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Articles from 2018 In October

Farmweld strengthens pork production support in Midwest

Farmweld Farmweld manufactures pig feeders, farrowing crates and livestock fencing for large integrators, family farmers, builders and contractors.

Source: Farmweld
Committed to providing U.S. pork producers with the highest quality equipment and services, Farmweld has hired Brent Jackson to provide field sales support in the vital pig production states of Iowa and Minnesota.

“Our sales staff is dedicated to providing pork producers with product solutions that make raising hogs easier,” says Frank Brummer, president of Farmweld. “Brent will work directly with producers in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and surrounding states, and we are excited to welcome him to the Farmweld team.”

Originally from Cedar Falls, Iowa, Jackson grew up with an agricultural background and graduated from Iowa State University. Most recently, he helped ethanol, biodiesel, fertilizer and power-generation plants throughout the Midwest design and construct their thermal heating and control systems.

Jackson comes to Farmweld with a desire to help producers raise hogs more efficiently, while meeting the needs of both the pigs and people in the barn.

“I look forward to meeting with producers on their farm and at the coming winter state shows. I will work to offer solutions that fit each producer and work with builders to complete facilities quickly and efficiently,” Jackson says.

A leader in the design of products that reduce waste and promote pig comfort and labor savings, Farmweld manufactures pig feeders, farrowing crates and livestock fencing for large integrators, family farmers, builders and contractors.

MORNING Midwest Digest, October 31, 2018

By the end of the day, police in Indiana arrested the 24-year-old woman who ran over four school children. Three of the four died.

Stressful times in ag can create strange bedfellows. Cargill announced a joint tech venture with ADM. 

The Andersons, based in Ohio, is continuing to expand. 

Halloween night is often windy and miserable for trick-or-treaters. Some in Ohio will get that nasty weather.

What's the preferred Halloween candy in your state?

Ro-Main rolls out new suite of pig behavior software

Ro-Main Since the launch of PigWatch system in 2009, Ro-Main has combined artificial intelligence and pig farming.

Source: Ro-Main
Ro-Main is launching a new range of products incorporating artificial intelligence to help producers analyze their herds in a non-invasive way. The 20-year-old company based in Quebec City, Canada, is releasing the Ro-Main smaRt suite, which includes three software modules for pigs and two for sows.

By means of a network of cameras adapted for pig farms, deep learning algorithms analyze the video streams and translate them into individual behavioral metrics. The analysis of these metrics provides a better understanding of each animal’s specific needs, automates certain tasks and ensures better decision-making.

Since the launch of PigWatch system in 2009, Ro-Main has combined artificial intelligence and pig farming.

“The combination of technology and animal science deserves to be exploited to better manage our farms. We believe that the Ro-Main smaRt suite will simplify the life of producers by allowing them to continuously, in a non-invasive way, analyze the behavior of their herd,” says Jacquelin Labrecque, director of research and development and artificial intelligence product manager.

The Ro-Main smaRt suite for pigs includes the smaRt Pig Counting module that automatically counts pigs in a corridor, eliminating the need to manually count animals for receptions and shipments. The smaRt Pig Inventory module takes real-time inventory by pen, while the smaRt Pig Tracking module tracks and analyzes each animal’s behavior 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

The Ro-Main smaRt suite for sows includes the smaRt Sow Breeding module that determines the optimal moment to inseminate; thus resulting in an accurate single-dose insemination. Finally, the smaRt Sow Health module uses the behavior of sows to detect health problems early.

Ro-Main smaRt suite sales start February 2019. Pre-orders start on Dec. 10.

Farm Progress America, Oct. 31, 2018

Max Armstrong offers insight from a recent meeting of the U.S. Animal Health Association where a key new resource that attended – the students. During a student luncheon at the event, many got information from the many veterinarians on hand including the many professional options available to them.

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.

Photo: Motortion/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Feed gilt development for performance

National Pork Board group gilt housing

When thinking about all of the factors that tie into a sow’s lifetime productivity, one of the oft-overlooked aspects is the development of the gilts that will lead the performance of a herd, hopefully for a long time.

Gilt development has been looked at as a secondary factor of a sow’s lifetime productivity, along the lines of a marketing program, size and type of operation and personnel — all of which feed the primary factor of management. The tide is turning to start giving the gilt, and her development, more respect.

“We’ve always thought of gilts as being fairly cheap,” said Clay Lents, research physiologist with the USDA U.S. Meat Animal Research Center at Clay Center, Neb., “but it takes her two-and-a-half to three parities to make up the cost of her raising, so it’s not necessarily cheap.”

