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Electronic Cookbook Features Top Chefs

A free e-cookbook, the Pork Checkoff’s first-ever electronic cookbook, is titled Cooking for Comfort. It features time-honored favorites and new twists on classics from James Beard, award-winning Chef Michelle Bernstein, barbecue expert and author Ray Lampe, and ten leading food bloggers from across the United States.

“Pork plays a part in many of our favorite comfort food dishes – they are nutritious, soothing, savory and delicious,” says Karen Richter, National Pork Board president and a pork producer from Minnesota. “This e-cookbook is the perfect way to celebrate pork and engage our consumers this holiday season.”

Perfect for any occasion that calls for a heart-warming meal, and full of delicious ideas that highlight pork, Cooking for Comfort includes:

•       Two recipes from Chef Michelle Bernstein, including Chorizo and Cheese Empanadas with Avocado Crema. Bernstein, who learned how to make empanadas from her mother at the early age of 8, made them her own by adding homemade chorizo. 

•       A modern pork twist on a classic favorite with Ray Lampe's Pork Noodle Soup.

•       Two recipes each from 10 leading food bloggers, like Ali Ebright's Apple Cinnamon Pork Chops and Jenny Flake's Ham and Cheddar Green Chili Breakfast Sandwiches.

•       A selection of comforting favorites from the National Pork Board infused with modern twists, like BBQ Pork Mac n' Cheese.


“This free cookbook highlights some of the tastiest ways to warm up with pork this winter,” Richter says. “We compiled this cookbook to inspire cooks and honor all the ways that pork can be used to create hearty, feel-good dishes.”

The first 15,000 people to download Cooking For Comfort in November will receive a $1 coupon for fresh pork, with another 10,000 coupons available starting Dec. 1. Visit for a free download.




Changes in the SMS Key Performance Indicators

Changes in the SMS Key Performance Indicators

Since we are writing one to two articles per month, we wanted to update Weekly Preview readers on the changes we are making to our benchmarking database and the numbers we share every month.

The Key Performance Indicators have been part of every article we have written over the last four years (See Tables 2 and 3).  We have used the following Key Indicators calculated by the Top 10%, the Top 25%, "All Farms," and the "Bottom 25%" of the farms in our database:

  • Number of farms
  • Mated females
  • Pigs weaned / mated female / year
  • Litters / mated female / year
  • Wean to 1st service interval
  • Percent served by day 7
  • Percent repeat services
  • Entry to first service
  • Farrowing rate
  • Total pigs born / female farrowed
  • Pigs born live / female farrowed
  • Pigs weaned / female farrowed
  • Piglet survival
  • Average gestation length
  • Average age at weaning
  • Average parity

Starting with this article, we will be using the NEW SMS Farm Benchmarking program and SMS Production Index (See Chart 1 and Table 1).  Currently, we have 486 farms and 928,000 females in the new database; we will be adding another 100+ farms in November. Our new database will help indicate:

  • SMS Production Index
  • Potential for Improvement in Pigs Weaned / Mated Female / Year
  • Pigs Weaned / Mated Female / Year
  • Total Born / Mated Female / Year
  • Piglet Survival (100% - stillborn % - preweaning mortality %)
  • Litters / Mated Female / Year
  • Wean to 1st Service Interval
  • Farrowing Rate %
  • Female Death Loss %
  • Gilt Farrowing Rate %
  • Total Pigs Born / Female Farrowed (P1+P2+P3)
  • Total Pigs Born / Female Farrowed - P 1
  • Retention % (100% - P1-P2-P3 cull & death loss)


A major change is how the farms are separated into percentiles.  In the old program, the Top 25% included the Top 10% farms. In the new program, we have separated the farms into the Top 90-100%, the 70-90% category, the 50-70% category, the 30-50% category and 0-30% category. As a result, no farm is represented in more than one category. 

SMS Production Index is a calculation we created four years ago using eight production numbers. In the new program we have changed the calculation to include 11 production numbers, four of them coming from the new parity benchmarking.  If a farm was at 100 on the SMS Production Index it would be achieving 36 pigs weaned / mated female / year.  Read the article in the Aug. 5, 2013 issue of Weekly Preview to see how we came up with 36 pigs weaned / mated female / year.  The Index is calculated by multiplying the farm’s percentile for each of the 11 production numbers by a factor (a trade secret) and adding them together. 

Potential for Improvement in Pigs Weaned / Mated Female / Year is a new calculation.  It subtracts the actual pigs weaned / mated female / year from 36.  With the current 25.06 pigs weaned / mated female / year, that means the average Potential of Improvement is 10.94 pigs.

