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Articles from 2002 In January

Odor Settlement Reached

One of the nation's largest hog producers has entered into a civil settlement to resolve charges of environmental violations.

Premium Standard Farms (PSF) and its parent company, Continental Grain Company, together comprise the second largest hog producer in the United States. The accord with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Justice Department and the Citizen's Legal Environmental Action Network resolves alleged water and air violations at company farms in northern Missouri.

The settlement calls for testing and installing wastewater treatment technologies, testing lagoons for leaks, monitoring air emissions and paying civil fines of $350,000.

For more details, access the EPA Web site,

Data Pinpoints Sow Dropouts

Sow herd culling and mortality rates continue on the upswing. Although 2001 PigCHAMP recordkeeping data has yet to be summarized, a 12-month snapshot (June 1, 2000 to May 31, 2001) verifies the trend and provides some insight into the reasons sows drop out of the breeding herd.

For the nearly quarter of a million sows with complete parity records represented in the removal analysis, half were culled from the herd during the 12-month period and nearly 8% died (see accompanying table).

Sow removal is tabulated in three broad categories — culled, death or destroyed. Within each category is a menu of reasons sows are removed. Space limitations dictated that only the most prevalent data lines in each category could be presented.

Reasons for Culling

At first glance, it appears that “old age/parity” is the leading reason sows are culled (12.9%). However, a closer look at the reason-for-culling list shows a significant number of sows and gilts, across all parities, failed to get bred or stay pregnant. Specifically, in the report, this would include sows that: aborted (2.8%), did not conceive (10.3%), failed to farrow (1.2%), fertility failure (1%), found not pregnant (1.9%), no heat (7.9%) and pregnancy tested negative (1.7%).

Death & Destroyed

Perhaps more striking is the 12.8% death loss. As recent as 1999, the annual PigCHAMP summary shows death loss at just half that — 6.9%. The cause of death for nearly half of those losses is classified as “other” or “unknown” (1.1% and 5.1%, respectively), so specific answers for these losses cannot be pinpointed.

Lameness and downer sows are the most noted causes of death or need to destroy sows, and in combination, represent 16% of the sows in the analysis.

The analysis also showed that the average parity for sows culled was 3.8, while the average parity of sows that died or were destroyed landed at 2.3.

Gilts and Sows Selected for the Removal Analysis (entered the herd or farrowed) in the Report Period, June 1, 2000 - May 31, 2001

Parity 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7+ Total
Gilts Entered Or Sows Farrowed 128,462 133,489 102,034 82,847 79,315 64,239 49,084 64,858 704,328
Complete Parity Records 43,960 38,492 28,637 26,523 29,331 23,564 20,193 30,423 241,123
Moved To Next Parity Waiting To Be Bred 32,605 23,330 19,270 17,005 18,014 13,151 8,951 9,012 141,338
Total Number Removed 22,408 23,629 14,599 14,947 15,912 14,283 14,807 26,457 147,042
Gilts and Sows Culled 18,059 18,220 11,080 11,533 12,756 11,877 13,054 24,326 120,905
Entry - First Service 14,710 - - - - - - - 15,124
Weaning - First Service - 15,747 9,379 9,773 11,052 10,430 11,808 22,619 90,815
First Service - Farrow 3,342 2,376 1,646 1,702 1,642 1,395 1,194 1,669 14,966
Gilt and Sow Deaths 3,213 3,765 2,452 2,335 2,342 1,772 1,341 1,555 18,775
Entry - First Service 2,581 - - - - - - - 2,727
Weaning - First Service - 3,327 2,145 2,010 2,034 1,517 1,149 1,339 13,521
First Service - Farrow 632 406 285 300 288 231 179 206 2,527
Transfers Farm to Farm 473 427 284 302 143 101 76 120 1,926
Other Removals 663 1,217 783 777 671 533 336 456 5,436
Percent of Complete Parity Records Gilts and Sows Culled 41.1 47.3 38.7 43.5 43.5 50.4 64.6 80.0 50.1
Entry - First Service 33.5 - - - - - - - 6.3
Weaning - First Service - 40.9 32.8 36.8 37.7 44.3 58.5 74.3 37.7
First Service - Farrow 7.6 6.2 5.7 6.4 5.6 5.9 5.9 5.5 6.2
Gilt and Sow Deaths 7.3 9.8 8.6 8.8 8.0 7.5 6.6 5.1 7.8
Entry - First Service 5.9 - - - - - - - 1.1
Weaning - First Service - 8.6 7.5 7.6 6.9 6.4 5.7 4.4 5.6
First Service - Farrow 1.4 1.1 1.0 1.1 1.0 1.0 0.9 0.7 1.0
Gilts and Sows Selected for the Removal Analysis Were Removed in the Report Period

