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Crop Report Projects Short Soybean Crop

The Nov. 9 USDA Crop Production Report dealt traders a soybean surprise when USDA statisticians reduced national soybean crop estimates by 1% to 3.375 billion bushels and lowered the soybean yield from 44.4 bushels/ acre in October to 43.9 bushels/acre in November, says Stu Ellis, the Farm Gate bogger and editor for the University of Illinois.

Lower soybean yields were projected for Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, while Iowa and Illinois were estimated at 52-bushel yields/acre and Indiana at 50 bushels/acre.

Projections for the season average soybean price rose 70 cents/bushel to a range of $10.70 to $12.20/bushel.

The 33-million-bushel reduction in the forecast for the 2010 soybean crop, plus a 50-million-bushel increase for forecast exports, leaves year-end soybean stocks at a very tight 185 million bushels, says Steve Meyer and Len Steiner in The Daily Livestock Report (DLR).

USDA’s November estimate of the national corn crop at 12.54 billion bushels is 4.3% smaller than last year’s crop. Corn yield estimates are at 154.3 bushels/acre, down 1.5 bushels from last month.

Total corn usage, say the DLR authors, was reduced by 50 million bushels by dropping projected feed/residual usage by 100 million bushels and exports by 50 million bushels, while increasing projected ethanol usage by 100 million bushels.

Those changes lowered the corn carryout to 827 million bushels, the lowest level in 15 years, reports Ellis, and caused USDA to adjust the season average price up by 25 cents to a range of $4.80 to $5.60/bushel.

‘Evidence-Based Medicine’ Focus Of Annual Veterinary Conference

Understanding and applying evidence-based medicine is the thrust of the 42nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, scheduled for March 5-8, 2011 at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort in Phoenix, AZ.

Opening the Monday morning general session with the Howard Dunne Memorial Lecture is Locke Karriker, DVM, associate professor and swine medicine section leader at Iowa State University, addressing “Evidence-Based Practices: Myths and Applications.”

Following that talk will be Joe Connor, DVM, Carthage (IL) Veterinary Service, Ltd., presenting the Alex Hogg Memorial Lecture on a related topic, “Science-Based Medicine: What Are the Application Barriers?”

Continuing the Monday morning general session, Anna Johnson, assistant professor of animal science at Iowa State University, will present “Science-Based Swine Welfare: Where Are We and Where Are We Going?”

Wes Jamison, associate professor of communication at Palm Beach Atlantic University, concludes the morning program with a presentation on political advocacy.

Monday afternoon offers three concurrent sessions with presentations on breeding herd health management, grow-finish and antibiotics and welfare.

Tuesday’s general session offers a focus on porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, examining current knowledge and looking forward to achieving the goal of eliminating the disease.

Pre-conference sessions will again be held on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. This year for the first time, the Research Topics session will be held on Sunday morning. The poster session starts at noon Sunday and the afternoon program includes industrial partners and student presentations.

Registration is limited to veterinarians and veterinary students. To reserve a room at the Pointe Hilton, call (602) 866-7500 or reserve online on the AASV 2011 Annual Meeting Web site at

For more information, contact the AASV by phone (515) 465-5255; fax (515) 465-3832; e-mail or go to the Web site

Click here to view more upcoming events on our calendar page

Groups Sue to Overturn EPA’s E15 Decision

The American Meat Institute (AMI) and a coalition of farm and food trade associations has filed a lawsuit today in federal court to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent decision to allow gasoline with 15% ethanol (E15) to be sold for cars manufactured in the 2007 model year or later.

The crux of the lawsuit is the coalition’s objection to the EPA’s decision on the grounds that granting a “partial waiver” of the Clean Air Act and allowing E15 to be used only in cars built after model year 2006 is not within the agency’s legal authority. The petitioners argue that the EPA administrator may only grant a waiver for a new fuel additive if it “will not cause or contribute to a failure of any emission control device or system.”

