Preparation, dedication and cooperation.
Those three simple words are what make any successful hog operation, or farm in general, work smoothly. Jan Archer, president of the National Pork Board and a producer from Goldsboro, N.C., says those three words had a greater significance recently as her home area was hit hard by Hurricane Matthew.
Archer and her husband, Jack, operate Archer Farms LLC, a farrow-to-wean operation, and as hurricane warnings became stronger, it was decided that Jack would move to the farm to make sure the pigs received good care, even as the farm would soon be cut off from the Archer home 18 miles away by rising floodwaters. “We’re not unique in that,” she says. “Whenever there is threat of a bad storm, regardless of what it is, someone will go stay at the farm.” Hog care comes first.Jan Archer
“He definitely drew the long straw,” Jan says, “because the farm has a generator, a pull-out couch, the all-important coffee maker, a refrigerator … So you’re comfortable, but you’re isolated.” Jack moved to the farm on Oct. 8, and didn’t leave until Oct. 12. He couldn’t, all the roads were blocked.
“I have raised pigs in a lot of different states, and a lot of different countries, and the people who know what’s going on in situations like this are the truck drivers, the truck drivers rule the world,” she says. “When we had to figure out how to get in, how to get out, how to get feed, we would call the truck drivers. … they hauled supplies, water, and things on their trucks, because feed truck drivers are an amazing lot. There were our walking-around GPS system.” Truck drivers not only knew the routes, they knew which routes were open.
Archer credits truck drivers with being the lifeline between the outside world and the farms that became islands in the flood waters. “People not only had feed, they had generators,” she says. As good as truck drivers are, some farms simply were unreachable by land, so helicopters came to the aid of dropping generators and people to farms to make sure pigs would receive proper care.
“Even though the waters are so much higher than with Hurricane Floyd (in 1999), we fared so much better this time around and it was because of preparation, dedication and cooperation, people working better.” Loss of animal life and lagoons weathered the storm so much better than in 1999. About 3,000 hogs perished as a result of Hurricane Matthew, as where 21,474 died at the hands of Hurricane Floyd.
When Floyd ravished the area in September of 1999, 50 hog manure lagoons were flooded and six lagoons were breached, while Matthew’s heavy rains flooded 11 lagoons with zero lagoon breaches.
Archer says their hog farm lagoon is in good shape, since it was at a low level prior to Matthew dumping up to 18 inches of rain on the area.
“I am really proud of the fact that the pork industry developed the six We Care principles, and I will tell you that over the past week, I have seen these ethical principles lives out in a way I never expected, a way I never hoped to see, but I am so gratified that I can really confidently talk about how pig farmers really live those six principles every day in everything they did.” That included taking animals off the farms before the hurricane hit, staying with their animals during the storm, they always made sure their pigs had feed and water. “My house didn’t have electricity, or coffee,” she says, “but the farms were all taken care of. The pigs always came first.” After the pigs were taken care of, Archer was heart-warmed to see the people on the upside of the Neuse River reaching out to those who maybe needed help. “People are driving generators all over, regardless where they’re needed. It’s really amazing to see what people will do to help out others.”
Archer says part of the preparation is to run drills, and she says the NPB is currently going around the country doing a crisis drill concentrating on diseases, such as if Foot and Mouth disease would hit, working with first responders. “Every integrator has a crisis drill and plan in place,” she says, “but yes, every crisis is a little different and throws something at you that you hadn’t thought of before.”
Hurricane Matthew presented the twist of washed out roads, as where Floyd only flooded roadways. “This storm destroyed roads,” she says, “there was so much more water this time, that the sheer force of the water destroyed the roads. If the water was coming and you had to get animals off the farm, the roads have to be in shape to be able to do that. We learned we have to be prepared with trucks with rock to repair roads quickly, maybe not permanently, but quickly to be able to get people and animals to safety.” That preparation will now be added to the plan for future crises.
Speaking of crisis, the pork industry nationwide finds itself in a less-than-desirable situation. “We are victims of our own success,” she says, “we went through some devastating losses with PED and then came back stronger than ever. That’s the nature of agriculture in general, when faced with a challenge we’ll rise to meet the challenge and then exceed it. That’s what has happened here, an awful lot of pigs are coming to market, certainly a challenge for producers. We’re losing money right now. When you look at margins across the board it’s pretty frightening.”
