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Articles from 2016 In January

2016 Iowa Pork Congress

Iowa Pork Congress is the largest winter swine tradeshow in the United States, annually attracting 5,000 visitors from more than a dozen states. Attendees visit with nearly 300 companies promoting their products and services for the swine industry.

Iowa Pork Congress also offers several education seminars amd workshops facilitated by industry experts.

President interview: Al Wulfekuhle, IPPA

Al Wulfekuhle, Iowa Pork Producers Association President

This week straight from the Iowa Pork Congress, National Hog Farmer Editor, Cheryl Day, visits with Al Wulfekuhle, president of the producer association in the country's leading pork-production state.

What you will learn from this interview:

  1. The key to introducing new pig farmers to the industry.
  2. Look ahead, the big issues to tackle in 2016 for Iowa pork producers
  3. Presidential goals to accomplish this year.

Day: What is the overall attitude of Iowa pork farmers moving into the new year?

Wulfekuhle: Iowa pork producers are “cautiously optimistic.” Summer futures are offering profitability levels. Overall, producers are thinking it will be a pretty good year. However, more pigs are coming. Genetics, sow productivity and feed efficiency keep improving through the years. We keep expanding through these advancements before any major planned expansion projects are complete.

Day: Since you started in the pork business, what has changed over the years?

Wulfekuhle: During my whole career (36 years), the issues have continuously changed. One issue we did not have before is consumer perception. They want to know more about production. They want to know we are caring for our animals and want to have a little say in how we care for them. That has brought on the common industry audit and self-assessments. They also want us to be little more transparent and that is what we are trying to do.

Day: Tell us about your business philosophy for your hog operation.

Wulfekuhle: We have seven employees and have a good relationship with all of them. They allow me to do what I am doing here today. We try to do a lot for them. As part of their compensation package, we give them shares in the hog corporation and many have purchased additional shares as a result. Most of our employees own wean-to-finish units that we lease back from them. Kahty and I actually moved off the farm, selling it to one of his employees to assist him in getting started as an independent hog farmer. Mentoring young hog farmers is very important to me.

Day: How do you get the next generation into the pig business?

Wulfekuhle: There is a challenge to entry which keeps getting tougher because everything is so expensive. It is hard to get young people started as pig owners. So, I would challenge other independent pork producers to try to help their employees to get their foot in the door. Contract growers are great, but I would like to see more new people have ownership. Helping the next generation is more about being a mentor rather than a boss. It is about showing them how to do a budget and how to go to the lender. There are programs available for the new farmer with the Farm Service Agency. We have to show them how to fill out the paperwork and apply for the program, giving them the confidence to proceed.

Day: As president, what is your bucket list of items that you want to accomplish?

Wulfekuhle: I have things I want to accomplish as IPPA president:

  • More membership involvement: We are a grassroots organization and we have a committee structure with 16 committees. IPPA has a committee for everyone. We try to use whatever people’s talents and expertise are to benefit our organization. I like to get more people in involved in our organization from all aspects not just pig owners but also those employed in the industry.
  • Nutrient reduction strategy: IPPA just started a task force and we would like to get going on that. The goal of the task force is to maximize the nutrients in hog manure. We are working with Iowa State University so it will be science-based. This program will work in coordination with corn and soybean organizations by investing in the Iowa Ag Water Association program, which is a good start. We felt like we needed to do more. Part of the goal is to use new technology to measure nitrogen that is available in the soil to crop and to be able to adjust rates to maximize yields. As hog farmers, we are restricted by our manure management plans. We want to maximize nutrients based on application timing, how much rain we get and how we apply it. Educating the hog farmers will be a big part of this program.
  • Connect with consumers: We need to connect with consumers better. In the last two years, IPPA has formed a social media committee which prompted hosting a food blogger tour with National Pork Board and National Pork Producers Council – Pass the Pork Blogger Tour. One other important program is Farmchat, which connects classrooms virtually with the hog farm. It is using technology to take the iPad out to someone’s barn and do a live media chat with the classroom and the producers as they walk around the barn.
  • Foreign animal disease: Foreign animal disease risk is huge. We have been working with the ISU diagnostic lab to put premise ID numbers on all samples the lab receives, since having an ID number is mandatory for Iowa. Then you can trace it back quickly. Now we are taking it one step further and we are adding barcode labels so those samples can be easily scanned. Next phase is electronic submissions to make the paperwork seamless. The final stage is working with University of California, Davis, to use geospatial mapping to see how disease spreads. That is what stopping the next foreign animal disease is all about – communication, identifying it quickly, identifying the surrounding sites, quarantining and shutting it down. I am very passionate about this project.