With that in mind, a team of researchers at the USMARC, Iowa State University, Hanor Co. and Smithfield Hog Production suggests putting a greater emphasis on gilt development as a main driver of sow lifetime productivity.

Lents presented research by the team during the Allen D. Leman Swine Conference in September in St. Paul, Minn.

Clay Lents said there’s a new way of thinking about the role gilt development plays in the complex web of sow lifetime productivity. The traditional matrix of SLP is shown on the left, but Lents feels the redesigned matrix shown on the right more accurately portrays how gilt development sets up SLP.

Early puberty and fertility
Early sexual maturity is critical for sow lifetime productivity, and age at puberty, “or that first HNS [heat no serve], is the first indicator of a gilt’s reproductive potential,” Lents said. Early sexual maturity is important because age at puberty is positively associated with other indicators of fertility and productivity, he said, such as being more fertile at each estrus and subsequent farrowing; they have shorter wean-to-estrus interval and more regular farrowing intervals, and thus would be less likely to be culled for reproductive reasons, such as having more nonproductive days.

“They tend to stay in the herd longer and produce more pigs — not just over their lifetime, but also in each litter,” he said. “I think it’s an important trait, and one of the few reproductive traits that is moderately heritable, and that’s an important consideration as well.”

Age at puberty occurs over a large range of lean growth rates and backfat thicknesses, making it challenging to use such measures as indicators of gilts’ potential. “In general, gilts with the highest growth rates accumulate more backfat, and they tend to cycle earlier,” he said.

As a rule, it is ideal for gilts to gain more than 600 grams per day (1.1 pounds) of lifetime growth from rate from birth to time of selection, with a 300-to 330-pound body weight at time of breeding. “That’s an optimal weight range to avoid some of those larger gilts.”

Keeping weight down key
Avoiding gilts that are heavier throughout their life will save the producer and the females themselves a lot of headaches down the road. Heavier gilts (over 140 kilograms at first estrus and over 140 kg at breeding) run a higher risk of lameness and injury, require higher maintenance costs in feed and tend to be culled earlier from the herd, and thus have lower lifetime productivity.

Different schools of thought exist on feeding gilts to get ready for a long productive life in the herd, either feeding ad libitum or an energy-restricted diet. “People typically feed gilts ad lib, but recommendations are to slow their growth at some point in time,” Lents said, pointing to a feeding trial of 15% energy restriction that looked at the effects of a Parity 1, 2 or 3. “It shows there was no effect on Parity 1, but gilts that were on the energy-restrictive diet showed a greater probability of having a second or third litter.”

Lents said such trials show a few things that go against conventional wisdom or thinking of the past. First, gilt development has traditionally stopped at HNS or after the first parity, and “really proper gilt development is accumulation of a lot of little things that provide small advantages at each step, and that begins to show up the further into production that you go.”

This means that producers, and the industry as a whole, need to take a more long-term view at feeding gilts for long-term productivity.

A National Pork Board SLP Research Consortium sought to find the long-term benefits to reducing growth of gilts in development and what the best diets are to be used. Those questions had to be answered in a setting that would be applicable in the real world using large numbers of animals under commercial conditions, where gilts would have ad libitum access to feed made up of practical diets of ingredients that are readily used and readily available.

Chris Hostetler, NPB director of animal science, informally surveyed producers for what they typically feed gilts, finding the diets consisted of metabolizable energy (ME) of 3,200 to 3,300 kilocalories per kilogram, and SID (standard ileal digestible) lysine levels between 0.8% and 1% in the finisher ration.

Energy, lysine use studied
From this information, six diets were formed, exhibiting three levels of energy and two levels of lysine. ME varied from the control diet by 85%, 100% and 115%. Each of those three ME levels were paired with lysine levels that varied 85% from the control diet. Three similar ME diets were paired with 100% lysine variance from the control diet. A total of 1,221 gilts were fed from 100 to 260 days of age, with 18 pigs per pen in two grow-finish barns in Iowa.

The gilts in this study were shipped for slaughter, after which they were studied for reproductive development. Results showed these diets had no effect on body weight, and the high-ME diets resulted in about a 10% increase in backfat, “but there’s some question as to if that’s biological-relevant,” Lents said.

As expected, the pigs fed the lower ME-diet compensated by eating more to meet the ME intake for growth. Lents said this first trial indicates there was limited opportunity to change ME and alter growth or composition of gilts in a biologically meaningful way. It also shows that a 15% reduction in lysine failed to affect growth or development, “suggesting that we can potentially reduce lysine in the diet of developing gilts.”

