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Presidential Council Asked to Review Use of Antibiotics in Agriculture

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) sent a letter to the Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology asking the Council to review the use of antibiotics in agriculture and to take appropriate action to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics. 

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Slaughter wrote, “Considering that the vast majority of antibiotics used in the U.S. are used in agriculture, this is the first place that needs to be investigated.  The CDC has reviewed and confirmed the mounting evidence connecting agricultural use of antibiotics to resistant infections seen in humans. Bacteria resistant to important medical antibiotics are routinely found in farm animals. What we need now is a comprehensive study of the use of antibiotics in agriculture that will, first, quantify its impact on public health and, second, make a series of recommendations for limiting its impact.”  The Council is a group of scientists and engineers that make policy recommendations to the White House.

Addressing the Growing Epidemic of PEDV

PED Virus is on the rise

Porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus was first detected in the United States in May 2013 in several apparently unrelated farms, and has spread rapidly to many other swine herds creating a nationwide epidemic. This situation raises two main questions that are still being researched: 1) where did this virus come from? and 2) how is it spreading between herds?

To start answering the first question, where did it come from, we have to ask ourselves if this was really a new virus or if it was already in the United States and had gone undetected. Both diagnostic laboratories at Iowa State University and the University of Minnesota did testing on banked samples from 2012 and 2013 and could only detect PED virus after mid April 2013.

Therefore, we can be reasonably confident that the virus was not in the U.S. swine population before that time. PED virus has been described in Europe and in Asia in the past. No major outbreaks of this disease have been described in recent years in Europe.

In contrast, PED virus outbreaks affecting numerous farms and causing large mortalities have been described recently in important swine-producing Asian countries such as China, South Korea, Japan and Thailand.

If we compare the genetic material of the PED virus strain detected in the United States with other publicly available PED virus strains, the closest matches are strains from China. All this evidence is suggesting that PED virus was introduced in the U.S. swine population in the spring of 2013 and the most likely origin is China.  

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Assuming that the virus came from China, how did it get here? The United States does not import pigs from China so there must be a different way.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in collaboration with the University of Minnesota, performed an epidemiological investigation on the earliest cases of PED virus in the United States to assess potential risk factors that could explain the introduction of the virus into the country. Unfortunately, this study could not come up with a clear answer.  Early investigations also looked into the unlikely possibility of the virus being imported in vitamin or mineral mixes being used in swine feeds. However, none of the feed ingredients tested had infectious PED virus.

Another possibility is that PED virus came with people. PED virus has not been reported to infect people, however, people can act as mechanical carriers. It seems an unlikely scenario, given the good biosecurity practices generally adopted in the U.S. swine industry. However, because of the booming situation of the Chinese swine industry, there are many swine professionals (veterinarians, producers, builders, company representatives) who frequently travel back and forth between the United States and China and visit farms in both countries.

Therefore, we cannot rule out people as a source of entry. This stresses the importance of biosecurity practices. Enforcing strict visitor rules can prevent disease introductions in your herd. Keeping track of visitors records (who enters your herd and where have they been before) will help with the investigation of the origin of an outbreak if it were to happen.

Secondly, how is PED virus spreading from farm to farm in the United States? There is a bulk of research being performed on this issue as we speak. We will tackle this question in the next column once the results of that research are fully available. 

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Be Vigilant About Biosecurity for PEDV This Fall

The Pork Checkoff continues to fund research to find more solutions regarding combatting and preventing porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus on U.S. hog farms.

But as temperatures cool, Lisa Becton, DVM, director of swine health information and research programs for the Pork Checkoff, reminds producers to do their part by being vigilant about biosecurity.

“This virus appears to act the same clinically as Transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE), which indicates that it has increased survivability in colder weather,” Becton says.

“As temperatures cool this fall and winter, producers need to focus on biosecurity measures to help protect their herds,” she reminds.