Day: What are the big issues in 2016?


  • Profitability: Expansion has come, and we are little worried about packer capacity this fall and winter. Hopefully, we keep weights current going into the fall, so, we do not get backed up at the packing plants and have another 1998-type scenario. I lived through that and I do not want to ever do that again.
  • Export markets: Free trade agreements will be huge but unfortunately it looks like no one (legislators) will touch the Trans-Pacific Partnership until the lame duck session. We need to open up exports and we need to even out the playing field.
  • Education: We also need to educate the producers especially with the new Veterinary Feed Directive coming up in Jan. 1, 2017. I do not think it is going to be a big issue for our state, but I do not want anyone coming to me and say I did not know about this. 

IPPA announces 2015 class of Master Pork Producers

The 2015 class of Master Pork Producers was formally introduced by the Iowa Pork Producers Association at the 44th annual Iowa Pork Congress Banquet in Des Moines last night.

This 74th class features 10 Iowa hog farmers or production company employees who were selected and recognized by their peers for excellence in pork production. A slide show highlighting each new Master Pork Producer's operation was shown and the coveted brass belt buckle, emblematic of the award, and a certificate of achievement was presented to each producer.

The 2015 Master Pork Producers are:

  • Tom and Kathy Langel, Le Mars, Plymouth Co.
  • Leon Puhrmann, Paulina, O'Brien Co.
  • Marv and Helene Rietema, Sioux Center, Sioux Co.
  • Jim and Lisa Boyer, Ringsted, Emmet Co.
  • Alan Bormann, Livermore, Kossuth Co.
  • Mike Kuhlemeier, Rockwell, Cerro Gordo Co.
  • Keith Wilgenbusch, Winthrop, Buchanan Co.
  • Matt and Courtney Gent, Wellman, Washington Co.

IPPA created the Master Pork Partner Award in 2014 to recognize pork production company employees who don't have active daily roles at a specific production site, but have demonstrated positive impacts in their production systems and a commitment to the pork industry's We Care ethical principles.

  • Master Pork Partner - Ed Koedam, Larchwood, Lyon Co.
  • Master Pork Partner - Bill Steenstra, Independence, Buchanan Co. 

Nominated by their peers and neighbors, all of the award winners are recognized for their expertise in their segments of the production cycle and understanding of current industry issues, quality assurance, animal identification and well-being and their production efficiency.

There is considerable diversity and specialization in pork production in Iowa today and it's evident in the 2015 class of Master Pork Producers. The majority of hog farming is still done primarily by farm families and the production diversity helps maintain the strength of the Iowa pork industry and enables Iowa producers to compete successfully in the domestic and international commodity and specialty markets.

The Iowa Pork Producers Association and Iowa State University co-sponsor the Master Pork Producer program, which began in 1942, to demonstrate the character and breadth of Iowa pork production.

PRRS, PEDV control proposal carries weight

Hog farmers are continually striving to keep disease from entering their farms. Knowing what diseases are out there is part of the problem, and Minnesota pork producers are trying to get a better handle on that. They are particularly interested in the movement of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus.

Minnesota producers finish 15 million hogs a year. According to the state Board of Animal Health, 5.9 million pigs come into Minnesota from other states and another million come in from Canada.

Certificates of Veterinary Inspection are required for hogs coming into Minnesota, and the state’s Pork Producers Association is proposing to partner with the state BAH to start gathering information on the origin herd status relative to PRRS and PEDV for pigs entering the state. If this proposal is adopted by the MPPA board, the BAH would be asked to request that CVIs include a statement disclosing the PRRS and PEDV status of the original herd of pigs coming into the state.

The key word there is request. Wisconsin, Minnesota’s neighbor to the east, requires that PRRS and PEDV status be included on CVIs. Hogs coming into Wisconsin that are PEDV-positive will not be allowed to enter the state. Hogs coming into Wisconsin from PRRS- or PEDV-positive herds will not be restricted in movement.

Conversely, the Minnesota proposal, if adopted, would not restrict movement of any hogs, regardless if they come in with a PRRS- or PEDV-positive declaration on the CVI.

David Wright, a veterinarian with Wright Veterinary Services at Buffalo, Minn., presented the proposal during an open forum at the recent Minnesota Pork Congress. Bill Hartmann, state veterinarian with the Minnesota BAH, helped with the presentation.

Wright assured those attending that this, if approved, would be a voluntary program. Stressing that PRRS and PEDV control “remains a responsibility of the swine industry, government won’t step in because these diseases don’t impact human health or exports.”

Specific herd information is protected, made that way seven to eight years ago when legislation was passed to keep producers’ information private, Hartmann said. The three exceptions to that rule, Hartmann says, if the information would be helpful in protecting animal health, public health or if necessary for law enforcement purposes.

