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Articles from 2006 In December

Hogs & Pigs Report - Another "Yawner"

Wednesday's Quarterly Hogs and Pigs report from USDA was another "yawner" in terms of surprise numbers. The key numbers (see Table 1) were, with only one exception, within 1% of analysts' pre-report expectations.

That one number, the year-over-year change in the 120-179-lb. class of market hogs, was offset completely by deviations in the opposite direction in the 60-119-lb. and over-180-lb. categories. While I use the weight classes to help predict marketing patterns, these offsetting percentages leave me without too much concern over the one deviation of a mere 1.1%.

The watchword in this report, as in the past four, is "steady." Steady growth in the breeding and market herds with that growth basically accounting for population and export growth. In fact, the number of pigs in this report, when combined with probable reduction in Canadian imports and the fact that weights may not grow at all in 2007, means that per capita domestic pork availability could end up lower in 2007.

Still, we have to factor in slightly higher hog numbers as we look at the 2007 price forecast, at least until the import and carcass weight situations become clearer.

Given that caution, this report says that hog supplies will be 1.3%, 1.4% and 1.9% larger in the first three quarters of 2007, respectively. Fourth quarter slaughter will be about 0.5% larger than in 2006.

These numbers mean that 2007 prices will look much like 2006 prices. Should weights indeed end up lighter, '07 prices could actually be higher. Still, I'm forecasting roughly equal prices for next year, with national net weighted average prices averaging $57-61 in the first quarter, $63-67 in the second quarter, $64-68 in the third quarter, and $58-62 in the fourth quarter. That gives an annual average in the $61-$65 range. The average national net weighted average price thus far in 2006 is $64.15.

My forecast sounds almost ridiculous when you consider Figure 2 and the fact that the eight Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Lean Hogs Futures contracts averaged just over $67 on Wednesday. I'm just a forecaster, but those prices are set by people betting real money. You can decide which has more credence. Regardless, futures prices that far above my forecasts tell me that this is still a pricing opportunity for a portion (25 to 40%, perhaps) of next year's production.

While a good report for price prospects, this report really only means that producers have a decent chance of breaking even in 2007. I think breakeven prices will end up near $50 (live) or $67 (carcass). By those numbers, even the futures prices are in the breakeven range.

While 2007 may well be a challenge, make it a happy one for you, your family and your employees! Happy New Year and thanks again for your faithful attention!

Click to view graphs.

Steve R. Meyer, Ph.D.
Paragon Economics, Inc.
e-mail: [email protected]

New Profit Streak Set

Year's end is always a good time to review the key happenings of the past and contemplate important things for the future. Two words come to mind when I do that regarding the U.S. pork industry - profits and costs.

This past year has been a pleasant surprise from the profitability standpoint. It is not often that the pork industry can string together three profitable years. In fact, it has not happened since the 1970s, when pig production was still adjusting to the new grain price paradigm ushered in by sales of grain to Russia. The record for consecutive profitable months on the Iowa State University (ISU) Estimated Costs and Returns series was set in 1976 through 1979 at 33.

That record has now officially fallen (see Figure 1). November's estimated profit of $8.19/head made 34 straight profitable months. The closest that the estimate came to zero during that run was last January when it fell to just $2.11. The largest monthly profit during the string was $44.84/head in November of 2004. It is almost inconceivable that the highest profit month could be in November, but that is exactly how it happened when meat and pork demand were so hot.

Can the streak continue? The answer, in my best economist's judgment, is a resounding "maybe!" The ISU series uses a weighted average of monthly feed costs for each month's sales. As we move forward, the feed costs for each month will include more and more high-dollar corn. It appears that December may remain profitable, but without a good price rally in January and February, one or both of those months could go into the red.

I think higher corn and soybean meal prices will drive average breakeven costs into the $62-$64/cwt. carcass range in 2007. Today's Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Lean Hogs futures prices tell us there is a chance that hog prices from April through year-end could stay above that level, but it is going to be very, very close. Should any problems develop with the 2007 corn crop, the possibility of prices staying higher than production costs will be practically zero.

Which brings us to word number two -- "costs."

There is no doubt that costs will be higher in the future and that they will stay higher indefinitely, in my opinion. Figure 2 shows my feed cost index. The important feature to note is that past feed cost increases were short-lived. We have always been one corn crop away from ample corn supplies and lower prices.

Such is not the case this time. This is not a supply-driven increase in prices. The fact that this rally is being driven by higher demand for corn and that the demand will get stronger yet means that this shift will be permanent as long as oil prices stay high (say $50/barrel or higher) and the federal ethanol subsidy stays in place.

I only wish I had realized how sensitive corn prices would be to the wheat situation this past fall. A normal seasonal pattern would have meant that many feedmill bins would have been full of relatively low-priced corn. The counter-seasonal rally means that, unfortunately, many of you did not get that corn bought, and that actual hog production costs will increase more rapidly than normal.

Smart Buying
What can you do? Smart buying will still pay dividends. You may not ever get a chance to buy $2.00 or $2.25/bu. corn, but you will have chances to buy it in the bottom part of its new range. The same will hold true for soybean meal. Both could still provide you a competitive advantage.

In addition, higher feed costs will make feed efficiency and tight management even more critical to success. I know that you didn't get to where you are by being sloppy but let's face it, good times almost always cause us to get a little lax about the things that are a real pain to do.

Corn at $3.50 and higher will compensate you for your renewed efforts. Refocusing your attention on diet formulations, feed systems, feeder adjustments, ventilation, etc. could be the difference between profits and losses in 2007.

In Gratitude
Thanks again for your attention to these ramblings each week. It is such an honor to have you devote a few of your precious minutes to reading this column and contemplating a few of my ideas. I don't take that lightly, since my moments are precious as well.

And, of course, this is a season of precious minutes. Ones spent with family and friends and ones spent contemplating and celebrating the coming of the Savior of the world. Make all of them count this year and please accept the Meyer family's wishes for a Merry and Blessed Christmas and a great 2007.

Click to view graphs.
Steve R. Meyer, Ph.D.
Paragon Economics, Inc.
e-mail: [email protected]

Immigration Raids Send Shockwaves

Immigration Raids Send Shockwaves

The raid by Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel on six Swift & Company plants has dominated the news this week. Four of the plants (Greeley, CO; Grand Island, NE; Cactus, TX and Hyrum, UT) are beef plants, while two (Marshalltown, IA and Worthington, MN) are pork plants. ICE did not raid Swift's pork plant at Louisville, KY. Swift & Company is the nation's third-largest processor of live cattle and live hogs (see Figures 1 and 2).

Federally Inspected (FI) cattle slaughter fell from 130,000 on Monday (equal to week-earlier levels on Monday and Tuesday) to just 118,000 on Tuesday. They recovered to only 120,000 on Wednesday.

Hog slaughter dropped from 419,000 on Monday (an apparently "normal" run based on recent days) to just 397,000 on Tuesday, before recovering to 405,000 head on Wednesday. My latest data shows Marshalltown and Worthington having a combined capacity of 35,500 head/day, so it appears the raids took out most of Tuesday's operations before one-shift operations were restored on Wednesday. A company press release this morning says that all facilities and all shifts are operating today but that output levels will be lower "over the short term."

Negotiated hog prices were sharply lower on Tuesday in both the Iowa-Minnesota and Western Corn Belt (WCB) areas (down $1.15 and $2.54/cwt. carcass, respectively). WCB prices were lower again on Wednesday, by $1.23/cwt. carcass, but Iowa-Minnesota prices recovered slightly ($0.28).

