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Articles from 2017 In January


There's always somebody trying to make what yours theirs. In Michigan, 33 people plead guilty to stealing personal information from military veterans and prison inmates.

WalletHub is out with the list of the most educated states in America. Only five heartland states rank in the top 20. It's an interesting map. Of the 48 mainland states, the northern tend to be the most educated. Colorado ranks third and Minnesota came in 8th. Kansas, Illinois and Nebraska are in the top 20.

Commodity traders haven't been this bullish on the soybean market since last summer. There was a significant selloff in the bean market. Trades don't want to be caught flat-footed as Argentina, which exports half of the bean meal traded in this world, has had weather that's been both too wet and too dry this spring.

Wells Fargo has 270,000 employees, but none have been in the banking business as long as Donnie Rodgers, who's worked at the bank in Knoxville, Iowa, for 70 years. About 400 people showed up for a party to celebrate his 70th anniversary at the bank. He first came in for a loan to buy 4-H calves.

Zehr family honored as IPPA Family of the Year

Illinois Pork Producers Association Zehr, Illinois Family of Year

Source: Illinois Pork Producers Association

The Zehr family from Washington, Ill., has been named the 2017 Family of the Year from the Illinois Pork Producers Association. This award is announced each year during the Illinois Pork Expo and is given to a family who has done an outstanding job of promoting the pork industry and exemplified leadership throughout the year.

Curt and his wife, Sue, are the proud owners of Zehr Farms, which operates 1,700 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat, along with a 140-sow farrow-to-finish farm that specializes in Durocs. His passion for agriculture and the swine industry stems from his parents, Dean and Kathy Zehr, who were active in the association.

Life has highs and lows, but the Zehrs experienced a devastating low in November 2013 when a tornado hit their home. Curt and Sue showed resiliency during this trying time. Curt focused on keeping the farm going, while Sue made plans and followed the rebuilding of their home over 11 months.

Curt and Sue have three grown children, twin daughters, Angie and Beth, and a son, Michael, and five grandchildren. Since the 1940s, showing pigs has been a tradition for the Zehr family. In addition to local shows, they have exhibited at the Illinois State Fair and the North American International Livestock Expo in Louisville, Ky.

Angie is a graduate of Goshen College, where she met her husband, Jon Short. Jon is currently the president of Marquee Health, and Angie has made the decision to be a stay-at-home mom to their two sons, Bennett (7) and Davis (4), and daughter, Sawyer (2). Before that she was a neonatal intensive care unit nurse for 12 years. All three children love spending time with Mimi and Papa Curt on the farm.

Beth is a marketing coordinator for the Illinois Bariatric Center. She also attended Goshen College where she met her husband, Andy Reeser. Andy is an IT manager at State Farm and farms with his parents on their grain farm. Beth and Andy have two sons, Grant (8) and Garrett (6), who love showing pigs and helping dad and both grandpas on the farm.

Michael continued the family tradition graduating from Goshen College. He recently moved to Bodega, Calif., from Nashville, Tenn., where he was employed as an arborist. When he comes home he still enjoys helping dad on the farm.

Curt has been involved in many organizations locally and at the state and national levels. Locally he has served as a member and officer of the Tazewell County Pork Producers and as a 4-H Fair swine superintendent from 1985-2014. He also served as a director and vice president of Grainland Elevator Co-op.

At the state level, he has served as a director, officer and president in 2015 of the Illinois Pork Producers Association. He was also a director and president of both the Illinois Duroc Breeders Association and the former Illinois Spring Barrow Show. Currently, he is a member of the Illinois Pork Producers Association, Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Corn Growers Association, Illinois Soybean Association and the Illinois NREC Research Committee.

He has served on several national committees including, National Swine Registry Commercial Breeders, National Pork Board Animal Science and Budget Task Force. He has attended the National Pork Forum five times as a delegate for the Illinois Pork Producers Association. Also at the national level he served as a director and treasurer for the United Duroc Swine Registry.