Becton adds: “This includes how manure is hauled and handled, how vehicles are washed and how traffic coming into and out of their farms is managed. Keep barns and equipment as clean and dry as possible to help reduce the spread of PEDV. And if you do suspect it in your herd, work with your veterinarian to help stem its spread and to build up herd immunity.”

For more information on PEDV and related fact sheets, visit


Pork Board Launches Youth Careers Site

Pork Board Launches Youth Careers Site

The Pork Checkoff has introduced PorkSquare – a website, driven by the innovation and real-time nature of social media, connecting young agriculture professionals with internships and training.

“For some time, the National Pork Board has bounced around the concept of a youth careers website – one focused specifically on the pork industry,” says Bryn Jensson, producer outreach marketing manager for Pork Checkoff.

“After hours of brainstorming, ideation and discussing the purpose and options, PorkSquare emerged as an ideal way to combine the best of all our ideas.”

Moving beyond the concept of simply a job bank, PorkSquare is a virtual town square where internship and scholarship seekers and companies can connect.

“As we created the website, we also generated a lot of enthusiasm about its future and began to understand just how instrumental it could become in meeting the needs of both students, professionals and pork-related companies,”  Jensson says.

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The mission of the Pork Checkoff is to harness the resources of its pork producers to capture opportunity, address challenges and satisfy customers. PorkSquare specifically meets those needs by helping young people ages 15 to 25 - with a long-term interest in a career in the pork industry.

The website, located at , is a one-stop shop for training, education growth and internship information regarding the pork industry.

“We see PorkSquare as more than a place to find an internship, but rather as a vehicle to build relationships between young professionals and industry leaders, and prospect for internships, scholarships, mentoring programs and pork-related events," says Mark Greenwood, senior vice president relationship management with AgStar Financial Services.

High school and college students can use PorkSquare to create personal profiles that are visible to employers with internships or scholarship sponsors. These profiles allow the young professional to share information about themselves beyond that of a traditional resume, providing hiring managers with a complete image of a candidate. By including a photo, personal interests, social media links and more, employers can get a better feel for the background of an internship candidate.

Companies with a particular focus on the pork industry can also create profiles that students can readily search, allowing them a better sense of what a certain company offers. By building a company profile that includes internships, scholarships, events and position and news updates, potential candidates can be kept apprised of the changes and opportunities the company offers.   

“We are confident that PorkSquare will be a great tool offered at a great time for our industry,” Jensson says. “Over time, we will add helpful features to the site and highlight the opportunities the growing swine industry has to offer. Our goal is to keep these young pork professionals interested, engaged and aware of all our industry has to offer.”

PorkSquare was developed with the support of its partners including the Pork Checkoff, AgStar Financial Services, Indiana Pork, Iowa Pork Producers Association and the North Carolina Pork Council. 

For information on Checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-7675 or check the Internet at

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When Bad Videos Happen to Good Pork Producers

When Bad Videos Happen to Good Pork Producers

“Ugh, another undercover video.” I think this was a common sentiment in the pork industry this week as the Mercy for Animals organization released undercover video claiming to show animal abuse in a pork production facility. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) was only too happy to promote the release of this video. And the Mercy for Animals organization was once again very open about this being another attempt at blackmailing a major retail chain into discontinuing the purchase of pork raised on a farm that used gestation stalls. Like it or not, pork producer and current president of the National Pork Producer’s Council (NPPC) Randy Spronk became collateral damage in an ongoing war—ultimately against meat consumption.

It’s a real shame, too, because the production system targeted this time around is well-known for working very hard to prioritize employee training and proper animal care and handling procedures. Sadly, all it takes is one employee, doing the wrong thing at the wrong time, and the person with the hidden camera who cares more about a cause than stopping the alleged animal mistreatment that is occurring in front of them at that moment.

Organizations such as the Center for Food Integrity have worked hard to promote initiatives, such as the “See It, Stop It” campaign to encourage livestock farm employees to immediately report animal abuse. And veterinarians within the Pipestone System organization, of which Spronk’s farm is part, have worked with producers to help train and empower employees to step in when another employee is mishandling livestock.

