling barns at weaning.

There are many reasons why wean-to-finish barns have proven so profitable for a variety of sizes and types of hog operations, observes Ruen.

'Because these barns can always be used for finishing, at the very least wean-to-finish barns offer a low-risk option for farms that wish to target pig flow changes for health or management reasons,' he says.

Still, many operations with conventional nursery and finishing systems can achieve similar success by adopting a wean-to-finish thought process, concludes Ruen.

Prospective Serology Could Save Your Herd

Routine herd serological testing to prevent herd health wrecks has been little more than a pipe dream for many veterinarians.

But a new producer attitude appears to be emerging. 'It has become a lot easier to sell prospective serology now because the capital investment is larger, and along with it, the risk of loss has become greater,' states Richard Collins, DVM, Dixon (IL) Veterinary Hospital.

Simply put, prospective serology involves testing for, managing and attempting to eliminate diseases before they produce catastrophic outbreaks.

Retrospective serology, on the other hand, is 'fire engine' diagnostics. In these cases, veterinarians are called out to mop up after an outbreak has flared up.

Adopting prospective serology or monitoring herd health to prevent wrecks could mean big payoffs in higher health, fewer treatments and increased productivity, says Collins, admitting diagnostic costs will climb some.

There are other side benefits to herd health monitoring. Getting rid of numerous health concerns 'allows the good managers to express their abilities because they are not dealing with disease and poor production and gives them a chance to really shine,' he says.

Collins believes one of the things that doesn't get addressed enough is how working with healthier pigs gives a producer a better outlook on life and the quality of day-to-day work improves dramatically.

'One of the real problems is turnover in people in the hog business, and I think a lot of it is driven by health of the pig,' he says.

Dig Deep For Clues To try and keep an operation on track healthwise, Collins sometimes has to dig deep for clues. Often, there may be few signs that a pathogen or two is lurking and may cause problems.

There are autopsies, tissue analysis, serology and slaughter checks to be done. 'Plus, we are always adjusting feed medications, vaccination programs and pig flow to try and optimize production and decrease disease,' he explains.

Most of the time, prospective serology will tell you if the disease organism is there and/or whether a problem is getting worse. It can also be quite useful for checking the health status of incoming breeding stock, says Collins.

There is a no-nonsense approach to the testing program at Baby Bacon Inc., an Amboy, IL, feeder pig cooperative. A rigid, long-standing program of testing all incoming boars, including doing the prospective serology, are huge factors in the clean bill of health of the 500-sow herd, Collins says of his client. Only boars are brought in from off the farm and they come from only one site of a major out-state breeding stock company. Gilts are raised internally.

At Baby Bacon, incoming boars are profiled during 30-day isolation. Co-op manager, Pete Rood, stresses boars are tested for a wide range of diseases including parvovirus, encephalomyocarditis virus (EMC), leptospirosis including bratislava, swine influenza virus, Actinobacillus pleuropneumonia (APP), Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) and transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE), including its cousin coronavirus.

'If they don't pass the tests matching our health, then we either retest them or ship them,' says Rood. 'If those incoming animals don't make the grade, they are out of there,' he stresses.

The current testing protocol at Baby Bacon, developed jointly by Collins and Rood, calls for quarterly blood testing four young gilts about 7 months of age before they are bred, four sows at 1-2 years old and four older parity sows in the herd. 'That gives us a pretty broad serology of the sow herd even though the numbers are far from statistically significant,' says Collins.

Collins stresses prospective serology is by no means a perfect science. He views it as a tool to disease management. For example, the quarterly bloodtesting program at Baby Bacon provides a relatively accurate picture of whether or not titers (numerical measure of the strength of a pig's response to either infection or vaccination) indicate a cause for concern.

As an example of how it has worked, when Mystery Pig Disease (predecessor to PRRS) appeared in the late 1980s, bloodtesting was done and titers for the EMC virus were identified at the feeder pig co-op. It has been vaccinated for since that time. Still, the actual PRRS virus has never been identified in the farrow-to-feeder pig herd and the operation does not vaccinate for PRRS.

Rood says the co-op herd was also negative for parvovirus back in 1982, when he was the new, 22-year-old manager. Practice was not to vaccinate, and it wasn't long before the naive herd broke with the virus, quickly impacting gilt and young sow production.