Though specific herd details will be kept confidential, Wright says disease information gleaned from the CVIs will be shared with producers to create a picture of the swine disease landscape within the state.

The executive board of the state pork producers will consider this proposal at one of their next meetings, with the intent of having the program operating efficiently by this fall when disease concerns are usually on the rise.

“We have a national herd, not local herds,” Wright says. “we’re trying to promote transparency; get producers to share herd health information. It behooves us to remain transparent.”

As with any voluntary program, participation is not guaranteed. But, for such a program to succeed and provide the best swine health picture, high participation is necessary.

Producers need to care enough about the greater good of their industry, and by extension their own farms to push that this proposal gets adopted, then they need to take this a step further by participating and sharing the health status of their mobile hog herd.

As in the words of Dave Preisler, Minnesota Pork Board executive director, “We want to do what’s right for producers,” and by extension, the entire industry.

Effective biosurveillance vital to achieving healthy swine herds, industry

Every hog producer knows that technology has greatly enhanced the industry’s way of doing business.

One area that is vastly changing in today’s hog industry is biosurveillance. Changes need to be made to be able to react more rapidly in the event of a disease outbreak. That lesson was learned when porcine epidemic diarrhea virus first hit the U.S. swine herd in 2013, and the industry could only react.

Jeff Zimmerman, professor of disease ecology in the Department of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University, says producers have a good system in place, but it needs some tweaking.

As a broad definition, Zimmerman says surveillance is data based on testing, but one has to know what they are testing and how. Zimmerman uses Senecavirus A research by Pablo Pineyro as an example. Pineyro had a study of sows that were rRT-PCR-positive for Senecavirus A, even though whether serum, feces or tonsil swabs were tested, 9%, 18% and 27%, respectively, appeared clinically normal (see chart above). Screening of piglets showed similar results: 18% being PCR-positive for Senecavirus A, even though they were clinically normal. Piglets’ screenings of feces and tonsils came back 36% and 27% PCR-positive, respectively. “We need to be in position where we can deal with the subclinical or aclinical,” Zimmerman says.

This leads into Zimmerman’s plea that to make a surveillance work and be effective, it needs to be fast, accurate, affordable and practical. “A long-recognized fact is that we need to have a federal, state and industry partnership,” Zimmerman says.

Though it had been a long-standing feeling that national biosurveillance programs do not work, Zimmerman argues the pieces are already in place; producers just have to know where to start. He quotes George Washington Carver: “Start where you are, with what you have.”

According to Zimmerman, what producers have is “a system with veterinarians in the field; experts in the field where the pigs are. They know what diseases look like, they know how to collect samples and submit samples to the VDLs. Once they’re at the VDLs, we know how to get the results back to them.”

The veterinary diagnostic laboratories are used to heavy lifting. Zimmerman recalls that during the latter days of the pseudorabies eradication program, the ISU VDL was running 1 million to 2 million samples each year. “That’s 5,000 to 10,000 each day; that’s a big testing capability.”

ISU is just one of the many VDLs, and Zimmerman also presented data for the University of Minnesota VDL, which performed 1.4 million tests in 2012. South Dakota State University’s VDL ran just over 400,000 tests in 2013.

“These labs can run a lot of samples, and get the results back out to the field effectively and efficiently through the Web and email,” he says.

In addition to getting the test results back out to the veterinarians and producers in the field, the system is evolving to a shared database between the VDLs. “The power in that concept is so the VDLs will have the data for a coordinated emergency response,” he says. “You could not have built a better system if you had tried to on purpose. … This system has developed on its own, there’s never excessive money. It’s practical and it works.”

It does work, but it can work even better. “The saying I like is not, ‘the devil is in the details,’ but ‘God is in the details.’ The most beautiful parts of anything are the details, and we have some details to work out here. … We have an unprecedented opportunity to create a supremely effective surveillance system.”

One way to improve the system in place, Zimmerman says, is to collect oral fluids. He says oral fluids “do a lot more work, with a lot less effort than bleeding pigs. … Our vets and our labs know oral fluids.”

Regardless what test the labs decide to run, “we need to be ready to run them tomorrow. We have the capacity [to perform the tests], we have the personnel, but do we have the tests? And right now we don’t,” Zimmerman says. “Especially if you look at foreign animal diseases; we have PCRs in the National Animal Health Laboratory Network labs, but we have limited access to the test that they need to be ready to confront an FAD.”