Equally as expected, Lents said upon slaughter of the gilts from this trial, the rations didn’t appear to have an effect on uterine development or ovary function. Two further feeding trials were initiated to take a more strategic look, developing high-lean, medium-lean and low-lean diets for growers (100 to 142 days) and finishers (143 to 220 days) by reducing the levels of lysine even further compared to the first trial. “As we did that, we increased fiber in the diet by adding wheat midds and corn germ to try to compensate to prevent the gilts from adjusting their feed intake, and adjusted energy level by adding grease,” he said.

In Trial 2, 641 LW x LR maternal-line gilts were fed from 100 to 220 days of age and were studied for feed intake, body weight and body composition. Trial 3 consisted of 3,024 LW x LR maternal-line gilts fed from 100 to 200 days of age, and also studied for feed intake, body weight and body composition. At 28 weeks, the gilts were moved to sow farms and placed on a gestation diet. These gestation diets varied by sow farm destination; some were fed ad libitum, and others were fed 4 pounds per day.

High-lean best
Regardless which diet these gilts were on (low, high or medium), Lents said they showed acceptable growth to meet the breeding targets, even though those on the high diet had the higher average daily gains, and those on the low diet had the lowest ADG.

Lents said researchers learned from these trials “that we were able to successfully alter growth rates and body composition in development, but we had to add fiber to do that. You have to limit access to feed, or you have to have some intake-limiter in your diet to achieve that.”

Despite reducing lysine “quite a bit” in the rations, “we still achieved sufficient growth and body composition in gilts for good reproductive performance,” he said.

Trials 2 and 3 also included boar stimulation, starting when gilts are 160 days of age — which should be physiological maturity. Vasectomized boars were used for 10-minute daily contact in pens, in four pens per day with 20 to 24 gilts per pen. Boars rotated among pens daily, resting every other day. “Ideally, we would have more time of exposure each day, and the number of gilts was too high. It would be best to have only 15 gilts per pen for maximum exposure,” Lents said.

Research revealed that higher-growth gilts respond to boars sooner and have an earlier age of puberty. Also, despite adequate growth and development, response to boars was inadequate. “This has important implications for use of PG600, and it emphasizes the importance of gilt stimulation protocols. I also think we under-appreciate the effects of disease on reproductive development,” he said.

Even though gilts continue to grow, Lents said they are losing body condition in breeding, so it is imperative to continue proper nutritional management of gilts after leaving gilt development all the way through subsequent parities.

Disease impacts sow lifetime performance

National Pork Board Nursing newborn piglets

Last month we started the conversation on looking at different ways to measure sow lifetime performance, this month we continue looking at the same data but in regards to disease impact and how to improve sow lifetime performance.

We all know that disease has an impact on the performance of the farm. The impact looks different for each farm and each disease. Chart 1 shows all 15 farms and the pigs per 100 females per day for the last eight years. Of the 15 farms we looked at in last month’s column, seven of them were impacted by disease in 2014. Those seven farms are shown in Chart 2, each impacted differently. In Chart 3, there are five farms charted that were not impacted by disease, a very different picture of improvement over the last eight years.

Swine Management Services

Swine Management Services

Swine Management Services

In Chart 4 and Chart 5 we look at two of those farms and compare the three measurements looked at in last month’s column, pigs weaned per mated female on the blue line, pigs per lifetime on the red line and pigs per 100 sows per day on the green line. The performance of each farm was different prior to the disease challenge and also impacted drastically different by the disease.

Swine Management Services

Swine Management Services

In Chart 6, a farm that was not impacted by disease compares the three measurements. In all three of the individual farm graphs it shows that the pigs weaned per mated female and the pigs per 100 females per day are most similar to each other. With that said then why would you consider looking at another measurement instead of continuing to use pigs weaned per mated female? The numbers measure two very different things.

Swine Management Services

Pigs weaned per mated female

  • Includes only the mated females in the herd in the given time period
  • Includes only the pigs weaned in the given period

Pigs weaned per 100 females per day

  • Includes all gilts and sows culled in a given time period (we used one-year time periods)
  • Includes the number of days each animal was in the herd
  • Includes that number of pigs weaned only from those removed animals over their lifetime.

How do you improve pigs weaned per 100 females per day?

  • Not all gilts delivered to the farm should enter the herd, farms need to be more critical of structure of gilts to help ensure their stay ability in the farm.
  • Effective heat detection, not just of gilts but also with finding open sows timely to reduce nonproductive days.
  • Individual animal care and reducing sow death loss to improve longevity of females.
  • Being diligent with biosecurity to reduce chances of disease impact and reduced production as a result of it.
  • Training of staff on the importance of sow retention, longevity and the economic impacts that it has on your operation.

