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Articles from 2005 In November

National ID Get On Board

A national livestock identification program is needed in this country — and the sooner the better.

One need only look at the Oct. 10 headlines from Brazil, reporting a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak, to realize how quickly the meat export tide can turn. Within two weeks, 30 countries had closed their doors to Brazilian beef. The country's agriculture department estimates that losses could mount to $1.5 billion.

We all know the financial impact the cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) have had on U.S. and Canadian beef exports.

And, avian influenza is front-page news almost daily. Recent reports confirm the virus' appearance in Eastern Europe. Consumers have responded by buying less chicken.

I'm sure I'm not alone in the lingering thought that someday FMD, African Swine Fever, hog cholera or another dreaded disease could sneak across our borders. Prevention is always best, but should an outbreak occur, the key is to respond quickly and effectively. To do so, we must be able to track where any disease vector has been.

One of the firewalls under construction is the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). The USDA has set a goal of establishing a fully functional animal identification (ID) system by 2008, which will enable the traceback of any animal to the farm of origin within 48 hours.

Another USDA stated goal: “Animal movement data should be maintained in a private system that can be readily accessed when necessary by state and federal animal health authorities.”

USDA's proposal of a “private system” has drawn concern from the pork industry.

Seventeen years ago, the USDA established premises identification as part of the mandatory Pseudorabies Eradication Program. The goal was to contain the virus first, then eliminate all infected animals. It worked. All states are currently in the final stage (Stage 5) of the eradication program. No cases have been found in the last 12 months. With any luck, that will hold for another year, and the U.S. pork industry will be declared pseudorabies-free.

As NPPC President Joy Philippi aptly points out, this program is “proven and effective,” and it was “developed, implemented and accepted by pork producers, and federal and state partners” in a unified effort to rid the industry of the dread disease. The cost of establishing premise ID has already been absorbed into our production systems, and there's no reason to reinvent — or reinvest in — this particular wheel.

As the Pork Industry Identification Working Group notes, modern production systems document all pig movements by group or lot from birth to market. From these records, USDA can trace most pig movement.

Only a small fraction of hogs will require individual identification. Breeding animals, show pigs and boar semen are the exceptions. Breeding animals or show pig identification can best be accomplished, in my opinion, with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. A minimal investment in tags and portable, hand-held data recorders will simplify this challenge.

More information on the Working Groups' recommendations for swine ID is available at:

Take the First Step

The first step in the national ID initiative has been to encourage producers to register each premise that houses livestock. The key word here is “each.” It includes your isolation barn down the road as well as Grandpa's old dairy barn where the kids keep their 4-H pigs.

Premises with livestock are estimated at around 1.5 million, not including feedyards, auction barns or county and state fairgrounds, where thousands of animals are commingled every year.

Just 10% of all livestock premises were registered by mid-September. For more information and to register with your state, go to

Take Care of the Kids

Although the level of recordkeeping by the seedstock and commercial pork sectors is generally on par with the industry's proposals, I am concerned about our ability to keep track of the project pigs enrolled in 4-H and FFA programs.

I encourage seedstock and commercial producers to take a special interest in these youth programs as the national ID program unfolds. These valuable programs need your involvement to ensure the USDA's goals are met, while allowing the youth programs to continue providing valuable life experiences to young men and women. With the help and guidance of veteran pork producers, and the new identification technologies available today, these youth programs will survive and thrive.

The future of the U.S. pork industry, at many levels, will depend on an effective, national identification and security program. ID programs in several European countries, Canada and Australia are ahead of us. We cannot afford to trail our export competitors in this critical area.

PRRS Elimination Final Goal

The board of directors of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) has adopted a position statement regarding the eradication of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS).

The board determined at its fall meeting that eradication should be the ultimate goal. The board further urged the AASV to take a lead role by supporting the efforts of researchers, practitioners and producers in eliminating a disease that is estimated to cost the industry $560 million annually, based on a recent study released by the National Pork Board. That compares with annual losses from hog cholera and pseudorabies, estimated at $364 million and $36 million, respectively, prior to the eradication of those diseases.

The board's resolution says in part that because traditional disease control methods have not been effective in all cases, PRRS eradication from North America should be the long-term goal.

The resolution added, “The AASV will take a leadership role by partnering with the swine industry to promote collaborative PRRS eradication efforts at the local, regional and national levels, communicating the need and identifying sources of funding to support such initiatives, and assisting in the transfer of new PRRS-related information and technology across its membership, in order to achieve this goal.”

Manure Conveyance System Nips Odor, Ammonia

Unique belt waste removal system cuts odor, ammonia and building costs in Dutch hog operation.

Sometimes the best solutions to production challenges come from outside an industry.

In pork production, manure handling and odor control serve as ongoing and major challenges.

Martien van Kempen turned to chicken industry technology to solve his hog waste handling challenge. He adapted a belt waste removal system and double-deck hog housing to control odor and gaseous emissions, and dramatically change the nature of the waste product.

