National Hog Farmer is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Articles from 2014 In January

2013 Environmental Stewards: Blue Mountain Farms Anaerobic Digester

"We want to protect (our land) in a sustainable manner for future generations," says Jim Webb, a part of Blue Mountain Farms in MIlford, Utah.

Blue Mountain Farms, owned by Circle Four Farms, houses 21,000 feeder to finish animals and ships about 55,000 animals from farm to market each year.

The farm uses anaerobic digesters to create methane gas, which is sold to the local power company. Flushed from the under-barn pits to the digesters, the manure creates enough power from the methane gas to power 3,000 homes.

2013 Environmental Stewards: Krikke Pork Manure Fertilizer

Krikke Pork, Greenwich, Ohio, is a 2013 Envinronmental Steward Award winner. "Being good stewards of the land is a requirement. Our goal is to leave the land in better shape than when we found it," says Howard Krikke.

The farm raises 10,000 wean to finish hogs each year, and uses the manure to fertilize their crops. The tanks under the barn hold a years worth of manure. 

"It's important to us to minimize odors for two reasons," says Krikke. "1. We don't want to upset our neighbors. 2. If you smell manure, you're losing manure; you're losing fertility." 

He credits manure fertilizer to increased yields and better soil. In using the manure as fertilizer, "the ground actually comes alive," Krikke says.

Reinforcing Proper Animal Care

Iowa pork producer Riley Lewis and Suidae Animal Health veterinarian Amber Stricker have worked together to build a customized onfarm program that prepares Lewis for a possible packer audit
<p>Iowa pork producer Riley Lewis and Suidae Animal Health veterinarian Amber Stricker have worked together to build a customized on-farm program that prepares Lewis for a possible packer audit.</p>

When Riley Lewis heard that his packer, Hormel Foods, was planning third-party audits of hog farms, the Forest City, IA, producer admits his initial reaction was less than lukewarm.

Lewis first learned of Hormel’s Farm Animal Care and Treatment Specifications (FACTS) program this past winter at an informational meeting in Des Moines, IA. The program, which requires producers to adhere to a specific set of animal care standards through development of standard operating procedures and other documentation, would award no premiums for the extra effort.

In addition, producers were told that they would be subject to third-party audits conducted on behalf of the packer to help ensure the principles of the program were being carried out. Lewis comments, “The rollout of FACTS came at a time when producers were losing more than $20 per head, fighting porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome [PRRS] and really didn’t need any more challenges.”

Likewise, Tyson and JBS United have also developed their own sets of comprehensive animal care standards that suppliers must adhere to. Each of the three packers’ programs vary somewhat, but are all based upon the National Pork Board’s Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA Plus) and Transport Quality Assurance (TQA) programs. All three packers have given notification to suppliers of the potential to be subject to third-party audits, which began in 2013. “Eventually it is likely all packers will follow suit,” Stricker believes.

Consulting Help

To help with this daunting task, Lewis, an independent pork producer, quickly turned to swine veterinary consultant Amber Stricker of Suidae Health & Production (, based in Algona, IA. Stricker worked with Lewis’ group of growers in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa to develop a customized handbook that would allow the group to become fully compliant with the new requirements in a way they felt was practical.

“She brought us the handbook, and we went through it and picked the items that applied to our farms, and the ones that we didn’t want included, we crossed off the list,” Lewis says. The refined handbook was approved by a producer board.


Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to the National Hog Farmer Weekly Wrap Up newsletter and get the latest news delivered right to your inbox every week!


Lewis’ independent producer group annually buys 80,000, 12- to 14-lb. segregated early-weaned pigs from an Illinois producer to feed out on members’ farms. Scheduling is handled by the Farmers Co-op in Forest City, which provides feed and nutritional services for the group.

“We each take a share of the pigs and load them into our nurseries. I have four nurseries and about seven other finishing sites scattered around the area, and a 2,400-head finishing site at the home farm near Forest City,” Lewis says.

“We put the pigs out on different farms in our contract grower network,” he says. At any one time, he estimates he has about 10,000 pigs on feed and feeds out about 23,000 pigs a year. The elevator coordinates marketing the hogs, 70% of which are sold to Hormel.

Meeting Packer Requirements

Lewis says he is resigned to the fact that meeting Hormel’s guidelines is necessary and will require more paperwork. He bought clipboards for his growers to help with documentation of production methods. Stricker contributed by providing customized templates to be used for recording things such as daily observations, medication use and site maintenance.