The 2017 IPPA Family of the Year will be added to the list of industry awards that Curt has received, which include the 2000 Pork All-American, 2015 Illinois 4-H Hall of Fame and the 2016 Illinois Purebred Breeders Hall of Fame Award.

Curt and his entire family have been a fundamental part of the swine industry for many years. The Illinois Pork Producers Association is delighted to present the Zehr Family with 2017 IPPA Family of the Year.


The president's advance team is scoping out Milwaukee. Trump was the first Republican to carry Wisconsin in 32 years. He's headed to Milwaukee after going to the National Prayer Breakfast. Word is the team is scoping out the State Fair Park and Harley Davidson Museum.

Friendly figures on cattle marketing didn't seem to matter much on cattle futures trade. Analysts expect cattle futures to bounce back today. It will be something to talk about at NCBA convention where 9,000 are expected.

Don't respond when someone you don't know calls and asks if you can hear them. It's the latest scam out there.

The employees at the Bryant, Arkansas, Wal-Mart had a surprise when regular Geneva Kendrick came into the store the other day. They held a birthday party for her complete with balloons, cake and gifts. Kendrick is 104 years old.

Can antibiotic alternatives promote growth?

Pork producers can no longer use antibiotics that are medically important in human medicine to promote growth in their swine herd. Antibiotics can now only be used to for the treatment, prevention and control of health issues, if those drugs are not medically important in human medicine.

If they are looking to improve performance or enhance growth in their herd, producers will need to turn to alternatives that may replace the boost once provided by antibiotics.

Nick Gabler, associate professor of animal science at Iowa State University, presented a session at the Iowa Pork Congress looking at published data of known antibiotic alternatives that may influence nursery pig growth. The antibiotic alternatives evaluated and discussed included prebiotics, probiotics, resistant starch/fiber, botanicals, organic acids, lysozymes, oligosaccharides, yeast, zinc and copper.


Maschhoffs, Hormel react swiftly to animal care video

National Pork Board Nursing piglets

The Maschhoffs has a zero tolerance policy for any abuse or mistreatment of its pigs. So, once the company became aware of an undercover video released by Mercy for Animals that was taken at one of its sow farms in Oklahoma, it took immediate action.

“We have launched a full-scale investigation in response to this video,” says President Bradley Wolter. “Any animal care deficiencies discovered will be addressed in the quickest manner possible.”

In a statement released today, The Maschhoffs announced immediate action.

• Communication of The Maschhoffs zero-tolerance animal care policy with all employees and production partners.

• Re-train all Oklahoma employees on the proper production procedures with respect to the practices that were displayed in the video.

• Ensure every farm manager at The Maschhoffs reviews the video and fully understands the responsibility that comes with proper animal care.

“We view animal care as a continuous-improvement process,” says Wolter. “We will continue to make investments to further our animal care standards in the future. Properly caring for our animals is of the utmost importance.”

Hormel Foods, which is supplied by The Maschhoffs’ Oklahoma farm, has a strict supplier code of conduct and policies relating to animal care and welfare. As a result, Hormel “will not tolerate any violation of these policies. As such, we have issued a suspension of all the Maschhoffs LLC Oklahoma sow operations while a thorough investigation is completed,” the meatpacker based in Austin, Minn., says in a statement.

Hormel Foods Corp. also announced that certified third-party auditors were sent to the Oklahoma farms and other Maschhoffs’ sites “to verify our animal care requirements are being adhered to. We expect, and have been assured, that the Maschhoffs LLC will cooperate with the investigation.”

“We are proud to produce pigs for U.S. pork packers and processors,” notes Wolter. “We do not take this responsibility lightly.”

The video in question was recorded in 2015.

The Oklahoma Pork Council also issued a statement in response to the video release.