Parity 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7+ Total % of Total
Reason Culled 18,059 18,220 11,080 11,533 12,756 11,877 13,054 24,326 120,905 82.6
Aborted 913 613 459 467 604 454 280 328 4,118 2.8
Body Condition 614 817 406 566 530 330 263 217 3,743 2.6
Depopulation 100 424 598 582 352 211 222 224 2,713 1.9
Did Not Conceive 3,341 2,797 1,799 1,755 1,779 1,242 1,168 1,208 15,089 10.3
Fail To Farrow 458 317 152 194 176 150 146 161 1,754 1.2
Farrowing Productivity 101 394 442 689 1,024 1,197 1,402 1,887 7,136 4.9
Fertility, Sow 232 284 184 212 166 123 99 211 1,511 1.0
Found Not Pregnant 661 590 355 310 257 253 198 185 2,809 1.9
Lactation/Weaning Productivity 27 240 259 437 637 783 827 825 4,035 2.8
Lameness 2,126 2,092 1,272 1,114 1,147 930 681 745 10,107 6.9
No Heat 4,299 3,409 1,122 765 830 517 353 297 11,592 7.9
Old Age/Parity 56 124 112 248 581 1,372 3,561 12,891 18,945 12.9
Other 315 395 204 187 251 232 217 340 2,141 1.5
Pregnancy Check Negative 511 475 297 295 283 229 165 227 2,482 1.7
Small Litter Size 1 105 135 257 387 456 430 580 2,351 1.6
Unthrifty 212 289 147 177 215 166 141 145 1,492 1.0
Unknown Reason 2,355 2,529 1,729 1,747 1,671 1,588 1,416 2,139 15,174 10.4
Cause of Death 3,213 3,765 2,452 2,335 2,342 1,772 1,341 1,555 18,775 12.8
Difficult Farrowing 160 384 191 147 146 127 99 128 1,382 0.9
Downer 233 342 208 198 214 135 92 62 1,484 1.0
Lameness 166 217 137 130 120 80 74 54 978 0.7
Other 318 291 209 182 170 153 129 127 1,579 1.1
Retained Pigs 43 135 58 61 47 50 50 32 476 0.3
Ulcer 169 300 137 120 133 93 48 39 1,039 0.7
Unknown Reason 1,352 1,371 987 946 915 694 483 675 7,423 5.1
Destroyed 589 1,049 706 645 546 468 304 398 4,705 3.2
Downer 207 339 273 255 180 167 91 142 1,654 1.1
Lameness 156 286 162 154 152 110 90 91 1,201 0.8
Unknown Reason 76 133 90 82 52 54 40 61 588 0.4
Transfer 473 427 284 302 143 101 76 120 1,926 1.3
Complete Parity Records 43,960 38,492 28,637 26,523 29,331 23,564 20,193 30,423 241,123
Total Culled 18,059 18,220 11,080 11,533 12,756 11,877 13,054 24,326 120,905 82.6
Performance Culls, % 59.0 53.6 49.7 50.0 53.4 50.3 43.2 27.6 47.0
Non-Performance Culls, % 27.9 32.5 34.7 34.8 33.5 36.4 45.9 63.6 40.4
Unknown Culls, % 13.0 13.9 15.6 15.1 13.1 13.4 10.8 8.8 12.6
Total Deaths & Destroyed 3,802 4,814 3,158 2,980 2,888 2,240 1,645 1,953 23,480 16.0
Total Removes 21,861 23,034 14,238 14,513 15,644 14,117 14,699 26,279 146,311 100.0

Checkoff Settlement Upheld

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan ruled that Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman acted within the law when she reached a settlement agreement continuing the pork checkoff program.

The Feb. 28, 2001 settlement agreement between the Agriculture Department (USDA), Michigan Pork Producers Association (MPPA), the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and three Michigan pork producers maintains the pork checkoff program. But it requires the administrative separation of checkoff and non-checkoff activities.

As outlined in the separation, pork promotion, education and research programs were transferred from NPPC to the National Pork Board.

“The rule of law has prevailed, as we always predicted it would,” says NPPC President Barb Determan. “The court's findings were clear and concise. There were never enough valid petitions filed to trigger a vote, and the secretary of agriculture does not have the legal authority to order a binding referendum unless 15% of bona fide pork producers demand one.

“This ruling not only allows the checkoff to continue, it keeps the program firmly under the control of pork producers, where it belongs,” she notes.

The ruling settled a court challenge filed in March by the Campaign for Family Farms on the continuance of the pork checkoff program.

The issue of constitutionality remains to be decided by the court, according to NPPC.

PRRS Research Turns to Mosquitoes

A triad of research trials shows porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) virus can be spread by contaminated hands of personnel following contact with infected pigs, needles, coveralls, boots and mosquitoes.

University of Minnesota researchers found no evidence of aerosol transmission of PRRS virus to pigs housed in facilities located within 1-30 yds. from buildings that housed infected animals.