That, however, presents an opportunity for consumers as they can benefit from the prices they will see in the pork case this fall and winter. “Pork is such a versatile product,” she says. “There is a reason pork is the No. 1 consumed meat in the world. I have lived in several other countries and I have seen firsthand how people value pork as a meat. … People have learned it’s delicious and flavorful, and now it’s going to be so affordable, and I hope the consumer takes advantage of that.”
Archer sees export markets being key for driving pork product around the world, and though policy is not under the NPB’s bailiwick, she realizes that the U.S. needs to be a part of the global trade discussion and currently the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership would be a big step in the right direction.
The current hog business climate will have the industry tightening its collective belt “to the point that it’s going to be uncomfortable”, and Archer predicts “that we will unfortunately probably lose some producers who cannot tolerate the low margins for the length of time it looks like we’re going to see them.”
More shackle space coming online will help, as there will be competition for that added shackle space, “but what are we going to do with that product? We simply have to increase our exports. And not only in value, because our export values are good, but in volume, we really need to move this product.”
Moving the pork product will call for the NPB to step up its game, and collaborate with retailers and packers, “we’re going to have to innovation to create new products” she says, “We’re got some great people working on creating some new cuts, smaller muscle cuts more appealing to smaller families.”
Archer, 60, has been in the swine business for 40 years, and the hog has changed over that time. When she first started raising hogs, they finished out at 220 pounds, and she has seen that weight creep up. “I understand the costs in the packing plant per shackle space, but that does present some marketing challenges in large cuts of meat.”
Adapting to challenges has always been a strong suit for hog producers, and Archer believes that the U.S. industry will be not different this time around, “but not without some struggles, and not without sacrifices.”
Pork Month message
Archer says consumers can feel really good about the pork they’re eating. “Not only is it delicious, and a great value, but it’s raised by people who care about their product, and care about the animals on their farms, and care about the people who work on their farms, and they care about their communities.”
As for her fellow producers, Archer is “proud to be a member of this community, so proud to be somebody who produces a product that I am proud of, and I get to be a member of a group of people who serve their industry and community with such dedication and such honor.” As an example, as Archer enduring what Matthew was throwing her way, she says she cannot count the number of calls that she received from producers all over the country, “wondering what can we do, what do you need? We’ll fly something to you? Do you need warm bodies? We’ll come there and cook. It was just amazing, simply amazing. … people were willing to leave their farms, just to make sure we were alright. That means a lot.”
“I got into the pig industry because I love pigs,” Archer says, “but I stay in it because I love pig farmers.”
Choline is an essential nutrient that is used by the body in a number of ways. However, nearly 90% of adults do not get the recommended amount in their diets. For pregnant or lactating women, this is especially significant, as choline, much like folate or folic acid, has been shown to play a role in early brain development.
Researchers at the University of Illinois who study the impacts of nutrition on brain development using the piglet as a model have conducted a series of studies related to choline deficiency in sows during pregnancy. One such study reports that choline deficiency during pregnancy delays brain development in pigs.
In a more recent study published in The Journal of Nutrition, the researchers look at the impact choline deficiency during pregnancy has on the nutrient composition of sow milk up to 19 days after birth. Surprisingly, they found that when mothers did not have enough dietary choline during pregnancy, alterations in choline metabolites, fatty acids and amino acids, for example, were occurring by the end of lactation.
If milk composition is altered, due to choline deficiency during pregnancy, this could have implications on the quality of nutrition the mother’s offspring receives.
Ryan Dilger, a U of I animal nutritionist and a co-author on the paper, says the study provides new information about milk composition. “We did a lot of analyses not typically done on sow milk. The findings are pertinent to both human clinicians and animal scientists.”
“In humans, many women of child-bearing age are not getting sufficient choline in their diets. While many countries have mandatory fortification programs to get the nutrient folate into the diets of women, those programs don’t exist for choline. Choline is another nutrient we should definitely be looking at and it has been gaining emphasis since the Institute of Medicine officially recognized this nutrient as being essential in 1998,” he adds.
♦ Choline, an essential nutrient, is used by the body in many ways, including in the makeup of cellular membranes and neurodevelopment.
♦ In pig studies, choline deficiency during pregnancy has been shown to delay brain development.
♦ A new study shows choline deficiency during pregnancy also affects the nutrient composition of sow milk up to 19 days after birth.
♦ The study also shows similarities in choline metabolites in sow and human milk composition.
Austin Mudd, a doctoral student and lead author of the study said another surprise in the study was seeing striking similarities in the overall choline metabolite composition in sow milk compared to human milk. Metabolites are molecules that play a critical role in metabolism in the body.