Pigs Weaned / Mated Female / Year is pigs weaned in the period divided by the days in the period (the number of days the report is run for) multiplied by 365 days divided by the average mated female inventory in the period.

We have added Total Born / Mated Female / Year to the Index because the articles we have written have shown this to be a key number.  Total pigs born / mated female / year represents pigs born in the period, divided by the days in the period (the number of days the report is run for) multiplied by 365 days divided by the average mated female inventory in the period.

Piglet Survival is a term we came up with several years ago to compensate for the different way farms define stillborns and preweaning mortality.  It does not matter which bucket the dead pig is carried out in.  It is our opinion that most stillborn pigs are potential liveborn pigs if you attend the farrowings.  The calculation is 100% - the percent stillborns in the period - the percent preweaning mortality in the period.

Litters / Mated Female / Year is females farrowed in the period divided by the days in the period (the number of days the report is run for) multiplied by 365 days divided by the average mated female inventory in the period.

Wean to first Service Interval is the average of days for weaning to the first mating for all females weaned and served in the period

Farrowing Rate% is a calculation that is not 100% accurate because it uses a standard gestation length to calculate the number of females served to farrow in a period, usually 114 or 115 days.  Gestation length actually has a range of 110 days to 122 days, with an average close to 116 days.  The longer the period, the more accurate is the calculation.

Female Death Loss% is the number of females that died in a period divided by the days in the period times 365 days divided by the average female inventory.  The problem with this calculation is how gilts are entered into the record program, because some farms enter gilts 120+ days before the first breeding and other farms enter gilts at the first breeding.

The next four numbers are new and they come from the new parity benchmarking program.  We have written numerous articles on the importance of gilt development and how the performance of gilts will set them up for how they will perform the rest of their life.

Gilt Farrowing Rate% is a key driver in how the farm will perform in the future. 

Total Pigs Born / Female Farrowed (P1+P2+P3) is a new calculation we have created.  It adds the number of pigs born / female farrowed for parities 1, 2 and 3.  We feel is important in measuring gilt development.  It looks at how well the gilts performed, plus it looks at measures if there was a parity-2 dip.

Total Pigs Born / Female Farrowed - P1 looks at the performance of gilt litters and is a good indicator of gilt development in addition to being a good indicator of the future performance of the gilt throughout her life.

Retention % (100% - P1-P2-P3 cull & death loss (dl)) is a new calculation we developed to look at how well a farm is developing gilts to get them into the more productive parties of 3-5.  It is not a cohort analysis calculation, and is to be used as a comparison between farms.  The calculation is 100% minus culls and death loss for parities 1, 2 and 3.  We would have loved to include the percent gilt culls and death loss, but with the differences in how gilts are entered into the records programs, it is not a good comparison between farms.

The analysis of data has increased our knowledge level of what really drives production on farms.   We have had to change some of our thoughts on how to manage sow farms.  The farms that are open minded and willing to step out of the box and try different and new management ideas are learning what it takes to produce more quality weaned pigs per mated female per year.  The new numbers we have added are designed to help producers step out of the box to make improvements.

Previous Production Preview columns can be found at

SMS Production Index

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

If you have questions or comments about these columns, or if you have a specific performance measurement that you would like us to write about, please contact:  mark.rix@swinems.comor

WASDE Report Brings Good News for Pork Producers

WASDE Report Brings Good News for Pork Producers

First things first. Thank you to all of our readers who have served in our country’s armed forces over the years! While Memorial Day is rightfully a day of thanks and reverence for those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, Veterans Day offers that tremendous opportunity to personally say “Thank You!” to the veterans who still live and work beside us every day. Take time today to give your dad or uncle or son or daughter a call to tell them you appreciate what they have done or are doing for our great country. Walk down the hall and thank that co-worker who was deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan over the past decade. And especially say thanks to the few remaining of The Greatest Generation and the many remaining who never got proper and much-deserved gratitude when they answered the call to fight an unpopular yet valiant war in Vietnam. Our undying gratitude is due them all!

Was Friday’s World Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report from USDA the nail in the coffin for high grain and feed prices? I guess not if you consider $4/bushel still high for corn or $400/ton still high for bean meal. I would have to agree on the latter of those two but $4/bushel is so far below the past few years’ predominant prices that I have to say that one is a short-term win for sure. The longer term isn’t certain at all but the trend is definitely good.

To recap the report, USDA confirmed this year’s record-large corn crop by pegging the national average yield at 160.4 bushels per acre. That near-trend yield is over 5 bushels higher than the September estimate and 27 bushels larger than last year’s average. USDA did, as expected, shave some off its planted and harvested acreage estimates and the reduction was about pne million MORE than had been anticipated by the analysts surveyed before the report. The 2013 crop is still record-large at 13.989 billion bushels, 30% larger than last year.