The published numbers don't agree, but it appears that about 1,300 people were held for further questioning. It also appears that a relatively new feature of this raid was a focus on stolen identities.

Swift's management is crying foul over the raids, claiming that they violate agreements associated with its participation in the federal government's Basic Pilot worker authorization program.

These are not the first of these raids and it is a very safe bet that they will not be the last. Recall that ICE's forerunner, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, conducted raids on several beef plants during the fall of 1998. Subsequently, workers at several pork plants did not show up for work for fear that INS would expand its scrutiny. Those missing workers were critical that fall as plants were taxed to work through the large number of hogs available.

Dependence on Immigrant Labor

The packing industry runs on immigrant labor. There is nothing new about that. Upton Sinclair's 1906 book, "The Jungle," followed the trials of Lithuanian immigrant Jurgis Rudkus as he tried to embark on the American dream working in Chicago's packing plants. Rudkus was an example of virtually the entire industry at the time and Sinclair, an avowed socialist, used his plight to argue the benefits of socialism. It has been said that Sinclair "aimed at Americans' hearts" with his story, but ended up "hitting Americans' stomachs" with his tales of woeful sanitary conditions in the stockyards districts' meat plants. The book played a major role in the creation of federal meat inspection services.

The sector's dependence on immigrant labor declined in the post-war years as the major packing companies fell under a Master Labor Contract that increased wages and benefits. The development of the commercial broiler industry and its low-cost products and the entry of IBP into beef, then pork processing, put major economic pressure on the old-line packers with higher wage costs.

When those packers either went out of business or escaped the Master Contract, wages once again fell and packinghouse jobs became unattractive to much of the U.S. work force.

Enter, once again, immigrants -- this time from Mexico, Central and South America and Southeast Asia.

This week, a reporter posed this question: "Why is this an 'immigrant labor' industry?"

I think the answer is two-fold. First, packing plant work is difficult and often unpleasant. Killing and disassembling animals is just not a very pretty enterprise and many Americans simply will not do those jobs unless they are in dire straits. While our economy hasn't treated everyone extremely well, it has still been good enough to provide alternatives to jobs that do not involve cold temperatures, knives and blood. It's safe to say that packing plant jobs are probably not on the current career plans of most U.S. high school students.

Second, while these are difficult, unpleasant and low-paying jobs, relative to most U.S. jobs, they are no more difficult, no more unpleasant and higher paying relative to conditions in many immigrants' home countries. I do not offer that as a reason to exploit these workers -- they should be paid the value of what they produce. I only offer it as a statement of fact that leads many immigrants to enter the packing plant workforce. Some take great risks to do so.

The lesson of this week is both broad and specific. The broad lesson is that we as a country have to make up our collective minds about how we will deal with illegal immigrants. It's a tough question, but let's hope some politicians have some courage on this subject soon. The more specific lesson is that pork producers and packers need to consider what they will do if a) this crackdown on illegal workers continues, or b) if a workable guest worker program can be devised. Both will impact labor availability and cost and those factors should be considered when planning for 2007 and beyond.

Click to view graphs.

Steve R. Meyer, Ph.D.
Paragon Economics, Inc.
e-mail: [email protected]

Clostridium Issues In Young Pigs

Clostridium perfringens is a well-recognized cause of enteritis of suckling pigs.

The bacteria are common in the environment and in young piglets, producing poisonous toxins that damage intestinal tissues.

The disease expresses itself in acute and chronic forms. The acute form is seen in very young pigs (under 4 days of age). Pigs may be found dead with no outward clinical signs. Affected pigs die very rapidly and may appear to be crushed pigs.

The chronic form of the disease is more obscure, commonly affecting pigs at 5-12 days of age. The pig sometimes shows diarrhea, develops a rough hair coat and becomes progressively gaunt and unthrifty. Affected pigs often appear bright, alert and active but deteriorate over several days.

Frequently, only 1-2 pigs/litter are affected with the chronic form, and the producer will assume the cause is due to starvation or lactation failure.

Over time, there has been a dramatic increase in the observed frequency of Clostridium perfringens Type A and Clostridium difficile.

Case Study No. 1

In August, a producer was bemoaning the fact that his last two farrowings had done so poorly. He mentioned keeping old sows too long. Most were in 5th and 6th parity, and were farrowing a lot of pigs, but too many appeared to be starving out.

Upon closer observation, the picture really didn't fit starvation. The sows were in raised crates, eating well, and had drippers for cooling.

On examination, I found that the sows in the farrowing crates were covered with dried mud. Due to the hot weather, the producer had created a “wallow” in a gestation lot for the late pregnant sows. He had not gotten the routine vaccines into the sows before they farrowed.

Several pigs were sacrificed, and lesions of chronic clostridium were observed. By luck or chance, the pigs probably did get some colostral protection due to the age of the sows, but also were getting massive exposure to organisms from the dirty sows.

Sows were washed before farrowing, medication was added to the lactation feed and young litters were treated. The diagnostic laboratory confirmed Clostridium infection.

Improved sanitation and timely vaccination has minimized this disease.

Case Study No. 2

A 3,000-sow farm averaged 10-12% preweaning mortality. During the summer, they also had seen more diarrhea in 3- to 10- day-old pigs, but assumed it was “summer coccidiosis.”

Closer examination of weekly records showed overall mortality was up by 3-5%. For over a week, virtually all pigs that died were autopsied.

Gross lesions of diarrhea and necrotic enteritis were observed at a much higher rate than expected. Lab results indicated a pure Clostridium Type A.

The farm owners and staff opted to have an autogenous vaccine made. (Only in the last couple of months has a commercial Clostridium Type A vaccine been released for use in sows.)

Sanitation was stressed. Cross-fostering was minimized and no pigs with diarrhea were moved or mixed.

Processing boxes are no longer being used, as it appeared that these devices might have helped spread or propagate the organism within farrowing. Farrowing crate scraping was improved and staff was retrained to handle pigs from outside the crates to minimize spreading the organism.

Pigs with diarrhea were treated at the end of the day, and staff handling these pigs were directed to either shower or get clean clothing before doing more pig-related tasks. Hand washing was increased between rooms. Pig treatment was instituted immediately and medication was added to sow lactation feed.

The autogenous vaccine was given to late pregnant sows, and newborn pig treatment was discontinued.

Diarrhea in newborn and young pigs virtually disappeared and preweaning mortality declined to previous levels. The owners continue to use medication in lactation feed and vaccinate sows prefarrowing.


These cases were good lessons for both the producers and the attending veterinarian. First, don't assume anything. It would have been easy to accept that hot weather or old sows were causing problems. Closer examination, postmortems and laboratory testing revealed chronic disease. The problems were not necessarily easy to treat, but there were choices.

These two cases show the importance of having a good relationship between the producer and the attending veterinarian.

The initial herd problem became a focal point to review sanitation, timing of procedures and management, which lead to relatively simple and cost-effective solutions when producers and veterinarians communicate and work together.

Herd Health/Management

Transport Sanitation Reduces PRRS Risk

Pig transport systems have become a major risk for the spread of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) virus, and three sanitation systems tested all worked equally well in reducing that risk.