“Corn prices have increased since USDA released estimates that corn production for this year was going to be 3.4% less than 2009,” says AMI President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle. “This will put pressure on the meat and poultry supply, which will lead to higher food prices for consumers. For those consumers worried about climbing food prices, this decision will increase the amount of corn being diverted to our gas tanks and away from meat and poultry production. It’s unfortunate that EPA acted hastily and approved the use of E15, and now the American consumer will pay for it at the grocery store.”

More Slippage in Crop Estimates Expected

Tuesday’s Crop Production and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates from USDA are expected to show yet-smaller U.S. corn and yet-larger U.S. soybean crops, according to pre-report estimates from Dow Jones. Analysts expect USDA to again reduce its corn yield estimate, this time to 154.4 bu./acre compared to 155.8 bu./acre last month. That would put the 2010 crop at 12.545 billion bushels, down 119 million bushels from last month’s estimate and 565 million bushels lower than last year’s crop – an average yield over 10 bu./acre shy of the 2009 crop.

This reduction is most likely already priced into the futures markets, so it would take a significant deviation to move markets sharply at this time. The final estimate of the 2010 crop won’t be available until January.

There are many things that could happen next spring and summer that could impact corn prices for the remainder of the 2011 crop year and, given the low levels of projected carryout stocks next September, well into the 2011-2012 crop year.

The livestock and poultry industries still need a relief mechanism for the Renewable Fuels Standard that would allow corn to move from mandated ethanol usage (or production, if the ethanol program gets changed) to livestock feed when we get a severe drought. This crop is the third-largest on record and, still, it could set the stage for huge challenges in 2012, if the weather is much less than perfect next summer.

We are now 22 growing seasons removed from our last major drought (1988). According to Elwyn Taylor at Iowa State University, the longest gap between severe droughts in Iowa history has been 23 years.

The simple fact is that ethanol plants can be idled much more quickly than can livestock and poultry production. And even the ethanol guys should like this idea. They do not want to be forced to make ethanol out of $7 or $8 corn, unless oil and gasoline prices are much higher than they are today.

As opposed to corn, analysts expect USDA’s soybean yield and crop estimates to rise to 44.6 bu./acre and 3.426 billion bushels, respectively. Those are up from 44.4 bu./acre and 3.408 billion bushels in the October report.

That’s the good news. The bad news (for feed buyers, at least) is that soybean futures are still near $13/bu. and they are setting contract-life highs for all contracts except Nov ’10, July ’11 and Nov ’11, which were already trading during the last big rally back in 2008. Ditto for soybean meal with contract life highs in the $350/ton vicinity, except for Dec ’10 and July ’11. Robust export demand and the need to compete with corn and wheat for acres in 2011 are supporting the soybean complex.

Higher Feed Costs to Come
Hog feed prices are now at their highest level since July 2008 (Figure 1). Last week’s Feed Cost Index (the cost of the corn and soybean meal to make a 16% crude protein diet) was $221.85/ton. Friday’s futures imply that feed will be $25-$30/ton higher in 2011 than was indicated at the end of September – before this round of higher feed prices began in earnest with USDA’s October reports.

My projected breakeven costs for hog producers in 2011 now stands at $78.47/cwt., carcass weight, nearly $10 higher than average costs for this year. The highest of those costs, according to this model, will occur next summer when pigs that have never eaten any “reasonably” priced corn go to market.

Cash hogs were lower for the week but showed some strength late – buoyed by a rise in cutout values. The weekly average cutout was $2.73 (3.7%) higher for the week, driven by a rally in ham prices. That strength should hold for another few weeks before Christmas ham needs are met. After the first week of December, however, there are usually few pork cuts to carry the value side of the pork and hog markets.

The good thing, of course, is that hog slaughter normally peaks about that time, removing the seasonal supply pressure on prices. There has been no sign of a reduction in slaughter yet, as last week’s 2.338 million head was the second-largest of the year and higher than both last week and last year’s totals. Weights grew by another pound last week.