Zimmerman says chosen tests will need to be available in commercial kits, be able to provide high through-put, and be reproducible and repeatable. “We need to be assured the results will be the same no matter how often the test is repeated,” he says. Lastly, the results of the tests need to be accurate. “The biggest danger is false positives, because you lose the confidence of those you’re trying to help.”

Tests will continually be assessed and improved, and “we need this information now, not after we’ve confirmed a problem. We need to assess our tests, selecting the best tests and encouraging and pushing our diagnosticians to create better tests,” he says.

Once the information is in

Diagnostic data and information are only good if they are in a usable form.

Rodger Main, also with ISU’s VDL, says that in situations where VDLs are testing for diseases that are required by law or rule to be reported to the appropriate state and federal veterinary medical agencies, the VDLs within the NAHLN electronically transfer these reportable disease diagnostic results to the USDA’s Laboratory Messaging Service, which receives and stores the VDL data. This information is then pushed to the Emergency Management Response System, a state and federal authorities’ database system to manage program diseases and program disease events.

This system was used extensively during the 2015 outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza. This outbreak led to a four-month sustained response at the laboratory. In Iowa alone, there were 77 HPAI infected premises, with 32 million birds killed, or approximately 40% of the state’s layers.

The core elements of preparedness identified during the PEDV pandemic of 2013-2014 were once again evident during the HPAI experience. Validated diagnostic assays, high-throughput testing platforms, user-friendly and effective sample types for herd-flock level diagnosis, premises identification numbers on VDL submission forms, and electronic messaging of results are important elements necessary to mount a proficient and scalable response to emerging disease outbreaks.

“We proved that we had competent personnel, validated assays, high-throughput testing platforms, user-friendly and effective sample types — both at the farm and at the lab — and we had PINs on diagnostic records, and the ability to message results,” Main says.

Taking a step back and reviewing the effectivity of the process, Main says the quality, completeness, traceability and connectivity of veterinary diagnostic records were identified as areas requiring collective efforts to improve amid the 2015 HPAIV outbreak. Incomplete, inconsistent and/or vague information on the front-end of the diagnostic process (e.g., information included on the diagnostic submission form) was the primary source of confusion concerning the who, what, where, when and why questions associated with veterinary diagnostic records.

“From past experience, we have found that the human-readable formats for premises level identifiers are not really fit for our current way that we handle information in the digital era,” Main says. Premises identification numbers are a unique seven-digit alpha numeric code that serves as the primary premises level identifier and/or point of traceability for official veterinary medical records.

What Main and his team at ISU have figured out is that these PINs can be transformed to a bar code system or incorporated into pre-populated client-specific dropdown menus. Locally they have transformed the front end of the diagnostics system to be more digital. The ISU VDL has implemented a suite of user-friendly methods when submitting specimens to the VDL that allow clients to either use bar codes or a Web-based submission tool. Both options result in the electronic transfer of the full complement of premises or site level identifiers.

At the end of the day, Main says VDLs need to meet the expectations of the stakeholders in the field:

■ competent VDL personnel and infrastructure

■ quality assays and test results

■ turnaround time (same day/next day)

■ electronic distribution of results

■ cost-effective service

■ protect and sustain the continuity their business

These missions are consistent with the local lab, as well as the mission of the NAHLN.

Main says that ISU, in collaboration with the University of California-Davis and Boehringer-Ingelheim, has been working to develop a network capable of “linking VDL submissions, corresponding test results, attending veterinarian insight, and an interpreted health status of farm sites to a highly capable spatiotemporal disease management tool for use in area-regional, veterinary clinic or production system swine health monitoring and control initiatives,” with a desired outcome of providing a user-friendly system for monitoring the health status of swine herds over time. He adds that this information can be used for an individual farm or operation, an entire production system, veterinary practice or area-regional project.

ISU has developed a Web-based platform (Animal Health Management and Evaluation System) that will receive and interpret the swine health data that has been submitted, and then push that information to Disease BioPortal (University of California-Davis) for further analysis and reporting. Disease BioPortal provides permissioned users with real-time disease analysis and mapping.

Main says this network, which is in transition from development to an operational phase, will be piloted as a bureau-based service in 2016, allowing clients to monitor health status and/or diagnostic trends of their pork production operations over time.

Dawn of new age

Disease detection is imperative for any hog producer, and getting a jump on that diagnosis is of utmost importance.

Lindsey Holmstrom, a research assistant professor of epidemiology in the Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, feels the Enhanced Passive Surveillance System can bring an important tool for early disease detection into the hands of producers.

Holmstrom explains the main concepts of a syndromic biosurveillance system are to provide automatic or near real-time data collection, analysis and dissemination.

“Technology is trying to bring advances into the hands of producers and veterinarians to help them make better decisions” when it comes to the health and well-being of their swine herd, Holmstrom says.