The Dutch producer grows 5,000 hogs and 70,000 laying hens near the small town of Venray, in the Netherlands. Unlike in the United States, Dutch farms are relatively small and privately owned, and their buildings are uniquely designed. At about 74 acres, van Kempen's farm is about average in size.

Because the farms are small and the environmental regulations reasonably stiff, manure and waste must be trucked significant distances from the farm; van Kempen once shipped waste up to 250 miles — some into neighboring Germany. The trucking cost was about $25/ton (U.S. dollars). He now ships some of the waste up to 100 miles at a cost of about $13/ton, but he now ships much less volume per animal.

Despite the differences between Dutch and American pork production, farmers in the Netherlands struggle to overcome the same odor and air quality problems.

This difficulty, along with van Kempen's experience with poultry, and his brother Theo's research at North Carolina State University (NCSU), led him to adopt a belt waste system for a new building constructed two years ago. The new building increased his capacity by 4,000 head.

Tackling Odor

One of the greatest advantages of the belt system is that it makes such dramatic strides toward controlling odor and gaseous emissions, Martien van Kempen says.

The polyethylene belt is forced into a slight “V” shape, forming a gutter that allows the urine to run off and be removed from the barn immediately. The feces collect on the belt, partially dry and are conveyed out of the barn every 12 hours.

The belt system fundamentally changes the nature of the waste as it leaves the building, providing very effective solids separation — a goal that is largely unachievable with waste streams from conventionally managed hog buildings.

The solid-liquid separation is extremely important, because when urine is kept from standing in solution with the feces, it prevents much of the odor. Separation also preserves much of the nitrogen in the urine.

If urine and feces are allowed to mix, much of the urea in the urine breaks down to form ammonia. Then it volatilizes, explains Theo van Kempen, Martien's brother and former associate professor at NCSU, and current director of swine research and development for a premix company in Belgium.

Urine from the van Kempen barn is removed quickly, treated with an acidic preservative and held in a sealed container. Later, it is mixed with poultry waste and sold to local mushroom farmers.

Quick removal and storage of urine is an imperative step to prevent ammonia release and odor in the barn, Theo van Kempen explains. If the urine goes into a sealed container within 12 hours, 95% of the urea can be kept from volatilizing. If a preservative such as benzoic acid or adipic acid is added, it converts the NH3 to NH4+, preserving even greater amounts of nitrogen.

Further, U.S. research showed separating the urine reduces ammonia in the building by 65 to 80%, depending on the extent of pen fouling. Actual ammonia concentrations measured in a U.S. facility with a ventilation rate of approximately 65 cubic yards/hour/pig space were only 2-3 ppm.

Research on methane emissions in the U.S. trials of the belt system showed it eliminated the stored-waste methane emissions and left only the methane that came directly from the hogs via flatulence and possibly respiration.

Like most farmers, van Kempen has no way to actually measure odor or gaseous emission, but he has noted a significant difference in air quality and pig performance.

Research in the United States shows a 5 to 10% improvement in gain-to-feed for pigs in a belt-waste facility, vs. the performance of pigs in standard commercial buildings.

“In the old facility, you smell manure and ammonia,” Martien van Kempen says. “In the new facility, you smell pigs — the animals themselves. You smell a little odor, but not much.”

Costs and Returns

With an estimated price tag of $7-8/pig space to retrofit a belt waste system in the United States, it appears to be a reasonable solution to odor and air quality issues when measured against the $3-4 cost/pig for lagoons, annually.

Theo van Kempen and fellow NCSU researchers developed these estimates for single-site farms with four, 1,200-head barns. The estimate includes the cost of urine processing with equipment called a sequential batch reactor, plus solid manure storage. This is more complex and expensive equipment than Martien van Kempen uses in his operation.

Martien van Kempen says the belt system compensates for seemingly high per-pig construction costs by improving animal performance, decreasing manure handling and shipping costs, and, potentially, by decreasing building construction costs because it allows hogs to be stacked.

Pigs could be stacked higher than the two layers, he says. “Theoretically, you could go much higher, and that would reduce the cost per pig space even more.” This ability to go higher instead of wider and longer offered significant savings, Martien van Kempen says.

Construction costs for buildings are fairly high in the Netherlands, typically running 350-400 Euros ($420-480)/pig space. The double-deck construction, made possible by the belt system, held van Kempen's cost to 250 Euros ($300)/pig space, a cost savings of roughly 40%.

It was less costly to increase the building height by 6 or 8 ft. than it was to go down with sealed concrete manure holding pits, which is the standard technology in the Netherlands, he adds.

The high nitrogen content in the pig urine boosts the nutrient value of poultry waste when mixed, making it an ideal fertilizer for nearby mushroom farmers. The solid portion must still be hauled every three or four weeks however, but the volume is lower, the nutrient quality is arguably higher, and there is less odor.

Van Kempen's farm produces about 10,500 cubic yards of poultry and hog waste each year. He can only apply roughly 85 lb./acre/year of phosphorus to his own land. That amounts to about 785 cubic yards — so he must export about 92% of his animal waste to other locations.