Lean Hogs (LH) futures gained ground last week with contracts from July forward reaching new contract-life highs. Figure 2 shows projected costs and prices for 2011. The annual average loss of -$0.47 is actually a bit better than one week earlier due to the rise in LH futures.

The -$0.47 is not negative enough to drive liquidation and certainly is not positive enough to push expansion except for those units that were operating at less than capacity earlier this year. My thought is that traders have now completely removed any expansion of the sow herd from their expectations, though I doubt that any are expecting any reduction of numbers either. I expect breeding herd numbers to move sideways for the next few quarters until future grain prices and contracting rules are known.

Click to view graphs.

Steve R. Meyer, Ph.D.
Paragon Economics, Inc.

Wean-to-First Service Interval is a Key to Greater Output

This month’s column will take an in-depth look at wean-to-first service interval and its effect on several production parameters. Wean-to-first service interval marks the days from weaning until the female is bred the first time.

Most farms follow this definition, although there are a few farms that alter this number based on plans to skip heats when they don’t need sows bred that week or when they are in poor body condition. There are also some farms that heat check sows, but delay breeding for 12-24 hours to reduce semen usage or to do a better job of timing the first insemination. And, with more farms going to batch farrowing, some sows may be skipped or placed on Matrix to delay estrus so they can be bred to farrow during a specific week. All of these procedures would artificially increase wean-to-first service interval.

Over the last several years we have seen some shift to weaned sows cycling sooner. Several farms have average wean-to-first service intervals less than five days. This is probably due to later weaning ages, the use of more nurse sows , beginning heat checking sooner after weaning, increased daily feed intake in lactation, supplemental cooling systems in farrowing and gestation, and more aggressive feeding from weaning to breeding.

The 602 farms in the dataset had 20+ pigs weaned/mated female/year for the last 52 weeks records were available. These farms had an average of 6.9 days from weaning to cycling, with a range of 4.1 to 12.7 days. The Bottom 10% of the farms in the dataset averaged 10.1 days. The question is why? Is it due to when heat checking starts, low feed intakes in farrowing, poorly trained staff, poor recordkeeping, etc.?

In Table 1, the data is broken down to Top 10%, Top 25%, Top 50%, Total Farms, Bottom 50%, Bottom 25%, and Bottom 10% with the ranking based on wean-to-first service interval.

For this discussion, we will focus on pigs weaned/mated female/year, percent bred by 7 days postweaning, percent repeat services, farrowing rate, total born, piglet survival and weaning age.

Pigs weaned/mated female/year average was 24.47 pigs, with the Top 10% (60 farms) averaging 5.2 days to cycle at 25.91 pigs and the Bottom 10% (60 farms) dropping to 23.53 pigs. This shows that wean-to-first service interval is one of the drivers affecting increased pigs weaned/mated female.

We were also interested to see how much wean-to-first service interval affected some production areas. The seven charts (attached) look at these areas with 602 farms charted.

In Chart 1, pigs weaned/mated female/year, there is a definite drop in pigs produced as wean-to-first service interval increases. However, there is a lot of variation from farm to farm.

Chart 2, total born, shows about 0.50 pig increase in total pigs born when comparing the Top 10% with the Bottom 10%.

In Chart 3, farrowing rate, we were surprised to see only a 1.1% spread. Previous studies had shown a 6-8% spread. Higher quality boar semen or a more skilled staff may be the reason this spread has narrowed.

Chart 4, percent bred by 7 days after weaning, shows a lot of variation, which we would expect with the Top 10% averaging 93.6%, while the Bottom 10% farms averaged only 75%. The average of all herds was 85.9%.

In Chart 5, percent repeat services, we see an average of 8% and range from less than 1% to over 20%. In farms we review on a regular basis, we see more culling of repeats after one service, especially if the farm has a good supply of replacement gilts.

Chart 6, piglet survival, is calculated by subtracting stillborn percentage and preweaning death loss percentage from 100. The average is 79.8%, with wide variation from farm to farm, although there is very little influence from wean-to-first-service interval.