USDA did increase its estimates of both feed/residual (+100 million bu.) and exports (+175 million bu.) relative to the September report, but even 1.842 billion bushels more of corn usage for this year will still leave 2014 carryout stocks at 1.887 billion bushels. That is 130% more than last year and puts the year-end stocks/use ratio at a relatively comfortable 14.6%.

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In spite of a larger soybean yield (43 bushels/acre) and the third-largest U.S. crop in history, year-end soybean stocks are still pegged at only 170 million bushels, and the year-end stocks/use ratio for 2014 is estimated to be only 5.2%, the seventh-lowest ever. Thus, the vast difference between historic corn and soybean meal values.

What’s more, the pattern of high prices appears to be at an end for corn and likely ending for soybeans. University of Illinois economists Dr. Scott Irwin and Dr. Darrell Good, found such in their analysis of price runs published last week at their farmdoc website ( The above-average runs for both have been historically very long and will not, again judging by history, likely experience another long above-average run soon. But history does not suggest that corn and soybean prices will spend a long period below their 2006-2013 averages of $4.95 and $11.50. Wrote Irwin and Good, “The more likely outcome is a series of positive and negative runs [relative to the averages] of varying but shorter lengths.

The net impact, though, of the WASDE report is very positive for pork producers. My model puts 2014 projected costs of production at $77.14/cwt. carcass (see Figure 3) as of Monday morning, Nov. 11. That figure, when combined with CME Group Lean Hogs futures as of Monday morning, would put 2014 profits for average Iowa farrow-to-finish operations at $27.25 per head. The best of U.S. producers would be about $5/cwt. carcass below that cost figure and about $10 per head above that profit figure. 2014 is shaping up to be a good year indeed. In fact, those profits would surpass the levels of 2004 and 2005 and make 2014 the best year since 1990.

That assumes, of course, that actual costs and prices turn out to be the same as the prices offered by the futures market as of Monday morning. Or that producers pull the trigger and lock in those costs and prices using futures or options positions. Those margins are more than theoretical. There are traders offering that much money for hogs and asking only that much money for corn and soybean meal today.

There is, however, a significant new source of risk for those producers who otherwise would be willing to hedge in future profits: Production risk. We usually don’t worry much about output risk in the hog business. Even bad occurrences do not usually leave us much below normal production. But porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus is posing the kind of losses over a 3-5-week period that grain farmers encounter when they have a hail storm!

What happens if you have hedged June production at a profit of $50 per head but have no pigs to sell in June? For the first time in recollection, that is a legitimate question. One strategy, of course is to not hedge all of your production. I think most producers follow that anyway, desiring to take some risk for the chance of even higher returns on the marginal animals. But your comfort margin probably has to be larger in the face of PED virus. Perhaps you hedge only 4 of 5, or 3 of 5 unique pig flows in case one goes down. Or reduce the hedge percentage of all sales so you can exit any positions that correspond to a loss period and, if market conditions warrant it, at that point increase coverage for other time periods. Perhaps best, use options. They cost more, but that up-front cost is all there will be – no margin calls and, as long as you use only puts for hogs and only calls for feed ingredients, there is no obligation to deliver anything.

New challenges call for new thinking. What might have been out of the question before should probably at least be considered in light of this new risk. 

Administration Asked to Expedite Livestock Antibiotics Rule

Consumer, medical, and food groups are urging the administration to complete action on the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) regulation to prohibit the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in livestock.  FDA released a draft guidance document in April of 2012 that would have animal health companies stop labeling their products for growth promotion. 

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Those signing a letter to President Barack Obama included the American Academy of Pediatrics, Center for Food Safety, American College of Preventive Medicine, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, March of Dimes, Pew Charitable Trusts and National Consumers League. 

USDA Predicts Record Corn Crop

USDA’s latest “Crop Production” report estimates this year’s corn crop at a record 13.989 billion bushels.  The previous record was 13.1 billion bushels in 2009. 

Corn yields are expected to average 160.4 bushels per acre.  USDA lowered its projected season-average farm price range for corn by 30 cents at both ends to a range of $4.10 to $4.90 per bushel.  The soybean crop is estimated at 3.26 billion bushels.  This would be the third-largest U.S. soybean crop.  Yields are expected to average 43.0 bushels per acre.  USDA’s estimate for season-average soybean price range for 2013/14 is $11.15 to $13.15 per bushel.  

