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Articles from 2002 In December

Veterinarians Slate Meeting

“Using Science to Enhance the Food Supply” headlines the 34th annual meeting of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV), March 8-11, 2003 at the Hyatt Orlando in Kissimmee, FL.

Talks on ensuring and protecting food safety and quality will highlight the general session, followed by sessions on disease control, research, added value to clients, food supply and production issues.

Contact the AASV office by phone (515) 465-5255; fax (515) 465-3832; e-mail; [email protected] or online Reserve a room by calling 800-233-1234.

Defining Today's Disease Complexes

Despite more research, sophisticated production systems, technologically advanced diagnostics, better nutrition, improved genetics, and, of course, smarter veterinarians, biology continues to humble the pork industry.

Today's disease complexes are likely related to changes induced both by producers and by pathogens.


Let's look first at pathogens. Front and center is porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) virus, which continues to wreak havoc on the industry. Research has shown that it can increase the severity of other respiratory problems such as Streptococcus suis, Mycoplasmal pneumonia and possibly Haemophilus parasuis. PRRS has definitely been a major player in the porcine respiratory disease complex (PRDC) problem. In addition, this virus can change fairly readily and thus repeat its damage in herds immune to the original PRRS strain.

Porcine circovirus 2 (PCV2) is associated with postweaning multisystemic wasting syndrome (PMWS). Although experimental infections alone caused microscopic lesions and mild clinical signs, the severe clinical syndrome wasn't observed without exposure to parvovirus or PRRS. PCV2 is considered part of PRDC by some diagnosticians.

Then there is our old friend, swine influenza. Although this virus can cause disease alone, it can also be part of PRDC, and contributes to the rise in disease complexes with the recent appearance of new subtypes of flu. H3N2 is the most notable, but others are being diagnosed.

Improved diagnostics have enabled veterinarians to identify more viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms.

Some disease complexes may have been present all along — we've just defined them better with today's testing procedures.

People Factor

Significant changes in production systems and pig flow by people have contributed. There are larger numbers of pigs on sites, often with a high percentage of the population naïve to several organisms. A few pigs in every group are likely to be carriers of pathogens. If shedding of (or outside exposure to) two or more infectious agents occurs close in time, it's an ideal setup for the disease complex.

With high breeding herd replacement rates and higher-health sow herds, maternal immunity may be lower than previous single-site, continuous-flow units. Separation of pig flow from sow herds means pigs are less likely to become exposed to infectious agents.

Genetic selection and nutrition programs encourage leanness, push for maximum pig performance and may contribute to disease.

Overall, the use of feed grade antibiotics in finishing pigs has been reduced. This reduces cost and residue concerns, but it may be a contributing factor to the disease complexes.

Keys to Disease Complex

The first key to dealing with a disease complex is proper and complete diagnostics. This will usually entail postmortems and good sample collection. It may require multiple necropsies of different ages. Paired serology or a cross-section of different ages on the same day may be of some benefit. Routine serological monitoring may also have some merit.

Targeted vaccination programs may reduce one of the agents involved. Mycoplasma or flu vaccinations are good examples. Sow vaccination may be needed to reduce nursery or early finisher problems.

Elimination programs have been successful for removing PRRS. Besides depopulation, mass vaccination and uni-directional pig flow have helped eliminate PRRS from selected grow-finish sites. Pulse medication can reduce the impact of bacteria and mycoplasma.

When dealing with a syndrome such as PMWS, where we are still learning about the factors involved, and there is no vaccine for PCV2, experimentation may be needed.

Case Study

A recent case of PMWS in a nursery was diagnosed by histopathology (tissue analysis). Pigs were being weaned offsite at 3 weeks old. Wasting increased to where mortality was 7-8%. PRRS was circulating in the nursery. The sow herd was vaccinated with a killed PRRS product, and the problem was occurring too early to vaccinate pigs for PRRS.

Therefore, based on some of the experimental data that showed more severe problems when parvovirus was involved with PCV2, the sow vaccination program with lepto-parvo-erysipelas was changed from weaning to pre-farrowing. Nursery signs declined and mortality is now 2-3%.

The case can be made that both pathogens and people have played a part in increased disease complexes and syndromes in today's pig populations.

Court Grants Stay for Pork Checkoff

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rally Around Research

There is an age-old proverb that says: “If you know all of the answers, you haven't asked all of the questions.” Most of the people I know in the pork production business will candidly admit that they have more questions than answers.

For starters, what's the solution to solving the PRRS riddle? Do we fully understand the impact early weaning has had on the reproductive performance of our sow herds? With over 300 odor-causing compounds in swine manure, what can we do to make pork production more acceptable to the general public?