University of Minnesota PRRS researcher Scott Dee, DVM, assessed the infectivity of the livestock trailer in a Pork Checkoff-funded study. Four, 55-lb. pigs were housed in a pen within a full-size, double-deck trailer for a four-hour contamination period on days 3-7 post-contamination.

In the first phase of the study, experimentally infected pigs provided the source of trailer contamination. Infected pigs were removed and five naïve pigs were placed in the trailer pen (without pen sanitation) for four hours, then tested seven days post-exposure to determine the presence of the PRRS virus by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).

The second phase evaluated the ability of several intervention strategies to sanitize PRRS virus-contaminated trailers. The double-decked livestock trailer was contaminated in 15 selected sites using a modified-live-virus PRRS vaccine. Inoculated sites on both levels of the trailer included the center of the floor, front and rear corners, ceiling braces, light fixtures and gate hinges, plus the loading ramp to move pigs from level one to level two.

Following contamination, trailers were treated with a sanitation protocol, and swabbed two hours later. Samples were tested for PRRS virus by polymerase chain reaction.

Methods of sanitation used were disinfection, the thermo-assisted drying and decontamination (TADD) system and trailer baking. Disinfection was by two systems: Synergize (Preserve International) and Virkon (DuPont). TADD uses a 1.2-million btu/hour heater or a 800,000-btu/hour heater to deliver high-velocity air. A trailer baker provides 160°F- air at high velocity.

When assessing the infectivity of the trailer, results indicated that three of five naïve sentinels became infected following contact with contaminated trailer surfaces. These results support the need for proper sanitation of trailers after delivering infected animals.

All three sanitation methods proved equally effective at eliminating infectious PRRS virus from the interior of livestock trailers. The trailers that were contaminated and not sanitized were shown to contain evidence of infectious PRRS virus.

“These results indicate that contaminated transport is a risk factor for the transmission of PRRS virus from infected to naïve swine, and that multiple methods are available for significantly reducing this risk if the protocols tested are followed,” says Dee.

Researcher: Scott Dee, DVM, University of Minnesota. Contact Dee by phone (612) 625-4786, fax (612) 625-1210 or e-mail [email protected]

Tonsil Test Fixes Time Of PRRS Persistence

One of the key impediments to elimination of the virus that causes porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) in pigs is persistence.

Following an outbreak of PRRS, some pigs achieve full recovery from the disease — but become persistently infected with the virus and don't exhibit outward signs of disease.

These “carrier pigs” will continue to harbor a low-level viral infection for an extended period of time. Persistently infected pigs may shed the PRRS virus continuously or intermittently, posing a threat of infection to naïve pigs through either direct or indirect contact.

University of Missouri swine veterinarian Thomas Fangman and associates devised a tonsil scraping method to obtain known tonsilar crypt exudate, which can be utilized to determine the level of persistence of the virus following experimental challenge.

In the Pork Checkoff-funded study, two completely isolated groups of 44 weaned pigs were inoculated with either a commercially available modified-live-virus (MLV) PRRS vaccine or a farm-specific, live virus inoculation (LVI), or serum therapy.

Following exposure to the two methods of PRRS inoculation, tonsilar scrapings were taken at regular intervals over 160 days to determine the duration of persistence in tonsilar crypts or depressions.

The study revealed no difference in the ability of pigs vaccinated with the MLV product or LVI to produce an antibody response and clear the virus from their tonsils.

The study also demonstrated that tonsilar scrapings obtained from live animals provide a good source of viral particles and are useful in quantifying the level of virus infection in this tissue.

Researchers concluded the time necessary to eliminate the risk of PRRS transmission is at least 130 days, but a potential for risk may still exist in a population of pigs for up to 160 days.

Based on this study, the Missouri researchers advised pig isolation after exposure to PRRS virus should be at least 160 days. Likewise, the period of herd closure to introductions of gilts after a PRRS outbreak must be at least 160 days after the last animal was exposed to the virus.

Researchers: Thomas Fangman, DVM, University of Missouri; Steve Kleiboeker, DVM, Viracor, Kansas City, MO; and Melinda Coleman, DVM, Albany Veterinary Services, Albany, MO. Contact Fangman by phone (573) 882-7848, fax (573) 884-9139 or e-mail [email protected].

Crowding, Not Pen Integrity, Reduces Finishing Output

Maintaining pen integrity from the nursery to the finisher barn had no effect on finishing pig performance, according to a collaborative study by researchers from the North Central Committee on Swine Management. However, crowding (providing only 6 sq. ft. of space/pig) during grow-finish had the greatest effect on growth and feed intake of pigs.

The joint effort was to determine if maintaining nursery to grow-finish pen integrity might reduce the space requirements of finishing pigs.

Collaborators concluded that crowding produced expected reductions in growth and feed intake of pigs restricted to 6 sq. ft./pig, although the reductions were fairly small.

Unlike earlier studies, this research also found that maintaining pen integrity when moving pigs from nursery to finishing units had no positive effect on pig performance.

In this study, nursery-age pigs weighing approximately 55 lb. were assigned to one of several treatment groups evaluating pen integrity, 6 or 8 sq. ft./pig. For mixed treatments, nursery pigs were also placed into pens with either 6 or 8 sq. ft./pig at finishing.

Space configurations are spelled out in Figure 1. Table 1 provides an outline of the various treatment options studied and the impact of space allowance and pen integrity on performance parameters.

For the study, the same dietary sequence was formulated for corn-soybean meal diets used by all research collaborators. Diets were formulated to 1.20, 1.00, 0.85 and 0.75% total lysine for pigs weighing 50-80 lb., 80-150 lb., 150-200 lb. and 200-250 lb., respectively.

From Day 0 to 118 of the trial, from 55 to 250 lb., no treatment effects were observed for average daily gain (ADG) or average daily feed intake (ADFI), regardless of whether pigs were mixed or not mixed (Table 1).

This suggests that keeping pigs in the same group when moving from nursery to finishing pens did not improve performance compared with pigs that were randomly mixed.

However, for the overall trial, pigs allocated 6 sq. ft. had decreased ADG and tended to have decreased ADFI, compared with pigs provided 8 sq. ft.

There was a tendency for a space allocation by mixing interaction observed for final ADG and F/G. This interaction occurred because when pigs were allocated 6 sq. ft./pig and mixed, they showed increased ADG and F/G vs. unmixed pigs at 6 sq. ft./pig. In contrast, unmixed pigs had better ADG and F/G when housed at 8 sq. ft./pig.

Despite the interactions between pen integrity and crowding, the actual performance differences for all of the treatment groups were relatively small.

The overriding conclusion of the study, consistent with other reports evaluating stocking density and space allocation, is that pigs require greater than 6 sq. ft./pig in the finishing phase for maximum growth performance.

Researchers: R.D. Goodband, Kansas State University; M.C. Brumm, University of Nebraska; L.J. Johnston, University of Minnesota; and K. Stalder, Iowa State University. Contact Goodband by phone (785) 532-1228, fax (785) 532-7059 or e-mail Goodband at [email protected].

Pig Removal Strategy Offers Marketing Options

The ideal marketing strategy optimizes returns while maximizing pounds marketed and reducing the variation in live weight at slaughter.

To that end, University of Illinois animal science professor Mike Ellis and graduate student Jake DeDecker directed several studies aimed at determining the best strategy for sending pigs to market while maximizing total facility output and profitability.

Thirteen experiments were carried out on four different commercial hog farms in Illinois and Indiana. The goal was to determine the optimal marketing strategy, but also to learn how different strategies affect performance of pigs remaining in the finishing pens.