“The Oklahoma Pork Council and Oklahoma’s hog farmers take seriously our ethical responsibility for the proper care of pigs. Responsible hog farmers condemn the mistreatment of any animal. The farm in question has launched an immediate investigation in response to the video. They will quickly address any deficiencies in animal care.

“There is always room for improvement. Many of the scenes depicted in the video are processes developed and implemented under veterinary supervision and are practices approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians. Oklahoma’s hog farmers recognize these scenes may be unfamiliar to those outside of livestock production, and we remain committed to working with trained animal care specialists — our veterinarians — to improve our practices and provide the best possible care for our animals.”

No excuse not to be prepared for FMD outbreak

Getty Images Person walking in front of an area taped off due to Foot-and-Mouth Disease outbreak

While no hog farmer wants to utter the words “foot and mouth” or even think about it, the United States frankly is not prepared for an outbreak. Yet, one case can stop U.S. export markets on a dime and cripple the entire agriculture sector. That is a message livestock industry leaders want everyone to digest and take action on.

“We are not prepared for any type of outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in this country. There is no pleasant way to look at it,” says John Weber, Iowa hog farmer and National Pork Producers Council president. “You cannot bury your way out of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak. The technology is there to vaccinate your way out of it, but you have to have someone to manufacture the vaccines, and it is not there.”

While the U.S. has not had an FMD outbreak since 1929, the recent global epidemic is a harsh reminder that a foreign animal disease can happen at any time. Weber says, “There is really no excuse not to be prepared with the technology available today.”

This is not a problem just for the pork industry — it also directly impacts dairy and beef. An outbreak of FMD in the United States would have catastrophic consequences for the multibillion dollar livestock industry. FMD is a threat to economic security and infrastructure as well as animal health. “If there is a disease outbreak in this country, everyone is going to lose their markets, and you will not be able to eat your way out of the problem,” stresses Weber.

An analysis by Iowa State University economists of the impacts of an outbreak, which would immediately stop all U.S. meat exports, found over a 10-year period cumulative costs to the beef and pork industries would be $128 billion. Corn and soybean farmers would lose $44 billion and nearly $25 billion, respectively. Job losses in the beef and pork industries over a decade would top half a million, and employment throughout the economy would fall by more than 1.5 million jobs.


Bobby Acord, retired administrator for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, says past FMD outbreaks in foreign countries demonstrate that the strategy of just stamping out infected animals under the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) guidelines is impractical. “Given the size of the U.S. livestock herd and the number of carcasses that would need to be disposed of, we could not continue the policy of stamping out. We had to shift to a more realistic approach,” explains Acord.

Recent FMD outbreaks in Japan and South Korea served as wake-up calls for the United States. In 2010 and 2011, Japan and South Korea first tried to tackle the FMD endemic with a stamping-out strategy. However, after disposing of millions of cattle and swine, they switched to vaccination and strict movement controls, which halted the spread of FMD. So with the support of the U.S. livestock industry, APHIS changed its policy from killing your way out of an outbreak to the current vaccination strategy.

The actual work started after the modification in the FMD response plan. APHIS and the livestock industry quickly learned there are many challenges in planning an FMD emergency vaccination program.

The search for available FMD vaccine became quite the treasure hunt. “As we started exploring the availability of vaccine, we learned a lot,” Acord says with a sigh.

There are a limited number of companies in the world with facilities that produce FMD vaccine. These facilities are running at full capacity to produce vaccine for the countries that are currently vaccinating for FMD.

Unfortunately, the present situation is the U.S. does not have access to enough FMD vaccine to handle an outbreak beyond a minuscule, localized disease event. The U.S. is the only country in the world that maintains its own vaccine bank. But the existing vaccine bank arrangement has several problems.

Presently, APHIS manages a vaccine bank at Plum Island, N.Y. Acord explains there are currently 23 strains circulating in the world, but the U.S. FMD vaccine bank only stores the antigen for less than half those strains.