Thank goodness there is a cadre of animal scientists, nutritionists, agricultural engineers, geneticists and others to seek out the right questions, then set about doing the right research to find the answers.

Within these pages, you will find 19 research reports categorized in five general disciplines. Some of this work is groundbreaking. Some verifies earlier work needed so we can apply the results in the field with confidence.

Far-Reaching Potential

The breadth of this year's research reports covers the pork production and processing gamut. A few highlights that caught my eye:

  • Recycling taken to a new level when combustion of manure solids yielded valuable energy (steam, electricity) and a mineral byproduct to serve as a calcium, phosphorus supplement in swine rations.

  • With corn as the major portion of most swine rations, researchers found that 40% of grower pig feces is made up of corn hulls. Feeding degermed, dehulled corn could improve feed conversion while reducing manure mass.

  • The genes that are switched on and off in the short time span between Day 11 and 12 after conception could hold the key to improving embryonic survival.

  • Market hogs with like genetics from four different farms, delivered to two different slaughter plants across all four seasons reinforces that each, independently, can influence common measures of pork quality.

More to Come

In the “to read” file on my desk are two very important documents. One is “The Scientific Basis for Estimating Air Emissions from Animal Feeding Operations.” This interim report from the National Research Council's (NRC) Committee on Animal Nutrition compiles the current knowledge on air emissions from individual animal feeding operations and assesses the scientific criteria needed to ensure accurate measurement of those compounds.

This is no small feat, assured the University of Maryland's Richard Kohn during a USDA briefing with the 2002 Environmental Stewards award-winners in September. Kohn says the 331 odor-causing compounds in swine manure illustrates the complexity of the challenge. “There's nothing on the horizon that will impact livestock production more. There is no silver bullet; the solutions to the odor challenge will be accomplished incrementally,” he added.

Direct measurement of air quality on each and every livestock farm probably is not reasonable because of the cost and the inability to get accurate measurements. Therefore, the NRC will likely recommend the development of model farms, incorporating the many factors that contribute to air quality into a model. Scientific data will have to be built to run the model.

The other document staring at me from my “to read” file is an ambitious research proposal to study disease resistance in pigs. This long-running research effort at the University of Nebraska will tackle two of the leading issues in the pork industry today — PRRS and, indirectly, the use of antibiotics for treatment and control of disease.

The proposal points out that our knowledge of the genetic basis of resistance or susceptibility to infectious disease remains limited.

If we can improve pigs' resistance to disease through genetics, the need for antibiotics could be reduced.

A key objective in the research is to “identify molecular differences that will lead to a profile of genetic resistance to PRRS” and “to develop procedures to select for genetic resistance to PRRS.”

Anyone disagree that we could use a new approach to beating down the pesky PRRS virus?

As mutations in viruses and microbes seem to disarm the effectiveness of some disease treatments and responses to vaccines, the genetic frontier may help take herd health management to the next level. The work will extend beyond PRRS, of course, targeting other profit robbers such as Mycoplasmal pneumonia and scours caused by E. coli.

In an industry built on — and often defended by — science, this constant influx of new research and information is the lifeblood of an industry faced with ever-present pressures to be the low-cost producer of quality pork in the world.

Welfare Program Training Set

On March 9, 2003, swine veterinarians will receive training in the National Pork Board's Swine Welfare Assurance Program (SWAP) to prepare for possible on-farm assessments. The workshop, co-sponsored by the pork checkoff, will be at the annual meeting of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians in Kissimmee, FL.

Pilot farm testing of SWAP was held for two weeks in November, says Anna Johnson, director of Animal Welfare at the Pork Board.

The Pork Board Animal Welfare Committee held a two-day meeting in December to iron out recommendations for on-farm guidelines.

“SWAP is a voluntary program for all producers that can be used as a comprehensive, scientifically based tool to evaluate swine welfare in all types and sizes of farms,” says Johnson. “SWAP has been designed to include all phases of production, but the program is divided into two distinct pieces, breed-to-wean and wean-to finish.”