BSE Import Regulations

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced a final rule that will modernize APHIS’ import regulations for BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy).  The rule is to make clear the U.S. is committed to base its BSE regulation on internationally accepted scientific literature and standards set by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). 


APHIS said the final rule would allow for the safe trade of bovines and bovine products while still protecting the U.S. from the introduction of BSE.  Dr. John Clifford, USDA’s chief veterinary officer said, “Making these changes will further demonstrate to our trading partners our commitment to international standards and sound science, and we are hopeful it will help open new markets and remove remaining restrictions on U.S. products.”  

Congressmen Urge EPA to Lower RFS Ethanol Requirement

More than 160 members of the House of Representatives have sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy urging her to consider a fair and meaningful adjustment to the ethanol mandate in the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).  The members stated, “Due to the dramatic expansion of corn ethanol, volatile corn prices have led to the conversion of millions of acres of sensitive wetlands and grasslands into production.  Prompt action by the EPA can help to ease short supply concerns, prevent engine damage, save jobs across many U.S. industries and keep families fed.”  The letter was coordinated by Congressmen Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Steve Womack (R-AR) and Peter Welch (D-VT).  

Administration Creates Climate Change Task Force

The administration is establishing a Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.  The task force is to advise the administration on how the federal government can respond to the needs of communities that are dealing with the impacts of climate change.  According to the White House, “The Task Force members include state, local and tribal leaders from across the country who will use their first-hand experiences in building climate preparedness and resilience in their communities to inform their recommendations to the administration.”

SowBridge Sets 2014 Program Topics


SowBridge topics for 2014 include preventing or managing porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus at the farm, feeding/management of sows in pens, inducing sows to farrow, picking the right time to cull sows and gilt development to name a few.

Sessions will begin in February.

SowBridge is a successful distance education program that was created five years ago. It is designed as a continual training and learning program for people involved in managing or caring for boars, sows, and/or litters. Participants may be operation owners, managers, employees, technicians or technical service providers. Past participants have been from the United States, Canada, China, Ireland, Australia, and West Indies.

The year-long program is offered by subscription. Cost is $250 for the first registration from an entity and $125 for each subsequent subscription from the same entity. Registration provides access to one phone line per monthly session and all program materials for each session.

Prior to each monthly session, participants receive a CD containing the session’s presentation, along with information to call a toll-free conference line to listen to and interact with presenters.

Anticipated deadline for registration is Jan. 15, 2014 with a target date of Feb. 5, 2014 for the first session of the 2014 SowBridge. Registration materials will be announced in the coming months.

SowBridge is sponsored by a group of 11 state universities with Mark Whitney, Sarah Schieck, and Lee Johnston of the University of Minnesota Extension serving as program coordinators. The program is coordinated through Iowa State.

For more information, contact Sarah Schieck, Swine Extension Educator, University of Minnesota Extension Regional Center, Morris — (320) 589-1711,



Packers Requiring Premises ID Tags for Sows in 2015

Packers Requiring Premises ID Tags for Sows in 2015

Many major U.S. packers and processors will require a USDA-approved official premises identification number (PIN) swine tag as a condition of sale for breeding stock effective Jan. 1, 2015. The move is designed to improve pre-harvest traceability and national disease surveillance in the pork industry.  

“This is a positive step for our industry as we continue to create a more robust surveillance and traceability system that can help protect our animals, our livelihoods and our customers,” says National Pork Board President, Karen Richter, a producer from Montgomery, MN. “That's why I encourage producers who may not already be using official PIN tags to register their premises and begin using the tags now.”

Pork Checkoff's director of swine health Patrick Webb, DVM, says the USDA-approved, official PIN tags for breeding swine are customizable with or without a management number and can be purchased in multiple colors.

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“This allows producers to use the official tag in any color as a management tag or wait to apply the tag to sows and boars before leaving the production site to enter harvest channels,” he says.

Once an animal is identified with an official PIN tag, it should not be removed or given a different official tag in the case of parity-segregated farms. Also, records documenting the identification and movement of breeding stock should be kept for three years.   

Allflex USA, Inc., Destron Fearing and Y-Tex Corporation have USDA approval to manufacture official PIN swine tags. When ordering, producers must provide the nationally standardized PIN for the breeding farm. If the site does not have a PIN, producers can register for one by going to

To date, packers that will require PIN tags as of Jan.1, 2015 include: Johnsonville, Hillshire Brands, Calihan Pork Processors, Bob Evans Farms, Wampler's Farm Sausage, Pine Ridge Farms, Pioneer Packing Co., Pork King Packing and Abbyland Pork Pack.

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