“When we look at the nutrient profiles, those compositions are very close to what we would see in humans, which is different than what we would see in rodent and bovine milk. This helps in establishing the pig as an excellent model for studying choline deficiency, especially in terms of lactation, because there are similar proportions of choline metabolites that likely have similar physiological importance,” Mudd says.
During the study, pregnant sows were provided a choline sufficient or choline deficient diet. Milk was then collected after sows gave birth at Days zero (colostrum), 7-9 (mature milk), and 17-19 (pre-weaning). The milk was analyzed for concentrations of choline metabolites, fatty acids and amino acids.
The researchers analyzed seven choline metabolites, and observed that free choline and betaine — from the oxidized product of choline — was lowered by the end of lactation (18 days).
Choline and its derivative metabolites are considered “methyl donors.” Methyl groups aid in many functions in the body, in both animals and humans, and are important in gene expression. Choline can be obtained in the diet — through foods like milk, eggs, poultry, fish and grains — and is supplied in human and animal milk. It is typically included in infant formula.
In addition to changes in the choline metabolite profiles, the researchers also saw changes in milk fatty acids and milk amino acids by the end of lactation. Both showed a pattern of increasing by Day 19.
“Fatty acids showed the same pattern, that if the sow was provided adequate choline throughout gestation and lactation, between Days zero and 7, fatty acids increased and then plateaued by Day 19, versus in those that were deficient, we observed a linear increase,” Dilger explains. “If we had followed these sows beyond 19 days of lactation, we could learn just how long perinatal choline deficiency may influence fatty acid composition of the milk.”
Although the study did not explore what more long-term effects of alterations in the milk compositions would mean for piglet, or human development, Mudd did stress that the takeaway is that choline deficiency affected more than just choline in milk composition.
“This shows doctors and breast-feeding mothers why choline is so important,” Mudd says. “If you’re deficient in choline, you’re not only altering choline or its metabolites in the milk, but also the fatty acids and the amino acids. It’s not just one thing that’s being impacted. That’s really where our work differs from what’s been done in rodents and, to some extent, in pigs. Most other studies just look at choline metabolites. But we understand that babies drink milk not just for choline, but for everything. So if a mother is deficient in choline, what else is being impacted and how will that affect later development? This could be used as a stepping stone for future studies, especially those where we look at the epigenetic implications of the altered diet.”
Dilger adds that the changes they saw in milk composition are only one piece in understanding how what affects an infant’s development.
“We are altering a single nutrient in choline, and understanding how that affects the production and composition of that milk. There are slight changes we can show. But in the end, the composition of that milk is only one factor,” Dilger explains. “Other factors, such as the genetics and physiology of the infant, in addition to the microbiota, which includes all microbes in and on the body, come into play. This is just one of a number of complex components influencing the baby.”
In a previous study, Mudd and Dilger looked at brain development in piglets when the mother has had a sufficient or deficient choline supply. After being born, piglets were either put on choline-sufficient or choline-deficient milk replacers. They found that whether the mother had adequate choline during pregnancy mattered more for piglet brain development than what diet the piglet was put on after being born, when the only dietary factor being altered was choline. Also, they found that a limited supply of choline during pregnancy profoundly affects brain maturation.
“That paper speaks to the developmental role of choline in brain growth and overall function. In that study, we learned that differences in perinatal choline intake influence structural development of the brain, including maturation of white matter in brain regions that develop relatively late in the postnatal period. Studying the effects of diet on neurodevelopment by focusing on brain regions experiencing significant growth and development postnatally is a major reason we use the pig in our laboratory,” Dilger says.
In two other recent studies related to nutrition and brain development, the researchers explore brain development between piglets that have been artificially reared versus sow-reared, as well as examine concentrations of oligosaccharides, a bioactive compound known to influence neonatal development, present in sow milk during lactation.
But the current paper, Dilger describes as having a more utilitarian piece. “If we want to understand how to use the pig as a model for studying human infants, we need to learn how to optimize the diet. This current study gives us a baseline of what is in sow milk and how we can alter the composition of infant formula designed for piglets to test brain development. We are asking, ‘What are the norms? What are the differences?’
“These two pieces of work on choline deficiency provide pivotal evidence to justify the inclusion of more choline in prenatal supplements and diets of lactating mothers,” he says.