The first experiments evaluated the impact of the number of pigs removed from a pen on the growth of the remaining pigs. Results showed linear increases in growth performance as the proportion of pigs removed increased from 10 to 45%.

When the heaviest pigs were removed from a pen at around 20 days before slaughter, growth rates for the remaining pigs improved by about 11%. Both feed intake and feed efficiency increased by about 6% for those pigs, compared to pigs of similar weight in intact pens.

Variation in live weight and the total amount of feed consumed for the entire pen was reduced by pig removal in the trial. But the total amount of live weight produced per marketing group decreased as the proportion of pigs removed from the group increased.

By removing the heaviest pigs about three weeks prior to marketing the whole pens, the variation in weight at market was reduced for all of the pigs marketed.

Of interest, growth responses to pig removal were similar in single-gender pens of either barrows or gilts, and in mixed-gender pens.

There was no effect in any of the studies of pig removal on carcass measurements, morbidity or mortality.

In studying the effect of frequency of pig removal on subsequent performance, the same number of pigs was pulled from pens twice vs. once. Growth performance of the remaining pigs in the pen was similar for both removal frequencies, and exceeded the growth rates of pigs in pens left intact.

However, removing pigs from pens twice compared to only once reduced total feed consumption by 11% and decreased the proportion of lightweight pigs by 55%.

Studies also found that the increase in floor space was the main contributor to an increase in growth rates, after accounting for pigs removed from the pen. Increases in feeder space and changes in group dynamics had much smaller and inconsistent effects.

The group size pigs were reared in, 26 vs. 78 pigs/pen, had no impact on pig growth rates after pig removal.

The best marketing strategy is the one that maximizes profit; it must obviously be tailored to each situation.

These studies suggest that the economic tradeoff for marketing lies between the increased returns from the extra pigs that fall within the required weight window for marketing — and the reduction in feed costs on one hand, set against the reduction in the total weight of pigs produced on the other.

Researchers: Mike Ellis and Jake DeDecker, University of Illinois. Contact Ellis by phone (217) 333-6455, fax (217) 333-7088 or e-mail [email protected].

Cull Sows Can Be Worth Feeding

Thin cull sows can be worth feeding to restore bodyweight, provided feed costs and fixed costs are in line, according to a study at Iowa State University (ISU).

ISU scientists concluded that weight could be profitably added to cull sows as long as feed prices were below $0.07/lb., and fixed costs were below $0.50/sow/day.

For the study, 29 sows were purchased from an integrated hog operation and placed into pens and gestation crates. The sows were evaluated and categorized into one of five body condition scores (BCS). Data represented the incremental performance of moving BCS up one or more from the initial score.

Jowl, heart and flank girth measurements, along with 10th-rib and last-rib backfat, loin muscle area and loin depth were collected about every 14 days.

As determined by last-rib backfat scores, 8, 17 and 4 sows were initially classified into body condition scores of 1, 2 and 3, respectively. A BCS of 1 represents an extremely thin animal, while a BCS of 5 represents a well-proportioned animal.

Feed/gain was the most efficient for cull sows that began the trial as BCS 1 (2.27 lb./lb. of gain) and increased one score. That compares to sows with an initial BCS of 2 (3.57 lb./lb. of gain) or 3 (4.76 lb./lb. of gain).

The average daily gain (ADG) when adding a single BCS to sows with an initial BCS of 1, 2 or 3 was 4.5, 3.6 and 2 lb./day, respectively.

As sows increased BCS, the efficiency of adding weight to those sows declined, the researchers determined.

After sows added their first BCS, sows decreased in feed/gain and ADG from 15 to 50%, regardless of the BCS designation of sows at the start of the trial.

Breakeven and daily fixed cost calculations supported the objective of the study, providing evidence that weight could be profitably added to cull sows.

Researchers cautioned that producers must be able to physically house cull sows. In this study, only cheap or depreciated facilities were estimated to achieve a reasonable breakeven price.

Producers should also take into account current market conditions when planning to feed cull sows.

Finally, each producer should evaluate their sow operation and determine (based on sow health and feed prices) if weight can be profitably added to cull sows.

Researchers: R.F. Fitzgerald, K.J. Stalder, L. Karriker, C.J. Johnson, L. Layman, T.J. Baas and J.W. Mabry, Iowa State University. Contact Stalder by phone (515) 294-4683, fax (515) 294-5698 or e-mail [email protected].

Differences Exist in Aspirin Solubility, Absorption Levels

The differences that exist in aspirin and sodium salicylate solubility and absorption may affect the dose received by the pig and treatment effectiveness, according to a study co-authored by researchers at Iowa State and Kansas State universities.

These products are widely used in food animal production due to the current lack of antiviral drugs, low cost and over-the-counter availability. But information is lacking on recommended dose levels and concentrations achieved in plasma, and whether there are negative effects on the gastric systems of pigs.

The Pork Checkoff-funded trial was conducted in two phases.

The first phase compared the solubility of two common liquid products, an acetylsalicylic acid and a sodium salicylate product, in a typical stock solution and nursery environment. The goal was to find out how much of the active ingredient would survive for 24 hours under commercial conditions.

A stock solution containing each of the aspirin products was prepared and placed in the nursery environment and sampled at 0, 8, 16 and 24 hours.

Results indicated the sodium salicylate product was more soluble and stable under these conditions.

This product was then used in phase two of the study, which delivered the product to pigs and measured levels in the plasma. Four treatment groups of 10, 40-lb. pigs were tested at varying stock solutions. Pigs were tested and random blood samples were taken at 0, 24, 60 and 72 hours after the treatment began.

When given orally through a water medication system, the sodium salicylate product was absorbed and reached measurable concentrations in the blood. Serum concentration levels of sodium salicylate shown in Table 1 illustrate treatment levels and time of administration.

During the trials, aspirin products were only remixed once daily to simulate normal production temperatures, pressures and mixing conditions. Water readings were taken twice daily.

Water quality was tested and found to be within normal limits for the potential contaminants tested. Water quality may have a large impact on solubility, but a range of water types was not tested in this trial.

The sodium salicylate product has been shown in other species to be less ulcerogenic than acetylsalicylic acid, but this has not been tested in swine.

The researchers stressed that co-variables such as water quality, equipment types and management styles (including vaccination and treatment protocols), must be taken into consideration when extrapolating these findings to other production settings.

But results suggest the data can be used to develop dosage recommendations for future applications.

Researchers: Locke Karriker, DVM; Abby Patterson and Paula Imerman, Iowa State University; and Michael Apley, DVM, Kansas State University. Contact Karriker by phone (515) 294-2283, fax (515) 294-1072 or e-mail [email protected].

Injection Devices Compared for Treatment Efficacy

Two routes of administration were evaluated for absorption, distribution and elimination (pharmacokinetics) of penicillin G in swine. The study involved nine pigs from 32 to 64 lb., and was conducted at Iowa State University.

Intravenous administration of potassium penicillin G was used to establish a baseline serum concentration curve. The area under this curve could then be evaluated to establish how available penicillin G would be by other injection methods.

Intramuscular injection of procaine penicillin G by a hypodermic needle resulted in virtually 100% of the drug being available to the animal.

Injection of the same dose of procaine penicillin G by a needleless air injection system resulted in about 73% of the drug being available to the animal.