Lewis’ main concern about the program is that the additional paperwork required to comply with the new standards will take away from the valuable time growers need to work with and observe pigs in the barns.

Stricker replies: “We work with producers in an effort to consolidate and simplify the documentation so that they can continue to focus on what is important to them.”

Lewis admits: “We were not ‘Johnny on the spot’ as we should have been with rodent control. But now we have feeding stations, and we are checking them to do the best that we can.”

Suidae’s Animal Care and Training Service (ACTS) also includes an on-farm assessment and is used as an opportunity to educate producers on ways to improve their animal care practices. Tasks such as rodent control, site maintenance and treatment pen management are just a few of the aspects of care that are evaluated as part of the audit.

Third-party audits can be a positive experience and a way for producers to showcase their commitment to animal care. Furthermore, having documentation of these practices is a way for producers to get credit for what they are already doing, Stricker says.

“The packer program is about providing consumer confidence and can also be viewed as the producer’s ‘insurance policy’ amidst allegations of improper animal care or food safety issues,” she points out.

It is a continuous improvement program, which still places the emphasis on the pig, but with an extra emphasis on documentation.

“This is something you can do yourself, but don’t be afraid to ask for resources [such as Suidae Health & Production], which is important to me as an independent producer who doesn’t have a staff to handle recordkeeping, etc.,” Lewis states.

Suidae’s Service

Suidae Health & Production developed the ACTS program to help producers comply with the new packer requirements, Stricker explains.

“Our program is designed to meet the animal care standards set forth by all three packers in addition to those covered in the Pork Quality Assurance Plus site assessment,” she says. Stricker also met with and reviewed the ACTS materials with the packers to ensure the service was one they could have confidence in.

“The reality is, producers are going to have to do more things in the areas of food safety and animal care to maintain consumer confidence, and also because it is the right thing to do,” Stricker says.

Each producer plan is tailored to the individual farm and the protocols are personalized to the producer’s liking in preparation for a possible packer audit. Each site premise of an operation gets a customized handbook.

Program Areas

The handbook provides all necessary documentation including site information, standard operating procedures, protocols and policies, packer-specific information, site records and PQA Plus/TQA materials.

Veterinarians and production specialists with Suidae Health & Production conduct an on-farm audit of each site, reviewing areas such as pharmaceutical use, disposal of sharps, treatment pen management and removal of non-ambulatory animals.

A PQA Plus site assessment is also conducted as a part of the visit.

Specific documentation includes emergency contact information for each site, proof of a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship, and training and biosecurity protocols, as well as animal health and nutrition programs.

Animal care, a big part of the program, covers how to handle piglets, growing pigs and adult animals — helping producers to always thinking about ways to do it better, Stricker says. The program includes National Pork Board’s Whistleblower policy, which provides for anonymous reporting of alleged animal abuse.

Having a written plan on euthanasia is a critical piece of animal care. “It is important to include training not only on proper euthanasia technique, but also on how to confirm insensibility and death,” she says. The Pork Board’s On-Farm Euthanasia of Swine guide is included in the producer packet of information supplied for the audit.

Audit Summary

“Once we complete the farm assessment, we will write a brief summary of the things that the producer can improve upon,” Stricker says. Producers then receive a certificate of completion, which signifies they have met the standards of the program and are equipped to excel in the event of a third-party audit.

“The idea that a consumer would question whether or not a producer goes into their barn daily is offensive to producers who take pride in caring for their animals,” she says. “The majority of the producers out there do most things right, and now they are just being asking to record it,” she explains.

Packer audits are being conducted by Validus, which is the third-party verification service working on behalf of the packers. Stricker emphasizes that audits are always scheduled in advance. This gives veterinarians time to go through a producer’s barns and advise him or her on things to fix or improve upon, which helps put the producer at ease before going through the official audit.

“You want to do well in an audit. Like I told a group of growers recently, consider this is a chance to showcase your operation, because you are good producers who are doing things right,” she says.


Another incentive to perform well in a third-party audit is to avoid penalties as a result of failure to comply with the packer requirements. More important or critical issues are considered to be major non-conformances and carry more serious penalties, which can result in suspension or refusal of future deliveries.

Examples of major non-conformance include willful acts of neglect or abuse, electric prod misuse and failure to use an approved euthanasia method for an animal’s size and age.

In some cases, non-conformances may require a follow-up third-party audit in which the producer is responsible for covering the cost.