'From the testing that is going on right now, it would appear that the virus is not on the farm again,' says Collins. He admits it is a gun that is waiting to go off and it has not been decided how to manage the problem except that a vaccination program has been started.

Because of prospective serology, Collins knows that those low parvovirus titers are from a killed virus vaccine, and not infection. He says it is the first farm that he has ever dealt with to actually test negative for parvovirus. The herd is also negative for APP. The herd is positive for TGE and its cousin coronavirus, a respiratory form of the virus, he reports.

Long-Standing Commitment Collins took over as veterinary consultant to Baby Bacon this past summer, replacing Wayne Brown, DVM, who retired. Brown used prospective serology from the moment Rood became manager of the co-op in 1982.

The co-op reflects a commitment to excellence that starts with its owners. The co-op is owned by six of the eight original owners in 1978. Originally, owners were to receive feeder pigs from the co-op at 55-60 lb., finishing them in their own facilities.

But as the owners have gotten older, and their facilities have become outdated, more and more of the feeder pigs are contract finished, explains Rood.

Their philosophy has been to produce top-quality feeder pigs. And PigChamp records show that performance has been very consistent during Rood's time as manager.

Staff at Baby Bacon carefully protect their investment with stringent biosecurity. All staff, co-op owners and even Collins must abide by 48 hours away from other pigs before they are allowed to enter the hog units. All must shower in and shower out. Visitors are strictly forbidden.

So has prospective serology played a strong role in keeping the feeder pig co-op going when many others have faded away over the years?

Rood says there is no real way to know. Collins adds: 'It is like buying fire or hail insurance. You may go 10 years or more and not collect on it, but you still buy the insurance.'

He concludes it all comes down to a question of economics. 'Ask yourself how much is herd health security and avoiding wrecks worth to you?'

Producers have been used to spending money after wrecks. Now we are asking them to think about spending money up front to protect their investment, he says.

Obviously, to Rood that security has value.

Collins notes that in just the past six months, producers have suddenly started inquiring about the benefits of prospective serology.

Junior Gilt Trend Hits Eurpoe

Hog farmers could be in for a big swing!

If the preliminary results hold true, within five years, a majority of breeders will buy replacement females at weights of 66 lb. or less. This idea has been coined the junior gilt concept.

The production practice is already catching on in Europe. In the United Kingdom (U.K.) and Sweden, 20-30% of replacement females are purchased at 55-66 lb. (junior gilts).

The junior gilt concept offers a variety of advantages.

1) Junior gilts are cheaper --In Europe, before the recent price slump, a 200-lb. conventional gilt from a breeding company sells for about $280.50.

Junior gilts, from different European breeding companies, sell for $85-100. After adding the additional rearing expenses, there is still a 9% savings over the 200-lb. gilt (see Table 1).

Newsham Hybrids (U.K.) recently reported savings of $33-42 at 209 lb., which is a 12-15% savings on its average standard gilt price.

2) Improved sow performance --Apart from an increase in the death rate of piglets (number born alive mortalities to weaning), the results are improved (see Table 2).

In a comparison of 49 herds using standard gilts and 16 herds buying junior gilts, the junior gilt herds showed a:

* 5.9% advantage in farrowing rate,

* 0.07 increase in litters/ sow/year,

* 17 less open days/sow/ year,

* 0.5 more pigs born alive per litter,

* 0.28 more pigs reared per litter,

* 1.39 more pigs weaned/ sow/year on 132 lb. less feed required/sow/year for the earlier purchased replacements (see Table 2).

3) Better offspring performance --A very important difference hidden in the published figures is the higher weaning weight per ton of sow and piglet feed. At 257 lb. for conventional gilts and 314 lb. for junior gilts, this is a 22% improvement. In European economics that's equal to a 9% reduction per tonne (2,205 lb.) in the price of all breeding and piglet feed.

But do the advantages of the junior gilt system at weaning continue through postweaning? The 'acceleration phase' of lean growth deposition per day usually starts to ease off around 77-88 lb.