In the first experiment, 10 pigs were infected with PRRS virus to test for transmission by people and needles. Five people spent one hour with the infected pigs, contacting secretions and bodily fluids excreted from the infected animals. Then, each person spent 30 min. with three naive pigs in one of five other rooms, again contacting all pigs. Before moving to the second room, the people either:

  • Did not change coveralls and boots or wash hands;

  • Changed coveralls and boots and washed hands;

  • Changed coveralls and boots, showered and waited for 12 hours of downtime;

  • Changed coveralls and boots, showered and waited for no downtime; or

  • In the fifth room, needles were used to vaccinate the infected and naive pigs for Mycoplasma pneumonia.

The researchers found that PRRS virus was transmitted by the coveralls, boots and needles in two of the four replicates of the study. PRRS virus was detected on the coveralls, boots and hands of personnel upon leaving the infected room. PRRS virus was not transmitted when people changed coveralls and boots and either washed their hands or showered.

In the second study, the researchers used a mechanically ventilated, partially slotted finishing barn to test for aerosol transmission of PRRS.

One hundred and forty pigs were infected with PRRS and commingled with 60 direct-contact control pigs. A pen of 10 control pigs was separated in the barn by an empty 8-ft.-wide pen. Two stock trailers, with 10 naive sentinel pigs each, were set up either 1 yd. or 30 yd. directly in line with the barn's exhaust fans. Contact of the pigs with the exhaust was confirmed in the trailer located 1 yd. from the infected barn on a daily basis.

The pigs were held in the trailers for 72 hours and then moved to two other barns (30 and 80 yd. from the infected facility) on the site and tested for 30 days.

PRRS virus was transmitted to the direct-contact, control pigs commingled with the infected pigs. The pigs separated by the empty pen space also became infected. However, the pigs held in the trailers did not become infected.

In the third experiment, the researchers examined if mosquitoes could transmit PRRS to naive pigs.

First, during an experimental PRRS virus infection on the research site, the researchers collected blood-fed mosquitoes from the barn and tested them for PRRS virus. They found the same PRRS virus strain in both the pigs and mosquitoes.

Second, an experimental study was conducted using 12, 6-week-old pigs (three pigs in four replicates). In each replicate, a donor pig infected with PRRS virus, a recipient pig naive to PRRS and a control pig were housed in separate rooms. The control pig received the same treatment, without mosquitoes, as the recipient pig.

Mosquitoes were collected and tested to show they were PRRS-virus-negative.

The mosquitoes were allowed to bite the infected (donor) pig for 30 to 60 seconds. Then, the mosquitoes were removed and allowed to bite the naive (recipient) pig.

In two of the four replicates, the recipient, naive pigs became infected with PRRS virus and homogenates from pooled mosquito tissues were PRRS-virus-positive.

The researchers plan more studies on the cause of area spread of PRRS virus, including more work on mosquitoes, house flies and transport vehicles.

Researchers: Scott Dee, Satoshi Otake, Kurt Rossow, Roger Moon, Tom Molitor and Carlos Pijoan, University of Minnesota. Phone Dee at (612) 625-4786 or e-mail [email protected].

Zinc's Impact on E. coli Scours

Zinc oxide has a big impact on E. coli scours, says Mike Tokach, extension swine specialist, Kansas State University.

At low levels, zinc is an essential nutrient. At high levels, zinc is a growth promotant. “Most people would use about 3,000 ppm. in the diets until the pigs were about 15 lb.,” he says. “We then recommend 2,000 ppm. from 15 lb. to 25 lb. Then we pull it out of the diets.” Some people leave it in a little longer at a low level.

“Our data suggests you don't get any benefit in growth performance past 25 lb.,” states Tokach, even though pigs aren't past the danger of breaking with F18 E. coli scours.

“Zinc oxide doesn't cure E. coli,” he declares, “But if you've got normal E. coli problems and you pull it out, the E. coli will be a lot worse.”

In a research report, Tokach and collaborators point out there are several suppositions as to why zinc oxide can reduce diarrhea problems in both pigs and people. In one study, the addition of zinc at 2,500 ppm prevented postweaning diarrhea without affecting the number of E. coli excreted in the feces.

Similar experiments showed that a high prevalence of diarrhea occurred when pigs did not receive high concentrations of zinc oxide when challenged.

Other experiments also indicated that zinc apparently does not reduce the number of E. coli present, but interferes with the ability of the E. coli to produce a toxic environment in the gut.

Researchers: Lisa Tokach, DVM, Abilene Animal Hospital, Abilene, KS; Steve Dritz, DVM, and Mike Tokach, both of Kansas State University. Phone Tokach at (785) 532-2032 or e-mail [email protected].

E. coli Concerns Turn to Flooring

Missouri has seen substantial growth in swine enteric disease problems in early weaned pigs, particularly in young pigs moved to wean-to-finish (W-F) facilities.