Improving pigs weaned per 100 females per day has a financial impact on every farm above pigs weaned per mated female per day not just because of the inclusion of gilts and all nonproductive days, but also because of the reduction of new gilts entering the herd. If you can produce the same number of pigs with fewer animals entering the herd, you are reducing costs of animals purchased, vaccinations and development.

Table 1 provides the 52-week rolling averages for 11 production numbers represented in the Swine Management Services Production Index. The numbers are separated by 90-100%, the 70-90%, the 50-70%, the 30-50% and the 0-30% groups. We also included the 13-week, 26-week and 12-quarter averages. These numbers represent what we feel are the key production numbers to look at to evaluate the farm’s performance.

At SMS, our mission statement is to provide “Information solutions for the swine industry”. We feel with the creation of different SMS Benchmarking databases for all production areas we now have more detailed information to share with the swine industry. If your farm would like to be part of the SMS Benchmarking databases call us. We enjoy being a part of the National Hog Farmer team. Previous columns can be found at

If you have questions or comments about these columns, or if you have a specific performance measurement that you would like us to write about, please contact Mark RixRon Ketchem or Valerie Duttlinger.

Circuit Court overturns gag order in North Carolina hog farm cases

Thinkstock In a sweeping ruling, a three-judge panel rebuked the order issued by Judge Earl Britt that prevented Smithfield Foods and others from commenting on the federal lawsuits.

Source: North Carolina Pork Council
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., has overturned a gag rule issued this summer, that silenced communications about nuisance lawsuits filed against more than two dozen North Carolina hog farms. In a sweeping ruling, a three-judge panel rebuked the order issued by Judge Earl Britt that prevented Smithfield Foods and others from commenting on the federal lawsuits.

In August, the North Carolina Pork Council, the National Pork Producers Council and other groups filed an amicus curiae brief with the Fourth Circuit, asking that it grant Murphy-Brown’s petition to vacate Britt’s prior restraint on speech, noting that “all but the most carefully crafted, narrow gag orders are unconstitutional.”

The Court of Appeals agreed.

“The gag order has already inflicted serious harm on parties, advocates and potential witnesses alike. It has muted political engagement on a contested issue of great public and private consequence. It has hamstrung the exercise of First Amendment rights. Even in short doses, these harms are hostile to the First Amendment,” Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote for the panel.

The 24-page opinion also takes Britt to task for reversing his decision on the gag order in August after the appeal had been made.

The court’s opinion says, “The mischief of the trial court’s action should be apparent,” and noted that the tactic could set up “an endless game of cat and mouse.”

In conclusion, the judges wrote that First Amendment rights were at risk. “All these people care. This case is about their lives and their livelihoods. Whatever differences the parties and their supporters have, they possess in common a passionate First Amendment interest in debating their futures. It seems very wrong that a court would take that from them.”

EPA finalizes changes to EPCRA emissions reporting


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency acting administrator Andrew Wheeler was joined by U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R., Kan.) and stakeholders from agriculture and emergency management to sign a proposed deregulatory rule Tuesday to solidify the elimination of a needless reporting requirement for animal operators.

The Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act fixed a problem created in April 2017 when a U.S. court of appeals rejected a 2008 EPA rule that exempted farmers from reporting routine farm emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation & Liability Act (CERCLA). Commonly known as the “Superfund law,” CERCLA is used primarily to clean hazardous waste sites but also includes a mandatory federal reporting component.

The appeals court ruling would have forced tens of thousands of livestock farmers to “guesstimate” the emissions from manure on their farms and report that to the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center, leaving them subjected to citizen lawsuits from activist groups.

EPA’s latest proposed rule would exempt farmers from reporting to state and local first responders under the federal Emergency Planning & Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) – an adjunct to CERCLA – that they have “hazardous” emissions on their farms.

The FARM Act, passed on March 23, 2018, exempted farms from the requirement to submit emergency release reports to the Coast Guard’s National Response Center for air releases from manure under the CERCLA.

The rule proposed by EPA Tuesday is the result of the agency considering the intent of Congress to produce a commonsense approach to handling this issue under the nation’s emergency planning framework. Moreover, in light of ongoing efforts to improve and enhance communication between farmers and local emergency responders at the state and local levels, this requirement is not needed.

“The rule announced is the final piece in the implementation of the FARM Act, which passed Congress earlier this year and which eliminated the need for livestock farmers to estimate and report to the federal government emissions from the natural breakdown of manure,” said National Pork Producers Council resident Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Johnstown, Ohio. “That bipartisan measure was approved because it was unnecessary and impractical for farmers to waste their time and resources alerting government agencies that there are livestock on farms.”