Daily gain (15-82 lb.) was 1.29 lb./day in the junior gilts' offspring vs. 1.21 lb./day for conventional gilts' offspring. That's a 0.08 lb./day difference.

There was a marked difference in feed conversion ratio (FCR); 1.8 junior gilts to 2.23 conventional gilts. This in itself would suggest the junior gilts' offspring could cope better with disease challenges at this critical stage of growth. Because of this massive feed conversion advantage, the liveweight produced per ton of feed used through this stage was heavily in favor of the junior gilt sourced herds, 1,539 lb. vs. 1,232 lb., a difference of 307 lb. or 25%. Even more dramatic, the figures on 1997 PIC costings reveal a reduction of 70% on the cost/lb. gain to this weight.

4) Longer acclimatization period --A much longer acclimatization period (see Figure 1) should result in less disturbance to the herd's current health status. Current junior gilt herd owners feel that breeding herd health is better and there are fewer re-occurring health problems.

Further evidence on the overall disease incidence is needed, but in the PIC report, sow mortality was 0.3% lower. However, the death rate at birth was higher in the junior gilt herds, 12.66% per litter vs. 11.18% per litter in conventional gilt herds. The absolute mortality figure (AMF) per litter was 1.19 piglets from conventional gilts vs. 1.41 piglets from junior gilts, but the junior gilts' piglets were weaned 2.5 days later.

5) Earlier artificial insemination service dates --Better gilt lactation feeds and feeding programs allow for gilts to be inseminated at 230 lb. vs. 275 lb. This is a 10-18% savings on breeding cost for a six-year production cycle.

Further Study Newsham Hybrids has a program which shows a breeder how to change progressively from buying standard gilts to junior gilts using grandparent gilts from the same source.

The process takes 40 months before 100% of slaughter pigs (at 210 lb.) are sourced from sows which are home-bred from grandparent sows or the offspring of sows bought as junior gilts.

Note: Many breeding companies have a program to supply junior gilts. Contact your salesperson for details and availability.

Market Hog Values Based On Carcass Components

Differences in weight, muscling, color and other carcass attributes help determine the potential economic value of a pork carcass. Typically percentage of lean (as measured by backfat depth) and carcass weight are the principal measures used in value-based marketing programs.

Current carcass evaluation technologies typically provide only a marginal contribution for muscling, using a loin muscle measurement, to the payment producers receive. And, carcass weights are getting heavier. USDA reports average carcass weights have increased almost a pounda year over the past 10 years.

Many value-based marketing programs used by pork slaughter plants have increased premiums above their reported base price for heavier pork carcasses that are also leaner. Leaner animals also may have higher yields, which means less cost in trimming and boning. In the end, heavier carcasses mean heavier loins, hams and bellies.

The Quality Lean Growth Modeling Project, managed by the National Pork Producers Council and funded by the National Pork Board, offered the unique opportunity to determine the average value of the hams, loins and bellies from the six genetic lines at three different slaughter weights --250, 290 and 330 lb. Diet differences were also tested against genetic lines and live market weights. Value is considered to be gross revenues in the analysis of this data set.

Two things should be kept in mind when thinking about these results. First, increased gross revenues do not necessarily mean increased returns per head. However, if a producer can be cost competitive at heavier weights, there are value-based marketing programs that provide economic incentives for heavier carcasses. Second, pork slaughter firms face a derived demand from wholesalers and retailers who use loins, hams and other primal cuts to set price.

Value-based marketing programs typically have not included primal cut weights for a couple of reasons, at least, in part.

First, reliable carcass evaluation technologies capable of operating in high-speed environments have not been found. Also, the need to pay producers promptly before the value of the carcass is determined has hindered the development of buying programs based on primal cut values.

Consequently, it is important to note that the figures reported here are averages. Each pork slaughter and processing firm has developed their own competitive strategy. They in turn negotiate with wholesale and retail buyers. A key part of their strategy is product differentiation, which means that plants may process pork carcasses in different ways for different customers. Thus, these results can provide information to different segments in the pork value chain.

Determining Value The six genetic lines in the Quality Lean Growth Modeling Project, Lines A through F, were selected for their diversity in representing a broad cross-section of genetics used in the industry. (See 'Understanding Lean Growth' Blueprint, National Hog Farmer, Oct. 15, 1998.) The four diets fed in the study varied only in their lysine content. Complete data on ham, loin and belly weight for 694 carcasses was used in this analysis.

Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service was used to value the loins, hams, and bellies. Ten years of prices (1988-97) were used in this analysis. Average weight multiplied by the price (converted to a per pound basis) provided the 'average value.'

Fresh Loin Value Differences No significant differences were found when testing average value in one diet vs. another diet within all lines for loins. In other words, no diet affected the average loin value of a specific line. This is not surprising given that diets are typically used to accelerate growth, not to increase muscular mass.

With this understanding, we can focus on differences between genetic lines at the three market weights (250, 290, 330 lb.).

Figure 1 presents the loin mean (measured in $/head) per line for the three live weight categories. As you would expect, value increases as carcass weight increases. Loins were valued at approximately $40/carcass (250 lb. live weight) and increased to almost $50/carcass (330 lb. live weight).

Note that loin value significantly increased over the 290- to 330-lb. range relative to the 250- to 290-lb. range. This suggests that average (therefore, marginal) loin revenue is greater between 290 and 330 lb. No line had a significant greater value relative to the other lines. Loins are an important portion of overall pork carcass value.

Variability of loin value/carcass, determined by the standard deviation, increased as the carcasses got heavier (see Figure 2). The range was approximately $2 at 250 lb. for all six lines. However, variability increased over the lines as the animals got heavier.

At 330 lb., Lines A, B and C had approximately a $6 standard deviation relative to only $3 for Line A. This difference was significant which suggests that Line A has less variability in loin value.

Ham Value Differences Similar to loins, no significant differences were found when testing average value in one diet vs. another diet within all lines for pork hams. Again, diet did not affect average ham value of any genetic line. The ham mean (measured in $/head) per line for the three live weight categories is shown in Figure 3.

Again, value increases as carcass weight increases. Fresh pork hams were valued at approximately $32/carcass at 250 lb. and increased to approximately $40/carcass at 330 lb. Value increased at approximately the same rate between both live weight categories.

Line A had significantly less value relative to the other five lines due to the lower ham weights at the three market weights.

Variability (measured in $/head) increased as the carcasses got heavier for all six lines (see Figure 4). However, variability leveled off over the 290 to 330 lb. weight range. At 330 lb., Line F had less than $2 standard deviation relative to $3.50 for Line C. The range of differences between lines did not change.

Belly Value Differences Figures 5 and 6 present the mean and standard deviation, respectively, for pork bellies at the three market weights. No significant interaction between value and diet was found, so the data was aggregated across diets, as was the case for loins and hams. It was interesting to note that Line A, which had significantly less ham weight relative to the other lines, had significantly greater belly value per animal. Producers selling to a plant that may have a market for bacon relative to hams could benefit from this line.

At 250 lb., belly value was approximately $15/head for all six lines. However, the range began to differ between the lines at 290 lb. At 330 lb., Line A had a value of over $20/head while other lines averaged between $18.50 and $20. Similar to hams, the standard deviation increased by almost $1/animal up to 290 lb., then leveled off at 330 lb. With respect to standard deviation, Line A had the lowest average standard deviation at $1 with Lines D and E having over $2 deviations.

Significance To Producers? What do these results suggest for producers and others in the pork value chain? First, we would have to know the marginal costs for the four diets fed before we can determine whether the increase in loin, ham and belly values at these heavier live weights might translate into increased producer returns under various value-based marketing programs. Still, the results suggest that increased revenues are possible at heavier carcass weights for these genetic lines.

The relative lack of increase in variability from 290 to 330 lb. was positive. Producers should carefully consider individual plant carcass merit pricing systems prior to marketing heavier weights as noted by John McKissick (National Hog Farmer, Oct. 15, 1998, page 48). It may be likely that animals which can maintain loin, ham and belly growth at heavier weights will be more valuable given the increase in marketing weights in recent years. However, on the margin, focusing on improvements to reduce variability between 250 and 260 lb. is a much more rational goal given current value-based marketing programs.

