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Articles from 2002 In November

Permit Approval Boosts Slaughter Capacity at North Carolina Plant

Permit approval at a North Carolina packing plant will add one million head annually to processing capacity and $1/cwt. to hog prices, says National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) President Dave Roper.

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources in mid-November approved a renewed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for the Tarheel, NC-based Smithfield Packing Company processing plant.

"The one-million-head increase in slaughter capacity represents a 1% increase in national slaughter capacity and will amount to an additional $250 million annually for our nation’s pork producers," Roper points out.

The expansion of slaughter capacity will reduce transportation costs for North Carolina producers. "With costs currently totaling from $3-8/head to ship hogs to alternative slaughter plants, it is estimated that keeping one million more animals in North Carolina will save pork producers $4-6 million/year in freight costs," Roper says. "These positive impacts will be felt in the pork industry for a long time."

Appeals Court Grants Stay Continuing Pork Checkoff

On Nov. 15, the Sixth District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, OH, granted a stay of a Michigan federal court ruling declaring the pork checkoff program unconstitutional.

The stay was requested by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to allow the government time to appeal the Oct. 25 verdict of U.S. District Court Judge Richard Enslen. DOJ is representing the Agriculture Department and the Pork Board in the suit.

The stay clears the way for the pork checkoff to continue while the Court of Appeals considers the appeal of the Michigan ruling.

"Since producers began the pork checkoff in the mid-1980s, pork consumption has increased by 21%, research has been conducted on key producer issues and pork has become the fastest-growing meat category in America’s restaurants," says Ogden, IA, producer Craig Christensen, vice president of the National Pork Board. "You bet we are glad to see this program continue. The pork checkoff provides the tools we all need on our farm, but don’t have time or resources to do individually."

In the next few weeks, the court will set the schedule for briefs and oral arguments to be heard, probably during the first quarter of 2003, comments Mike Simpson, executive vice president of the National Pork Board. Based on that schedule, he speculates a final decision could be rendered by the court later in 2003.

Should the Appeals Court rule against the government and the Pork Board, the parties would have 45 days from the date of the appeals decision to either terminate the checkoff program or seek an appeal with the Supreme Court.

product news

Bio-Secure Shipping System

Newport Laboratories recently launched the SnoBall Pak Bio-Secure System to minimize the risk of outside contamination when products are shipped directly to operations. The system allows the receiver to transfer the vaccine bottles from the foam-lined shipper box across the bio-secure line to the “clean” side in the receiving area. The receiver lifts out the SnoBall Pak liner, passes the contents to the bio-secure side, leaving the potentially contaminated shipper container in the receiving area. The need for such a system was highlighted in a University of Minnesota study regarding the spread of the virus causing porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome.
(Circle Reply Card No. 101)

Mycoplasma-Flu Vaccine

The first combination vaccine for Mycoplasmal pneumonia and swine influenza virus (SIV), MaxiVac Platinum with Emunade, has been introduced by Schering-Plough Animal Health. The USDA product approval covers reduced shedding of both H1N1 and H3N2 strains of SIV. “Reduced viral shedding from the lungs and nasal passages may decrease exposure of SIV to other animals, thereby shortening the duration of the disease in the herd and improving control,” explains Robin Fleck, Schering-Plough technical services veterinarian. The mycoplasma portion of MaxiVac Platinum is the same as in Schering-Plough's M+Pac mycoplasma bacterin. It has been shown to provide protection in the presence of maternal antibodies. Emunade is a proprietary oil-in-water adjuvant that provides a rapid and prolonged immune response. MaxiVac Platinum is licensed for use in healthy pigs 5 weeks of age and older. The product comes in 25- to 125-dose packages.
(Circle Reply Card No. 102)

Certified Financial Software

Red Wing Software announced that the National Pork Board has certified Perception Accounting software to be compliant with the Pork Standards Financial Certification. This certification process for privately or independently developed financial accounting software gives pork producers the ability to analyze their data against the checkoff-funded National Pork Database. In addition to exporting data to the National Pork Database, Perception shares information with EASi Suite Crop Management Software, the University of Minnesota's FINPACK Analysis Program, Ration Index Analysis modules, with input by the Ferguson Group and the Farm Financial Standards Council, plus other analysis tools from Red Wing Software.
(Circle Reply Card No. 103)