The U.S. Poultry & Egg Assn., National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation and United Egg Producers commended EPA for its proposed changes.

The poultry and egg industry groups said, “The removal of this unnecessary burden will ensure that emergency first responders' important effort and time is not wasted on responding to non-emergencies. We look forward to working with local emergency planning commissions and emergency first responders to help them be familiar with how our poultry and egg facilities operate, so if there is a true emergency, their safety and efforts are enhanced.”

The groups said Congress made it clear in passing the FARM Act earlier this year, which the poultry and egg industry strongly supported, that it did not intend to cover low-level air releases from the natural degradation of manure as an emergency notification under federal emergency response laws.

“The pork industry wants regulations that are practical and effective, but applying CERCLA and EPCRA to livestock farms would be neither,” Heimerl added. “Pork producers are very strong stewards of the environment and have taken many actions over the years to protect it.”

Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer and hog processor, is expanding its Smithfield Renewables platform – its industry-leading carbon reduction and renewable energy efforts – to help meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2025. For example, over the next 10 years, it will implement manure-to-energy projects at 90% of its hog finishing spaces in North Carolina and Utah and at nearly all finishing spaces in Missouri and will convert existing anaerobic lagoons to covered digesters or construct new covered digesters to capture biogas.

MIDDAY Midwest Digest, October 30, 2018

Tragedies involving kids are heartbreaking. Students were hit by a pickup in Indiana as they crossed the road for the bus this morning. Three of four died at the scene.

R.J. Johnson was a prison guard in South Dakota. He died seven and a half years ago, killed by a prisoner. His killer was put to death yesterday.

Crop harvest is painfully slow for some, because it's down. 

Max will be in Columbus, Ohio, later this week. It's a growing city, and is the fourteenth largest city in the country. The American Angus Association is meeting there later this week.

University of Missouri receives $7 million for swine model research

National Pork Board growing pigs

Source: University of Missouri-Columbia
The University of Missouri has received a $7.229 million grant to continue their swine model research at the National Swine Resource and Research Center. The NSRRC was established in 2003 to serve as a resource for biomedical investigators and researchers, providing those individuals with access to critically needed swine models for human health and disease.

The Center will continue to provide those vital services after the National Institutes of Health renewed the original grant for another five-year block. It is the fourth time that NIH has approved a five-year block for the Center. The grant is through the NIH Office of the Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

“Swine are the optimal model species for investigation of a large number of human diseases and have made valuable contributions to almost every field of human medicine,” says Randy Prather, curator and distinguished professor of reproductive biotechnology in the division of animal sciences. Prather also serves as the principal investigator for the Center. “Swine share anatomic and physiologic characteristics with humans that make them ideal models for research. In addition, the anatomy and physiology make pig organs likely candidates for xenotransplantation.

“The Center has two primary functions. One of those functions is finding unique models that are already out there and importing them into the Center. We can then serve as a central repository for distributing those models out to the researchers who need them. The second function of the Center occurs when individuals ask us for new models. We make new genetic modifications and ship those animals out so that the individual can do their planned research.”

The Center offers a variety of services, including biological materials, health monitoring, cryopreservation and research. It also provides consulting services for individuals who are interested.

“The NSRRC serves as a central resource for reagents, a creation of new genetically modified swine, and information and training related to use of swine models in biomedical research,” says Kristin Whitworth, a research scientist on Prather’s lab team and the project director for NSRRC.

Prather was part of a group from the University of Missouri that published the first genetically modified pigs made by somatic cell molecular transfer, allowing them to go in and get rid of a gene’s function. That served as a big breakthrough for xenotransplantation, which is the process of transplanting organs or tissues between different species. With the base technology and expertise with pigs, Prather and his team made a proposal to NIH in 2003 for a center that would meet the needs that individuals have.

Kevin Wells, an associate professor in the division of animal sciences and co-primary investigator for NSRRC, says swine models have continued to become more popular since the NSRRC was created due to a handful of factors, including a pig’s size.

“When you’re trying to develop a device, maybe it’s a camera system to do a colon observation for example, you need something that is the correct size,” Wells says. “The research could be related to a weight-bearing issue, and, again, the pig is a great model. It’s not a perfect model, but it is closer than most. Swine models are becoming more and more popular. We’re busier every year.” 

The work Prather and his team do through NSRRC also translates into extended research. They have publish several research papers related to questions brought up through their modeling work.

“It’s not just an opportunity for research — we feel like we have an obligation,” Wells says. “Everything we figure out how to do, we teach the world to do. If we can find an easier and more efficient way to do something, we want everyone to know. Sometimes our main function is just distributing knowledge.”