Market Weights' Impact On Coast Of Production, Net Return

One of the classic questions facing all pork producers is what weight to market their hogs. Average market weight has slowly risen over the last 25 years, currently hovering around 250-260 lb. Taking hogs to these heavier market weights remains debatable, with limited evidence of the impact on pork producer profitability.

Taking hogs to heavier weights is commonly associated with poorer feed conversion, the additional fixed costs and interest associated with more days on feed.

The packing industry has always placed some emphasis on market weights in their pricing procedures so logically producer returns are affected. And, although packers prefer a heavier carcass because it lowers their fixed costs per pound of carcass weight, they also know that most hogs deposit additional fat at heavier market weights.

And, for some packers, the retail cut size from the heavier hogs presents a problem, so they levy penalties on carcasses that fall outside of their optimal carcass weight range and/or exceed fat limits on carcasses across weights.

Therein lies the challenge --lightweight hogs are heavily penalized due to the higher fixed costs incurred by packers; heavyweight hogs are penalized due to their additional fat content. Producers are challenged to market their hogs in the optimum carcass weight range yet keep them in acceptable backfat range.

No longer do packers derive pricing on a live weight basis. Instead they use carcass weight, carcass lean and, in some cases, meat eating quality traits.

In the past decade, producers have focused on genetic selection for leaner, faster-growing hogs. The old theories about growth rate, fat deposition and feed conversion may not apply to the new genetics with pigs taken beyond 250 lb.

The Quality Lean Growth Modeling Project (QLGMP), funded by the National Pork Board, was designed to accurately compare the effects of higher alternative market weights on factors that influence cost of production, market return and meat quality. Six different genetic types were selected for their biological diversity for appetite (feed intake), rate and composition of growth and meat quality traits. Pigs were taken to three different end weights --250 lb. to reflect current market weights, 290 lb. representing the upper end of current marketing weights and 330 lb. to serve as a more extreme market weight.

Because the sampling methods were not designed for genetic comparison, specific lines are not identified. Instead, they are referred to as Line A through F, respectively. The 'Key to Genetic Line Classification' at the top of page 47 serves as an easy reference to the diverse genetic types.

Four different diet protocols were developed for the project with the same energy and vitamin content, differing only in their levels of lysine. Two diets contained lysine levels, considered high and low of current recommendations. The other two diets were markedly higher and markedly lower in lysine content. Lysine levels were manipulated by changing the amounts of corn and soybean meal. (A more detailed description of the QLGMP sampling methods and test protocols may be found in the Blueprint: 'Understanding Lean Growth,' National Hog Farmer, Oct. 15, 1998, pages 18-24.)

To insure accuracy of the results from this project the pigs were tested in three different replicates. Barrows and gilts were included. This article will focus on factors influencing cost of production. (More specific information on the differences in market return at alternative market weights when slaughtered at different packing plants may be found in National Hog Farmer, Oct. 15, 1998, pages 48-56.)

Cost Of Production Factors Feed conversion, growth rate, feed cost of gain and days on feed were the key traits analyzed for their impact on cost of production.

Growth rate was collected from the time a pig left the segregated early weaning (SEW) facility until it was taken off test and marketed. Days on feed were tracked from the time a pig left the SEW nursery until it was taken off test. Feed consumption was measured by the Feed Intake Recording Equipment (FIRE) system. Data on feed consumption and weight gain was recorded from 140 lb. until market weight.

Because feed consumption for the entire postweaning period was not available, feed costs are reported as the increases in feed cost to reach the 250-, 290- and 330-lb. market weights. The differences in feed costs to the respective market weights are also shown across and within genetic types and diets. Feed costs for each diet were calculated using three scenarios:

* Low feed prices were defined as $1.50/bu. corn and $150/ton soybean meal;

* Moderate feed prices were defined as $2/bu. corn and $200/ton soybean meal; and

* High feed prices were defined as $2.50/ bu. corn and $250/ton soybean meal.

Costs for days on feed were assumed to be 4 cents/day for the fixed costs of owning and operating a finishing facility and 3 cents/day for interest costs giving a total cost/day on feed of 7 cents.

Impact Of Market Weight First, let's look at the effects of alternative market weights on growth rate, feed conversion and market return across all diets and genetic types.