Wastewater Treatment

IMR Corporation, in conjunction with Tierra InStreem Group, Inc., has introduced new technology for the treatment of hog facility wastewater lagoons. The system increases the performance of wastewater lagoons by enhancing natural biological activity. Unlike conventional aeration systems, InStreem converts existing lagoons into extended aeration systems, establishing conditions needed for waste degradation. The process removes excess nitrogen, phosphorus, ammonia and other nutrients.
(Circle Reply Card No. 104)

Compost Mixer

The Twister is an enclosed vessel compost mixer manufactured by McNeilus Company. The mixer is made from a reconditioned 12-yard concrete mixer and is retrofitted with low-gear reductions; a 5-hp, reversible, electric 220-volt motor on a timer; and is equipped with an electric turbine fan plus an expanded corrosion-proof hopper on top. All of this is mounted on a steel frame with steel running wheels. The Twister can be used for bio-drying, composting and pasteurizing liquid manure and wet manure.
(Circle Reply Card No. 105)

Agribusiness Law Group

Blackwell Sanders Peper Martin, seeking to serve the diverse and increasingly complex legal needs of companies engaged in agriculture and food production, has established an agribusiness law group. As one of the few large law firms in the country with a group dedicated to agribusiness, Blackwell Sanders Peper Martin will help companies focus on a broad range of issues including acquisitions; project financing; zoning and land use; food safety compliance; FTC, USDA and FDA regulatory compliance; environmental litigation and compliance; and NAFTA, immigration and cross-border operations.
(Circle Reply Card No. 106)

Automatic Waterer

The Ritchie 300 is the newest addition to Ritchie industries' dependable automatic livestock waterers. The waterer features compact uni-body design and is equipped with a ¾-in. valve for higher output and maximum watering efficiency. The Ritchie 300 has one-piece polyethylene construction, is insulated and can be equipped with a 250-watt immersion heater with a built-in thermostat.
(Circle Reply Card No. 107)

PRV Herd Depopulated

An 82-sow, farrow-to-finish, one-site operation near Rose Creek in southeastern Minnesota has been depopulated after breaking with pseudorabies (PRV) in mid-October, reports Paul Anderson, DVM, Minnesota Board of Animal Health.

Nine sows tested positive, says Anderson. The herd had been vaccinated for PRV.

Minnesota will retain its Stage IV status (surveillance) unless another infected herd is discovered in a six-mile circle test of the herds.

Also, Indiana has just advanced to Stage V, PRV-free status.

Drug Use Drops Again

The Animal Health Institute's (AHI) annual survey of its drug firm members shows that antibiotic use in farm and companion animals has dropped for the third year in a row.

In 2001, 21.8 million lb. of antibiotics were sold, down from 23.7 million lb. in 2000 and 24 million lb. in 1999.

“Veterinarians and livestock and poultry producers are constantly evaluating their use of antibiotics as part of the judicious use of these products,” reports Alexander S. Mathews, AHI president and CEO.

“While meat production between 1999 and 2001 rose 1.1 million lb., the amount of antibiotics used per pound of meat produced is going down.”

Mathews cites three reasons for this trend:

  1. Judicious use of antibiotics and improved production practices;

  2. Continued efforts in preventive care, and

  3. The push by public health and consumer groups to raise awareness of the antibiotic issue.

Table 1. Animal Health Institute Survey: Active Antibacterial Agents Sold by AHI Members, 2000 - 2001
Antibiotic Class 2000 (lb.) 2001 (lb.)
Ionophores/Arsenicals* 9,165,043 7,758,492
Tetracyclines 6,693,834 7,144,523
Cephalosporins, macrolides, lincosamides, polypeptides, streptogramins and other minor classes of antibiotics** 4,857,896 4,268,658
Sulfonamides 1,351,899 592,002
Penicillins 1,011,252 1,814,070
Aminoglycosides 337,819 257,252
Fluoroquinolones 38,082 36,204
Total 23,725,824 21,871,202
*Unique drug products developed for animal production and not related to traditional antibiotics.
**Grouping necessary to abide by disclosure agreements.

Use Patterns

About 10 tons of antibiotics are fed to the 8 billion livestock and poultry raised annually in the U.S. That includes about 92 million pigs.

The vast majority — 87% of use — is for disease treatment, control and prevention, despite the claim of critics that the majority of antibiotics are fed unnecessarily to healthy animals. This is considered to be therapeutic use, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

The remaining 13% of antibiotic use is for health maintenance or growth promotion. AHI says although these claims are controversial, health maintenance shifts the population balance of microflora in the gastrointestinal tract, improving nutrient use and healthy growth.