Chart 7, weaning age, shows an average of 19.97 days of age, with the Top 10% at only 19.81 days and the Bottom 10% at 19.78 days. As more farms move above 19 days of age at weaning, there is probably less influence on wean-to-first-service interval.

Clearly, farms with lower wean-to-first-service interval produce more pigs, have more sows bred by 7 days, higher farrowing rate, and there are fewer repeat females to find and deal with. Wean-to-first-service interval has less influence on total pigs born, piglet survival and weaning age.

To lower wean-to-first-service interval, newly weaned sows should be exposed to a boar on Day 1 and bred when found in heat. Weaned sows should receive extra feed from weaning until breeding. Lactation feed intake should be monitored to make sure sows are eating at least 14 lb. of feed per day, which may mean feeding more times per day, adding an automated feeding system, or installing a feed hopper system so lactating sows are self-feed. Always make sure water flow rate in farrowing is at least 2 quarts/min.

The trend lines show if you want your farm to wean more pigs per year, you must keep wean-to-first-service interval low.

Key Performance Indicators
Tables 2 and 3 (below) provide 52-week and 13-week rolling averages for key performance indicators (KPI) of breeding herd performance. These tables reflect the most current quarterly data available and are presented with each column. The KPI’s can be used as general guidelines to measure the productivity of your herd compared to the top 10% and top 25% of farms, the average performance for all farms, and the bottom 25% of farms in the SMS database.

If you have questions or comments about these columns, or if you have a specific performance measurement that you would like to see benchmarked in our database, please address them to: or

Click to view graphs.

Mark Rix and Ron Ketchem
Swine Management Services, LLC

Historic Gains for Republicans in the House

The Republican Party made historic gains in last week’s election by winning over 60 congressional seats. This is the largest change in the number of seats since 1946. The Republicans will have the largest House majority since 1928. It is estimated that the Republicans will have 240 seats and the Democrats 187 seats with eight still undecided. The biggest losses for the Democrats were in the Midwest, especially in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Rural and moderate Democrats were hit the hardest by the voters’ dissatisfaction with the direction of the federal government. Clearly, the economy was the most important issue for voters as 62% ranked it their top priority. Voters are not happy with either party as their disapproval for both parties stands at 53%. Congressman John Boehner (R-OH) will become Speaker of the House of Representatives for the 113th Congress. He served on the House Agriculture Committee for a number of years prior to becoming House Minority Leader. Boehner has indicated that two areas that Republicans will want to focus on are deficit spending and repeal of health care.

Democrats Hold the Senate — The Democrats held onto the Senate, although their margin is thinner. The Republicans gained six Senate seats with wins in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In a very closely watched race, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) held onto his seat and will remain as Majority Leader. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is the Minority Leader.

Major Changes on Ag Committees — The election results mean major changes in the Senate and House Agriculture Committees. In the Senate, Blanche Lincoln (D-AK), chair of the Agriculture Committee, lost her reelection bid to Congressman John Boozman (R-AK). Boozman is expected to be appointed to the Senate Agriculture Committee. Leading candidates as the new chair of the Agricultural Committee are Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) or Kent Conrad (D-ND). Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) will remain as the ranking member of the committee. In the House, the Democrats felt some of their largest election losses on the House Agriculture Committee as 15 of the 28 members were defeated. Congressman Frank Lucas (R-OK) will become chairman of the committee, as Collin Peterson (D-MN) becomes the ranking member. Lucas is expected to call for oversight hearings on the regulator overreach by the Environmental protection Agency (EPA). Lucas says the committee will write the next farm bill in 2012.