“Perinatal dietary choline deficiency in sows influences concentrations of choline metabolites, fatty acids, and amino acids in milk throughout lactation,” is published in The Journal of Nutrition. Co-authors, in addition to Mudd and Dilger, include Lindsey S. Alexander, Stacey K. Johnson, Caitlyn M. Getty, Olga V. Malysheva and Marie A. Caudill. The study is available online.
The research is funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Today, all Smithfield Foods processing facilities and farms in North Carolina have returned to normal operations, and while floodwaters reached lagoons on three Smithfield contract farms following the historic flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew, there continues to be no report of lagoon breaches or failures on the company’s company-owned or contract farms as a result of this flooding.
The storm brought flood levels unseen in nearly 500 years, unmatched transportation challenges including a 10-day closure of both Interstate 95 and Interstate 40, and widespread devastation to communities across the eastern half of the state.
Smithfield Foods issued a statement saying, “We are deeply grateful to our more than 10,000 employees across North Carolina who have been affected by this disaster but have remained committed to our operations, customers and consumers. We’ve provided warm meals, transportation, and activated our Employee Assistance Program to assist employees. Smithfield’s EAP provides support to employees and their families during challenging times and includes services such as counseling sessions, legal consultations, family and caregiver assistance as well as other resources.”
“The effects of this storm were severe, and I could not be more proud of our North Carolina employees and their response in the face of adversity,” says Kenneth M. Sullivan, Smithfield’s president and chief executive officer. “I am thankful to be a part of the Smithfield family, and proud that we are able to provide support to the entire area as they begin to pick up the pieces.”
Through Smithfield’s Helping Hungry Homes hunger-relief initiative, more than 75,000 pounds of protein have been provided to local food banks and will continue to provide additional protein to other affected areas in the coming weeks. Beyond food donations, Smithfield Foods has also pledged to provide $25,000 to the American Red Cross in North Carolina to further support employees and communities during this challenging time and throughout the recovery.
From fast food to fine dining, the pork belly is becoming a hot trend among Americans. While most pork belly is cured into bacon, food connoisseurs are getting creative with the belly section of the pig appearing on food establishments’ menus. According to Bloomberg, in 2005 the number of restaurants with pork belly on the menu was less than 1% whereas now it is a healthy 7%, with a steep climb since 2010.
At the Tru restaurant in Chicago, the pork belly is served with pickled kohlrabi, enoki mushrooms, microparsley and a touch of espelette pepper from Spain. It is part of very expensive eight-course tasting menu, valued at $158. Roasted pork belly is a vintage favorite in the deep South. And no one can miss the Arby’s commercial advertising its “bigger, badder bacon” sandwich, marketing a thick pork belly to the masses.
So, what it is the fascination with the pork belly?
Perhaps, it is a simple fact that everyone likes bacon. Therefore, the logical place to start experimenting with new flavors is the raw material of bacon. Honestly, it goes back to the adaptability of pork and its inexpensive price tag. As Kari Underly, Chicago master butcher and author, explains “The versatility of pork is its selling point.”
Underly says it’s about bringing the farm to fork experience to the city and pork fits well into that plan. Chefs learn quickly that pork belly can be infused with many different flavors to satisfy even the finest taste palate. Moreover, it is about bringing fresh new twists to traditional food items.
“Chefs that work for major restaurant chains and manufacturers, they’re out eating and trying to find out what’s next, and they found pork belly,” Stephen Gerike, director of food-service marketing and innovation at the National Pork Board, told Bloomberg. “Pork belly is hyperindulgent — if you want to drive traffic and get attention, pork belly is going to increase same-store sales, because people will want to come and try it.”
Yet, Underly openly admits that pork has not always been the first choice among adventurous food preparers. Bringing back the fat and utilizing premium pork lines — from certain breed lines as Duroc and Berkshire — attracts gourmet chefs to pork. One thing is certain, the pork belly is returning rich fat back to the menu and consumers’ plates. Given the affordable pork prices, the food establishments’ upgrade to the pork belly is returning a nice little profit.
Still, the latest pork belly craze is a great illustration that pork can fit in well with all Americans’ diets as a nutritious, safe protein. Moreover, the beauty of America’s pig farmers is the diversity in farm sizes ready to supply the world with the desired pork product.
While foodservice — especially fine dining — is only a segment of the pork marketplace, it often sets the tone for future consumer trends. Food preparers like to mimic a dining experience in their homes and chefs around the world may just be inspiring them to rethink the pork belly.