Though producers and the veterinarians that they enlist to help care for their livestock have become pretty good at detecting health concerns in their herds, a technologically-based surveillance system can present issues before they are physically visible to an individual’s eyes. “The use of data and methods can allow for identification of subtle trends not visible to an individual,” she says. This “heads up” provides indicators to anomaly detection, investigation, quantification, localization, communication and outbreak management.

“Under traditional surveillance, disease may be spreading throughout the farm or an entire production system,” Holmstrom says. “We’re trying to get to an early understanding, and we really need routine collection of disease data, as well as healthy data; what is going on from a clinical view, and to collect that on a real-time basis.”

Common sense says that the earlier a producer or veterinarian can detect a disease anomaly on a farm, the better chance of treatment. Equally important, though, is knowing what is going on around your farm. Holmstrom says by knowing what risks neighboring farms are enduring, producers can then know how to treat their own herds.

With the new emerging or transboundary diseases existing as risks, early detection is even more imperative. “Many have atypical clinical signs and/or clinical signs that mimic endemic diseases,” she says.

Most U.S. producers suffered losses from porcine epidemic diarrhea virus the last few years, so the risk of emerging and transboundary diseases is a very real concern, and that is why Holmstrom sees the ability of this data analysis and monitoring makes this a “really exciting time.”

EPSS was developed by the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases in 2012, and though in Phase II, Holmstrom says it is still a pilot project.

Phase II will include the expansion to all major livestock and poultry industries, as well as wildlife; develop data confidentiality rules and processes; design industry-customized mobile applications and analyst workstation; incorporate incentives to promote and encourage participation; integrate and evaluate multiple data streams; integrate sophisticated analytical tools capable of processing complex/big data; develop concepts of operations to support the implementation of a national EPS system; perform exercises to evaluate the efficacy/utility of the system and transition a low-cost, low-maintenance system.

EPSS was first made for the iPad, but is now available for most mobile platforms, thus making the information being shared more readily available to producers and veterinarians.

To make any system most beneficial to users, there need to be just that — users.

Holmstrom says there have been efforts made to support participation in the program. Such incentives for participation include access to other developed tools and incentives, as well as a weekly summary report and epidemiological analysis.

An effective surveillance program needs to be an integrated approach linking producers, veterinarians, laboratories, industry, and state and federal officials.

Holmstrom summarizes the benefits of the EPSS:

For veterinarians

■ receive disease trend notifications/alerts from state animal health officials and the USDA

■ share expertise and network on a members-only online discussion forum

■ obtain opportunities for continuing education on the prevention/diagnosis/treatment of diseases affecting their producers/clients

For producers/clients

■ receive subsidized diagnostic testing and Extension support for animal health issues that meet defined clinical criteria

■ support production management and infectious disease control using customizable tools at both the individual farm and integrated company levels

■ obtain increased awareness of disease concerns in the industry that may impact business operations and recommended management practices

For industry

■ detect emerging infectious disease concerns more rapidly than traditional surveillance methods

■ improve communication between key stakeholder groups to manage endemic and emerging infectious disease concerns more effectively

■ protect domestic and international trade markets by identifying geographic areas that are under veterinary observation and free from disease

“Dissemination and decision-making are maybe the most important part of this technology,” she says.

Apps are available for free download on Apple App and Google Play stores, and Web-based platforms are also supported.

Cold storage report friendly to hogs; inventories still large

Cold storage report friendly to hogs; inventories still large

Friday’s Cold Storage report was, we think, friendly to hogs and pork, neutral for cattle and beef and slightly positive for chicken. The report, whose key numbers appear in Figure 1, showed that total meat and poultry inventories remain large at 2.176 million pounds (14.7% larger than one year ago) but that they did decline by 1.2% in December.

Pork inventories are still large but the December change was much larger (-15.3 million pounds) than normal (+1.8 million pounds) even as we set a record for pork production per slaughter day. December pork production of 2.207 billion pounds carcass weight was the second highest ever; second only to October 2012 when 2.211 billion pounds were produced. But December 2016 had only 22 slaughter days while October 2012 had 23.

Produced a lot of pork; used a lot more

But I digress. The important lesson is that we produced a lot of pork and used even more during December. We still don’t know exactly where all that pork went but recall that November exports were 19% higher than one year ago. They still weren’t robust by any means, but they did take more product off the U.S. market than they did one year ago.

Given lower wholesale prices, that likely continued in December but I seriously doubt that any export growth accounted for both the added production and the drawdown in stocks. Lower retail pork prices (only 1.9% versus last year and 1.4% versus last month) helped move some more volume but we think the modest price declines will, when compared with domestic disappearance, mean that pork demand was relatively strong in December. We will not know that until December export data are released.