Furthermore, about 47% of the antibiotics used in food animals are either not used in human medicine or are not important to human medicine, according to AHI. Table 1 lists antibiotics sold by AHI members for 2000 and 2001.

The level of antibiotics used by humans and companion animals is equal to at least 10 times more drug per kilogram (2.2 lb.) bodyweight than food-producing animals, says an AVMA report (Figure 1).

Little Risk Seen from Drug Use in Animals

An independent expert group has concluded that while a theoretical threat to human health exists from the use of antibiotics in food animals, the actual risk remains very small.

Those findings come from human microbiologists, risk assessors, veterinarians and animal health experts.

“In 50 years of antibiotic use in animals and man, the development of resistance in animals has not made a major impact on human and animal health, and seems unlikely to happen overnight now,” says Ian Phillips, M.D., University of London.

Phillips chairs the group of experts evaluating the science behind antibiotic resistance. He says the use of antibiotics in humans and animals undoubtedly leads to resistance, and some resistant organisms reach man via the food chain. However, little harm occurs from resistance, even from infection.

The argument against antibiotics used in growth promotion has been based largely on antibiotic-resistant enterococci, bacterial organisms that cause no disease in animals but can cause infections in man. New surveillance data shows resistance is increasing despite the ban on antibiotic growth promoters from use in animals, says the Animal Health Institute (AHI).

European Experience

The move in the European Union to ban antibiotic growth promoters in animals has not cured antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans. And it has harmed animal health, according to the National Pork Board research group who toured Europe recently.

“Danish farmers have found that banning antibiotic growth promoters has caused pigs to get more cases of diarrhea, especially baby pigs,” states John Waddell, DVM, Sutton, NE. “The pigs have slower postweaning growth rates and increased production costs.”

Denmark completed its ban on Jan. 1, 2000. To compensate, Danish producers increased weaning ages of pigs to four weeks.

Health challenges also resulted in Danish farmers nearly doubling their use of therapeutic levels of antibiotics in pigs (Figure 1). And, they increased supplementation of zinc oxide and copper sulfate to reduce diarrhea problems in the nursery and enhance performance, says Waddell.

“At the same time, human cases of salmonella and campylobacter have reached record levels in Denmark and the proportion of multiple antibiotic-resistant salmonella DT104 has doubled since 1997,” he observes.

Results are nearly identical in other EU countries, including Sweden, France, Holland, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, says AHI.

Pork Board research group member and Illinois pork producer Jill Appell pointed out that death loss in Danish pigs before the ban was about 1%, after the ban it climbed to around 3%. Most farms in Denmark that were single site and continuous flow have had to change to all-in, all-out pig flow to survive.

Another research group member, Helen Jensen of Iowa State's Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, projected the cost of the antibiotic ban in Europe at a minimum of $1.50/pig. Waddell says a similar ban in the U.S. would add $10/pig to production costs.

Producer Consent Plan Advances

Sept. 1 served as the official kickoff date for the National Pork Producers Council's (NPPC) voluntary contribution initiative known as the Producer Consent Program.

On Oct. 25, a U.S. District Court judge's decision that the pork checkoff is “unconstitutional” launched NPPC back into defending the Pork Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act. Checkoff dollars, administered by the National Pork Board, cannot be used to influence public policy, therefore, legal defense of the mandatory program falls to NPPC.

Now, the need for unrestricted funds is magnified as NPPC legal counsel prepares to defend the pork checkoff through the appeals court process.

Pilot Project Underway

NPPC staff and producer leaders face the dual challenge of signing up packers willing to deduct the voluntary contribution, while convincing pork producers to submit a consent form directing them to do so.

“Producers must complete the consent form before the deduction can be made by a packer,” explains Jon Caspers, NPPC president-elect.

The prescribed deduction of 10¢/$100 market value was set in a resolution passed by NPPC delegates at their annual meeting last March. All funds will be split equally between the respective state organizations and NPPC.

Coinciding with the producer-packer campaigns, NPPC has begun a pilot project with IBP to ensure the deduction can be made seamlessly.

“Ten producers with different market strategies, from four different states, have agreed to participate,” says NPPC's Pat McGonegle. Once the electronic bugs are worked out, NPPC will work with other packers who have indicated their support.

Because the Producer Consent Program is strictly voluntary, producers can discontinue the deduction at any time, with proper written notification to NPPC or their state organization.