“In many cases, highly toxigenic strains of E. coli have been isolated. The problem has been significant in some systems, so much so that the University of Missouri is collaborating with Stress Physiologist Jeff Carroll from the Animal Physiology Research Unit of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (both are located in Columbia, MO) on a two-year project to study pathogenic E. coli,” reports Tom Fangman, University of Missouri swine extension veterinarian.

Treating E. coli with antibiotics has not been very successful, he says. Sometimes, pigs appear better off left untreated.

Fangman says newer floor designs may have played a role in the resurgence of enteric pathogens. Plastic-coated wire floors used in conventional nurseries reduce scours problems because pigs walk most of the defecation through the slots and the floors clean up well.

Slotted floors in newer W-F barns provide a solid, warm surface for younger weaned pigs. But they also promote growth of bacterial organisms because some manure remains on the slats and often they are not properly cleaned.

One possible solution is to use a hand-held sprayer to sanitize the slats. Use a wooden divider to confine pigs out of the way to spray the slats with a disinfectant, suggests Fangman.

Researchers: Tom Fangman, DVM, University of Missouri, and Jeff Carroll, USDA's Agricultural Research Service. Phone Fangman at (573) 882-7848 or e-mail [email protected].

Scanning, Profiling Can Reduce Sow Culling

Today's modern sows walk a very fine line in trying to live full, productive lives. They are leaner throughout their productive parities. Gilts are often younger and leaner when they are bred.

Lean genetics are what the industry wants. But when lean finishers become replacement gilts, their low backfat levels (averaging 0.48 to 0.56 in.) don't provide much margin for error as productive breeding animals, points out Ross Kiehne, DVM, Swine Vet Center (SVC), St. Peter, MN.

At SVC, the goal is to keep sows in condition and a productive part of the herd beyond three parities, to maximize output.

To accomplish that goal, the clinic has developed a program of body-condition scoring and herd profiling. The program points out inadequacies such as poor feeding regimes, or lack of attention to sows, which the producer can work to correct.

By using the profiling program to correct those inadequacies, sows will live longer, be more productive and more efficient. Then, they will also be in more uniform condition at farrowing, which will help to maximize lactation intake, he says. Sows will also enjoy improved welfare.

The end result is better parity structure and lower culling and mortality rates, Kiehne reports.

Backfat Scanning/Profiling

Measuring sow backfat doesn't correlate directly to changes in sow productivity, he admits. However, sow condition and backfat can provide an indicator of how long the animal remains productive.

For the on-farm backfat scanning/profiling program, the clinic selects four groups with 30 animals per group. Groups include gilts just bred, weaned sows, animals 50 days bred and animals just prior to farrowing. Parity distribution is important to give a good picture of the herd's condition, asserts Kiehne.

The females' backfat is measured using a RENCO ultrasonic backfat scanner.

Backfat readings for the four groups are averaged. Backfat should increase through gestation and herd variation should narrow.

Sow backfat targets from SVC are:

  • 0.64 to 0.72 in. (16-18 mm.), at breeding, for the gilt;

  • 0.6 in. (15 mm.) at weaning;

  • 0.64 to 0.68 in. (16-17 mm.) at mid-gestation, and

  • 0.72 to 0.76 in. (18-19 mm.) just prior to farrowing.

    Ultrasound scanning helps understand the relationship of sow conditioning to backfat as follows:

  • Backfat measurements draw attention to the importance of sow conditioning;

  • Backfat readings help train the producers' eyes as to what is too thin or too fat;

  • Provides an objective score of body condition;

  • Provides herd profiling for backfat. Performed quarterly, it helps track production and reveals variation and reasons for culling, and

  • Results can be used to gauge herd performance and make precise feeding recommendations.

Tagging Gilts

A second method to guide conditioning is to tag gilts at breeding with a special tag. These gilts are followed throughout their lifetime. Backfat measurements are taken every 30-60 days and compared to reproductive performance. Results to date indicate thinner animals did poorly in lactation, had a longer wean-to-estrus interval and had a higher culling rate. The backfat levels didn't have an effect on born alive or farrowing rate.

Feeding for Condition

To help sow condition and make sow feeding easier, Kiehne says to start by routinely checking sow condition when doing chores.

But don't check sow condition too often. “The producer must give the feeding program an opportunity to work to make a change in the sow's condition,” he states.

“A good program is to give the sow full feed from weaning to breeding, then check and adjust the amount fed after breeding, at 30-day pregnancy check, at 50-day pregnancy check, a 70-day visual check and increase the feed at 90 days of pregnancy,” Kiehne advises.

Also, to simplify feeding for conditioning, establish a baseline amount of feed for a properly conditioned animal, he continues. Then consider that an over-conditioned animal needs 1 lb. under that baseline and thin sows need 2-3 lb. over the baseline or more.

“If a very thin animal exists, they need to be given the opportunity to eat as much as they can, to get them back into proper condition quickly,” Kiehne stresses. Grouping these animals close together or in a pen can help.