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Just one year ago, I attended a Minnesota Pork Producers Association training seminar in which Carissa Odland, DVM, director of Animal Welfare for the Pipestone System, talked about the fact that no matter how hard a producer tries in this day and age, the worst can still happen. Ironically, and, as it turns out, somewhat prophetically, making a reference to the tactics that groups such as Mercy for Animals use to pressure retailers by using undercover videos, Odland said at that time, “The number one reason we work hard to continuously improve is because we care about our animals and our employees. However, it’s important to realize that just because you get your house in order, doesn’t mean you won’t end up on YouTube (the video channel).” How right she was.

There are many facets of this most recent undercover video incident that prove particularly frustrating. If the employee doing the filming was so concerned about the animals, why didn’t she stop the abuse? How do these insincere people, with no apparent regard for the animals entrusted to their care, manage to secure these jobs?  But perhaps the more troubling question is what can the pork industry do to stop this attack against meat consumption?  Controversial “Ag Gag” laws were making some progress, but perhaps not enough.

In the end, producers are working against a system built on blackmail. The Pipestone County Star reported this week that officials from Walmart had come to the community to tour the pork production facilities in the wake of this video release. When I attended a Mercy for Animals press conference last year following the release of another video taken on a pork operation, the organization’s spokesperson was very open about the fact that videos are taken in specifically targeted operations with the intention of showing the videos to the retail companies that the farms supply. If the retailers agree to make a statement about stopping the purchase of pork from farms using gestations stalls, the video is not released to the media. Does that sound like they really care about the animals? The spokesman also admitted that the over-arching goal of the organization is to promote a complete departure from meat consumption.

As I looked over the stories we have posted this week to keep National Hog Farmer readers updated as this situation has progressed, I couldn’t help but notice one common word in each headline in stories such as, “NPPC Responds to Latest Undercover Hog Farm Video,” or “Pipestone System Issues Response to Animal Abuse Allegations.” The key word seems to be, “responds.”  We know our producers are good stewards of our animals. We know that science- and research-based production methods have been proven to keep our animals safe and healthy. What can the pork industry do to be more successful when it comes to preventing bad people from attacking good pork producers?

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Pipestone System Issues Response to Animal Abuse Allegations

The Pipestone System issued a response this week to an allegation of animal mistreatment linked to an undercover video taken by a Mercy for Animals activist. The Pipestone County Prosecutor has determiend not to bring any charges against any of the employees on the farm at this time.

The Pipestone System has recently cooperated with the Pipestone County Sheriff’s Office in response to a complaint of animal mistreatment by a former employee. The complaint was lodged by Jessica Marie Buck, a former Pipestone System employee, who is believed to be an undercover activist with the Mercy for Animals organization. The Pipestone County Prosecutor has determined not to bring any charges against any of the employees on the farm at this time.

In a news release on theorganization's  website, the company states,"The Pipestone System does not condone any type of willful animal abuse. The Pipestone System immediately conducted an internal investigation of alleged mistreatment and discovered certain violations of its Animal Welfare Policy that resulted in the immediate termination of one employee, reassignment of another and follow-up training of the remaining employees." The Pipestone System also requested and underwent an immediate third party external audit of the operations at this farm.  “We remain absolutely committed to animal welfare and will continue to improve upon training and oversight every day,” said Carissa Odland, DVM, Director of Animal Welfare for the Pipestone System. 


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According to the website, all Pipestone System employees receive extensive, consistent animal welfare training which requires each employee to sign on to a commitment to immediately report any suspected abuse or mistreatment. The organization says Buck signed on to this pledge, specifically committing to report any animal welfare issues or concerns she witnessed.  "Unfortunately, no report of abuse or mistreatment from Ms. Buck was ever reported. Ms. Buck’s own actions while on the sow farm clearly violated our animal welfare policy, the statement says.