Producer Consent forms are available from state pork producer groups or by calling NPPC at (515) 278-8012.

The Need is Great

NPPC CEO Neil Dierks acknowledges that some confusion still exists between the legislated pork checkoff program, recently reduced to 40¢/$100 market value, and the voluntary Producer Consent initiative. He's quick to remind producers that pork checkoff funds are strictly earmarked, by law, for pork promotion, research and consumer information. In no way can those funds be used to influence public policy or advocacy issues, such as animal welfare, environmental issues or defense of the mandatory checkoff. That's where NPPC picks up the ball.

“There's often a non-checkoff component with these issues that the (National) Pork Board can't work on,” says Dierks. He uses a sports metaphor to explain: “We're in a situation where you can carry the ball 95 yards, you get it on the 5-yard line, and you're out of downs. When it becomes a regulatory issue, how are you going to deal with it if you don't have recourse to take your case to the government? The issue is to get the ball across the goal line. Oftentimes, it takes a combination of effort — guaranteeing solid science (Pork Board) and someone looking out for the regulatory process (NPPC).

“It comes down to this,” Dierks continues. “These are the advocacy issues that will determine how producers develop their operations and their freedom to operate them. In the end, NPPC is here trying to deal with these issues so producers have a unified voice.”

Reviewing Antibiotic Alternatives

None of the candidates touted as suitable non-antibiotic alternatives have clearly been shown to match the cost-effectiveness, convenience and improved performance offered by current antimicrobials, says University of Tennessee-Knoxville animal scientist Alan Mathew.

Subtherapeutic or growth-promoting levels of antibiotics provide health-enhancing and production performance benefits which appear to be unmatched by most alternative compounds, he adds.

The first step to reduced reliance on antibiotics must be to optimize management and nutrition and reduce times of stress. Some alternatives include:

  • Acidifiers and pH optimizers: Dietary additives that can stabilize gut pH appear to be useful in maintaining pig health. Diet acidifiers may alter microbial populations in the gut as commonly fed at less than 2% of the diet for newly weaned pigs.
  • Optimizing the gut microflora and fermentation byproducts: Research has shown promise in this area in slowing the development of bacterial colonization of the gut. But large-scale changes in diet to affect health while maintaining energy content to support rapid growth of pigs will be especially challenging, says Mathew.
  • Development of intestinal mucins (proteins that occur in mucous membranes): These are produced by specialized cells in the gut that which help resist pathogens and may be promoted by inclusion of galactose in the diet. Galactose is a form of sugar less sweet and soluble than glucose.
  • Genetic resistance: It is suggested that genetic lines may be developed that will be more efficient in nutrient uptake and resistant to swine pathogens.
  • More strategic use of vaccinations: This may require a farm-specific approach to optimize timing and booster inoculations against specific disease organisms.
  • Mathew’s talk was presented in October at the Carolina Swine Conference in Raleigh.

Critics Resist FDA's Drug Plan

A growing chorus of industry leaders is questioning the wisdom of the FDA's draft guidance document to assess the safety of antimicrobials used in farm animals.

It's agreed that a stringent regulatory process is needed to ensure products undergo sufficient scrutiny before approval, and consumers are assured of a safe food supply, according to the Animal Health Institute (AHI), a trade group representing animal drug makers.

Plan Needs Work

The Sept. 12 FDA proposal's lack of science and excessive estimates of risk have critics balking at doing more research without added assurance of product approvals.

Still, FDA, not Congress, is the proper place to consider antibiotic resistance, says Richard Carnevale, DVM, vice president of Regulatory, Scientific and International Affairs for AHI. FDA's risk assessment approach is superior to the proposed Congressional bans on antibiotic use in farm animals, he said during the Oct. 2 public meeting on the FDA plan.

Declares Carnevale: “Calls for comprehensive bans on whole classes of products, unless sponsors can somehow generate data to absolutely prove a negative, without specific evidence that these products are a risk to human health, is clearly not consistent with existing laws and undermines the agency's responsibility to direct its resources to those areas that might present the greatest public health impact.”

Notes Dennis Erpelding, manager of Government Relations, Public Affairs and Communications for Elanco Animal Health: “From an industry standpoint, we need to recognize the valid concerns about antibiotic resistance, whether it is at the production level or all the way through to the consumer level. But it is also very important that you have the science drive the decisions and retain the ability to utilize these antibiotic products for disease treatment, control, prevention and health maintenance.”