“It has been our experience that putting condition on an animal is much easier than taking it off,” he notes. “It can often take a couple of parities to get an over-conditioned animal back down to the proper condition.”

Waterkeepers Take Crusade to Midwest

In the mind of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., corporate pork production is a greater threat to American life and liberty than terrorist Osama bin Laden.

“This threat is greater than that in Afghanistan,” says Kennedy. “This is not only a threat to the environment, it is a threat to the American economy and democracy.”

Kennedy and other Waterkeeper Alliance officials recently brought their environmental campaign to Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota with town hall meetings. Kennedy's comments are from a speech made at St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN.

Kennedy is president of the environmental activist organization which is suing Smithfield Foods for environmental offenses in North Carolina. The lawsuits are based on alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation Recovery Act, along with allegations under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

In the latest ruling, a U.S. District Court judge denied Smithfield's motion to appeal the court decision of Sept. 20. That decision allowed discovery to begin in two of the Waterkeeper's lawsuits.

In addition, the judge ruled that if hog farms are Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), then sprayfields can qualify as a point source of pollution without a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which may be a violation of the Clean Water Act.

Kennedy noted that hydrogen sulfide and ammonia emissions from midwestern hog barns may be the focal points of more lawsuits, although none have been filed at this time.

Not Just the Environment

Kennedy told an overflowing crowd of an estimated 1,000 anti-agriculture activists and college students that he wouldn't want to live in the land of 10,000 lakes if it didn't have any family farms, which he gave religious status. “Closing the last family farm is like tearing out the last pages of the last Bible, Torah or Talmud,” he says.

In Minnesota, the department of agriculture's technical support for farmers to build lagoon systems constitutes an official policy for factory farms, he says. “The state government is encouraging the running out of family farms in this state.”

He went on to accuse the U.S. pork industry of paying low wages to illegal workers, mistreating animals and making money only because of illegal dumping of manure.

The Riverkeeper

Rick Dove, former Riverkeeper of the Nuese River in North Carolina, outlined the condition of the state's waters.

“The waters and rivers of North Carolina are ghosts of their former selves, but they are not dead,” he says.

The state did not take action to address pfiesteria-related fish kills in the early 1990s because it didn't want to scare away tourists from the Outer Banks, he says.

The Waterkeepers blame the water quality issues associated with algae blooms and pfiesteria on large hog farms. But Dove also notes that the waters were already overburdened with nutrients from chicken and turkey production, along with fertilizer runoff from golf courses and lawns and spills from municipal waste plants.

“Many of the waters were already overfilled with nutrients before CAFOs began in the early 1990s,” he says.

Dove is also the coordinator of a 20-airplane “air force” that monitors hog farms and sprayfield activity. They fly at 1,000 ft. with sensitive camera equipment. He acknowledged that the planes often fly after above average rainfalls, because that's when it is easiest to document environmental offenses.

He told the crowd that Minnesota's activists are following the same pattern that the North Carolinians used five years ago. He pledged support for midwestern environmental groups.

“We're glad to partner with your environmental groups, to bring sanity back to our farm industry,” he says.

Industry Infrastructure Revamped

Editor's Note: The U S. pork industry enters 2002 with a full plate of challenges and opportunities. The infrastructure that encompasses National Pork Board and National Pork Producer Council (NPPC) activities has been revamped. Pork producers are attending state association annual meetings to establish positions on key issues and to draft resolutions for delegates to debate at each organization's annual meeting in March.

As a service to our readers, we begin with a progress report on the NPPC and National Pork Board transition plans which were targeted for completion at the close of 2001. Accompanying this update, new National Pork Board CEO Steve Murphy shares his vision of the challenges that lie ahead. Next month, we will provide an update on NPPC's restructuring efforts.

The new year marked a new way of doing business for the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). As mandated in a settlement agreement between three Michigan pork producers, the NPPC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Feb. 28, 2001, decisive lines have been drawn between the two organizations. Since, both organizations have been reallocating resources and responsibilities.

To facilitate the process, Des Moines-based RSM McGladrey, Inc., an accounting/business management consulting firm was hired to provide third-party, independent oversight for the transition-separation process. A thorough business and operations review brought forth a document, “Business Transition Framework,” which was presented to, and adopted by, the National Pork Board in November.

This progressive plan of work is important for all pork producers to understand as they draft and discuss resolutions destined for action by delegates at separate annual meetings of both organizations set for Feb. 28-March 2 in Denver, CO.

Briefly, the settlement agreement prescribed these guiding principles for the National Pork Board to operate independently of NPPC.

  • Establish two distinct organizations with independent governance.

  • Manage all checkoff-funded contracts.

  • Remove complete reliance of NPPC as primary contractor of checkoff-funded programs.

  • Establish separate and independent leadership (National Pork Board named Steve Murphy as new chief executive officer (CEO) in October; a new NPPC CEO is expected soon).