Since no one in the United States has adopted such a commercial system, it seems difficult to make Martien van Kempen's figures apply here. Nonetheless, his experience with the belt waste system shows some of the strong advantages and the potential options for a radically different waste management system in modern hog production.

Adapting the Belt Waste Removal System for Hogs

Belts have been used successfully for waste removal in the laying hen industry for about 30 years. They require little maintenance, typically last eight to 10 years, and allow the poultry manure to be collected in a dry form with minimal ammonia and odor emissions.

When Martien van Kempen designed his new hog house with a belt waste removal system, he looked at the experimental designs from North Carolina State University (NCSU). Some drained into gutters; others used the belt as a gutter, either on one side or in the middle.

“We literally built seven versions of the belt system until we got it right,” says Theo, Martien's brother, who was involved in the U.S. research.

“During this research, Martien and I had many exchanges about how to continue with the belt system, and this is how his system got started,” Theo says.

Theo adds that belt manure systems exist under hogs in Korea, the Netherlands and Germany, but to his knowledge, few, if any, of these systems segregate the urine from the manure.

Theo noted some of the clogging problems the researchers reported with a separate gutter system. So he decided to use the belt framing to create a more dependable gutter for urine removal by forcing the belt into a “V” shape, and leaving about 16 in. of the pen flooring solid over that section of belt. The urine drains constantly from the middle of the belt into a closed collection system.

Slotted flooring over the rest of the belt, a width of about 6.6 ft., allows urine and feces to drop through onto the belt for removal.

Because of his experience with poultry belt systems, Martien van Kempen realized the need for maintenance and repair, and he left an access space between the pens at about every 10 ft.

He runs the belt at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily, twice as often as NCSU ran their belt. Higher frequency means less weight and less wear on the belt, and reduces the puddling of urine in standing fecal material. However, emptying the belt more often also means less drying time and potentially wetter dry matter.

This is not a problem, however, says van Kempen. He uses a fan separator to bring the fecal material down from about 50% dry matter to 75% dry matter before hauling it.

His conveyer framing for the belt provides about 4 in. of fall in about 195 ft. This does not drain the urine as quickly or as well as it would with a greater degree of incline, but the more frequent emptying of feces from the belt overcomes that issue, too, Martien says.

Biofilter Modification Saves on Fan Power

Iowa State University, the University of Minnesota and South Dakota State University join ranks to identify strategies to cut barn odor levels.

Leading agricultural engineers agree that biofiltration supplies a proven means of lowering odor emissions from totally confined hog barns. Research suggests that biofilters reduce exhaust levels by 90% or more.

One of the drawbacks to biofilters, however, is the added energy demand that is placed on the ventilation system, according to Steve Hoff, professor of agricultural engineering at Iowa State University (ISU).

When a biofilter is added to the building equation, it produces backpressure on the fans, and in some situations that requires more power than the existing fans can provide to push the air through the biofilter, he points out.

As a result, when a biofiltration system is installed in a confinement building, new, higher-capacity fans must often be installed to deal with the increased backpressure exerted by the biofilters.

But Hoff strives to make the most of what biofiltration has to offer without ramping up costs. “One of the things I have been concerned about is to make sure we can use standard agricultural fans that are currently in our barns to push air through a biofilter,” he comments.

Dealing with Nighttime Odors

Because the atmosphere is very unstable and there is a lot of vertical mixing of the air during the daytime, especially in summer, hog odors do not travel as far.

In contrast, during the nighttime, air is emitted into a very stable environment and odors travel farther. That's why more odors are detected when people first get up in the morning, Hoff explains.

The goal, then, should be to focus on using the biofilter to lower the nighttime rate of dispersion of odors and gases into adjacent areas.

“Let's not try to biofilter 100% of the ventilated air if it is not needed,” states Hoff.

To that end, Hoff and his team, including agricultural engineer Jay Harmon of ISU, are studying the use of existing fans in a 600-head, two-room finishing barn with a deep manure pit. The pens were stocked at 7.75 sq. ft./pig. One side is operated with a biofilter comprised of wood chips, which, when kept properly wet, offer enhanced porosity and reduce the total demands on the ventilation system. The other side of the finishing barn, with no biofilter, serves as the control model.

The fan system has been set to produce about 42 cu. ft./min. (cfm)/pig, within the range of the critical minimum ventilation rate (40-50 cfm/pig) needed to adequately treat nighttime exhaust air during summer days. The setting represents about a third to half of the maximum ventilation capacity of 120 cfm/finishing pig.

Then, in order to capture potential energy savings when biofiltration is not needed, Hoff built a bypass system that in effect “bypasses” the biofilter and allows the fans to operate normally (Figure 1).

Using an on-site weather station, researchers keep track of atmospheric conditions. When the atmosphere is unstable, and there is good, natural mixing of the air (daytime), the biofilter is bypassed. When the atmosphere is stable, and exhausted air can travel greater distances and cause potential odor disturbances, the biofilter is operated. This occurs mainly at night, lasting approximately 8-10 hours.