Furthermore, U.S. law prohibits live FMD virus for any reason on the U.S. mainland. So, if an outbreak occurs, and if the U.S. bank has the antigen for the outbreak strain, the antigen must be shipped to England or France to be turned into finished vaccine and shipped back to the United States. According to NPPC, the turnaround time from the onset of an outbreak until a finished vaccine is delivered to the field would be weeks for a small event and months for the number of doses needed to control a large outbreak.

In fact, Acord says, “In three weeks we would have 2.5 million doses of vaccines under that scenario. That would not vaccinate one county in North Carolina or Iowa or any other major pork-producing state. It is obvious if we are going to vaccinate, then we have to have something to vaccinate with.”

The clear-cut conclusion is that the current plan to maintain the Plum Island bank but produce the vaccine overseas is inefficient. Therefore, pork leaders are taking action, along with APHIS and agriculture livestock organizations. “It is our responsibility as leadership and technical staff to be engaged on this important issue,” says Weber.

NPPC, the National Pork Board, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and dairy industry groups commissioned James Roth, DVM and Iowa State University professor, to research what it would take to produce enough vaccine to implement APHIS’ new strategy for managing an FMD outbreak. The study revealed three critical steps need to happen to build an effective FMD response plan.

1. Offshore FMD vaccine bank

The United States will need to contract for an offshore FMD vaccine bank that would provide vaccine antigen concentrate for all strains currently circulating in the world. The antigen concentrate has a limited shelf life that, after about five years, begins to affect the potency of the finished vaccine, thus requiring an aggressive rotation of the antigen. The United States does not have the capability to handle such an aggressive rotation of antigen. Thus, the only feasible solution is to contract with a vaccine manufacturer to maintain a bank and easily rotate the antigens among its current customers, Acord explains.

2. Immediate vaccine available

For the early stages of an outbreak, 10 million vaccines doses need to be readily available. So, a contract must be in place for production capacity to meet those needs.

3. Global surge capacity

Acord says, “There is no available surge capacity to produce the volume of vaccine that would be needed in a U.S. outbreak. To labor under the idea that these manufacturers would simply give up existing current customers to manufacture for the U.S. is false hope. We have to face reality.” Therefore, a long-term contract for the surge capacity to produce an additional 40 million doses is needed.

Since all three action items require legislative action, the NPPC and other livestock organizations are undertaking the effort to advance an FMD response strategy that is realistic and reasonable. The new program will be introduced in the next farm bill.

Roth estimates the cost of the new program would be $150 million per year for five years. “It is a big number, but at the same time it is a small number if you compare it to the estimated losses to the livestock industry and the ripple effects throughout the U.S. rural economy,” states Acord.

Since the policy to change the approach to FMD response is already in place, the next step is to secure the funds to execute the plan. The goal of the legislative effort is to make sure APHIS has the funds available to contract with these companies to make this a reality. It needs to be mandatory spending, not funded through the normal appropriations, Acord explains.

To be properly prepared, there is a sense of urgency. “While we are fearful of waiting on the farm bill, it seems to be the only realistic solution at this point,” says Acord.

The issue is not about politics. It is about securing the capability of the livestock industry to produce safe food.

However, many on Capitol Hill are not aware of this issue. NPPC started the education process during its Fall Fly-In, and the organization will continue to work diligently on this issue.

Acord concludes, “Given the interest to protect our national food security, it is an issue that should garner wide bipartisan support. We simply cannot continue as we are.”

Is feces still sample of choice for ‘Brachyspira hampsonii’ diagnostics?

By Matheus de O. Costa, University of Saskatchewan Western College of Veterinary Medicine and Utrecht University Faculty of Veterinary Medicine; and Janet E. Hill, Champika Fernando, Hollie D. Lemieux and John C. S. Harding, University of Saskatchewan Western College of Veterinary Medicine

Diarrhea, of any kind, is a production limiting condition that directly affects the pig’s ability to absorb nutrients. In the last decade, western Canada and Midwestern U.S. witnessed the re-emergence of bloody, mucoid diarrhea associated with Brachyspira hyodysenteriae (swine dysentery), and now the novel “B. hampsonii” (Rubin et al. 2013; Schwartz 2011; Harding et al. 2010).