  • Separate communications functions.

  • Hold separate and distinct annual meetings.

Division of Purpose, Roles

All of this boils down to distinct and separate marching orders for each organization.

National Pork Board will serve pork producers, through management of their checkoff contributions, by providing research, promotion, consumer information and education. Additionally, the board can interact with the government to share and collect information, to provide technical comments on regulations and rules as they relate to science, economics and implications for producers, but in no way, can it attempt to influence policy.

NPPC will represent members and constituents in an advocacy role related to regulatory/legislative issues affecting the pork industry. And, NPPC will provide lobbying for regulatory and public policy issues and establish a working relationship with state pork producer organizations. Presently, a 39-member task force is working to fulfill a shareholder outreach resolution (SO-10), passed during the 2001 annual meeting delegate session. The task force is charged with outlining a new national organizational structure for NPPC, including funding, membership, governance and priorities.

NPPC will also maintain a certification role for environmental standards through newly formed EMS (Environmental Management Solutions, LLC), Production & Financial Standards, food safety initiatives, etc.

Organizational Structures

The settlement agreement mandated that separate staffs be established for each organization. The agreement also provided that any NPPC staff member that spent at least half of their time working in checkoff-funded programs could transfer to the National Pork Board staff. The goal was to ensure that the impact on checkoff-funded programs would be minimal.

National Pork Board will manage the following functions and areas:

  • Program services: shareholder outreach, demand enhancement, environment, education, production (EEP) services, science and technology.

  • Administrative services: general services, accounting, human resources, meeting services and economics.

  • Senior management: directed by new CEO Steve Murphy and recently named CFO Bill Winkelman.

NPPC, in addition to maintaining separate senior management, will focus on:

  • Public policy;

  • Shareholder outreach (including communications), and

  • Subsidiaries (EMS and others).

Program Services Contracts

Before the agreement, NPPC was the primary service provider contracted to manage the lion's share of checkoff-funded programs.

Now, the National Pork Board is responsible for leading and directing these activities. However, it can contract the delivery of programs with outside vendors, including NPPC.

National Pork Board may contract with various providers for the delivery of environmental research and education programs, such as risk management research/education, environmental research/education and producer training. Murphy points out that vendor contracts will utilize the standard business practices of request for proposals (RFPs) and a value-based assessment for awarding any contract.

World Pork Expo, the industry's largest annual event, remains the property of NPPC. The National Pork Board will pay for the space needed to deliver educational and program information at the event.


National Pork Board funding will remain predominantly checkoff-based, with some supplemental funds generated from royalties or provided through government or foundation grants aimed at enhancing program development. Co-marketing arrangements and demand enhancement activities with private companies, such as Kraft Foods, will continue.

NPPC funding remains a key issue for the SO-10 Task Force. Primary funding possibilities include membership fees, fee-for-service revenue (including World Pork Expo profits) and discretionary funds through industry sponsorships.

NPPC intends to commercialize the Production & Financial Standards program, possibly across other livestock species and crops. The standards were developed using checkoff funds, therefore, the software, database programming remains the intellectual property of the National Pork Board. However, eight NPPC staff members formed the nucleus of EMS, carrying program expertise with them. Consequently, to build equity and value in that intellectual property, both parties have something the other needs.

In an effort to best serve the industry, the National Pork Board waived any fees or royalties for a four-year period. When that period expires, EMS (NPPC) will share the revenues created by this programming area.

Similarly, the Comprehensive Nutrient Management programming is the intellectual property of the National Pork Board. But, again, EMS has the expertise to implement it so it will work with the National Pork Board to ensure producers get maximum value from them.

These two programs represent the only long-term agreements between the National Pork Board and EMS. Both have been approved by the Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS), the arm of the USDA that oversees checkoff-funded programs.


Some key industry relationships, cultivated and managed by NPPC in the past, remain important to both organizations. They have been divvied up and given “primary” or “secondary” status, then assigned to the respective organizations as follows:

The National Pork Board will maintain a primary relationship with the Retail Action Committee (RAC), U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), and American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV).

On NPPC's primary list is the Packers & Processors Industry Council (PPIC) and allied industry relationships.

Both organizations, logically, will maintain relationships with pork producers, including their state organizations. The National Pork Board retained responsibility for oversight of checkoff funds to state groups.

And, both NPPC and the National Pork Board will continue to work with government officials and agencies.

New CEO's Business Approach

New National Pork Board CEO Steve Murphy tackled the first 90 days of his administration with a plan:

Spend the first 30 days in the office getting to know board members, producer leaders and more than 80 staff members and the programs they manage.

Spend the next 30 days on the road getting in front of as many producers, in as many different sizes, types of operations and geographical locations, as possible.