The bypass consists of a series of louvers located on the front of the biofilter (on the exhaust side of the pit fans). “When you do not need to operate the biofilter, you simply open the bank of louvers and bypass the biofilter system,” Hoff explains.

In one year of testing, the biofilter has produced a 60% reduction in odors, and close to a 60% reduction in ammonia with a wetted, wood chip-based biofilter, he reports.

Hoff concludes: “What we are saying is, let's come up with a biofilter that may not give us those real high reduction efficiencies, but gives us ample reduction in gases, and allows us to use standard agricultural fans that we have in our hog barns today.”

Finding the Stinkers In Hog Barn Odors

There are hundreds of compounds that comprise hog odors — but only a few appear to be the “bad guys” responsible for most of the stink.

Jacek Koziel figures he is halfway through developing a catalog of all the complex compounds that are contained in hog manure. He has amassed data on 200 compounds, and figures that number will double before he's through.

Even so, he's already confident he's identified the worst offenders that come from a select few chemicals embedded in manure compounds.

The engineer's confidence stems from the unique $130,000 instrument that resides at Iowa State University's Atmospheric Air Quality Laboratory in Ames. The multi-dimensional-gas-chromatography mass-spectrometry-olfactometry (MDGC-MS-O) instrument breaks down the gases and chemicals in livestock and poultry odors. ISU owns the only instrument of its kind in the country devoted to identifying animal-feeding odors. The instrument is normally used to capture the pleasant smells of cosmetics or the distinctive aromas given off by coffee, beer or tobacco products.

“With this multi-dimensional capability, we can isolate and identify chemicals that are causing the greatest amount of odor, using separation and spectrometry technology. On the one hand, the instrument separates and identifies gases that are in the air, and on the other hand, we are coupling it with olfactometry analysis,” says Koziel, who works with ISU's Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, focusing on air quality and livestock odor research.

For olfactometry, three graduate students and Koziel take turns at stationing themselves at the instrument's sniffing port to try and label, in layman's terms, what a hog odor smells like. They then match it to a compound the instrument has identified.

Samples are also sent to ISU agricultural engineer Steve Hoff's olfactometry lab, where trained odor-sniffing panels provide their perceptions.

To obtain air samples, a novel air sampling technology known as solid-phase microextraction (SPME) is employed.

“This technology allows researchers to sample very low concentrations of odorous gases,” observes Koziel. SPME is being used in the laboratory and in the field. ISU researchers use SPME to evaluate the effectiveness of odor control technologies, air sampling inside swine barns and downwind from hog operations. Odor samples collected on SPME are analyzed using the MDGC-MS-O system.

The Bad Guys of Odor

Since the instrument arrived at ISU last December, it has pinpointed a few “needles in the chemical haystack” of hog odors that stand out as truly offensive to most people, says Koziel.

At the top of the odor list are: para-cresol (smells like a barnyard); 4-ethyl phenol (smells like roadkill); and hydrogen sulfide (smells like rotten eggs).

A second tier of the worst offenders includes gases that emit smells similar to wet feed, old socks or body odor, mothballs and old leather shoes.

Dust Carries Odor, Too

“What we have found out is that the smallest dust particles have the capacity to carry the most odor, because they are made up of ‘fine dust’ that contains mainly dried feces,” explains Koziel.

Larger, “coarse dust” particles carry dried feces, but also transport dander or hog skin, feed, insects, etc.

Hog odor compounds are “sticky” chemicals, facilitating transport by dust particles. The majority can travel short distances, but only the smallest, most odorous compounds remain intact for long distances, he says.

The ability of these compounds to also adhere readily to people and building materials is a chemical phenomenon of adsorption. When odor particles cling to people's skin and hair, one shower may not be enough to totally dislodge them.

Koziel says odorous chemicals can become permanently adsorbed into a variety of equipment and building materials in a hog barn.

Developing Solutions

Because there are really only a few compounds that appear to be the cause of most hog odors, Koziel is confident that a multi-disciplinary approach will produce viable solutions.

As it stands, biofilters have been very successful at changing the intensity of offensive odors. Koziel learned from fellow agricultural engineer Steve Hoff about the mobility of hog odors via dust. “If you can control dust emissions, you can go a long way toward controlling odors in animal-feeding operations,” he notes.

Using diet, combined with environmental and engineering modifications, Koziel believes the problem of hog odors can be minimized.

Besides his current work, he also plans to revisit testing of manure additives. Previous work only analyzed their impact on manure. He hopes to expand that research by using the new, sensitive instrument to analyze gas production, and then sniff those gases to determine if odor control is improved with the use of the additives.

Cattle Firm Places Bid for PIC

Genus, the biggest cattle-breeding firm in the United Kingdom, has made an offer to purchase Sygen International, the swine genetics company that owns PIC, for about $333 million.

PIC officials stress that shareholders for both companies have to accept the offer before the acquisition becomes final. Those meetings are scheduled to take place sometime in November.

Genus officials want to enhance meat quality and boost efficiency across all species, as the company seeks to diversify beyond sales of frozen beef and dairy semen.