Contrary to most intestinal pathogens that affect swine, Brachyspira associated with bloody diarrhea does not attach nor invade the intestinal lining, which may explain why it induces a transient immune response (Rees et al. 1989). This lack of host-bacteria intimate interaction may contribute to the fact that, to date, there is no commercial vaccine available to prevent any Brachyspira spp. infection in domestic animals. Therefore, proper testing of new animals before introduction into a naïve herd is key to avoid outbreaks.

For Brachyspira detection, the diagnostic sample of choice is feces collected freely or after digital stimulation into a clean container (e.g. Ziploc bag), followed by culture on selective agar. Samples need to be refrigerated (not frozen) if delivery to the diagnostic lab will take longer than a couple of hours, which is almost always the case. Because these requirements are challenging to meet when sampling a large number of animals or when farms are distant from diagnostic labs, samples are typically shipped overnight. Sometimes, a more practical alternative to collecting fecal samples is the use of rectal swabs.

Here we investigated the use of a forensic swab (GenoTube Livestock, Prionics), adapted to preserve DNA at room temperature for extended periods, as an alternative diagnostic tool to test fecal samples for “Brachyspira hampsonii” by polymerase chain reaction. We compared the detection frequency of “Brachyspira hampsonii” PCR performed on rectal GenoTube swabs, to PCR performed directly on a sample of feces, to anaerobic culture of a standard rectal swab on Brachyspira-specific agar (gold standard). To simulate a field situation where samples would be transported to the diagnostic laboratory over 24 hours, culture swabs and feces were refrigerated at 4 degrees C (to mimic shipment with ice packs), whereas GenoTube swabs were stored at room temperature for 24 hours prior to processing. To ensure consistent sample expression, all swabs were processed the exact same way. Following expression, extraction proceeded according to the kit instructions. DNA extracts (2 microliters each) from standard culture swabs and GenoTube swabs were used as a template for “B. hampsonii” clade I specific PCR analysis.

A total of 165 samples (55 GenoTube swabs, 55 culture swabs, 55 fecal samples) were collected from 12 orally inoculated animals over a period of 22 days. Seventy-eight percent of samples (43/55) were obtained from pigs with normal feces (Figure 1), whereas 22% (12/55) originated from pigs with varying severities of diarrhea (Figure 2).

When compared to the gold standard (rectal swab culture on selective agar), PCR from GenoTube swabs from animals with no clinical signs of diarrhea performed identically to PCR from fecal samples (Figure 3). In animals with diarrhea, PCR performed directly on fecal samples was superior to PCR performed on GenoTube swabs (Figure 4). The odds of a positive test result were higher when PCR performed directly on feces compared to on a GenoTube swab. However, it is important to note that these results are based on a small controlled inoculation study, with most samples collected from animals without diarrhea. Additional analyses using field cases would be beneficial.

GenoTube may be a useful tool for diagnostic and surveillance projects, especially in settings where timely transport of diagnostic samples is challenging. The collection of rectal swabs is easy and efficient when sampling large numbers of pigs, resulting in minimal stress to the pigs and collectors. However, a combination of factors including the amount of sample available in the swab and laboratory processing procedures may have influence in the performance of the PCR assay, decreasing sensitivity (Bonini et al. 2002; Plebani and Carraro 1997). Cases where sample collection and shipping conditions are not an impediment, fecal samples are still the diagnostic sample of choice.


Bonini, P., Plebani, M., Ceriotti, F., & Rubboli, F. (2002). Errors in laboratory medicine. [Review]. Clinical Chemistry, 48(5), 691-698.