Carnevale commended the FDA proposal for approaching the issue on the basis of risk assessment. But AHI says the plan completely overestimates the risk of many compounds and uses.

AHI blasted the federal agency's assessment of the relevance between treating human and animal diseases, calling it a “serious disconnect…that will have the effect of clearly biasing the assessment in favor of deciding that more animal use of antimicrobials present a high risk to human health.”

Evaluating product approvals that way will “dramatically raise the hurdle of bringing a new antibiotic to the market and will also impact FDA's review of existing antibiotics on the market,” adds Erpelding.

To start with, Carnevale advises FDA to redo rankings based on evidence of risk and not speculation. “Only those antimicrobials used in the treatment of a foodborne infection should be classified as of high importance relative to animal uses.”

Also, the high degree of subjectivity found throughout the guidance document and the lack of science in ranking antimicrobials in terms of their importance to human medicine stand out as major concerns, says Tom Burkgren, DVM, executive director, American Association of Swine Veterinarians.

That ranking process is especially concerning because it seems based on arbitrary information, says Paul Sundberg, DVM, National Pork Board.

In short, FDA appears to be attempting to regulate the practice of veterinary medicine by proposing to severely limit how antimicrobials are used on farms, says Burkgren.

Producers Urge Reform

Past National Pork Producers Council President Barbara Determan testified FDA should issue a modified guidance document based on sound scientific practices that offers producers the flexibility they need to treat livestock for disease.

She says the FDA draft, which is not a formal rule, would severely restrict antibiotics and cause some unintended economic consequences.

“On today's farms, without being able to group medicate, it is simply too costly and not physically feasible to individually administer antibiotics, that under the proposed guidance, will be approved for use,” states Determan.

She cites her family's Early, IA, hog farm as a case in point. The 300 sows they purchased for the breeding herd broke with a new strain of influenza. Production dropped by 50% and they were in serious jeopardy of losing the sow herd and a $100,000 investment.

The best course of treatment proved to be extra-label use of medications, which apparently wouldn't be permitted under FDA's proposed guidelines.

Altona, IL, pork producer Jill Appell chairs the National Pork Board's Pork Safety Committee. She and her family finish about 7,000 pigs, purchasing 14- to 17-day-old weaned pigs.

A while back, some newly weaned pigs came down with Streptococcus suis infection in their joints. When this happens, pigs are often so sick they don't want to eat and drink so they are injected with penicillin. This is an extra-label use for this antibiotic, approved by her veterinarian, she says.

In her testimony, she also noted that water and feed medications provide an efficient means of delivering medication to a large group of at-risk animals. If these antibiotics are not routinely available, it will be not only an animal welfare problem, but also an environmental problem disposing of the dead pigs, she states.

Declares Sundberg: “We do not now have an adequate arsenal of antimicrobials to address the health needs of our animals. It is often through extra-label use that is directed by the veterinarian using his or her professional judgment and knowledge that we are able to maintain our animals' health and the safety of the food supply.”

Submit comments until Nov. 27 on the draft guidance to the Dockets Management Branch (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. The full text is online at

Challenging ‘Freedom of Choice’

Producer “freedom of choice” to use antibiotics in animals is being challenged by several opposition groups who tout better environment and management as keys to solving animal disease problems.

These activists believe that a redesign of U.S. animal production systems will help avoid disease problems, says Annamaria Castiglia, DVM, Phibro Animal Health.

But a ban on antibiotics and a redesign of facilities in Denmark failed to curb problems. In fact, animal disease problems escalated (see story, p. 16), and food-borne illnesses are 3-5 times higher than in the U.S., she says.

When surveyed by the International Food Information Council, European consumers indicated their highest concern regarding food is its safety.

These activist groups include: Keep Antibiotics Working (KAW); Center for Science in the Public Interest; Environmental Defense; Global Resource Action Center for the Environment; Humane Society of the United States; Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy; National Catholic Rural Life Conference; Natural Resources Defense Council; Physicians for Social Responsibility; Sierra Club; and Union of Concerned Scientists.

Consumer Views on Antibiotics

How do consumers feel about antibiotics fed to livestock?

Elanco Animal Health, in cooperation with the Animal Health Institute (AHI), conducted a nine-country consumer focus group project to find out.

Unaided, consumers were asked for their opinions on food safety and animal production. Antibiotic use did not come up, says Elanco's Dennis Erpelding.

Aided or prompted by a discussion about antibiotics, moderators learned consumers have a general lack of understanding on the subject.