The pharmacokinetic data derived from this Pork Checkoff-funded study will prove valuable in supporting development of dosing recommendations for procaine penicillin G in swine by the Veterinary Antimicrobial Decision Support System. That system is being developed by industry groups to assist veterinarians in making antimicrobial use decisions in food-producing animals.

Because needleless air injection systems may differ in the amount of drug that becomes available to the animal, dose adjustment may be required.

Still, the relative availability of product with the air injection system warrants further study of the process to reduce needle use in swine.

A larger study is necessary to confirm and more accurately characterize the differences in pharmacokinetics and to gauge possible changes in dosing regimens and withdrawal times.

Researcher: Brad Thacker, DVM, Intervet, Inc., formerly of Iowa State University. Contact Thacker by phone (515) 231-7851, fax (515) 597-3466 or e-mail [email protected].

Needleless Injection System Promising For Swine Production

Studies at Iowa State University's (ISU) Meat Laboratory demonstrate that transdermal, needleless injection systems for use in swine hold promise for delivery of animal health products and reduction of pork carcass defects.

Pork Checkoff-funded study results demonstrate that the needle-free injection system is effective for delivery of Mycoplasmal pneumonia and pseudorabies (PRV) vaccines.

In the trial, 96 pigs were vaccinated for PRV and for mycoplasma. Pigs were divided into three groups: unvaccinated controls, vaccinated with conventional hypodermic needles and vaccinated with a needle-free, air-powered injection device.

Pigs were tattooed on the neck to mark injection sites. Blood samples were drawn at 11-13 days and 23-25 days following injection, and the serological response was measured. Injection sites were collected at slaughter and dissected to evaluate tissue damage.

The results showed that both injection methods produced similar serological response in the vaccinated pigs. Both injection methods provided significantly greater response than the controls. Injection site examinations showed no signs of lesions in any of the pigs.

But this result was not expected under the controlled conditions of this experiment. In pork carcasses, defects from hypodermic needle injections are well documented.

“It is clear that the needle-free injection system will eliminate all residual needles and needle fragments from pork carcasses, and it seems likely to reduce injection site lesions resulting from contaminated needles as well,” reports Joe Sebranek, ISU meat scientist.

“The needle-free transdermal injection system for delivery of vaccines in swine has excellent potential for use in swine production systems,” he concludes.

Researchers: Joseph Sebranek, Terry Houser and Tom Baas, Iowa State University; and Brad Thacker, DVM, Intervet, Inc. Contact Sebranek by phone (515) 294-1091, fax (515) 294-5066 or e-mail [email protected].

Table 1. Effects of Mixing Pigs or Maintaining Pen Integrity and Space Allowance on Pig Performancea
Space Allowance × Pen Integrity Main Effects
Crowded (6 sq. ft.) Uncrowded (8 sq. ft.) Space Allowance Pen Integrity
Item Mixed Unmixed Mixed Unmixed Interaction 6 sq. ft. 8 sq. ft. Mixed Unmixed
Day 0-14
ADG, lb. 1.79 1.73 1.77 1.72 0.92 1.76 1.74 1.78 1.72
ADFI, lb. 3.45 3.37 3.52 3.26 0.46 3.41 3.39 3.49 3.32
F/G 1.91 1.94 1.99 1.89 0.16 1.93 1.94 1.95 1.92
Day 0-118
ADG, lb. 1.92bc 1.88b 1.93c 1.97c 0.05 1.90 1.95 1.93 1.92
ADFI, lb. 5.17 5.14 5.24 5.26 0.61 5.16 5.25 5.20 5.20
F/G 2.69bc 2.73b 2.71bc 2.67c 0.04 2.71 2.69 2.70 2.70
aData was analyzed as a 2 × 2 factorial design as a means over block approach (the combined values for the three mixed pens within a space allocation were used as a single observation). Fixed-model effects included space allowance, pen integrity and their interaction, and random effects included experimental station, replication and their interaction. The Kenward-Roger adjustment was used for the degrees of freedom. Pigs were moved from nursery to finishing facilities at approximately 54.9 lb. when they were mixed or not, and moved to pens with either 6 or 8 sq. ft.
bcMeans in the same row with different superscripts differ (P<0.05).>
Table 1. Mean Serum Concentration (µg/ml)* (Standard Deviation in Parenthesis) of Sodium Salicylate by Treatment and Time
Sample time (hrs.) T1 T2 T3 T4 T5
0 0 0 0 0 0
24 0.41 (0.31) 1.28 (1.03) 1.41 (0.64) 7.22 (2.31) 0
60 0.17 (0.15) 0.82 (0.77) 0.44 (0.50) 2.66 (2.41) 0
72 0.27 (0.20) 0.03 (0.07) 1.24 (0.79) 0.62 (0.48) 0
T1 = stock solution concentration of 19.4 ppm, T2 = 38.9 ppm, T3 = 77.6 ppm, T4 = 155.3 ppm, T5 = 0 ppm. *Levels represent micrograms/milliliter.


25 Years of Genetic Selection, Swine Nutrition Compared

Structural correctness in commercial hogs is an ongoing challenge facing pork producers. Researchers at North Carolina State University assessed how genetic improvement and changes in nutrition programs have impacted leg structure and mobility over the past 25 years.

Pigs representative of the current commercial swine industry were compared to commercial pigs from 25 years ago. In all, 185 pigs were involved in this project.

The 1980 genetic line was produced from dams selected to minimize genetic improvement and inseminated with frozen semen from boars available in 1980. Pigs within sex, farrowing group and genetic line were randomly assigned to a feeding program.

The 2005 feeding program included seven phases where lysine ranged from 1.51 to 0.73% and metabolizable energy ranged from 3,428 to 3,651 Kcal/kg. Diets were pelleted, contained added fat and were based on present-day formulations.

The 1980 feeding program consisted of four meal diets where lysine ranged from 1.05 to 0.62% and metabolizable energy ranged from 3,262 to 3,317 Kcal/kg. These diets were based on formulations from the 1978 Pork Industry Handbook.

Three evaluators scored structural correctness and mobility based on the Pocket Guide for the Evaluation of Structural, Feet, Leg and Reproductive Soundness in Replacement Gilts.

Front and rear legs were scored on a 5-point scale: 1 = excessive set to the joints, 3 = ideal, and 5 = extreme straightness in the joints.

Front and rear view structure was scored from 1 to 3: 1 = toes out, 2 = ideal, and 3 = toes in.

Mobility scores were scored from 1 to 5: 1 = severely impaired due to injury, 3 = ideal, and 5 = severely impaired due to structure.

A genetic line-by-sex interaction was observed where 1980 gilts were straightest in their front leg joints. Pigs from the 2005 genetic line displayed more relaxed front leg joints than the 1980 pigs (scored 3.14 vs. 3.36).

A sex-by-feeding program interaction showed barrows on the 1980 feeding program were more turned in at the hock than pigs fed the 2005 feeding program.

Pigs from the 1980 genetic line had straighter rear leg joints than 2005 genetic line pigs (scored 3.47 vs. 3.31).

Based on a genetic line-by-feeding program interaction, 2005 genetic line pigs on the 1980 feeding program were the most mobile, while 1980 genetic line pigs did not differ in mobility between feeding programs.

Pigs from the 2005 genetic line were more mobile than 1980 genetic line pigs (scored 3.46 vs. 3.70).

Pigs on the 1980 feeding program were more mobile than pigs on the 2005 feeding program (scored 3.54 vs. 3.62).