Chicken inventories were lower for the month, but remain very burdensome and 21% larger than last year. As can be seen in Figure 2, these chicken stocks are still very close to all-time highs and we have to remember than the fourth quarter is the seasonal low for chicken output. Where leg products have led these increases most months this year, they were no more a contributor in December (+19%) than were other chicken items. Beef stocks remain very close to record large.

Ham inventories declined 37.8% during December, and are now just 2% larger than they were one year ago. The December drawdown of ham stocks was about 10 million pounds (25%) larger than normal. The Dec. 31 stock of 67.823 million pounds was by far the smallest so far this year. Back on April 1, U.S. ham inventories were 66.6% larger than one year ago.

Belly stocks of 53.4 million pounds were 12.5% larger than one year ago. Here again, the December change (+12.23 million pounds) was significantly smaller than the five-year average change of +16.736 million pounds.

Feeders, fats reflect bearishness

Friday’s Cattle on Feed report was somewhat bearish for cattle futures and both feeders and fats reflected that in Monday’s trading. Placements were the most bearish aspect of the report, coming in over 4% higher than was expected, on average, by analysts who were surveyed beforehand. Lower feeder cattle imports, recent cattle market volatility and some pretty harsh weather were all very good reasons for sharply lower placements (analysts thought about 5%). But those don’t seem to have mattered much as feeders placed 1.525 million head, just 0.8% fewer than one year ago.

The cattle and beef markets are still dealing with an extremely front-loaded supply of cattle, however, with still 11% more cattle in inventory that have been on feed 120 days or more. That’s a smaller number than at many time in the past nine months but still a bunch of long-fed cattle that, in spite of some rough weather and some efforts to get current, are still very large! We still think the beef sector will be under some pressure through the first quarter, but I still expect live prices back in the mid-$130s by April.

Be ready to price those hogs

I will include another urging for pork producers to be pricing or ready to price hogs. My contention that we would see some $80 hogs this summer doesn’t look quite so silly (thank goodness!) now with June and July futures closing above $79 today. The average for today’s close across the eight contracts was $72.06. With average costs in the mid-$60s, those prices mean profits, on average, north of $10 per head this year.

Fourth quarter futures are now $67.60 and $63.40, a darn site higher than my $59-$61 forecast for national net negotiated prices in that quarter. The market is still trending upward so keeping some or all of your powder dry is advisable. But you may be near “seeing the whites of their eyes” as Old Hickory told his waiting soldiers. The time to fire is drawing near, I think.

Vegan butcher, just plain wrong

Over the weekend, a Minneapolis butcher shop stole a little bit of the headlines from the East Coast blizzard by holding a grand hoopla, celebrating the opening of the first vegan butcher shop. Yes, I said “Vegan Butcher” shop. So, exactly how does this work?

In a society that seems to strive on being politically correct all the time, do we not see something wrong with a food establishment featuring meat-free meat calling itself a “butcher”? After all, by definition a butcher is a person who harvests animals and handcrafts the meat into desirable cuts we all love to devour. I guess since the sister and brother duo claims to “carefully craft 100% vegan, cruelty-free meat and cheese alternatives that capture the best flavors, textures and nutrients most people are used to without their negative impacts on health, animals and the environment”, it qualifies as a butcher shop. Personally as a lover of words, I think that is some special kind of creative wordsmithing and marketing, right there. At the same time, it is just plain unethical and wrong on all levels. 

Before I go any further, let me stress that I strongly believe that each person has the right to choose what they eat. If you select a meatless meal or meatless diet — fair enough; then it only leaves more meat for the rest of us to savor.

However, someone needs to explain to me what exactly is the fascination of creating faux meat and cheese that looks precisely the same thing as the real deal — hoping to trick meat lovers into eating tofu bacon? Really? If meat and cheese is such a bad thing, then why mimic it? Isn’t imitation the highest form of flattery? Looking over the products listed on the menu (listed below), using words such as sausage, butter, bologna, ham, turkey and cheeses breaks the truth in advertising rule book.   

Probably, a bigger concern is the loud message The Herbivorous Butcher owners Aubry and Kale Walch are sending to the world that animal proteins are bad for our health and the environment. A message most likely carried over from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals meetings they openly admit to attending.

Just looking at research, a Purdue University team of scientists found that including protein from lean pork in your diet can help you lose weight while maintaining more lean tissue, including muscle. Overall, meat and poultry are smart, healthy options for a balance diet. In the recently released 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services recommends that a variety of protein foods, which include lean meats and poultry, should be part of people’s healthy diets. Rightfully so, meat and poultry products are nutrient-dense food jam-packed with protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B in low-calorie package when selecting the lean cuts.