“It is clear that Ms. Buck did not take specific actions aimed at protecting the welfare of the animals as the Pipestone System policies dictate, but instead was solely motivated to obtain undercover footage for Mercy for Animals without any true regard for the immediate welfare of the animals” stated Luke Minion, DVM, President and CEO of the Pipestone System.

Pipestone System is a network of independent family farmers who raise quality pork using humane and sustainable agricultural practices and state-of-the-art facilities and genetics. Ultimately, the market weight animals are sold to all of the pork packers in the Midwest. Learn more at

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K-State Unveils New Feed Technology Center

The $16 million O.H. Kruse Feed Technology Innovation Center at Kansas State University was completed this fall after 20 years of planning, design and construction.  The new facility replaces two older mills on campus.

The state-of-the-art facility was built to improve education for students and industry.  Keith Behnke, a professor emeritus in Kansas State’s department of grain science and industry, noted that the university has the only undergraduate feed science and management program in the United States.

“From an educational stand point, I believe this is going to give us the opportunity to train the next leaders of the feed industry,” said Charles Stark, who is the university’s Jim and Carol Brown associate professor in feed technology.  “The next generation will have an opportunity to come to Kansas State, learn the manufacturing process and transfer those skills back into the industry.”

Behnke said that what employers in the feed industry are looking for in graduates is experience. 

“We can sit in the classroom all day and show pictures of how pieces of equipment work and how to maintain those things,” he said, “but without hands on experience, pictures really don’t mean much.  It’s our goal to put every student we have into an intern program…to work in the feed mill as their class schedule permits (and) gain experience.”

He added that students have to be allowed to make mistakes, such as pushing a pellet mill too far and spilling ingredients out on a floor because they overloaded the equipment. 

“It’s a little like touching a stove,” Behnke said. “You touch a stove and you learn not to do that. We can let students make mistakes here a lot cheaper than employees can in the industry. Out in the industry, if you make too big of mistake you get fired. The worst we can do to them is say, ‘okay, clean it up.’”

The Cargill Feed Safety Research Center is one of the important components of the new feedmill because industry is being pushed to provide cleaner and cleaner food for the livestock. 

“The theory is valid,” Behnke said. “If animals have cleaner food they are going to be less of a risk when they enter the food system. Regardless of whether it’s milk, eggs or meat, it’s a cleaner and more safe product.”

Until now K-State has not been allowed to intentionally contaminate livestock feed with live pathogens because of the safety requirements, but the controlled environment of the Cargill Feed Safety Research Center will allow faculty to do so. Then they can figure out how to sterilize or decontaminate that food before it is fed to an animal. 

Behnke said the construction of the feedmill is not yet complete. Additional storage will be added to the facility for grain genetics research. “We will be able to track genetic material all the way from the seed bag to the dinner plate,” he said. 

“We would love for the public to come visit and learn about the facility,” Behnke said.  “We’ve got something that’s really unique; most feedmills don’t allow tours because of biosecurity or proprietary information. For example, you can’t just drive up to a Cargill feedmill and say ‘Gee, I’d like to tour your feedmill,’ but you can do that here.”

The O.H. Kruse Feed Technology Innovation Center is located at 1980 Kimball Avenue in Manhattan. For more information visit the feed mill website,





Probing How Porcine Circovirus Causes Disease


A two-year, $150,000 postdoctoral fellowship grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will help a researcher in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine    investigate how porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) depletes the lymphatic system and causes inflammation in pigs.

PCV2 has been a global swine disease that has caused significant economic losses since its first discovery in the late 1990s.

Shannon Matzinger, postdoctoral associate in the college’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, who received the grant, observes: “Although this is arguably one of the most economically important pig viruses, we still do not fully understand the mechanism for how it causes disease. If we can identify the underlying mechanism that causes the disease, we can design better control and prevention strategies against the virus.”