“I look at this as a very complex puzzle that I was out there collecting pieces for. I don't know what the picture is going to look like, but I want to make sure that everybody has an opportunity to throw his or her piece of the puzzle into the box. There will be time, later, to sort through the box and start creating a picture that makes sense to everyone,” he says.

Spend the final 30 days mapping out a plan that will be presented to the National Pork Board in mid-January.

Murphy reinforces that he entered his fact-finding mission with an open mind. “I came in with really no industry background — which is both an asset and a liability. The asset is, I came in with no agenda, no predisposed position on any issue. The liability is, my learning curve might be a little slower,” he says. “But, frankly, the board did not hire me because of my hog or pork expertise. They wanted someone with a different perspective, essentially with some unconventional strategies to solve problems.”

Murphy says many producers told him this: “We've kind of lost control of our checkoff funds; we don't know how this money's spent; we're not sure if it brings any real value to our operation; we really don't have any ownership of what's going on.”

Whether this thinking is a real assessment or not is not the issue. “It's their perception, and in many cases, perception is even stronger than reality,” he says.

Filling the Gaps

Working with that basic premise, Murphy sees a critical gap in many pork producers' ability to feel ownership in the checkoff-funded programming areas.

“Frankly, we don't manufacture anything. We create intellectual capital. There has got to be a transfer of that property to the producer before any value is created,” he asserts.

Using a business analogy, Murphy equates the active pork producer committees and leadership to the research and product development arms of business. They identify the needs of the industry and the portion of the budget to invest in them. This provides the operating plan for the staff. If there is a gap there, there's sure to be disconnect between producers and the checkoff-funded programming, he believes.

The next potential gap is the delivery of information collected through checkoff-funded programs. “After we create programs, we create a catalog that basically says: ‘here it is, if you want it, come and get it.’ Frankly, a lot of producers aren't coming and getting it,” he says.

“If this was a ‘for-profit’ organization, there would be another layer between manufacturing and the customer — and that would be sales, marketing and customer service. That is where the real value proposition is created because it helps him/her extract maximum value out of the product being delivered.”

In Murphy's view, conventional communications efforts focused on telling producers how good their programming is, will not solve the problem.

Murphy offers these possibilities for better delivery of information and real value:

Producer hotlines — producers call a team of experts to discuss a problem; they could quickly share the latest information available on the topic or direct them to a program area. “There's a tremendous amount of expertise among the (current) support staff that already have a strong relationship with the producer community,” he explains.

SWAT teams — individuals or teams of specialists sent to an operation to help analyze and solve problems and apply checkoff-funded programs.

In-field partnerships — teaming up with state organizations to become a ground force to work one-on-one with producers.

“I don't think you can assume, just because the programs are there, that the producers have the motivation, or even the inclination, to jump in and grab the information themselves and make it work. We need to be a facilitator in that process,” says Murphy.

Communications Is the Key

“I think our communications have been somewhat of a one-dimensional, traditional association (approach) — news and public relations oriented — with newsletters and brochures,” he continues. “Frankly, I don't think that vehicle is getting the job done. That's not to say those aren't critical components for communications strategies, but it is to say there's a dimension that's missing today because we're not getting the value message through to producers.

“Rather than providing raw data, I think we must evaluate and analyze that data so we can pass on actionable information they can use.”

Whether the changes will come in time to change some producers' views about the value of the pork checkoff, Murphy admits, he doesn't know. “I do know that if we fix the problem, there will be a checkoff program for some time to come because we're adding value to the industry and we're dealing with it correctly. It may not be mandatory, but there's enough support out there today that if we attack the root of the problems, getting producers reconnected to the programming, there's going to be a tremendous amount of support for some checkoff-funded programming going forward.

“We're not here to propagate the mandatory checkoff program,” he continues. “Our goal is to serve producers; that's where we need to focus.”

With limited time, capital and human resources, Murphy says his entrepreneurial experiences could help. “The only way you can hope to be successful is, one, establish clear objectives; two, get everyone on the same page; and, three — focus, focus, focus.”

Murphy, a strong proponent of “the critical need to focus,” continues: “By virtue of the separation, I think it's an opportunity for us, as the Pork Board, to focus on promotion, research and consumer education. I hope the council (NPPC) adopts the same level of focus to serve the industry in the lobbying, policy and legislation areas.”

Closing Comments

“This is not my story,” explains Murphy. “It's a compilation of the feedback I'm getting from producers. This is certainly not a judgment I'm passing on the way things have been done in the past. I think the whole separation process is an opportunity for the organizations to consider change.

“It's a changing industry. It has changed a lot in the last 10 years; it's going to change a lot more in the next 10. The question is — how do we best position the organization to serve the industry in the future?

“I think producers have an expectation about how these checkoff-funded programs should help them personally. That's why we, as an organization, need to focus on helping every producer experience a direct benefit in some fashion. (If they do), I think the support will be there,” he concludes.