Moreover, research from Carnegie Mellon University found growing fruits and vegetables required relatively high resource uses and greenhouse gas emissions per calorie when compared to meat and poultry. In fact, it increases the environment impact in three categories — energy (increase by 38%), water (10% more) and GHG emissions (increase by 6%).

“Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon,” says Paul Fischbeck, professor of social and decisions sciences and engineering and public policy. “Lots of common vegetables require more resources per calorie than you would think. Eggplant, celery and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken.”   

Yet, the hardest part of the Herbivorous Butcher’s mission to swallow is the statement “negative impact to animals”. I am thankful everyday that God gave us the animals and plants to nourish our bodies. Livestock producers do not take the animals they raise for granted and treat them with the utmost respect by passionately caring for them everyday. Technology advancements have allowed the meat and poultry industry not to waste any part of the animal.

Finally, for PETA-touting members like the Walches, the term of “butcher” is often associated with murder which is far from the actual process of harvesting. If the term is so negative, I have to ask why use it as your brand?

Energy values of soybean meal may depend on where beans are grown

Energy values of soybean meal may depend on where beans are grown

Differences in soil type, variety of soybeans, climate or processing conditions can cause the same crop to have different nutritional value when produced in different locations. However, feed composition tables combine values from crops grown all over the world. Results of recent research at the University of Illinois indicate that book values for energy in soybean meal underestimate the energy value of soybean meal produced in the United States.

“In the experiments we’ve conducted using soybean meal here at the University of Illinois, we have calculated values for digestible and metabolizable energy that were consistently 200 to 400 kcal/kg greater than values in feed composition tables,” explains Hans H. Stein, professor of animal sciences at the U of I. “Most of those experiments have been conducted using soybean meal derived from beans grown in Illinois. So we decided to compare soybean meal from Illinois with soybean meal produced in other states, to determine if our results were due to better nutritional value of soybean meal produced in Illinois.”

Stein led a team that evaluated the energy content of 22 sources of soybean meal obtained from crushing plants in four zones in the United States. Michigan, Minnesota and South Dakota comprised Zone 1; Georgia, Indiana and Ohio made up Zone 2; Zone 3 was Iowa, Missouri, and Nebraska, and Zone 4 was Illinois.

Concentrations of digestible energy, metabolizable energy and net energy were the same for soybean meal from Zones 1 2, and 4, but soybean meal from Zone 3 contained less DE, ME, and NE than soybean meal from Zones 1 and 2.

Results did not confirm the hypothesis that soybean meal from Illinois contained more energy than soybean meal from other areas of the United States. Instead, results indicate that soybean meal produced in the United States – regardless of growing area – provides more energy to pigs than what is indicated in current feed composition tables, including values published in the most recent tables from the National Research Council.

According to Stein, if soybean meal produced in other countries has reduced energy value compared with U.S. soybean meal, it lowers the average values published in feed composition tables, but this hypothesis has not been experimentally verified. It is also possible that soybean meal produced from modern genetic material simply contains more digestible energy than soybean meal produced from previous varieties of soybeans.

“We know that for broiler chickens, soybean meal produced in the United States has greater ME values than soybean meal produced in Argentina.”

Stein says more studies are needed to compare the DE, ME or NE of soybean meal produced in different countries and fed to pigs. But the bottom line is that soybean meal produced in the United States contains at least 200 kcal more DE, ME and NE than indicated by current book values. These new energy values will increase the economic value of soybean meal and reduce diet costs if used in diet formulations for pigs.

The research was supported by a grant from the Illinois Soybean Association and the paper, “Concentrations of digestible, metabolizable, and net energy in soybean meal produced in different areas of the United States and fed to pigs,” was co-authored by Kelly Sotak-Peper and Caroline González-Vega, both from the U of I, and published in a recent edition of the Journal of Animal Science

New strategies for an old foe

For the past month in central Illinois, weather has been perfect for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome transmission, with temperatures in the 30s, fog, rain and sloppy conditions. Our expected seasonal epidemic of PRRS has started. The onset of a PRRS outbreak in a sow farm is extremely demoralizing to the staff. Virulent strains of PRRS are reported to be lingering longer in herds, with some reported weaning positive pigs for 40 to 50 weeks. Our focus must be to eradicate the wild-type virus from the farm reliably and on a predictable timeline.