Max Armstrong, farm broadcaster, introduced America’s Pig Farmer of Year – Brad Greenway, to the world on Facebook Live event, kicking off the media tour.
High over the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, the world was introduced to this year’s America’s Pig Farmer of the Year — Brad Greenway. While the lights, cameras and microphones are all pointed toward Greenway, he just wants to reunite the consumer again with America’s compassionate pig caretakers. For Greenway, it is not about the scores of interviews or the title; it is about being the face of the pork industry and sharing the story.
“I am humbled and honored to be pig farmer of the year. I am very excited about it. There are so many people that are doing so many good things to get the message out. I will do all I can,” says Greenway.
Although the cyclical nature of the swine business can create its difficulties, Greenway says just getting the genuine farming story out is challenging. He recognizes that consumers receive information about farming from many sources and many times the farmers’ voices are missing. “Consumers just need to know that we are doing things right. That is why this is so important,” says Greenway.
Consumers often receive misinformation about what actually happens in the pig barns. Greenway firmly believes that efforts to keep pigs healthy and safe by imposing strict biosecurity measures also close the barns off to the world. He says, “When we shut the doors, I think we shut the public off.”
Over the years, Greenway has participated in consumer outreach programs such as Pork Checkoff’s Operation Main Street. He says, “The more and more presentations I give, the more I see the disconnect and the interest. We have to look at that as an opportunity.”
One area both farmers and consumers share is the concern over antibiotic use. On his farm, sick animals are treated and sometimes the use of antibiotics is necessary but not without consultations with Greenway's veterinarian first. He says, “We are analyzing with our veterinarian more often than ever. We are definitely backing off (antibiotic use), and it is not business, as usual, going forward. Healthy pigs mean safe pork.”
Still, the most important thing for Greenway is showing how much he cares for the pigs, planet and the consumer. He says, “Every day, whether I am in the barn or my employee or my wife, it is our ultimate goal to care for the pig. So when the pigs leave our farm, the consumers and public have confidence they are getting responsibly-raised pork.”
He continues, “It does come down to the We Care Principles. Taking care of the pigs, people and land are our first priorities.”Brad Greenway, America's Pig Farmer of Year
Pig Farmer of the Year
Greenway was named America’s Pig Farmer of the Year following a third-party audit of on-farm practices and conducting a series of written and oral interviews by subject-matter experts. He has achieved excellence in all aspects of pig farming, including animal care, environmental stewardship, employee work environment and outstanding community service.
“We are pleased to have Brad represent America’s pig farmers. He embodies the very best in pig farming,” says Jan Archer, National Pork Board president and a pig farmer from Goldsboro, N.C. “It’s important that we share with today’s consumers how we raise their food in an ethical and transparent way. Brad’s interest in sharing his farm’s story — and putting a face on today’s pig farming — will help us reach this goal.”
The panel of expert judges met in early September with the four finalists – Craig Andersen, Centerville, S.D.; Jarrod Bakker, Dike, Iowa; Greenway, Mitchell, S.D.; and Maria Mauer, Greensburg, Ind. Members of the panel were Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane; Kari Underly, a third-generation butcher, author and principal of Range Inc., a meat marketing and education firm; Justin Ransom, senior director, supply chain management at McDonald’s USA; Jodi Sterle, an associate professor of animal science at Iowa State University; and Keith Schoettmer, the 2015 America’s Pig Farmer of the Year.
As a judging panel member, Ganzert says, “As an animal lover and the leader of the country’s first national humane organization, I am honored to be a judge for America’s Pig Farmer of the Year. American Humane celebrates all those, including our nation’s farmers, who care for animals and work hard to ensure they are treated humanely. Today, more than ever, it is important not only to point out where progress is needed but to recognize when we get it right.”Brad Greenway and his family on their farm near Mitchell, S.D.
More from the Greenways
Greenway has always called South Dakota home only moving one mile from the farmstead where he grew up. He and his family continue the Greenway heritage, farming the land for almost 100 years. Growing up, agriculture was the norm with experience in raising crops along with pigs, beef and dairy cattle with his parents and three siblings. Similar to all farm kids, he has also spent some time in the show ring competing for the banner.
Greenway has always been naturally drawn to the pigs. He jokes, “maybe out of necessity” as his parents were busy milking cows. Despite the reason, the rich family farm experience has nurtured his passion for pig farming.
After earning a two-year degree at Mitchell Technical Institute, he joined his dad, Tom, on the farm as labor but since then has branched off and still enjoys the day-to-day collaborative work relationship, supporting each other’s farming enterprises.