No Extension of Ethanol Credits — Various meat and livestock associations have written the House and Senate leadership opposing the ethanol industries’ proposal to extend the expiring blender’s tax credit and the tariff on imported ethanol. The group is also asking for a change in the definition of “advanced biofuels” to include corn ethanol in the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). In the letter, the groups stated, “We support energy independence and the development of the renewable fuels industry, but we also support free, fair markets. This new proposal does nothing to develop the next generation of renewable fuels derived from non-feed and food sources. The federal government should move towards biofuels policies that do not force food and energy producers to compete with each other for key inputs and do not pick winners and losers in the alternative energy sector.” Those signing the letter were the American Meat Institute, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Meat Association, National Pork Producers Council and National Turkey Federation.

P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, D.C.

Air Filtration is Subject of Dec. 8 PorkCast Webinar

The use of air filtration systems in swine production facilities for disease control will be the subject of a Dec. 8 PorkCast webinar. The live webinar is from 1-2 p.m. central standard time.

Air filtration systems, in combination with other common biosecurity practices, have been shown to be a highly effective deterrent to aerosol transmission of the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus and Mycoplasmal pneumonia.

Hog building air filtration expert Darwin Reicks, DVM, Swine Vet Center, St. Peter, MN, will lead the PorkCast presentation. Reicks will discuss how air filtration systems work to prevent disease, costs associated with air filtration systems and system maintenance and upkeep practices.

PorkCast webinars are provided free of charge by the University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Pork Board. To participate in the Dec. 8 PorkCast,, go to and click on the air filtration systems program button.

Participants are advised to link to the program prior to its start to ensure there are no connection problems and to answer a few demographic questions.

During the webinar, online participants will be able to ask questions of the presenter during the live program. The webinar will also be available for viewing at the PorkCast Web site a few days following the live program.

For more information, contact Mark Whitney, University of Minnesota Extension educator at or (507) 389-5541.

Click here to view more upcoming events on our calendar page

Two Webinars Explain Proposed GIPSA Rules

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is coordinating two webinar conferences for its Strategic Investment Program (SIP) participants to better understand the marketing rule proposed in June by USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA).

The rule covers marketing contracts, production contracts and other issues, and USDA has set the deadline for submitting comments at Nov. 22, 2010.

So that producers are aware of the provisions and potential impacts of this rule, NPPC has organized two webinars with Steve Meyer, president of Paragon Economics, Adel, IA. During the webinars, Meyer will discuss the implications of the proposed rules and answer questions of the participants.

The webinars are scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010 at 10 a.m. central standard time and Friday, Nov. 12, 2010 at 2 p.m. central standard time.

To join one of these seminars, RSVP to Michele Eaton at for the call in information, according to Neil Dierks, CEO of the National Pork Producers Council.

Pork producers can also go to to fill out a form letter to submit comments in opposition to the proposed GIPSA rule. The letter points out that the rule would make it harder to buy and sell livestock, and that it will only increase costs and lead to lost farm and farm-related jobs and higher meat prices for consumers. The letter also urges GIPSA to withdraw the rule and propose one that sticks to the five requirements included in the 2008 farm bill.

National Hog Farmer

Students Set to Deliberate Ethics, Science of Animal Care Issues:

MSU to host tenth annual animal welfare judging and assessment contest in November

EAST LANSING, Mich. – There’s no doubt about it: these days, animal welfare questions are at the top of a lot of people’s minds and being put to the vote on ballots across the country. It will be today’s university students who will be charged with being the world’s future decision makers on these issues.

Students representing universities and veterinary schools across the United States and Canada will come to Michigan State University (MSU) Nov. 20-21 to learn about and debate topics related to the welfare of animals in the tenth annual Intercollegiate Animal Welfare Judging and Assessment Contest.

The competition, which is divided into undergraduate, graduate and veterinary college divisions, allows students to compete in events focused on increasing the understanding of welfare and care issues affecting animals used for human purposes, including food production, research and companionship. The event promotes students’ critical thinking, teaches ethical reasoning skills, encourages objective assessments based on science, and improves persuasive public speaking and presentation skills.