Easing Interstate Movement

As of Jan. 22, 2002, hogs within a single production system can move interstate without individual identification, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Participants must sign an agreement with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and affected state governments.

The advent of multi-site production systems means animals often cross state lines without changing ownership.

Hogs must test free of communicable diseases to participate in the new program.

Contact APHIS senior staff veterinarian Arnold Taft for details, (301) 734-4916, or log on the APHIS Web site,

Recognize Each Sow's Nutrient Needs

Sow farm managers do not have to accept 45% or higher replacement rates. They need to improve their sow feeding, and therefore, longevity of the sow herd, says University of Minnesota swine nutritionist Sam Baidoo.

“Recognize the animals as individuals, look at each one and feed her as an individual,” he says. “Feeding has to be tailored to condition.”

Baidoo sets two goals for sow units — drop the replacement rate to 20 to 25% and raise the average parity to 4 or 5. The PigCHAMP breeding herd summary for 2000 shows the average replacement rate is 65.4%. The top 25% and 10% of PigCHAMP users have replacement rates of 42.9% and 32.1%, respectively.

Average parity is 2.5 among all PigCHAMP users, 3.0 for the top 25% and 3.5 for the top 10% of producers on the recordkeeping program.

Use Phases in Gestation

As the basis of an individualized feeding program, Baidoo suggests phase feeding in gestation. Divide the period into four phases and increase feed levels based on 3.4 lb. of feed for maintenance. The phases are as follows:

0-30 days — 1.1 × 3.4 lb.;
30-60 days — 1.3 × 3.4 lb.;
60-90 days — 1.5 × 3.4 lb., and
90 days to farrowing — 1.7 × 3.4 lb.

For example, a sow would require 3.7, 4.4, 5.1 and 5.8 lb. of feed for the four periods, respectively.

The goal is to take the sow with 0.48 to 0.56 in. of backfat at breeding to 0.72 to 0.76 in. of backfat at farrowing. Keep in mind there are genetic and environmental differences in each sow herd.

Baidoo suggests the diet should be 13 or 14% protein and 1.45 Mcal ME/lb. of diet (ME=Metabolizable Energy).

Gestation Feeding

Frank Aherne, swine nutritionist at the University of Alberta, sets his gestation feeding goal at attaining 0.72 to 0.80 in. (P2 backfat, at the last rib and 2.5 in. off the midline) by farrowing.

“Measure backfat at the time of breeding and make a guesstimate of sow weight,” he says. Based on that information, feed according to Table 1.

Aherne notes that the feed intakes are based on mid-gestation weights, and therefore, do not need to be adjusted throughout gestation.

Lactation Feeding

Aherne balances his lactation feeding strategy between NRC (National Research Council) requirements and age-old advice.

“On our farms, we try to maximize feed intake, but avoid dips in feed intake in mid-lactation,” he says. “We do this by adopting a feeding strategy based on sow size and litter size.”

Here's the basics of Aherne's system for feeding lactating sows:

  • Feed 1% of the sow's weight in kilograms (2.2 lb.) for maintenance; or

  • If you don't know the sow's weight, feed 3.3 lb. for the sow plus 1.1 lb. for every pig in the litter.

He also suggests this practical feeding system:

  • Day of farrowing (Day 0): feed 3.3 to 4.4. lb.

  • Days 1-2: feed 5.5 lb./day.

  • Days 3-7: increase feed intake gradually to reach a maximum feed intake by Day 8 of lactation. The maximum feeding level for sows based on the above is 3.3 lb. for the sow and 1.1 lb. for each pig in the litter.

  • Days 8-12: Maintain sow at target maximum allowance if she has reached it. This will help to avoid any dips in feed intake, he says.

  • Day 12 to weaning: If possible, gradually increase the feed allowance above the targeted maximum allowance. Aherne suggests feeding three times a day or using a wet feeding system for first and second litter sows and sows with large litters.

Table 1: Feed Requirements for Gestating Sows (Day 0 to Day 100)

Backfat (P2*) at Breeding, in.
Weight at Breeding, lb. 0.40 0.44-0.48 0.52-0.56 0.60-0.64 0.68-0.72
Light 253-330 5.28 5.06 4.84 4.62 4.18
Medium 330-385 5.50 5.28 5.06 4.84 4.62
Heavy 385-440 5.94 5.72 5.50 5.28 5.06
Very Heavy 440-495 6.38 6.16 5.94 5.72 5.28
Diet contains 13.5% protein, 0.55% lysine and 1.36 Mcal ME/lb.
*P2 backfat as measured at the last rib and 2.5 in. off the midline.


The calculation on cost/benefit analysis was incorrectly supplied for the article, “Genetically Resistant Line Stops E. coli Cold,” pages 10-12, Nov. 15, 2001, National Hog Farmer.

Based on $1/dose, multiplied by six doses/sow/year, divided by 25 pigs/sow/year, the cost is $.24/pig, not $.10/pig, as stated in the article.