Today, Brad proudly farms alongside his wife, Peggy. For more than 33 years, they have raised crops, livestock and children near Mitchell, S.D. Although Peggy and Brad’s children, Brent and Mandi, are now grown, married and pursuing other careers — engineer and medical doctor —, it is not unusual to see Brent lending a hand on the farm when time allows. Greenway’s granddaughter, Nora, is also a frequent visitor to farm, enjoying the sights and sounds even at a young age.
For the Greenways, variety is the spice of life with diverse commodities — pigs, 220 head of cattle, corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa — grown on the land. As a full-circle farm, the Greenways understand the hidden value of keeping it local. Grains grown on the Greenways’ land serve as the base feed ingredients to produce wholesome pork for the world while the animals provide valuable nutrients for the soil. He says, “When Peggy and I look at our farm, we think what is going to keep us sustainable in the future. It is about using manure from pigs as fertilizer and feeding my own crops back to the pigs. Every day we are doing what we can do for the environment and use fewer natural resources to produce more.”
Pigs have always been a big part of Greenway’s farming career. Nine years ago, the focus of the farrow-to-finish hog farm was revamped as he separated from the 50-50 partnership with his father. The extreme South Dakota weather made the task of raising pigs difficult, especially finishing pigs in outdoor lots with a deep-bedded hoop building. He openly admits, even though he did everything possible to provide clean, dry bedding and shelter, it kept him up at night worrying about those hogs exposed to blowing snow and harsh temperatures.
As their extra helping hands left for college, Peggy and Brad re-evaluated the hog farm and made changes. It was time to bring the hogs indoors to make them more comfortable. Two 2,400 wean-to-finish state-of-the-art facilities were built three years apart with the latest technology to control the living environment of the pigs year around. By expanding the livestock portion of the farm enterprise, the Greenways were able to employee a full-time person, Thomas Smith. Brad says “Having a great team at home with Thomas, Peggy, and Brent has allowed him to be able to take time away from the farm to advocate for pig farming and agriculture in general.”
At the same time, Greenway and 13 other Davison County farmers cooperatively invested in a sow farm, Bluestem Family Farms, managed by Pipestone Veterinary Services built on his father’s land. The sow farm supplies all the pigs for his wean-to-finish operation. He receives the pigs at three weeks of age to finish for pork, harvesting 10,000 head a year.
In between the construction of the finishing facilities, the Greenways also built a feed mill, grinding his own feed for the animals. The system is completely computerized, making it easy to adjust diets as needed and very conveniently located in the middle of two swine facilities. It simply puts him in control.
Being a good neighbor is a high priority for the Greenways. As a city girl, Peggy knows personally how disconnected the public is from the farm. Before any construction began, she was adamant about speaking with every neighbor about the activities on their farm. Peggy did not want them to read it in the papers as the proper permits were being filed. She wanted them to hear straight from Brad and herself.
The No. 1 priority for the Greenways, next to providing animals with excellent care, is the consumers’ confidence and the trust in the farm producing safe food. Being open about the activities on the farm is the best way to build that confidence, Greenway says.
Thoughts on the pork industry
Looking ahead, Greenway is very optimistic about the future of pork. Consumers around the globe enjoy U.S. pork. He says, “The blessing in our area is the new packing plants coming online. Many people are gearing up for that, and it is a bright spot.”
The domestic demand and consumption are strong, but it is necessary to grow the export market to keep the profits in the pig business. Greenway says, “There are a lot of countries that really love our product. When we get into them, it can be a double-edge sword because you can get too dependent on the export market.”
At the end of the day, all consumers need to trust the farmer to increase the consumption of pork. Joining Greenway on the first media tour is Chicago master butcher and author Kari Underly. Food service professionals like Underly play vital roles in connecting the farmer to the consumer. She says, “I think people skip the whole farm sometimes. They do not realize there are a lot of small farmers like Brad out there.”
Furthermore, Underly says many consumers are surprised by the science behind meat production. It is important to share all the technologies involved in raising pork.
The versatility of pork is its selling point. Pork is an excellent protein choice for consumers. It is adaptable and at an affordable price point for consumers, giving them many options — lean pork, local pork and it marinates well. Also, pork works well with the farm-to-table experience and the ability for chefs and food preparers to be creative. “Pork has that very nice price proposition to the consumer, and it is a really good, healthy protein,” notes Underly.