“The most important impact documented in this research is that with selection emphasis placed on lean, improvements in leg structure and mobility have occurred,” explains M. Todd See, North Carolina State University Extension swine specialist. “However, changes in nutrition to improve growth appear to have hampered overall mobility.”

Researchers: J. Fix, D. Hanson, E. van Heugten, K. Lovercamp, J. Cassady and M. Todd See, North Carolina State University. Contact See by phone (919) 515-8797, fax (919) 515-6316 or e-mail: [email protected].

A Closer Look at Why Sows are Culled

The intent of this study was to investigate the various reasons sows were culled from the breeding herd and to clarify the frequency, range and severity of the problems contributing to the decision to cull a sow.

Traditional sow culling studies are based on retrospective farm data, which are easy and economical to obtain. Producers typically record one reason for culling a sow without reporting the co-factors that may have contributed to the decision. These reasons are typically based on external indicators and do not incorporate evidence often revealed with internal investigation or diagnostic testing.

Researchers assessed the physical and reproductive condition of 3,158 cull sows delivered to two sow harvest plants in the Midwest. Body condition, feet, shoulders, teeth, lungs, and reproductive tracts were visually evaluated for gross lesions and abnormal conditions.

The prevalence of foot lesions was substantially higher than has been reported in other studies. The most common foot lesions observed among cull sows were rear (67.5%) and front heel lesions (32.9%). Cracked hooves were found on the front feet of 22.6% of sows and the rear feet of 18.1% of sows. Rear toe overgrowth was observed in 21.1% of sows.

Multiple lesions were associated with body condition score (BCS). Whether the lesions caused BCS to change, BCS caused the lesions, or the lesions and BCS changed simultaneously, is unknown.

The most frequently observed shoulder lesions in the study were abrasions, found on 12.5% of sows. As BCS decreased, the presence of shoulder abrasions increased.

The incidence of reproductive lesions detected in this study was substantially lower than the percentage of sows reportedly culled for reproductive failure in previous studies, and by recordkeeping summaries in the swine industry. The most common reproductive gross lesion observed were ovaries that appeared to be acyclic (non-cycling) in 9% of sows. The presence of grossly acyclic ovaries increased as body condition score (BCS) decreased.

Grossly cystic ovaries were found in 6.3% of sows, which increased as BCS increased.

Pneumonia, at 9.7%, was the most frequent systemic lesion observed in sows. The presence of pneumonia increased as BCS decreased.

Sow body condition was clearly associated with several abnormal conditions of sows in this study. Causative relationships were not established. Additional research or observations by producers may help relate on-farm culling practices to one or more lesions that had a high occurrence. Modifications of the culling protocol could then help reduce the impact of the lesion on the productivity of the enterprise.

The National Pork Board funded this project.

Researchers: Ken J. Stalder; Mark Knauer; Locke Karriker, DVM; Tom J. Baas; Colin Johnson; Timo Serenius; L. Layman; John W. Mabry; and Jim D. McKean, DVM, Iowa State University. Contact Stalder by phone (515) 294-4683, fax (515) 294-5698 or e-mail: [email protected].

Sow Longevity Marker Genes Confirmed

Sow longevity has become a very hot topic as the involuntary culling of sows due to death, lameness, health or reproductive failure has been on an upward trend in U.S. swine operations.

A sow's longevity — more precisely referred to as sow productive life (SPL) — is very critical to the financial success of a swine operation. Increasing sow average parity in a herd by just one-tenth will increase profits of a far-row-to-finish operation by 23¢/market hog sold.

If this one-tenth parity improvement could be spread across all U.S. sow herds, net profit would improve by $15 million annually.

Recognizing that no studies have focused on the genes controlling SPL, Iowa State University researchers turned to model organisms such as the mouse, nematode and yeast, which have identified genes and gene pathways that are involved in the longevity of those species. Similar results hold true in human longevity studies.

Comparative genomics and candidate genes were used to isolate genes affecting both the number of productive parities a sow has and the number of pigs she produces during her productive life.

Researchers tested three sow populations for this association of the genetic markers with SPL:

  • The first data set (P1) was comprised of about 200 sires that had complete production records on at least 10 daughters.

  • The second population (P2) contained 1,100 females with complete reproduction information.

  • In the fall of 2005, tissue samples were acquired on a third population (P3) consisting of 2,000 commercial females from three farms within a 120,000-sow production system. Half the population was gilts and half were sows that had produced at least five parities, which were considered the “ideal” females. Two different genetic lines were represented. PigChamp reproduction and culling records were acquired in June 2006.

Genetic markers were developed for the genes insulin-like growth factor binding protein 1 (IGFBP1), insulin-like growth factor binding protein 3 (IGFBP3), carnitine O-palmitoyltransferase I (CPT1A), organic cation/carnitine transporter 2 (Solute carrier family 22 member 5; SLC22A5) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2).

The genetic markers were tested for association with the sows' abilities to survive to Parity 5, the number of pigs born alive, stillborn pigs and the number of mummies.

Genetic markers were screened in P1 and P2 with only those showing a tendency for association with a component of SPL being validated in P3. The gene marker for IGFBP1, IGFBP3, SLC22A5 and CPT1A were all significantly associated with sows remaining in the herd until five parities.

Additionally, for IGFBP1, the same genotype favored for greater SPL, showed a tendency for an increase in the number of pigs born alive throughout a sow's productive life. Therefore, a sow with the beneficial genotype for IGFBP1 will not only have a greater probability of staying in the herd until Parity 5, but will also produce an additional 1.5 pigs while doing so.

SLC22A5 was associated with the number of mummies during the sow's lifetime. CPT1A was significantly associated with the number of pigs born alive in Parity 3 and higher, with an increase of up to 0.7 live pigs/litter. These results are evidence that there are genes causing variation in sow productive life and give promise to the use of marker-assisted selection to improve sow productive life.

Researchers: B.E. Mote, Ken Stalder and Max F. Rothschild, Iowa State University. Contact Rothschild by phone (515) 294-6202, fax (515) 294-2401 or e-mail: [email protected].

Manure/Odor Control

Vertical Biofilter Uses Less Space, Provides Payback

Horizontal biofilters are a proven technology when it comes to reducing odor and gas emissions from swine buildings. But that benefit comes at a price — possibly requiring significant land area, depending on the amount of airflow from a building.

Vertical biofilters, which place the media in a wall rather than lying flat, require a smaller land mass or footprint.

This research trial investigated design parameters for vertical biofilters in order to develop a more efficient system of dispersal of odor and gases from the building.

As the biofilter media settles in the vertical wall, it is denser at the bottom than at the top. This results in more airflow at the top and less airflow at the bottom.

To ensure uniform airflow at all points along the wall height after media settling, the design was modified to taper one side of the wall, resulting in a thicker top than bottom (see Figure 1).

Researchers studied which taper was required to achieve uniform airflow after 6 to 12 months of media settling. Three slopes were evaluated: 0 degrees, 4.8 degrees and 9.6 degrees. The 9.6-degree taper showed the least airflow variation across the biofilter media wall.

Media moisture is vital, as microorganisms in the media require moisture to maintain activity in breaking down the odorous compounds.

Two moisture application systems were tested. The first system placed a drip hose vertically through the media wall. The second system placed the drip hose on the top of the media wall, allowing the water to seep through the media. The second system provided a more evenly distributed media moisture content.