“So far the packer audits have gone well among the clients I work with,” Stricker says. Scores have been in the low 90s, which packers have called excellent.

“Three months after having implemented the FACTS requirements, Lewis’ contract growers are doing an excellent job of implementing the program as required,” she comments.

“If producers can show retailers and consumers everything they are doing on the farm is in adherence to best practices, I think this process will turn out to be satisfactory for the pork industry,” Stricker believes.   

You might also like:

Murphy Brown Partners to Turn Manure Into Electricity

PEDV Lateral Spread Study Results Released

Nutrient Research Center Website Unveiled

Starting from Scratch

Growing up at Sand Springs, IA (east of Monticello), Al Wulfekuhle developed a passion for pigs at an early age. He spent a lot of time helping his dad on their 90-sow, farrow-to-finish hog farm, but it was really a summer spent working for a large farmer in the area who had multiple employees and newer equipment and facilities that piqued his interest. This was an eye-opener to the possibilities a career in agriculture could hold for him.

After high school, Al enrolled at Iowa State University, but only lasted one winter quarter. “My dad purchased a hog farm for me to run after completing college, but I couldn’t stand the thought of sitting in a classroom when I could be farming,” Al says. He also convinced his girlfriend, Kathy, to join him and pursue the dream of farming.

“I was just 19 and Kathy had just turned 20 when we were married, and we moved to an old farmhouse in 1979,” Al recalls. “All we had was a card table and chairs and a couch with no legs, but we did splurge and take some wedding money to buy a brand-new waterbed to sleep on.”

They bought the hog farm from Al’s dad almost at the peak of the land prices in the early ’80s and had to scrape along for awhile when prices crashed. When they recovered in the mid-’80s, the couple started hiring employees and renting buildings from the neighbors. “We had hogs in open lots with cornstalks for bedding on 4-5 different farms. That’s how we started expanding, putting pigs on other people’s sites in open lots, where people were starting to get out of pork production.” By using isolated lots, he was able to segregate his early weaned pigs to have better health, a concept he still strongly believes in today.

Birth of G&W Pork

In 1989, Al and Kathy joined with Curt and Cindy Gentz to form a corporation called G&W Pork, which started as a 100-sow, farrow-to-finish operation. “Curt was one of my first employees and he wanted to get into production, so I said we will start this corporation together,” Al explains. Curt left for a few years (1993 to 1997) but returned and is now the production manager for G&W Pork.  

In 1994, Al decided to build his first 1,200-head finishing barn with six rooms of 200 head. Two lenders turned him down for financing the construction. “I remembered my local veterinarian, Dr. Don Bowden, knew the owner of BankIowa in Independence, IA, where he was banking. He went to the bank with me and told the loan officer that he needed to give me a loan,” Al recalls. It was a joint loan with USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). “Sometimes all it takes is someone established in the business to vouch for you. Dr. Bowden did that for me.”

Consulting Service

Bowden called Al in 1996 about a 900-sow farm having breeding problems, which Bowden said he couldn’t figure out, and asked Al if he would help consult on the farm. They met with the owners, and the pair ended up contract-managing the farm together. The new farm manager they hired did an excellent job, so the next year Al asked him to join him in starting a company to manage other farms. This was the birth of CNI Consulting; CNI stands for Constant-Never-Ending-Improvement.

While Al’s partner moved on after a year, CNI continued on, contract-managing seven different farms over the ensuing years, hiring and training the labor and setting up the records. While no longer providing contract management services, CNI’s records bureau continues keeping MetaFarms sow and wean-to-finish production records for eight farms.

New Horizons Pork

In 1999, after the hog crisis of 1998, the owners of one of the farms CNI had previously managed approached Al about buying their 900-sow, farrow-to-feeder pig farm. “I looked at this as an opportunity to take all I learned over the years and apply it,” Al recalls. “First I went to people I highly respected in the industry and asked them to join me. My new partners and I decided to name the company New Horizons Pork.” For two of Al’s new partners, this was their entry into the hog business. One was his feed salesman and the other a manager of a farm Al had contract-managed in the past. Both helped Al immensely and he wanted to return the favor. Together, Al and the partners grew New Horizons Pork into the very successful 3,800-sow, farrow-to-finish operation that it is today.

To pull back some, Al just recently divested his holdings in New Horizons Pork. “My plan now is to slow down a bit and focus on growing and improving G&W Pork and our crop farming operation. This is really where my heart is.”

Place for Independent Farmers

In this age of corporate hog farming, Al likes to think there is a place for the small independent farmer who, just as he did, needs a helping hand along the way.