Harding, J. C. S., Chirino-Trejo, M., Fernando, C., Jacobson, M., Forster, Z., & Hill, J. E. Detection of a novel Brachyspira species associated with haemorrhagic and necrotizing colitis. In  International Pig Veterinary Society Congress, Vancouver, Canada, July 18-21, 2010 2010 (Vol. 2, pp. 740)

Plebani, M., & Carraro, P. (1997). Mistakes in a stat laboratory: types and frequency. Clinical Chemistry, 43(8 Pt 1), 1348-1351.

Rees, A. S., Lysons, R. J., Stokes, C. R., & Bourne, F. J. (1989). Antibody production by the pig colon during infection with Treponema hyodysenteriae. Research in Veterinary Science, 47(2), 263-269.

Rubin, J. E., Costa, M. O., Hill, J. E., Kittrell, H. E., Fernando, C., Huang, Y., et al. (2013). Reproduction of mucohaemorrhagic diarrhea and colitis indistinguishable from Swine Dysentery following experimental inoculation with “Brachyspira hampsonii" strain 30446. PLoS ONE, 8(2), e57146, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057146.

Schwartz, K. (2011). Brachyspira: What's Happening in Iowa and Why. Paper presented at the Western Canadian Association of Swine Veterinarians Conference, October 20-21, 2011


Topigs Norsvin Canada announces new Manitoba Business Development rep.

Topigs Norsvin Canada announced that Trenton Schultz has joined its staff as Manitoba Business Development representative, based out of the Winnipeg head office. In his new role, Schultz will be focused on business development in Manitoba and also assist in company logistics.

Schultz is a graduate from the Steinbach Regional Secondary School. Along with sales experience in Manitoba he also has several years of experience at genetic nucleus level production, being involved in many areas of pig breeding and production. “Trenton brings considerable, well-rounded experience to the growing, dynamic Topigs Norsvin team and will be a great asset for us,” says John Sawatzky, Topigs Norsvin Canada sales manager.

“I am very excited to have the opportunity to work with Topigs Norsvin,” Schultz says. “I’m looking forward to further my career in sales as well as the logistics role. Manitoba has many quality producers and I am proud to be a part of this industry. I am excited for the future opportunities that lie ahead with Topigs Norsvin.”

Schultz can be reached at 204-770-1885 or

Topigs Norsvin Canada is a leading swine genetics supplier in North America. Topigs Norsvin produces and develops sound, profitable pig genetic programs and breeding systems for commercial hog production and is one of the largest genetics companies in the world with business activities in over 55 countries.

Novel technology for improved nutrient utilization

Olmix Group has recently released a new feed additive, MFeed+, which has demonstrated enhanced nutrient utilization in pigs and poultry. MFeed+ uses a patented process to combine clay layers with the structural components of algae, creating Olmix Exfoliated Algoclay. MFeed+ is a novel tool with the potential to increase nutrient utilization and reduce feed costs.

MFeed+ has proven successful in improving nutrient digestibility in scientific trials (INRA – France) and has demonstrated other improvements in commercial trials in swine, poultry, and aqua species.

By including MFeed+ in diets, producers are not only able to maximize standard nutrient digestibility, but are also potentially able to use less-expensive and less-digestible feed ingredients without sacrificing animal performance.

Olmix Group is a marine biotechnology company founded in 1995 that specializes in clays and macro-algae, and how they can be applied to help livestock producers be more efficient. Based in the heart of Brittany, France, they have designed a state-of-the-art research and manufacturing center to provide the highest quality algae and clay products available, including MFeed+.

Farm Progress America, January 31, 2017

Max Armstrong follows Twitter - and tweets. But he also talks about information from Laura who works in the turkey industry and a challenge to the poultry industry when food companies talk about 'no hormones' in their product. The truth is that no hormones are allowed in the product at all, none are legal. Those food ads are false, and Max shares the real secret of the rising productivity in the poultry industry.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.