Time to negative pig

This term was coined by Daniel Linhares, D.V.M., at the University of Minnesota (now at Iowa State University). It is a measurement of how long it takes after the outbreak to wean negative pigs on a consistent basis using the American Association of Swine Veterinarians PRRS Classification – Positive Stable (II) herd. This is defined as:

  • test serum from weaning-age pigs by polymerase chain reaction
  • no positive results over a 90-day period (four consecutive negative herd tests sampling every 30 days or more frequently)
  • no clinical signs consistent with PRRS observed in breeding herd

When a herd meets this testing definition, the interval from the break date to the date of their first negative test is the interval for TTNP. A study (D. Linhares, 2014) following 61 sow herds after a PRRS introduction identified a median time of 26.6 weeks post-exposure to consistently wean negative pigs. When you add on 12 weeks to determine that the herd is negative using the AASV definition, 40 weeks is the average closure time needed before entering gilts back to a sow herd. This means you should expect to run out of gilts and will struggle to maintain breed target. Additional work is being done to identify risk factors in order to shorten that time to negative pig production. With this understanding that most herds will run out of gilts during a closure time period, there are three strategies employed to not miss your breeding target by running out of gilts.

Off-site breeding project

The first has been to simply start with the expectation that you will do an off-site breeding project at the end of the closure. This will buy you up to 16 weeks, if needed, of additional closure time; 46 weeks total. When you initiate a closure, you must plan that you will stock an offsite gilt developer with 16 weeks of inventory in order to have the ability to close the herd up to 46 weeks. This strategy also couples very easily with mycoplasma eradication projects and is commonly done concurrently.

Delayed herd closure

The second strategy has been to delay herd closure by two to three months. After the farm breaks, continue to enter gilts into the system and expose them to the virus early and/or vaccinate those gilts with a modified live vaccine. The program would look similar to running the farm “positive stable.” This allows all of your sow population an additional eight to 12 weeks to individually eradicate the virus. The value with this strategy would be for farms that do not have good off-site gilt development space. Additionally, this takes the stress and hassle away from completing breed projects. There are drawbacks. There is increased risk for longer-term viral transmission within the farm. Additionally, the last group of gilts entered still only has 210 days to eradicate the virus. This last gilt group is a much smaller population than your whole sow farm and generally will burn out the virus within that time frame.

Wean down

The third strategy is based off of what we have learned about porcine epidemic diarrhea virus’ viral load and pig age in the farrowing house. In PEDV farms, our ability to wean down farrowing houses in age was highly successful in eradicating the virus out of the farrowing house. Wean pigs start and perform well down to about 12 days of age as well as sows breeding back on the first cycle. Twelve days of age has generally become our line for a wean-down event, plus or minus a few days.

After a PRRS outbreak, farms need to begin tail swab or serum sampling pigs on day zero of age at 12 weeks post-break. Repeated negative sampling indicates pigs are being born negative to the virus, but are positive yet at weaning. This is your opportunity to perform a wean-down event to try to eradicate that infected and susceptible late suckling population. Only a few herds have tried this to date, but it will be practiced moving forward as a way to potentially reach TTNP on a faster timeline.


Data aggregation at a national level continues to reveal different ways to manage PRRS virus in sow herds to reduce the clinical and economic impact. Continue to be creative with ideas, understanding the biology of the pig and pathogenesis of the virus, in order to minimize the effects of this pathogen. 

Bipartisan support to delay hog inspection rule

A bipartisan group of Congressmen are calling on the USDA to delay publishing its proposed Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point-based Inspection Model’s Project hog inspection rule over concerns that with fewer inspectors in plants and relying on company employees to take over various duties will lead to lower food safety.

The group of 60 members in a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “While we strongly support modernizing our food safety system and making it more efficient, modernization should not occur at the expense of public health, worker safety or animal welfare. We are concerned that these new rules are being pushed by the industry to increase profits at the expense of public health.”

The members want assurances from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service there would not be process control shortcuts, increased fecal and other adulteration of meat products, higher incidences of microbial contamination and an increase in foodborne illness. The Congressional members raised additional concerns regarding the hog slaughter pilot program including.

  • That the HIMP model does not demonstrate that it reduces contamination, and therefore rates of foodborne illnesses;
  • That current evidence suggests that the hog HIMP model will undermine the integrity of food safety;
  • That facilities are engaging in rapid processing speeds that result in thousands of debilitating injuries including cuts, laceration and musculoskeletal disorders; and
  • That the rapid line speeds present one of the greatest risks of inhumane treatment of animals, as workers are often pressured to take violent shortcuts to maintain speed.

The letter was led by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY). Similar concerns were raised by these members after the USDA issued a similar rule for poultry slaughter. The HIMP program focuses more efforts on food safety, such as verifying pathogen reduction than the traditional organoleptic inspection system.