“I think there is still a place for the young guy who wants to get into the hog business and perhaps build a contract finishing barn, or even own a share of a farrow-to-finish operation.”

Several current growers and employees have needed Al’s willing help starting out. He has guided them on loan applications, from filling out a balance sheet — “because for a lot of them this is their first balance sheet” — to working on cash flow and developing their first manure management plan. Sometimes Al has rented ground or owned buildings with them, but mostly it’s just encouragement and guidance.

These growers realize that the guidance is similar to what Al got when he started out. He stresses to them that owning your own farming business can offer a huge benefit in taxes, building barns and depreciating assets, reinvesting and building net worth. “I tell the guys if they start with $10,000, grow it 15% per year, in less than 17 years they will be a millionaire! All they have to do is look around at some of the other guys to see the proof. The big thing is you’ve got to get smart and work hard, invest in yourself and in your business,” Al says.

Keys to Good Employees

Al says: “The good thing about the guys who work with me is that they are mostly local [to northeast Iowa], which I think is a key to having a long-term employee — they need ties to an area and want to live in the area.”

The other common factor seems to be guys who want to be more than just employees. They want to farm. “That is where I kind of fit in,” he says.

Al has provided a home for five of his current employees, who at one time or another, lived in a house on one of his farms. “People tell me you can’t afford to own a farmhouse, and sometimes I think you can’t afford not to, because these guys need a place to live, and you build a lot of loyalty and trust by providing them your house.” The house has been remodeled several times to keep it nice for employees.

Most of Al’s employees and growers have worked with FSA and the same local bank, BankIowa, that helped Al get started. This isn’t a coincidence. “I’ve steered the guys this way. I tell them this is how I did it; you can, too.

“Lon Janachek at FSA and the people at BankIowa want to help beginning farmers, and they know I’m trying to do the same. We have a pretty good trust level. Just as Dr. Bowden went to the bank to vouch for me, I’ve done the same.”

After completing one year on the job, all employees earn shares in G&W Pork, which forms part of their compensation package. “I’m a firm believer that the quicker an employee feels the pride of ownership, the better long-term employee he will become,” Al says.

By that time, Al knows who is going to stick around. It’s not always an easy “marriage,” with some jostling for more pay and better equipment. But when employees get to see the balance sheet, which he shares with all of them quarterly, they know if profits were earned or not, and whether the chances are good for better benefits — and perhaps the purchase of a new farm pickup.

Sharing Arrangement

Al’s business works almost like a cooperative, but employees and growers get to keep their independence. “Our arrangement is how farmers get bigger by working together. Some of us share planting and harvesting equipment, and if I need a break from the combine for a day, somebody else will run it and I can do something else,” he says.

“This makes getting along huge,” Al says, because sharing equipment and workload means a lot of compromising will be necessary to get the job done.

Contractual building arrangements differ, Al says. Some barns are owned by growers, some Al owns and some are owned by G&W Pork. The constant is that the pigs are all owned by the corporation.

Growers can build different sizes and types of wean-to-finish barns to fit their financing and land base, as long as they have the same humidistats and power inlets for uniform ventilation, and the same feeder types, Al explains.

Growers have the independence to excel or get it wrong in their facilities, and sometimes Al or production coordinator Curt Gentz has to assist them in getting it right. Watch what the pig tells you to know if you’re right or wrong, Al says.

For Al, it’s been the best of both worlds. He readily admits helping others succeed is the reason he’s been successful himself. “I’ve been able to surround myself with very loyal employees, partners and growers. That’s what’s nice about being an independent producer. You get to choose the people you work with in a flexible working environment. I’m really proud of the guys that I work with and what we have been able to accomplish together,” Al says.

Grower Comments

G&W Pork today consists of three sow farms totaling 1,500 sows divided up among three locations. Pigs are commingled into area wean-to-finish barn to be fed out.

Here are the current employees and growers and a few comments on how they started working with Al.


Dave Willie: Dave manages the automated feedmill owned by G&W Pork; works on feed budgeting and records feed sales; hauls market hogs in G&W Pork trucks; and custom-feeds hogs in two, 600-head, wean-to-finish barns that he built for G&W Pork.

Dave hails from nearby Manchester, IA, and attended Kirkwood Community College at Cedar Rapids, IA. He answered an ad that Al ran in a newspaper and was interested in moving closer to home. Al provided a house for Dave and wife Becky to live in, shared crop equipment and rented ground with him his first year. Dave now owns 160 acres he purchased from his dad and uncle. He got his start financially through FSA.