Figure 1 shows the effect of higher market weights on growth rate for the entire post-nursery period. Growth rates were comparable at 250- and 290-lb. market weights. At that rate (1.61 lb./day) it will take 25 additional days on feed for a pig to reach 290 lb. This is an added cost of approximately $1.75/pig. However, as the pig's market weight was extended to 330 lb., growth rate slowed. Therefore, taking pigs from 290- to 330-lb. market weights compiles more days on feed, naturally because 40 more pounds are being added, but also because growth slows. The extra 40 lb. took 38 additional days on feed at a cost of $2.66/pig.

Feed conversion was also significantly influenced by the incremental increase in market weight (see Figure 2). Pigs taken from 250- to 290-lb. market weights required an additional 0.12 lb. feed/lb. gain. Similarly, pigs taken from 290 to 330 lb. required an additional 0.21 lb. feed/lb. gain .. Figure 3 shows the added costs versus returns from marketing at heavier weights across all genetic lines and diets. (These returns were taken from the article by John McKissick entitled: 'Lean Growth: 10 Carcass Value Buying Programs,' National Hog Farmer, Oct. 15, 1998, page 48.)

The lower feed conversions resulting from adding 40 more pounds (250-290) added from $6.55 to $9.45 in feed expenses, depending on the diet fed. Likewise, taking pigs from 290 to 330 lb. added $8.03-11.66 depending on the diet fed. Therefore, the total additional costs to market pigs at 290 vs. 250 lb. then ranged from $8.30 to $11.20, depending on price of feed.

When hogs were priced at $39/cwt., the added return was approximately $7.42/pig. With a $47/cwt. market, the added return climbs to $9.90/pig. When hog prices are low, the added return did not cover the added costs of taking pigs to 290 lb.; however, if hog prices are somewhat higher it might be worth considering.

The total additional costs to market pigs at 330 lb. vs. 290 lb. ranged from $10.69 to $14.32 depending on price of feed. Some of these costs could possibly be recovered if the pigs could be marketed without penalties for sort loss or excess fat. But, that's not the case here. The added return per pig in going from 290 lb. to 330 lb. was less than a dollar. Although a pig had additional pounds of carcass weight, the penalties for additional backfat and sort loss made the net return negligible. It does not appear that taking pigs to 330-lb. market weight has the potential to enhance net returns regardless of the genetics, diet protocol or feed cost level.

Diet-Genetic-Weight Interactions The interactions of diet and genetics with the alternative market weights were also studied in this project. Figures 4 and 5 show the effect of different diet protocols on growth rate and feed conversion. Since diets 1, 2 and 3 did not differ significantly in pig performance, they were combined for this discussion and compared to diet 4.

Diet 4 appears to slow down growth (see Figure 4) when compared to diets 1-3. The effect is larger when 330-lb. end weights are the target. In the 250- to 290-lb. span, pigs fed diet 4 took two days longer to reach 290 lb. than those fed diets 1-3. This added 14 cents/pig in cost. And, pigs allocated to the 330-lb. market weights reinforced the slower growth trend of diet 4, indicating it took approximately four days longer to reach that end weight than pigs on diets 1-3. That extra 40 lb., from 290 to 330 lb., added another 28 cents/pig in costs.

The use of diet 4 results in poorer feed conversions compared to the diets 1-3 at all end weights (see Figure 5). This is not unexpected, as diet 4 is sub-standard in its lysine levels compared to National Research Council recommendations. The additional feed cost required to take pigs to heavier market weights under the different diet protocols would then be a factor of the relative feed conversion and cost specific to that diet.

Although diet 4 was less costly to manufacture than diets 1-3, the poorer feed conversions simply require more pounds of feed per pound of gain. Combining feed cost with feed conversion showed there was no significant difference in feed costs between diets 1-3 ($6.75-9.67) vs. diet 4 ($6.42-9.75) when market weight was increased from 250 to 290 lb. However, when diet 4 was fed, feed costs were higher at all levels of feed price when market weight was extended from 290 to 330 lb. ($7.58-11.00 vs. $8.48-12.29). These increases in feed costs within a market weight are the direct result of the poorer feed conversions and slower growth rate associated with the insufficient protein level in diet 4. Overall, diet 4 is not a realistic option since it always resulted in less net return when compared to diets 1-3.