Researcher: Dick Nicolai, South Dakota State University. Contact Nicolai by phone (605) 688-5663, fax (605) 688-674 or e-mail [email protected].

Dietary Manipulation Can Greatly Change Manure Composition

Dietary manipulation can profoundly impact nutrient excretion of finishing pigs, suggest commercial trials conducted at Oklahoma State University.

Reductions in nitrogen and phosphorus levels have little impact on swine growth performance. But the improvements have potential impact on waste treatment system designs, the amount of land needed for effluent application and possibly gaseous emissions.

Two experiments evaluated the role of dietary manipulation on nutrient excretion of group-housed pigs during a 112-day finishing period.

In each trial, 48, 65-lb. pigs were placed on two diets. Each test diet was a low-protein, low-phosphorus ration supplemented with amino acids. In both experiments, a typical corn-soybean meal diet served as the control diet.

Dietary crude protein was reduced in Trials 1 and 2 by 2 and 4%, respectively. In both experiments, dietary phosphorus declined 0.10%. All diets were similar in lysine content.

Pigs were housed 12 pigs/room and two rooms/treatment with shallow, pull-plug manure pit systems. Pig weights, feed intake and slurry content were sampled weekly until finishing pigs reached a target weight of 240 lb.

While diets had no effect on growth, the impact on nutrient excretion was pronounced. Reducing dietary crude protein by 2% reduced the concentration of nitrogen and ammonium nitrogen in manure by 18 and 26%, respectively.

When dietary crude protein was cut by 4%, nitrogen and ammonium nitrogen levels in manure dropped by 40 and 55%, respectively.

The 0.10% drop in phosphorus content of the diet reduced the phosphorus levels in manure by 22%. The pH levels in manure were also reduced with the 4% drop in dietary crude protein.

Daily dry matter excretion was not affected by dietary manipulation in either experiment. But reducing dietary crude protein levels by 2 and 4% reduced daily nitrogen excretion by 20 and 40%, respectively (Figure 1 on page 18). Phosphorus excretion was cut by 25% by lowering the dietary phosphorus content.

These daily reductions in pig excretion levels of nutrients represented a cumulative decrease of 1.68 and 3.01 lb. of nitrogen when crude protein levels were decreased by 2 and 4%, respectively. Cumulative excretion of phosphorus was reduced by 0.34 lb./finishing pig. Potassium and iron levels also decreased.

Diet cost in the trials, supported by USDA and Pork Checkoff funding, is certainly an issue. Lowering the crude protein content by 2% with addition of lysine is cost-effective, while a diet producing a 4% reduction of nutrient excretion may not be cost-effective.

However, the marked reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus excretion could possibly offset any increase in diet costs, particularly as environmental regulations tighten.

Researchers: Scott Carter and Mariela Lachmann, Oklahoma State University. Contact Carter by phone (405) 744-8869, fax (405) 744-7390 or e-mail [email protected].

Reduced Trace Minerals Lower Excretion Rates

Pork producers have two ways to effectively diminish fecal mineral concentrations — feed lower trace mineral amounts or replace inorganic trace minerals with organic forms.

By feeding lower levels or organic forms of copper, iron and zinc to grow-finish pigs, soil nutrient buildup is minimized and potential toxicity to plant growth, grazing animals and aquatic species through soil erosion and water runoff are avoided.

Feeding lower levels of trace minerals also reduces consumer pressure. The European Union has already banned high inclusion rates of copper, iron and zinc in swine diets. Producers in the United States should expect to see similar legislation in the future.

Trials conducted at Iowa State University (ISU) evaluated two levels of inorganic and two levels of organic trace minerals. All organic materials tested were courtesy of Alltech Inc. (Bioplex), Nicholasville, KY.

Four diets and phases fed to crossbred barrows contained inorganic forms of copper, iron and zinc at levels of 6, 71 and 30 mg./kg, respectively (1 kg. = 2.2 lb.).

Treatment 1 contained added inorganic trace mineral amounts for copper, iron and zinc at concentrations of 20, 24 and 33 mg./kg, respectively.

Treatment 2 was supplemented with organic sources of copper, iron and zinc at levels of 3, 15 and 15 mg./kg., respectively.

In treatments 3 and 4, supplemental trace mineral concentrations were reduced by 60%.

Pigs fed the highest concentrations of inorganic trace minerals consumed more feed than all other treatment groups. Pigs fed organic trace minerals excreted less copper than pigs fed inorganic trace minerals. Pigs fed the lowest levels of trace minerals, either inorganic or organic form, excreted lower levels of zinc than those pigs fed higher trace mineral amounts. There were no treatment differences in fecal iron concentrations.

Growth, feed efficiency and carcass characteristics were unaffected by level and type of trace minerals pigs were fed during grow-finish production.

Table 1 on page 21 provides diet concentrations for the study, and Table 2 outlines performance and carcass traits for the four treatment groups.

In short, the ISU trials provided evidence that feeding lower levels of trace minerals and/or organic forms reduces fecal mineral concentrations.

But researchers cautioned that under increased levels of stress, symptoms of mineral deficiency might occur.

Researchers: Matt Wolfe and Ken Stalder, Iowa State University. Contact Stalder by phone (515) 294-4683, fax (515) 294-5698 or e-mail [email protected].

Pit Fans May Prove Unnecessary in Deep-Pit Manure Storage

Preliminary research results from a southern Minnesota swine finishing operation points to little need for pit ventilation fans in hog barns with deep-pit manure storage.

For indoor air quality, the data shows limited benefit to exhausting a portion of the air through the pits rather than through the walls, according to University of Minnesota bioproducts and biosystems engineering professor and project coordinator Larry Jacobson.

That finding allows pork producers to “strategically decide to use just wall fans for their deep-pit barns, or if emissions of odor or gases are of concern, to utilize limited pit fans that have control technologies (such as biofilters) to substantially lower those emissions from the barn,” he suggests.

Research results were drawn from a 2,400-head, double-wide finishing building, studying just the western 1,200-head room of the barn. That room featured four, 24-in.-diameter pit fans operated in two-hour intervals at 0, 4, 10 and 20 cfm/pig ventilation rates. A 36-in. wall fan was set to operate continuously, but restricted to an airflow rate of 4,000 cfm. The other four, 50-in.-diameter wall fans were operated as needed by the room's ventilation controller.

Air was sampled in the middle of the barn to measure indoor air quality, at the fan end of the barn for a second indoor air quality measurement and also for wall emission calculations.

Data collection started in the fall of 2005 and finished in July 2006. The data covered two different pig groups and was divided into winter, spring and summer categories. Preliminary results showed:

  • The indoor air quality, which is represented by the ammonia and hydrogen sulfide concentrations, are depicted for the spring season in Figures 1 and 2, respectively, on page 23. The small differences in the ammonia and hydrogen sulfide concentrations at the different pit ventilation rates indicate that the operation of pit fans have little impact on indoor air quality.

    This trend is similar for the winter and summer seasons, with only the absolute value of the gas concentrations being higher in winter and lower in summer.

    “When there was reduced or no pit ventilation, the temperature-controlled wall fans were activated and effectively kept the barn's total air exchange rate relatively constant over the four ventilation treatments,” explains Jacobson.

  • Relatively constant indoor concentrations of carbon dioxide, shown in Figure 3, also reflect the lack of impact of pit ventilation.