Curt Gentz: Overall production supervisor, Curt attended Ellsworth Community College and Al provided him an internship after school. “I have had a lot of Al’s and Jerome’s [Al’s dad] help.” He was Al’s first attempt at helping someone get started in farming. As stated, they started G&W Pork together, and Al provided a house for Curt and wife Cindy and they worked side by side every day.

Curt, from south of Masonville, IA, got help with financing from FSA and custom-feeds hogs in two wean-to-finish barns he built for G&W Pork. Cindy runs the MetaFarms records bureau. They own 160 acres purchased from Curt’s grandparents and rent additional ground.


Nick Leibold: Nick who lives at Strawberry Point, IA, was renting a 360-sow, farrow-to-wean site and selling weaner pigs when Al met him in 2008, at a time when weaners were selling well below the cost of production. Nick was in the process of liquidating his sow herd and getting out of pork production. In a few weeks, Nick and Al reached an agreement for G&W Pork to buy out his herd and take over his lease. Working together, a couple of years later they bought the 40-acre farm and hog facilities. Nick and his wife, Meghan, were able to buy a nice home that was part of this farm.

Now Nick operates a DNA gilt multiplier, supplying gilts to G&W Pork and three other sow farms. “Al’s help has meant everything to me because I have gotten to continue to enjoy raising hogs.” He also crop-farms with his dad and rents a few acres on his own.


Ryan Bartachek: Ryan was a neighbor kid who did an internship with G&W after attending Kirkwood Community College to learn about hog farming, as he was not raised on a hog farm. He started working for Al about six years ago, and four years ago Al helped Ryan get into ownership. He sold Ryan and his wife, Audrey, part of his home farm consisting of 45 acres, a 500-sow, breed-to-wean facility, grain bins, machine shed and his nice home. Al and Kathy then moved to Quasqueton, IA.

Acquiring the operation allows Ryan to live and work near both his and Audrey’s parents, and crop-farm part-time with his dad. He got his start financially with FSA.


Mike Robinson: Mike started working with G&W right out of high school. Mike has done a lot of different jobs for G&W over the years. Currently, he trucks all of the bean meal, backs up Dave Willie at the feedmill, custom-feeds hogs in two, 800-head, wean-to-finish barns he built for G&W Pork and manages a 2,400-head, wean-to-finish site. He crop-farms a few hundred acres, sharing equipment with a neighbor. He got his start financially through BankIowa.


Sean Baragary: Together Sean and Al bought a 1,600-head, wean-to-finish site with a nice house and machine shed. Sean now manages the G&W Pork North sow farm and a 2,400-head, wean-to-finish site. Sean went to Kirkwood Community College.


Steve Copenhaver: Steve custom-feeds for G&W Pork in buildings he purchased and built. He purchased a farm from his mom and rents additional ground. He started working with G&W Pork when his banker recommended he give Al a call. Steve attended Iowa State University.


Ryan Baragary: Al hired Ryan in high school, and after attending Kirkwood Community College he has worked at G&W Pork ever since. Ryan is currently managing G&W’s gilt developer unit and farrowing at the South sow farm.


Kori Jones: Kori worked for Nick Leibold in high school, went to Kirkwood Community College and started working full time for G&W Pork a year ago. He helps run G&W Pork North sow farm and a 2,400-head, wean-to-finish site. Kori just purchased a house and acreage by the sow unit.     

2013 Environmental Stewards: Bacon Hill Anaerobic Digester

Bacon Hill farms in Dodge, Neb., is a winner of the 2013 Pork Industry Environmental Stewards Awards. 

Danny Kluthe says, "It's importatnt to be good stewards of the land because there are more generations coming down the road. We want to make sure everything is better than we had it."

The farm uses anaerobic digesters to get rid of odor and produce enough methane gas to power the entire farm. The farm uses about 20% of the energy created. The rest is sold to the local power company, and is enough energy to power about 53 homes each year.

The farm has also adapted compressed natural gas technology to make its farm vehicles "hog powered."

2013 Environmental Stewards: Russell Brothers Wind Power

The Russell Brothers, Monticello, Iowa, have been farming in the county since the Civil War and produce 14,000 wean to finish pigs each year. The farm built a wind turbine that provides 60-80% of the farms total electrical energy needs each year. The Russell brothers expect it will pay for itself in five years.