Figures 6 and 7 show the differences between the genetic types for growth rate and feed conversion when pigs were marketed at heavier weights. In general, each genetic line showed a similar growth rate pattern when taken from 250 to 290 lb. However, all lines had a decreased growth rate when taken from 290 to 330 lb.

Line D was consistently the fastest growing, while Line F was consistently the slowest growing. In general, all lines had poorer feed conversions when taken to heavier weights.

Line A consistently had the poorest feed conversion at all weights. Lines C, D and E required less additional feed costs to go from 250 to 290 lb. compared to Lines A, B and F.

Figure 8 shows the added costs and returns by line for marketing at 290 lb. vs. 250 lb. when market price is $47/cwt.

In terms of total costs to grow from 250 to 290 lb., Lines D and E were the best, Lines A, B and F were the poorest, and Line C landed in the middle. Additional market return was greatest in Lines C, D and E. The key point to evaluate is whether the added return paid for the added costs at the various high, medium and low feeding regimens. At all feed cost levels, only Lines C and D had more return than costs. Line E had more return than costs at all but the high feed cost scenario. Lines B and F had equal or more return than costs at only the low-feed-cost scenario, while Line A's returns never exceeded costs.

Sort Loss Estimates Figure 9 shows the effect of the target end weights on the variability of weights. The variation of weights within a group in a designated weight class was calculated based on the age of the pigs when the average weight in the pen was either 250, 290 or 330 lb.

Using a constant age, the weight of each pig in the pen was estimated using each individual's growth rate. The variation in weights at this age was then used to estimate the percentage of pigs that fell either below 200 lb. or above 300 lb. This provided some indication of vulnerability to sort loss.

As the end weight class increased, the variability of pig weights also increased (from a standard deviation of 25 to 34). Sort loss was applied at live weights under 200 lb. and over 300 lb. At the 250-lb. end weight, 2.5% of the pigs would be expected to be less than 200 lb. and 2.5% over 300 lb., or an anticipated sort loss of 5%.

At the 290-lb. end weight, 0.5% of the pigs would be expected to weigh under 200 lb., but 42% would be expected to weigh over 300 lb., therefore, anticipating 42.5% fell ou tside of the acceptable parameters.

At the 330-lb. end weight class, it is unlikely any pigs would weigh under 200 lb., but 87.5% would be expected to weigh over the 300-lb. sort loss ceiling. This sort loss has to be accounted for in the relative return for each pig marketed.

Lessons Learned In summary, it appears that marketing pigs at weights higher than 250 lb. does add significant additional costs through higher feed costs, additional days on feed, and more sort loss due to a combination of poorer feed conversions, slower growth rates and more variation in market weight. The 290-lb. market weights did result in additional return. But at 330 lb., market penalties for added backfat and sort loss overcame the additional market return.

Use of diet 4 (substandard in lysine) slows growth rate and results in poorer feed conversions when compared to diets 1-3, resulting in higher total costs, especially in the growth phase from 290 to 330 lb. Lines D and E appear to be the most cost efficient in growing from 250 to 290 lb.

Marketing at 330 lb. compared to 290 lb. appears to slow down growth rate, increase sort losses and add feed costs at such a level that it is not cost efficient. The true profitability resulting from marketing at these heavier market weights varies by the genetics. Only Lines C, D and E have the potential to profitably market at 290 lb. when prices are at normal levels ($47/cwt.). At lower market prices, none of the lines can be profitably taken to heavier market weights.

Dead Animal Disposal Method Patented

North Carolina State University (NCSU) researchers have developed a new method of disposing of dead animals. The university patented a machine that grinds up the carcasses of dead animals, while adding either carbohydrates and bacteria to ferment the resulting material, or phosphoric acid to preserve it.

Whether the material is fermented or preserved with phosphoric acid, it may be kept on a farm until it is convenient to dispose of it. The new technology allows growers to capture the nutrients in animal carcasses. The nutrients may then be recycled, most likely as an ingredient in animal feeds.

Researchers: Peter Ferket, Larry Stikeleather and Teena Middleton, North Carolina State University. Contact Ferket at (919) 515-5555.