Netting Pig Profit with Net Energy

The Europeans are eons ahead of U.S. producers in managing the energy portion of a pig's diet.

Defining an ingredient's true energy value requires a system much more rigorous than digestible energy (DE) or metabolizable energy (ME),” says John Patience, president and CEO of Prairie Swine Centre, Inc., a non-profit research and technology center affiliated with the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. “Without question, net energy (NE) places a more accurate relative value on ingredients.”

European producers have been using net energy in ration formulation for decades. Since many of them utilize imported feedstuffs, they focus on feed costs, which explains the more rapid adoption of a NE system, Patience told participants of the recent Minnesota Nutrition Conference. “Without doubt, the net energy system is superior for this purpose. In North America, the focus tends to be on performance.”

Patience admits net energy formulation offers less advantage over DE or ME when simple diets are fed. And that means there is little incentive to adopt NE for corn and soybean meal-based rations.

But the industry is changing, he contends. Increased use of synthetic amino acids and the resulting lowering of dietary crude protein and increased use of by-product feeds, such as distiller's grains and fat, are prompting reviews of the most appropriate energy system to use.

In western Canada, even conventional diets are based on wheat, barley, field peas, canola meal and soybean meal, with substantial use of synthetic amino acids. With these complex diets, the NE system comes into its own and offers substantial benefits to the producer, states Patience.

Areas feeding complex diets can benefit by a minimum of $2/pig sold, he says. U.S. producers feeding less complex diets could benefit by at least $1/pig by using NE systems.

The long-term benefit of $2/pig is less at the present time due to the low cost of feed and a relatively narrow range in price between cereal grains and protein sources, notes Patience. However, the current pricing of ingredients is not reflective of the 10-year average.

Three Energy Systems

Of the three energy systems, DE is the simplest.

Metabolizable energy is about 96% of DE in typical commercial diets used in North America — the difference being urinary and gaseous energy losses.

Net energy is defined as ME, less the heat increment associated with the use of ME for maintenance and productive purposes. Fundamentally, NE is estimated by summing fasting heat production plus retained energy.

Variation in any of the components related to maintenance, digestion, growth, lactation, or reproduction brings into play a fluctuation in performance that will not be predicted by either DE or ME, says Patience. The NE system was developed to address this issue. Digestible energy and ME ignore a critical aspect of energy utilization in the pig. As such, the relative value of ingredients rich in protein and/or fiber will be overestimated, while those rich in fat, or low in protein and fiber, will be under estimated (Table 1).

The feed ingredients commonly used by the pork industry vary much more in energy content than most of us wish to admit, continues Patience. The challenge is in finding a solution to this problem. Bushel weight, the ubiquitous trading standard in the grains industry, must be discarded. Other than for extreme highs and lows, bushel weight is a poor indicator of actual value to the pig.

In a study at the Prairie Swine Centre, ingredient variability was compared using formulated DE vs. determined DE. “It clearly showed that we tend to overestimate energy in weanling diets, but do not achieve the level of precision in growing and finishing diet formulation we would like. If we have difficulty estimating DE of ingredients, we will have no greater precision in this regard with NE, since digestibility of dietary components is integral to the NE system,” explains Patience.

Animal Factors Play Bigger Role

“Perhaps the biggest challenge of all is that NE will force us to understand composition of pig gain,” continues Patience. “An increased focus on carcass and meat quality will drive adoption. The NE system does a better job of describing the amount of energy available to the pig for maintenance and for lean gain and for fat gain. Commercial nutritionists rarely know the composition of gain of their pigs, so adjustments in energy supply are difficult. This is changing, however, as we develop an increased understanding of commercial genotypes.”

Unlike the research community in Europe, few laboratories in North America are conducting research on energy metabolism in the pig. That will further delay adoption of NE on this side of the Atlantic.

Prairie Swine Centre does not have its own NE values, so they use Dutch and French numbers, at least for the time being, explains Patience. There are differences between the Dutch (CVB) NE system and the French (INRA) NE system, but differences are modest (see Table 2). The most troublesome disagreement between the two is in estimated NE value of fat sources.

The Centre is evaluating adoption of the European NE systems under North American conditions by collaborating with the University of Illinois, South Dakota State University, the University of Missouri and Iowa State University on developing new initiatives focusing on energy metabolism in the pig.

“I suspect we can plug in their values,” Patience assures. “Nutritionists might also consider shadow formulation. Enter NE values for all ingredients into the feed formulation matrix, excluding specific individual diets. An ME or DE system is still used as the basis for formulation, but resulting NE values of the diets are concurrently watched to see how they move in relation to each reformulation process. This use of NE in the ‘background’ is continued until the nutritionist feels comfortable and familiar with NE before making the switch.”

Minnesota swine nutritionist Gregg Sample agrees that NE is more accurate than the ME system most use, but there's little reason to switch when corn and soybean meal are cheap.