The farm is looking into other sources of renewable and clean energy, including solar an anaerobic digestion.

Producer Perspectives

It’s Time for Farmers to Engage in Social Media

It's no secret farmers are under attack from people who spread misinformation and untruths about agriculture. The Internet is a haven for activists, whether they are talking about animal rights or GMOs. It's time for farmers to engage in social media.

Farmers can counter misinformation by adding a "tool" to their toolbox. And I am not talking about another wrench or screwdriver. I am talking about using social media "tools" to help them tell their story. Fewer and fewer people are getting their news from what is considered traditional methods such as radio, TV and newspaper. More and more are relying on the Internet, websites and social media to get their information.

It's more important than ever that farmers become involved in social media now. Why? We have a small segment of the population who think they know better than farmers how to care for their animals.  Activists may be small in numbers, but they are influential.  It's hard to grasp the seriousness of these activists unless you are exposed to their agenda. Their agenda is to influence and change what consumers can and cannot buy. They do this by putting out misinformation to consumers and food companies.  

We, as farmers, are only 2% of the population, which makes it difficult for the public to hear us. This is why I am involved in social media and why you should be too. We need to be heard and social media allows you to reach an audience you would never be able to reach otherwise. You have heard the old adage, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease."  Farmers need to put away the WD-40 and "squeak".  I feel very strongly that it is our responsibility and duty to tell our side of the story. This is done not by rants, but with respectful conversations. Conversations with consumers and food companies about what we do and why we do it.

Social media tools

Tool #1 - Facebook. If you don't have a personal Facebook page, now is the time to set one up. Next, setup a fan page for your farm. It's a great way to share what you are doing on your farm.  Post pictures, short videos (use a smartphone) and stories of what is happening on your farm and why you are doing it. Lastly, you need followers for your Facebook pages.  Invite all your friends and families from your personal Facebook page to "like" your farm page.   Your follower list will grow resulting in a larger audience. You are creating a social community on Facebook by sharing information, asking questions and responding to comments. Check out the Social Media Guide for more details on how to setup social media.

Tool #2 - Twitter. Tweets are short messages consisting of up to 140 characters. You can tweet a message to a specific person, organization or company. First thing is to setup a twitter account. All twitter accounts start with the character "@". The "@" is followed by a twitter name (or user name).   In addition, tweets use hashtags. A hashtag starts with the symbol "#". Think of hashtags as a way to sort or categorize tweets. For example - tweets that included "#MNPorkcongress" were used in tweets that pertained to the Minnesota Pork Congress. Hashtags allowed users to read all tweets that pertained to the #MNPorkCongress, no matter who tweeted them. Personally, one of my favorite things I like about twitter is I can follow people who may be at a conference I was not able to attend.  They will tweet messages or pictures about what is happening at the conference.  As you engage in social media, you will find that you like and use different social media tools for different reasons. For me, twitter gives me access to a wide array of people, businesses or organizations with interests and backgrounds that I want to follow.

Tool #3 - Blog. Think of a blog as an online diary. Blogging gives you the opportunity to write about anything you want, including what happens on your farm. One word of caution - blogging is time consuming. While tweets and Facebook status updates are shorter in length, blogs are longer and more indepth. Blogs can refer readers to external links on other websites for more information about a topic. The key to a good blog is quality content and concise writing. Quality content is answering the question, "What value does my blog give my readers?"

Anyone can blog.  You don't need a communication or journalism degree to blog. Be authentic and write from your heart. Use this list of farmer bloggers to see what other farmers blog about. Ready to start? Use the site I referenced when I started my blog - FARMnWIFE Blogging Basics.

These are just a few of the social media tools farmers can use. You don't need to use them all. The most important thing is to just do something! Challenge yourself to commit to a certain number of minutes per week to engage in some sort of social media.

If you have any question about how to use social media, you can find me at Facebook: Twitter: @MinnFarmer Blog: or email:

RespiSure-ONE® now approved to be administered in two dose intervals

Zoetis is giving swine veterinarians, as well as pork producers another on-label vaccination option by making RespiSure-ONE® available for a two-dose protocol.

With the new label indication, RespiSure-ONE can be administered intramuscularly with a 1 mL injection at processing and a second 1 mL injection at weaning. This vaccination option is in addition to the previously approved one-dose 2 mL injection at processing.

“Providing this flexible dose option demonstrates our commitment to giving veterinarians and producers solutions that fit their needs and help protect pig health,” said Richard Swalla, DVM, Pork Technical Services, Zoetis.