SWAP evolved from the Swine Welfare Index System, which focused on the gestating sow housed in stalls, pens and on pasture.

product news

Radiant Heater

The Infraconic I-3 has been added to the line of radiant heaters sold by L.B. White Company, Inc. The 3,000 Btu/hr model is specifically designed for farrowing operations. Installed over the farrowing crate divider, the I-3 allows growers to provide optimal temperature. It also offers a 25% fuel savings over conventional heat lamps. The I-3 comes in natural gas and propane gas models, requiring no electricity for operation.
(Circle Reply Card No. 101)

Lagoon Aeration System

Available from Aeromix Systems Inc. is the Tornado Surface Aspirating Aerator, shown to significantly reduce odor in tests conducted by the University of Minnesota, the company says. Two, 5-hp Tornado aerators were tested in a lagoon at a large confinement system in southern Minnesota. The aerators were sized to provide an air cap or aerobic zone on top of the basin, while the bottom remained undisturbed and anaerobic. This treatment method is used successfully at municipal wastewater facilities. Odors were reduced up to 75% and hydrogen sulfide levels by as much as 90%.
(Circle Reply Card No. 102)

Organic Selenium

SelenoSource is a premium source of organic selenium to improve animal nutrition, introduced by Diamond V Mills. Organic selenium is more biologically available to the animal than inorganic sources, and more readily supports selenium-dependent bodily functions and reduce selenium toxicity. SelenoSource is a quality, high selenium yeast product produced with living organisms, according to the company. Its greater bioavailability reduces soil and water contamination through fecal excretion.
(Circle Reply Card No. 103)

Selenium, Protein Products

Agritronics Corporation is offering two new swine nutritional advancements. Agritronics Breeder Base contains the research-proven Selenomethionine, a new organic form of selenium, for an inclusion rate of 90 lb./ton in sow diets. Research indicates an improvement in a sow's productive life beyond second parity and a drop in preweaning mortality. The second product, Nupro, is a non-animal protein developed from yeast extract. The program is fed only during the nursery period, improving the intestinal tract and resulting in less mortality during the grow-finish period, higher daily gains, and reduced time to market.
(Circle Reply Card No. 104)

Aluminum Welding Kit

Wire Propellant Systems has developed kits for standard wire feed MIG welders that allow them to effectively weld aluminum without the need for an expensive spool gun or push-pull system. The kit installs in about 15 minutes. It produces high-quality aluminum welds with professional results, without excessive burn backs into the contact tip and nested wire in the drive rollers. Kits are available for 220-volt welders and 120-volt welders.
(Circle Reply Card No. 105)

Grease Fittings, Joint Cleaner

Open clogged grease fittings and loosen hardened grease in joints with the Grease Fitting Cleaner from Innovative Products of America. It forces light oil into the joint, loosening up hard grease and allowing new grease to be pushed in.
(Circle Reply Card No. 106)

Dry Organic Acidifier

Kemin America, Inc. announces Acid Lac SP dry organic acidifier into the U.S. marketplace. Designed for use in swine and poultry diets, Acid Lac SP was formulated based on extensive research by the company in Europe and around the world. Organic acids have been shown to have a bactericidal effect, although not all organic acids provide equal efficacy.
(Circle Reply Card No. 107)

Automated Feed Processing Controls

WEM4000 on-farm batching controls from Wisconsin Electrical Manufacturing Company, Inc. include group feeding programs and records. The system controls up to four scales with unlimited ingredients. It is easy to operate and maintain and will interface with your accounting system.
(Circle Reply Card. No. 108)

Smithfield's Purchases Large Southwest Producer

Smithfield Foods, Inc. has acquired Vall, Inc., a 20,000-sow company producing about 350,000 market hogs per year in Oklahoma and Texas. Purchase price was $60.7 million cash.

All of the hogs are sold under contract to Seaboard Corporation, Guymon, OK.

Smithfield, based in Smithfield, VA, says because of the current oversupply of hogs, it has no plans to expand its hog farms. It will only grow operations through acquisitions.

Permit Boosts Slaughter at North Carolina Plant

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

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

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

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

Ethanol Co-Products Program Set

A program on feeding ethanol co-products to beef and distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) to swine will be held on Dec. 17, 1-4 p.m., at the Western Iowa Tech Auditorium, Cherokee, IA.

Pork producers can capture some benefits by feeding DDGS, says Dave Stender, Iowa State University (ISU) Extension swine field specialist.

"DDGS can be a cost-reducing alternative to feeding corn, can improve finishing health and can reduce the phosphorus concentration in manure in an environmentally friendly way," he says. "If the product saves money, improves health and is good for the environment, why not feed it to swine?"

University of Minnesota swine nutritionist Jerry Shurson will talk about the feeding value of DDGS.

ISU nutrient management specialist Wendy Powers will outline the changes in nutrient content of manure when feeding DDGS.

Kent Tjardes, Extension feedlot specialist, South Dakota State University, will discuss storage methods for DDGS.

Stender will present factors in pricing DDGS and a cost analysis in swine diets.

Cost of the program is $10 by Dec. 13. To pre-register, send your name, address, phone number and a check made out to Cherokee County Extension to: Cherokee County Extension, 209 Centennial Dr., Ste. A, Cherokee, IA 51012.