That could change, however, he says. Sample does the nutrition work for Next Generation Pork, a LeRoy, MN, operation that markets over 100,000 pigs annually. According to Sample, “if you believe the forecasters, the landscape surrounding the world supply and demand of our commodities is changing. As more co-products like DDGS (distiller's dried grain with solubles) become available, the industry may endorse the net energy concept out of necessity. The environmental drive to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus excretion also favors the use of NE.”

In Canada, the NE system is being used with increasing frequency, but like the United States, most pigs are still fed diets based on DE or ME, says Patience. “But I've never seen a downside to switching from ME to NE, and given the financial advantage, we believe the trend will continue.”

Table 1. Energy Supplied by Various Dietary Constituents
Constituent Crude Protein Crude Fat Starch Dietary Sugars Fiber
Gross energy 5.40 9.27 4.18 3.99 4.45
Digestible energy 5.38 7.60 4.37 3.85 0.12
Metabolizable energy 4.71 7.70 4.35 3.80 0.12
Net energy 2.82 6.91 3.54 2.75 -0.21
Source: Noblet and van Milgen, 2004
Table 2. Comparison of Net Energy Values (kcal/kg) for Common Ingredients According to Either the CVB or INRA Systems
Ingredient CVB INRA
Barley 2.510 2.613
Corn 2.934 3.055
Field peas 2.570 2.601
Rapeseed meal 1.725 1.837
Soybean meal - 48% 2.197 2.173
Soy hulls 1.176 1.143
Sugar beet pulp 1.814 1.560
Sunflower meal 1.280 1.325
Wheat 2.696 2.878
Wheat bran 1.621 1.690
Animal fat 7.671 7.107
Vegetable fat 8.197 7.115
Calculated values according to CVB and INRA systems, assuming identical nutrient profile of each ingredient.
Source: Rijnen et al., 2004

Danish System Revised

The Danes recently revised their energy evaluation system. It is based on their well-known feed units (FU) system, which is now going to be based on the physiological energy value of an ingredient, says John Patience, president and CEO of Prairie Swine Centre, Inc., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

In this respect, the Danes have rejected the net energy system and any system based on bomb calorimetry. The new system, first introduced in 2002, now has separate energy values for gestating sows, as distinct from lactating sows, and growing pigs.

The new system has increased the energy value of barley, wheat and oats, but lowered the energy value of soybean meal, fishmeal and rapeseed meal, as compared to the previous Danish energy system, explains Patience. This means the new Danish system has had the same impact as net energy; or, in other words, it has decreased the relative value of protein sources and increased the relative value of low-protein ingredients.

Feeding Trials Cut Nitrogen Excretion Rates

Iowa State University (ISU) leads a four-year air emissions project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conducting animal feeding studies to determine if diet modification can improve air quality around confinement barns.

From the swine feeding trials in the first year of the USDA air emissions study, ISU Environmental Specialist and project leader Wendy Powers learned diet changes could greatly reduce ammonia emissions in growing pigs.

“Our goal when we started the trial last September (2004) was to try and see how we could reduce dietary crude protein by supplementing with amino acids to minimize emissions,” she explains.

Barrows were placed on feed as feeder pigs and fed to market weights averaging 272 lb. They were given three dietary treatments:

  • A control (C) diet based on lysine that is fed to the majority of pigs in the United States;

  • A low crude protein (LCP), three-amino acid diet (lysine, methionine and threonine) that is being fed by 10-15% of the industry and has been adopted to a greater extent by the poultry industry; and

  • An ultra-low crude protein (ULCP), five-amino acid diet (lysine, methionine, threonine, tryptophan and either valine or isoleucine) that is generally not being fed by pork producers.

Four Feeding Phases

There were four feeding phases. The first grower phase (pigs averaged 54 lb.) included crude protein levels of 22.5%, 20.0% and 18.4% for the C, LCP and ULCP diets, respectively.

As feeding phases progressed, crude protein levels were decreased, explains Powers. By the late finishing phase (pigs averaged 245.1 lb.), crude protein levels were reduced to 16.6%, 15.4% and 13.8% for the C, LCP and ULCP diets, respectively.

Crude protein was dropped 20-25% in the LCP and ULCP diets compared to the control diet. Ammonia concentrations declined 25% in the ULCP group compared to the LCP group, and 36% compared to the C group, she adds.

The dietary study showed no impact on hydrogen sulfide concentrations, nor on the amount of manure produced.

Performance Maintained

Dietary treatments also had no effect on growth performance. “We fed these pigs all the way to market because one of the concerns, from a producer perspective, is whether there are any long-term, negative impacts on performance by feeding these really low-protein diets, such as the five-amino acid diet,” she comments.

Again, while producers are not yet feeding the five-amino acid diets to pigs, that day may come, points out Powers. As demand increases for these products, along with the pressure to reduce air emissions from animal feeding operations, the price will come down. And as the number of amino acids in swine diets increase, there will be a corresponding decrease in the waste margin that occurs from overfeeding nitrogen (protein), according to Powers.