RespiSure-ONE is licensed for the vaccination of healthy swine 1 day of age or older as an aid in reducing chronic pneumonia caused by Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae (M. hyo). M. hyo is a common bacterial pathogen that infects up to 80% of swine around the world.1,2 It can reduce average daily gain and decrease feed efficiency. The bacteria typically transfers from sow to piglet during lactation as well as from older to younger pigs.

With the new administration option, piglets still get vaccinated on day one, which is important because they may be infected with M. hyo during the first three weeks of life.3,4

“You can be confident that your pigs are getting the protection they need against M. hyo whether you decide to administer two doses or one dose of RespiSure-ONE,” Dr. Swalla said.

For more information on RespiSure-ONE and the protocol options, visit or contact your local Zoetis representative.

About Zoetis

Zoetis (zō-EH-tis) is the leading animal health company, dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on a 60-year history as the animal health business of Pfizer, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and markets veterinary vaccines and medicines, complemented by diagnostic products and genetic tests and supported by a range of services. In 2012, the company generated annual revenues of $4.3 billion. With approximately 9,300 employees worldwide at the beginning of 2013, Zoetis has a local presence in approximately 70 countries, including 29 manufacturing facilities in 11 countries. Its products serve veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals in 120 countries. For more information on the company, visit

Zoetis is the proud sponsor with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the American Veterinary Medical Association of the mobile educational exhibit Animal Connections: Our Journey Together. Families visiting the exhibit will explore the vast bonds between people and animals and learn about the important role veterinarians play in protecting animal and human health. For more information, visit




PEDV Hits Canada--What Happens Next?

PEDV Hits Canada--What Happens Next?

The big news this week is, of course, the discovery of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV)  in Canada.   The virus was confirmed last Thursday to be present in a 500-sow farrow-to-finish operation in Ontario.  Canada also reported that two samples from a loading dock at a Quebec slaughter plant had tested positive earlier in the week.  Late last week there was no apparent connection between the two incidents but there is talk this morning that they may be related. 

How much will this move markets?  In my opinion, no more than the discovery of the virus in a 500-sow farm in the U.S. – and possibly not as much since the U.S. market is far more important from a price discovery point of view.  That is not to say it is insignificant.  It simply doesn’t mean much to markets. 

There is a lot of truck traffic between Canadian farms and assembly yards and U.S. farms and packing plants.   This was pretty much inevitable, especially considering the truck washing challenges posed by winter weather.   It is likely that the Canadians will do a better job of controlling the virus than did we Americans, primarily because they have been able to learn from our experience.  I certainly hope they are successful in those efforts.


Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to the National Hog Farmer Weekly Preview newsletter and get the latest news delivered right to your inbox every week!


One important fact is this:  Canada has declared the disease “reportable” and  will thus generate much more accurate, detailed and meaningful data than have their U.S. counterparts.  That’s not saying much, but contrasting what we will know in Canada with what we have known – or NOT known – in the U.S. may prove quite interesting.

Last week’s Cold Storage Report from USDA indicated that total frozen meat and poultry inventories were at their lowest level in two years on December 31.  That’s not to say that the freezers are empty, since we have 1.938 billion pounds of frozen product on hand. But that figure is 4.1% lower than last year, and 1.6% lower than at the end of November.  Figure 1 shows the monthly freezer stocks data for the four major species.

Meat and Poultry in cold storage

frozen bellies

The largest year-on-year decline among the four major species was for turkey, whose stocks were nearly 20% smaller than at the end of 2012.   Frozen beef stocks were down nearly 6% from one year ago, while chicken stocks were only fractionally (0.4%) lower.

Pork inventories grew by 2% during December and finished the year 1% larger than one year earlier.   The monthly gain was a bit of surprise as stocks frequently decline during December as holiday product moves to retail outlets and holiday-driven slaughter slowdowns reduce output and thus freezer inflow.  I’m not too concerned about the increases since December production, based on weekly data for the four weeks that ended December 28 was 3.7% higher than one year ago.  December 2013 had one more slaughter day than did December 2012 and that extra day is included in the data cited above.  One day added to nineteen would have boosted “slaughter time” by 5.3% so production on an equal day basis was actually a bit lower this year.