“There is still a large portion of the public that doesn’t understand the difference between animal welfare and animal rights, but they’re still very sensitive to the issues,” said Camie Heleski, MSU animal science instructor and one of the founders of the contest and coach for the MSU undergraduate judging team. “Students who compete in this contest are able to gain a greater understanding of and appreciation for all that’s encompassed by the term “animal welfare.”

“Having a sound knowledge of the fundamentals and factors contributing to good animal welfare and not basing decisions solely on emotion or assumptions is key,” she added. “Students can put this knowledge to use to better communicate with their peers and make well-informed decisions in their future careers.”

On the first day of the competition, students will attend educational seminars presented by animal welfare experts from across the Midwest and Canada that are focused on the species they will evaluate in the contest. This year’s scheduled presenters are Derek Haley, Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph, on welfare concerns related to beef cattle; Katherine Houpt, professor emeritus at Cornell University and consultant with Animal Behavior Consultants of Northern Michigan, on welfare related to working and service dogs; Suzanne Millman, College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University, on the welfare of broiler chickens; and Cynthia Bennett, Director of Animal Welfare at the Detroit Zoo, on welfare concerns pertaining to giraffes.

Following the seminars, students will compete in the team assessment event, working in groups to assess the welfare of animals housed at the MSU Beef Cattle Research Center. In both the team and individual events, students must assess health and behavioral indicators related to animal welfare. Following the farm assessment, teams will prepare an oral presentation defending their findings that will be delivered to a panel of judges made up of animal welfare experts, including speakers from the educational seminars.

On the second day of the contest, students will work individually to evaluate welfare scenarios in each of three categories – companion animals, animals used in agriculture, and exotic or laboratory animals. Scenarios this year will focus on working and service dogs, broiler chickens and giraffes, respectively. Depending on the animal species being evaluated, competitors will compare either individual animals, entire farms or different laboratory settings. They will rank the animals or settings from best to worst according to welfare indicators. After completing their assessments, students will prepare and deliver oral reasons defending their findings to the judges.

The judges will evaluate and compare the quality of welfare in each scenario. Based on their assessment, they will come up with an official placing – or ranking – for each species scenario. The closer that students come to matching the judges’ official placings, the higher they score. Judges will calculate total scores based on team event presentations, individual scenario placings and oral reasons scores.

“No matter whether these students plan to become livestock producers, animal welfare auditors, veterinarians, zoo keepers or pursue a related animal field, they are learning practical and applicable skills that will transfer over to their careers,” Heleski said. “They are learning how to use scientific findings to make decisions, and down the road, they’ll be able to work more effectively with their customers or clients who value the fact that animals are being well cared for based on proven findings.”

This year’s contest will be hosted by MSU and the MSU Animal Behavior and Welfare Group (ABWG) with support from the American Veterinary Medical Association and the MSU Department of Animal Science.

The MSU ABWG studies various animal well-being issues. Its mission is to develop practical solutions for improving the general well-being and long-term welfare of animals based on sound science and providing the necessary training to implement these solutions.

To learn more about the MSU ABWG and the annual animal welfare judging and assessment competition, visit or contact Heleski at

Swine Institute Examines Issues Affecting Production

The 2010 Swine Institute is being hosted by the University of Missouri Extension Commercial Agriculture Program on Nov. 10 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Columbia, MO.

The program will examine methods to maintain efficient production on the farm as well as address off-farm issues that might impact production practices.

Topics include regulatory update and the stalk nitrate challenge, effectiveness of biofilters and update on the emissions study, evaluation of three commercial mycotoxin inhibitors, animal welfare in America, activities and strategies of animal activists, implications of the proposed packer regulations on Missouri livestock and discussions on permitting confined animal feeding operations.

At lunch, producers will hear from National Pork Producers Council President Sam Carney and National Pork Board CEO Chris Novak.

At dinner, Erin Daley, economist with the U.S. Meat Export Federation, will discuss trade issues with attendees.

Cost to attend is $15/person or $25 if registering on site. For more information or to register, contact Erica Lovercamp at (573) 882-9552 or visit