Scientists first identified non-pathogenic porcine circoviruses in contaminated kidney cells in 1974 and the pathogenic strain in pigs with post-weaning multi-systemic wasting disease in 1998. The disease can cause respiratory issues, intestinal disease, and reproductive problems and primarily infects the lymphatic system.

X.J. Meng, University Distinguished Professor of Molecular Virology and Matzinger’s mentor for this fellowship grant, explains that although vaccines against the virus have been on the market since 2006, emerging variant strains of the virus and rare cases of vaccine failures still threaten the swine industry.

Meng and Matzinger hope to identify some of the genetic factors in the host cells and the virus genome that may be wreaking havoc on the immune system of infected pigs.

“One of the questions that remain unanswered is how porcine circovirus type 2 is depleting the immune system,” Matzinger says. “If we can answer this question, we will understand a key component of the viral pathogenesis and disease progression.”

In particular, she will be testing a hypothesis that the virus encodes viral micro-RNAs — molecules that play an important role in the regulation and expression of genes — that obstruct the immune system’s ability to detect the virus either by maintaining low levels of virus replication or preventing specific cells in the immune system from communicating with each other.

The complete story can be found on the Virginia Tech News website:




Fermenting Soybeans Offers Weaned Pigs New Protein Source

Fermenting Soybeans Offers Weaned Pigs New Protein Source

Fermenting soybeans eliminates anti-nutritional factors, such as oligosaccharides and antigens, that restrict its use in diets fed to weaned pigs. This process makes fermented soybeans a potential lower-cost substitute for animal protein in starter diets.

Soybean meal fermented in the presence of Aspergillus oryzae and Lactobacillus subtilis has recently become available on the U. S. market. To aid in the formulation of diets containing fermented soybean meal, researchers at the University of Illinois have determined the digestibility of energy and amino acids in this ingredient.

“Fermented soybean meal contains fewer anti-nutritional factors and is well tolerated by weanling pigs,” says Hans Stein, professor of animal sciences. “But there is a lack of data on the digestibility of energy and amino acids. So our goal was to determine those values.”

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Stein's lab conducted two experiments. In the first, they determined the concentration of digestible, metabolizable, and net energy in fermented soybean meal. In the second, they determined the standardized ileal digestibility of crude protein and amino acids. Both studies included conventional soybean meal and fish meal for comparison.

On a dry matter basis, fermented soybean meal contained 4,296 kcal/kg digestible energy (DE), 3,781 kcal/kg metabolizable energy (ME), and 2,710 kcal/kg net energy (NE). These values compared favorably to those in fish meal, which contained 3,827 kcal/kg DE, 3,412 kcal/kg ME, and 2,450 kcal/kg NE. DE, ME, and NE were decreased in fermented soybean meal compared with conventional soybean meal, which contained DE, ME, and NE of 4,553 kcal/kg, 4,137 kcal/kg, and 2,972 kcal/kg respectively.

Stein explains, “Fermentation of soybean meal removes sugars and oligosaccharides. Sucrose is easily digested by pigs and oligosaccharides are almost completely fermented. When these are removed, the remaining meal contains a greater percentage of fiber, which reduces the digestibility of energy in the diets.”

Digestibility of crude protein and amino acids in fermented soybean meal was the same as or greater than that of soybean meal. Digestibility values for most amino acids were greater in fermented soybean meal than in fish meal.

Stein says the results indicated that fermented soybean meal could replace fish meal in starter diets without negatively affecting the energy content or digestible amino acid content of the diets. “With this new product on the market in the United States, producers have another option for providing protein in weanling pig diets.”

The study, “Concentration of digestible, metabolizable, and net energy and digestibility of energy and nutrients in fermented soybean meal, conventional soybean meal, and fish meal fed to weanling pigs,” was recently published in the Journal of Animal Science and was co-authored with Oscar Rojas, a Ph.D. candidate in the Stein Monogastric Nutrition Laboratory at Illinois. It is available at

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