The only cut to show a large year-on-year swing was bellies (see chart above), whose inventory grew to 80.556 million pounds, up 123% from one year ago and up 67% from last month.  That’s the highest level since May 2005 and comes on the heels of a record run for bellies prices in 2012.  This does not mean bacon and bellies demand has tanked!  It does imply that bacon may have been priced out of some usage and off of some consumers’ shoping lists.  And what happens then?  Prices fall and inventories grow – just as they have done for bellies – and the product once again becomes attractive, pushing prices higher and drawing down inventories.  I’m not worried about bellies.  Bacon still makes almost anything taste better and that fact has not changed one bit!

Finally, last week’s Cattle On Feed report was generally neutral.  Slightly higher placements will provide some respite for beef consumers come summer but the die is already cast for this spring:  HIGH PRICES.  We doubt that the market can maintain cutout values in excess of $230/cwt. just as it couldn’t keep bellies at $180.  Some buyers will back off of beef.  But they will likely eat some other sort of animal protein, thus strengthening pork, chicken and turkey demand. 

I still see tight beef supplies for the foreseeable future, especially with better pasture conditions and a full-blown expansion of the beef cow herd underway.


North American pork industry data, Jan. 25, 2014

Competing meats, Jan. 25, 2014



You might also like:

It’s All About PEDV in Pork Producer Circles

Propane Shortage Challenges Pork Producers


Five Propane Conservation Tips for Pork Producers

Adjusting heat in a swine building

With the recent spike in propane prices, it’s never too soon to start conserving heating energy. Pork producers may have propane contracted at a reasonable rate but managing heating costs should always be a priority, especially when expenses are rising. 

“Often the first idea for saving heating fuel in hog buildings is to add insulation,” said Jay Harmon, professor in Ag and Biosystems Engineering at Iowa State University. “However, ventilation management should actually come first because more than 80% of the heat loss in a swine building is due to improper ventilation.” Harmon offers these tips for conserving propane this winter.

See Related Story: Propane Shortage Challenges Pork Producers. 

Proper ventilation rate: The goal during colder months is to control moisture and ammonia as much as possible. Underventilating a building will result in poor air quality and may cause health and growth problems with pigs. Conversely, overventilating by just 20% can increase propane usage by 50%. In some cases, especially in wean-to-finish buildings, minimum ventilation fans may be too large, too many fans are used or the percent speed setting may be too high. If overventilation is occurring and you are using two fans for minimum ventilation, try turning off one fan and running the remaining one at a higher speed. Monitor air quality to be sure you are providing enough air. The percentage shown in the controller is likely not the percentage of fan capacity so it may take time to find the appropriate setting.

Adjust the temperature: The proper temperature is important for energy efficiency. Observe the pigs to determine their comfort level. If pigs are too cold, they will huddle and pile up when resting. If they’re too warm, they will avoid each other. Adjust the temperature so pigs sleep side by side but not in a pile. Just a few degrees difference can save a substantial amount of propane.

Adjust the heater: The controller should be adjusted so that minimum ventilation fan speed never increases while the heater is cycling. If the heater runs and then shuts down and you can hear a fan increase its speed, it means that the heater is shutting off too close to the setpoint. If you hear this happening, simply adjust the heater to shut off at a slightly lower temperature. In the case of one producer, it was documented that setting the heater to shut off one-half degree lower saved 3.75 gallons of LP per furnace per day.

Adjust the ventilation when using brooders: Some producers use brooders for small pigs. This allows them to keep the room cool, but the pigs feel warmer due to localized heating. If the setpoint is low—70 degrees, for instance—extra fans may switch on to maintain this cool temperature in the room. A better approach is to set the room setpoint just above the brooder temperature—85 degrees, for example—but to have your heater turn off at a lower temperature, such as 70 degrees. By preventing fans from cycling too early, this technique retains more heat in the building rather than discarding it through the ventilation system.

Seal leaks: Air leaks such as holes in ventilation curtains, leaky fan louvers or cracks around doors may create cold spots which cause heaters to run longer than necessary. Eliminate these and other leaks to maintain air quality and to reduce propane consumption.

Keep the most in-depth pork production information available at your fingertips! Download our Blueprint app today.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offers ventilation workshops for swine producers to help them master these and other ventilation management concepts. If you are interested in learning more about upcoming workshops or in scheduling a workshop for a group, contact your local ISU Extension swine specialist or email Jay Harmon at Please visit for a free PDF copy of “Managing swine ventilation controller settings to save energy” and for more information about conserving propane all around the farmstead.

You might also like:

It’s All About PEDV in Pork Producer Circles

Propane Shortage Challenges Pork Producers

PEDV Breaks Out in Canada