Baseline Emissions Data

In addition to testing rations for developing diets that reduce aerial emissions, Powers says researchers have a second, larger goal of trying to establish baseline emission levels that will be used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In early 2006, the EPA is projected to start a two-year monitoring study of more than 2,000 animal feeding operations (AFOs) that signed up to participate in EPA's air compliance initiative. By signing up, farms commit to air monitoring and taking steps to comply with clean air standards. In return, EPA will not sue AFOs for certain violations of the Clean Air Act, although any violations must be corrected.

The four-year project at ISU is also studying feeding patterns for broiler chickens and lactating cows to establish baseline feeding patterns for control of air emissions.

Economic Evaluation

While data collection for the swine feeding study has been completed, the jury is still out on the economic impact. “Emission reduction results are very good. Now it is just a matter of whether producers are willing to absorb the increased cost of the diet,” adds Powers. The ULCP diet costs $18/ton more than the C diet, while the LCP diet costs $4/ton more.

ISU Extension Animal Scientist Ken Stalder says because some producers have grown their hog operations, but not their land base, the economics of diet modification extend from what it costs to feed the ration to how to spread manure on the same number of acres without causing nutrient buildup.

Future Swine Feeding Studies

The National Pork Board has funded a year-long study at ISU, starting next summer, to look at the value of feeding corn co-products to pigs from an emissions and performance perspective, says Powers. Products tested will include distiller's dried grains with solubles; degermed, dehulled corn; and corn gluten meal. The high- and low-fiber rations will be compared with traditional diets.

A full-scale performance study is also being conducted at a commercial hog farm in Iowa. Brian Kerr at USDA's Agricultural Research Service in Ames, IA, is also conducting a metabolism study on corn co-products.

Unique Lab Conducts Emissions Testing

On the outskirts of Ames, IA, is Iowa State University's (ISU) one-year-old emissions testing laboratory.

The building, which formerly housed ISU's swine reproduction facilities, was converted into a unique research lab to study the impact of diet modification and animal/manure management practices on air emissions.

The facility features eight adjoining rooms, 7 ft. wide by 13 ft. long, that can be adjusted to feed everything from pigs to an individual dairy cow to broilers and turkeys.

A goal is to identify specific compounds that correlate to odor, so that diets can be adjusted to eliminate production of those compounds, observes Wendy Powers, ISU environmental specialist and lab director.

Pigs are fed in groups of six/room on a 12-in.-high raised deck that is bolted to a metal structure resembling a mattress frame, she explains. The self-contained structure includes plastic-coated flooring and 50 sq. ft. of penning. Subtracting 2 sq. ft. for a feeder, there is 48 sq. ft. or 8 sq. ft./pig. Manure drops through the slotted floor onto a removable tray for collection. (See photo on p. 12.)

Room conditions are closely monitored to maintain optimum environmental conditions. Probes monitor temperature and humidity in the chambers on a regular basis.

Only fresh air is brought into the facility, tempered during cooler conditions. Air enters each chamber through ceiling inlets, and is exhausted out the front of the rooms. Airflow into each room is measured every 30 seconds to ensure the emissions data is unbiased. Room emissions are sampled 10 or 11 times/day.

During monitoring, a sample of the exhausted air travels through tubing into a manifold, where gases break off into a series of gas analyzers in the adjoining instrument room. Gases measured by the bank of instruments include ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, methane, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide. Samples are also sent to ISU's olfactometry lab for odor testing by human sniffing panels.

Computers link researchers to conditions in each room from any location in the world.

In the event of a power outage at the lab, an emergency telephone alarm system continuously dials up to eight numbers until a response is received.

While the current focus of the facility is diet modification and air emissions, ISU's intent was to construct a facility with broad capabilities to meet the research needs of the state's various animal industries, Powers says.

For example, cameras will be added to monitor actual animal activity in the rooms as part of the animal behavior research program being implemented by ISU researcher Anna Johnson.

‘Decision Tree’ Outlines Best Management Practices

Iowa State University (ISU) has built a “decision tree” that provides producers with a tool to help weigh the pros and cons of the best management practices for minimizing air quality concerns.

The database has just been launched, says Ken Stalder, ISU animal scientist. Access the database via

Stalder says the program includes four online, interactive trees for livestock operations and covers:

  • Practices to reduce ammonia concentrations;

  • Practices to reduce hydrogen sulfide emissions;

  • Practices to reduce odor; and

  • Practices to reduce dust and particulates.

When viewing the flow charts, producers choose between liquid and dry manure, type of housing, storage and application practices.

Each practice provides a list of options to address emission concerns, says Angela Rieck-Hinz, Extension program specialist, who developed the Web-based application. The options spell out relative costs (low, moderate or high) and conservative percentage estimates of emission reduction.

At the bottom of each tree are blue buttons that producers can click on for additional reference materials, says Rieck-Hinz.

The materials provide a comprehensive listing of the best peer-reviewed emissions control information available in the United States, adds Wendy Powers, ISU environmental specialist, who helped prepare the documents.

It's a faster way for producers to look anonymously at potential emission control solutions, says Stalder.