She urges all pig farmers to keep sharing and be candid. Underly recommends them to know your target consumer. Consumers are concerned about how the food is raised. She says, “I think this program is positive because it shows real farmers. As an ag community, we have done a good job of saying you can’t see what we are doing and I think it puts a cloud that does not need to be there. Consumers want transparency.”
Greenway encourages all pig farmers to tell their stories and have more conversations with the public. He advises the average consumer does not want to know all the finite details about pork production. They just want to know who is raising the pigs and producing pork for their plates.
Greenway recalls a dialogue with a consumer after a presentation in Florida. He explains the consumer admitted she trusted him after seeing a video of his farm, but asked how she could trust all other pork producers. Although she did not know him before the presentation, just seeing inside his barn upped the trust level. He says, “They do not want the details. They just want to know you care about the animals.”
Actively participating in consumer conversation can be approached in many different ways. Love it or hate it, social media has its place in telling the real pig farming stories. He openly admits that is his wife’s specialty. He says just the little things shared on social media from inside the barns make a large impact.
Moreover, he says it is important not to overlook the young consumer. The Davison County Pork Council members participate in many consumer outreach programs throughout the year including an Ag in the Classroom event, allowing Brad to speak at a handful of grade schools. “We have to start sooner. They have to be exposed to what happens on the farm early,” Greenway says passionately.
For the next generation of pig farmers, Greenway says “There are opportunities out there. In our area, crop farmers have the land and are open to buildings being built on the land. If a person likes taking care of the pigs, production partnership is an option as a way to build equity and then turn to owning the pigs.” He says, “There are good people out there willing to help young people transition to full-time farming.”
Greenway is encouraged by young people asking his advice on ways to return to the farm. He acknowledges the industry needs young pig farmers to sustain its future.
“I am optimistic about this next generation coming back. They are more adapted to doing social media and taking a picture of their kids in the barns and on the combines. The next generation is going to get that message out so much faster than I ever did and definitely faster than my dad did. Going forward, that is a good thing,” Greenway concludes.
Genesus is pleased to announce the appointment of Helena Echberg as its new director of business development.
Born in Denmark, Helena has been involved in the swine industry throughout her entire life. After graduating from the Aarhus University of Business in 1994, Helena started her career in international swine equipment sales.
In 1997, Helena moved to Quebec, Canada, where she still resides today. Through her own distribution channels, she has represented Danish swine equipment companies in North and South America for the past 20 years.
Helena brings a wealth of production expertise, international contacts, language skills, and leadership, all of which will contribute to Genesus’ global growth. Genesus is fortunate and excited to add Helena to the team.
Hog slaughter plants have been running close to capacity in recent weeks. Earlier this year Steve Meyer calculated hog slaughter capacity at roughly 452,000 head per day. If you figure 5.5 slaughter days in a week, you get a weekly capacity of 2.486 million hogs.
The largest weekly slaughter ever was 2.499 million hogs during the week ending on Dec. 19, 2015. Three of the next seven largest slaughter weeks were in the past 30 days: 2.473 million head during the week ending Sept. 24; 2.453 million during the week ending Oct. 1; and 2.422 million during the week ending Oct. 8.
Modern hog production systems do not have a lot of flexibility on marketing date. Barns need to be emptied to make room for the next batch of hogs. Hog prices can approach zero if large numbers of hogs can’t be slaughtered on a timely basis. See price data for December 1998 as an example.
At a time like this, with marketings pushing up against slaughter capacity, what hog producers really don’t want is anything that disrupts packers’ ability to process hogs, such as a hurricane along the coast of North Carolina.
Hurricane Matthew dumped a foot of rain in North Carolina, flooding roads and disrupting the movement of people and hogs. Smithfield’s Tar Heel slaughter plant, the world’s largest, was idle for several days this past week. Last week’s hog slaughter was 2.304 million, down 118,000 from the week before and down 145,000 from the average of the prior three weeks.
USDA’s last Hogs and Pigs report indicated that there was a record number of market hogs on farms on Sept. 1. The survey indicated the number of market hogs weighing 180 pounds or more on Sept. 1 was 4.1% greater than a year ago; the number weighing 120 to 179 pounds was up 3.7%; the number weighing 50 to 119 pounds was up 1.9%; and the number weighing less than 50 pounds was up 1.7%.