When asked what they'd like to know, first was how antibiotics are used and regulated. Next they wanted to know what steps are being taken to ensure food safety in the U.S.

Erpelding says the key message points regarding various means of assuring food safety include: quality assurance programs, antibiotic prudent use programs and consumer educational programs on proper cooking and handling of meat products.

“We are working through our trade association but also are willing to work with individual companies to talk about antibiotic uses, regulations and frequently asked questions by consumers,” says Erpelding.

The goal is to have more fact-based decisions rather than perception-based decisions, he says. In that regard, a list of frequently asked questions about antibiotic use in animals has been developed. That can be found at

The New EU Welfare Proposals

By the year 2013, all member states of the European Union (EU) must comply with draconian new animal welfare regulations.

Some EU countries such as Sweden and the United Kingdom are already well down the proposed route, voluntarily.

U.S. readers will already know, for example, that our own national welfare laws prevent us from keeping sows in stalls, weaning pigs under 21 days of age and a lot of other things.

The new EU proposals go even further, so the majority of EU member states will have much catching up to do.

Here Are the New Proposals:

  1. Presently, the farm owner must understand and implement the current welfare regulations. In the future, the farm owner will have to ensure that any person attending to his animals has received instructions and guidance applying the regulations.

  2. The dimensions of any stall or pen holding individual pigs must be such that the internal area is not less than the square of the length of the pig, and no internal side is less than 75% of the pig's length.

  3. Not less than 40 lux of artificial lighting for eight hours a day.

  4. Maximum floor gap widths are laid down for nursing pigs, weaners, growers and gilts, and minimum slat widths are required for the same three groups of pigs, plus gilts after service and sows.

  5. All nursing pigs over 2 weeks of age must have permanent access to sufficient water.

  6. All pigs must have permanent access to a sufficient quantity of “manipulative” materials such as straw, hay, wood, sawdust, mushroom compost, peat or a mixture of such to allow them proper investigation and manipulation.

  7. There are new instructions for teeth clipping and grinding, docking, castration (with caveats), detusking, nose rings and ear tagging and notching (with caveats).

  8. New spatial allowances for boars are at 65 sq. ft., minimum, and 108 sq. ft. for pens used for natural service.

  9. Group housing will become mandatory, except seven days before predicted farrowing and when weaning is completed.

  10. More generous floor allowances must be provided for sows and gilts after service.

  11. All dry sows must be allowed bulky, high-fiber food to allow chewing and satisfy hunger.

  12. Minimum weaning age is raised from 21 to 28 days except for specialized all-in, all-out (AIAO) pig flow in the weaning system.

The Real Consequences

New farms must implement the new regulations from Jan. 1, 2003, while existing operations have until Jan. 1, 2013 to comply. There are 127 combined requirements in all.

  • Those countries that have taken little notice of pig welfare laws will already be following about half of these rules as routine, good farm practices. Even so, by 2013, they will not only have a lot of thinking to do but will be spending a lot of money falling in line or simply catching up.

  • Number 12 on the list (above) will hit them hardest — weaning at 28 days or older. They can retain the 21-day minimum, providing they go AIAO and modernize their postweaning housing to satisfy inspection.

    In Great Britain, we have already done some work where we have weaned at 28 days into segregated, AIAO nurseries. The improved performance to slaughter and extra income/pig considerably outweighs the extra cost of moving to 28-day weaning, less a small extra cost of the farrowing accommodations needed.

  • Number 6 on my list — the manipulative material requirement — is a real whammy with serious implications for those existing farms with slotted floors and slurry. Projected costs of compliance for a British farmer with 400 sows producing 8,000 finished pigs ranges between $1.13 to $5.00/pig (there are two systems we could install).

At present, a finished pig here sells for about $105. But this assumes the system has mostly solid floors. To convert slotted floors to a solid floor system would be economically prohibitive. The fur will really fly on this one, except for those building new, who can start from scratch.

Total Cost of New Regulations

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (the British successor to our former Ministry of Agriculture) has provisionally calculated the extra cost of all the new welfare proposals — including interest, labor and slowed production turnaround — at between $9 million and $17 million a year. Most of us British have to take this additional cost on board from 2003. That's $15-28/sow.

But it will be far, far higher for those EU nations that can be considered “welfare laggards,” even if they do have 10 years to prepare for it.

Europe is ahead of the U.S. in animal welfare regulations. You'd better keep an eye on our experiences and our costs from now on, I think, in case the welfare breeze blows your way.