The project was made possible by a $47,000 grant from the National Pork Board.

product news

Xpress Bench Scale

Mettler Toledo announces its Xpress Bench Scale line. The scales, consisting of more than a dozen variations, help producers check weights with complete accuracy. The line is available in two versions: the Xpress Economy, with capacities ranging from 60 to 600 lb.; and the Xpress Standard, ranging from 5 to 500 lb. All models have stainless steel construction and an LED display.
(Circle Reply Card No. 101)

New Boar Lines

PIC introduces the PIC 380 AI boar and the PIC 365NS hybrid boar. The PIC 380 is the first sire line combining traits of the AI PIC 337G boar and the PIC 280M boar. The PIC 380 progeny offers excellent daily gain and feed conversion rates to heavier slaughter weights, with superior survivability and optimal primal yields. The PIC 380 is also a reliable boar in stud with a strong libido and high viable sperm output. The PIC 365NS hybrid boar is built with PIC genes, exclusively for natural service breeding. Delivered by partner Ledger Swine Farms, a selection index emphasizes feet and leg structure, ensuring a full lifetime of genetic performance. The PIC 365NS is offered in three genetic classifications.
(Circle Reply Card No. 102)

Professional Injectors

Dosmatic U.S.A./International, Inc. announces the MiniDos professional line of non-electrical, water-driven proportional injectors. These injectors feature higher operating pressure, higher flow rates, reduced pressure loss, improved mixing and enhanced overall chemical compatibility. The MiniDos also uses the reliable Dosmatic motor as well as user friendly, accurate and dependable lower-dosage assembly.
(Circle Reply Card No. 103)

Auto Sorter

Sorting Systems Inc. introduces its two-way and three-way Supreme Sorters. The sorters are accurate, durable and easy to use. The scale features automatic startup, easy-to-read text menus, large digital weight readouts and 100% accurate sorting. It sorts pigs in up to six groups, with Excel-ready data recorded on removable data cards. The Supreme Sorters allow producers to feed pigs by group and weight, feed up to three different rations, and ensure uniform shipping weights to maximize packer premiums.
(Circle Reply Card No. 104)

Single Gas Monitor

The GasBadge Plus from Industrial Scientific Corporation provides low-cost, personal protection from dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, oxygen, nitrogen dioxide or sulfur dioxide with a number of high-end features. The monitor is very durable and resistant to water and radio frequency interference, and has a large LCD display, which includes backlighting for ease of visibility. The GasBadge Plus uses international graphic symbols for easy operation and can be configured to display gas readings in percent, by volume, or in parts per million. The instrument's two-button interface provides intuitive navigation and setup, which can be password-protected for added security. The monitor is lightweight (2.5 oz.) and has a top-mounted sensor, allowing it to be worn with a variety of clip attachments or placed in a shirt pocket.
(Circle Reply Card No. 105)

New Record-Keeping Tool

Allflex announces an online tool that allows producers to download tag numbers automatically and import them into existing electronic record-keeping systems. By visiting, producers can enter tag identification numbers into their computerized record-keeping systems. The online tool works with Allflex Half Duplex or Full Duplex EID tags.
(Circle Reply Card No. 106)

Training Aids

Carthage Veterinary Service (CVS) Ltd. has developed two interactive series called the Training Toolboxes. The educational CD-ROM sets, including the Farrowing Toolbox and the Breeding Toolbox, are designed to help swine system managers increase the skills and knowledge of farm employees and improve performance in the barn. Both Training Toolbox sets include several CD-ROMs with lessons narrated by a CVS veterinarian. The lessons use photos, illustrations, animations and videos to emphasize key information. Each lesson concludes with an interactive quiz. Individual scores can be tracked so managers can monitor employees' use of the training series and performance. The CDs work in personal computers equipped with Windows 98 or above.
(Circle Reply Card No. 107)

Chromium Propionate

Kemin Industries has received approval from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to market its KemTRACE brand chromium propionate for swine. The approval in Canada includes specific claims for improved average daily gain. Animal research has shown KemTRACE to be a highly bioavailable source of organic chromium. The product will be distributed in Canada by Agri Marketing Corp., Mont St. Hilaire, Quebec. This is the first source of chromium to be approved in Canada for applications in pork production.
(Circle Reply Card No. 108)

Send product news submissions to Dale Miller, Editor (952) 851-4661;

Triumph Foods Plant To Open January 2006

Construction workers have begun repairs at the Triumph Foods pork processing plant at St. Joseph, MO, following the explosion Oct. 12 that killed one construction worker and injured several others.

Triumph Foods' CEO Rick Hoffman estimates completing construction before the end of the year and opening for business in January 2006.

“We have been working for many months on designing and building a state-of-the-art pork processing plant in St. Joseph,” says Hoffman. “The unfortunate accident on Oct. 12 delayed the opening, bur we believe we can begin full-scale operations in early 2006, employing more than 1,000 people and producing high-quality pork products.”

Damage at the plant was limited primarily to the building that will house administrative offices and the cafeteria. The processing area, located in an adjacent building, did not sustain any major damage. No dollar figure has been placed on the estimated damages.