The chart shows weekly federally inspected hog slaughter for 2015 (green line); slaughter thus far in 2016 (red line); the slaughter level implied by the September Hogs and Pigs survey (blue line); and the 2.486 million head estimated slaughter capacity for non-holiday weeks (black line).
During the first half of 2016, daily hog slaughter averaged less than 1% above the year-ago level. Third quarter slaughter was up nearly 3%. The Hogs and Pigs report implied fourth quarter daily hog slaughter will be 2.9% greater than last year.
Looking ahead, the important question is how long will packers need to work through this week’s apparent backlog of 100,000-plus hog caused by Hurricane Matthew.
Slaughter is low, of course, during weeks that include one of the six major holidays – New Years, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Half of those six holidays will occur in the next 80 days. The September market hog inventory weight groups imply weekly hog slaughter will be close to the capacity limit for a five week period before and after Thanksgiving. If packers can’t eliminate any backlog by mid-November, things are likely to get really bad in December.
On the plus side, there is the possibility that there are not 100,000 hogs backed up on farms. A few hogs, less than 3,000 head, perished in the flooding. Producers may have been pulling ahead on sales. Certainly, hog slaughter in late-September and early October was well above the level implied by the September inventory report. In addition, the September hog survey may have overestimated the market hog inventory.
There are three weeks left until the blue line of predicted hog slaughter reaches the black line of slaughter capacity. If hog slaughter averages 2.432 million during the next three weeks, then it will be 100,000 head above the level implied by the Hogs and Pigs Report. That is a doable number as it is less than both weeks of Sept. 24 and Oct. 1.
It is far from clear that producers will be able to market their hogs on a schedule of their choosing this fall. If they can’t, then the low in hog prices could be both memorable and painful.
USDA has started making more than $7 billion in payments to producers of corn, soybean, wheat, rice and peanut enrolled in either the Agriculture Risk Coverage or Price Loss Coverage programs for the 2015 crop year.
Illinois, Indiana and Ohio are seeing some of the highest ARC payment rates for the 2015 crop year. This is a 35% increase over the previous payments made last year for the 2014 crop year. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “This fall, USDA will be making more than $7 billion in payments under the ARC-county and PLC programs to assist participating producers, which will account for more than 10% of the USDA’s projected 2016 net farm income.”
This year USDA in an effort to assist producers created a one-time cost share program for cotton ginning, purchased $80 million in excess commodities to be redirected to food banks, and made $11 million in payments to dairy farmers through the Dairy Margin Protection Program. The 2014 farm bill authorized the ARC-PLC safety net to trigger and provide financial assistance only when decreases in revenues or crop prices, respectively, occur.
Livestock haulers accountable for animal welfare
Livestock transporters and haulers not employed by an official establishment will be held accountable for humane handling of hogs, cattle, sheep and goats prior to slaughter when on the premises of an official plant under a notice issued by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
The agency intends to initiate civil or criminal action against people not employed by an official establishment if they handle livestock inhumanely in connection with the slaughter on the site. FSIS says it, “believes these actions will further improve the welfare of livestock handled in connection with slaughter by ensuring that all persons that inhumanely handle livestock in connection with slaughter are held accountable.”
PEW study says FDA needs to do more on animal drug labels
In a recent study Pew Charitable Trust says the Food and Drug Administration is not doing enough to review labels for animal drugs. According to Pew, approximately one-third of labels for medically important antibiotics for food animals do not meet FDA’s standards for judicious use. Pew reviewed 389 labels for medically important antibiotics for animals and found that 140 labels didn’t follow FDA’s judicious-use standards.
According to the study, nearly 30% of the drug labels reviewed didn’t limit the duration of use, and 25% didn’t give dosages that took into account the animal’s weight. The FDA in September in the Federal Register asked for public comments on whether to limit certain drugs not covered by current guidance.
USDA annual report shows net income increased for top 100 cooperatives
Net income for the top 100 agricultural cooperatives increased from $4.3 billion in 2014 to $4.9 billion in 2015 according to USDA latest report on cooperatives. Also, the total business volume for the top 100 agriculture cooperatives fell from $177 billion in 2014 to $149 billion in 2015. The top five cooperatives are CHS of Inver Grove Heights, Minn.; Dairy Farmers of America of Kansas City, Mo.; Land O’Lakes Inc. of St. Paul, Minn.; Growmark Inc. of Bloomington, Ill.; and Ag Processing Inc. of Omaha, Neb. States with the most cooperatives in the top 100 are Iowa with 15, Minnesota with 11 and Nebraska with nine.