  • Emission rates for ammonia and hydrogen sulfide show that for both gases, the total building emission remains relatively flat for the different pit ventilation rates. The wall emissions for both gases consistently decrease as additional pit ventilation was added.

    Pit and wall emission rates are similar in magnitude for both gases at the 10 cfm/pig pit ventilation rate.

  • Results from all three seasons for particulate matter under 10 microns indicates that for almost all pit ventilation rates, less dust was emitted from pit fans than from wall fans.

  • Odor emission results for all three seasons showed that when pit ventilation was provided, as much or more odor was emitted through the pit as was emitted through the wall fans, even though the pit ventilation represented only 10 or 20% of the total ventilation airflow through the barn.

Based on these findings, if a producer decides not to use pit fans in the barn's ventilation system design (or only use one or two fans), then capital and operating costs for the ventilation systems can probably be cut 10 to 20%, as larger, more efficient wall fans replace smaller pit fans.

If a producer wants to focus on reducing the air emissions from a barn, treating just the exhausted air from a limited number of pit fans would be a cost-effective way to achieve a sizeable (up to 50%) reduction in odor or gas emissions, depending on the control technology.

This research was funded by the National Pork Board.

Researcher: Larry Jacobson, University of Minnesota. Contact Jacobson by phone (612) 625-8288, fax (612) 624-3005 or e-mail [email protected].

Table 1. Supplemental and Total Analyzed Diet Concentrations (as fed) of Cu, Fe, and Zn in a Study Comparing the Effect of Reduced Levels of Inorganic and Organic Trace Mineral (Cu, Fe, and Zn) Supplementation on Performance, Carcass Traits and Fecal Excretion of Grow-Finish Swine (52.8 to 250.8 lb.).
Supplemental3 Treatment2 1 2 3 4
Copper (Cu), mg./kg. 1 20 20 17 17
2 3 3 3 3
3 8 8 7 7
4 1 1 1 1
Iron (Fe), mg./kg. 1 24 24 20 20
2 15 15 15 15
3 10 10 8 8
4 6 6 6 6
Zinc (Zn), mg./kg. 1 33 33 28 28
2 15 15 15 15
3 13 13 11 11
4 6 6 6 6
Copper, mg./kg. 1 29 37 19 20
2 13 10 9 7
3 18 9 10 8
4 11 7 7 6
NRC5 4 4 3 3
Iron, mg./kg. 1 205 212 156 167
2 245 175 160 163
3 213 151 165 176
4 205 179 154 136
NRC 68 55 44 41
Zinc, mg./kg. 1 60 52 51 51
2 55 55 57 38
3 59 41 72 56
4 44 46 33 31
NRC 62 51 50 50
1Phase 1 - diet fed from 52.8-81.4 lb. BW; Phase 2 - diet fed from 81.4-121 lb. BW; Phase 3 - diet fed from 121-180.4 lb. BW; Phase 4 - diet fed from 180.4-250.8 lb. BW.
2Treatments 1 and 3 - Cu, Fe, and Zn supplemented from inorganic sources (Cu as CuSO4, Fe as FeSO4, and Zn (25% as ZnO and 75% as ZnSO4)); Treatments 2 and 4 - Cu, Fe, and Zn supplemented from organic sources. The basal diet contained Cu, Fe, and Zn from inorganic sources at concentrations of 6, 71, and 30 mg/kg, respectively, for phase 1. All organic minerals were Bioplex products (Alltech Inc., Nicholasville, KY).
3Supplemental concentrations (amount added to the basal diet) for treatments 1 and 3 were in inorganic form, while supplemental levels for treatments 2 and 4 were in organic form.
4Total analyzed dietary concentrations (basal diet plus supplemental levels).
5National Research Council (NRC) values were extrapolated using a polynomial function of the requirement in NRC (1998) based on the average weight for the phase and the requirement reported for that phase.
Table 2. Least Squares Means (on a pen basis) for Performance and Carcass Traits in a Study Comparing the Effect of Reduced Levels of Inorganic and Organic Trace Mineral (Cu, Fe, and Zn) Supplementation on Performance, Carcass Traits and Fecal Excretion of Grow-Finish Swine (52.8 to 250.8 lb.)1
Traits3 1 2 3 4
LMA, in.2 6.50 6.56 6.48 6.60
BF, in. 0.88 0.84 0.85 0.86
ADG, lb./day 2.05 2.01 1.98 1.98
LGOT, lb./day 0.93 0.91 0.90 0.90
ADFI, lb./day 5.50a 5.38ab 5.32b 5.38ab
LE 0.18 0.18 0.18 0.17
F:G 2.65 2.67 2.66 2.72
PL, lb. 94.15 95.88 95.10 95.34
PLL, % 37.65 38.04 37.83 38.02
PLC, % 50.93 51.36 51.11 51.39
abWithin a row, means without a common superscript letter differ (P < 0.05).
1Means reported for all performance traits only reflect pigs that remained in the experiment for the entire test period.
2Treatment 1 - Cu, Fe, and Zn supplemented from inorganic sources (Cu as CuSO4, Fe as FeSO4, and Zn (25% as ZnO and 75% as ZnSO4)) at concentrations of 20, 24, and 33 mg/kg, respectively; Treatment 2 - Cu, Fe, and Zn supplemented from organic sources at concentrations of 3, 15, and 15 mg/kg, respectively; Treatment 3 - 60% reduction in micromineral concentration from treatment 1; Treatment 4 - 60% reduction in micromineral concentration from treatment 2. The basal diet contained Cu, Fe, and Zn from inorganic sources at concentrations of 6, 71, and 30 mg/kg, respectively. All organic minerals were Bioplex products (Alltech Inc., Nicholasville, KY).
3LMA = loin muscle area; BF = tenth-rib backfat; ADG = average daily gain; LGOT = lean gain on test; ADFI = average daily feed intake; LE = lean efficiency; F:G = feed efficiency; PL = pounds of lean; PLL = percent lean live; PLC = percent lean carcass.

Animal Welfare

Proper Lactation Feeding Critical to Sow Longevity

Adequate feeding throughout lactation is paramount to the maintenance and longevity of high-producing females in the breeding herd.

In a Pork Checkoff-funded study, 1,275 sows from a Minnesota herd were analyzed for the association of farrowing and lactation factors during lactation (including reported diseases) on the likelihood of removal from the herd before the next farrowing.

The effect of low daily feed intake (less than 9 lb.) for the first two weeks of lactation, on sow removals before next farrowing, was specifically addressed.

Overall, results indicated that the risk of sow removal declined as average daily feed intake and the number of piglets born alive increased.

The likelihood of removal from the herd dropped by 11% with every pound increase in average daily feed intake during lactation.

Also, the odds of removal from the herd decreased by 7% for every additional piglet born alive.

Parity 1 and 2 sows and Parity 3-5 sows had 47% and 44% less chance, respectively, of removal from the herd, compared to sows of Parity 6 or higher.

Other factors such as mummies, stillbirths, farrowing induction, farrowing assistance and reported diseases during lactation, didn't appear to influence sow longevity in this study.

Sows consuming less than 9 lb. of feed on a single day during the first two weeks of lactation had 27% greater chance of removal from the herd.

The study suggested that ensuring adequate feed intake from the start of lactation may reduce sow removals in breeding herds.

Deficient feed intake in sows results in excessive weight loss and may have adverse reproductive consequences, resulting in reduced sow longevity.

Researchers: Sukumarannair S. Anil, DVM; Leena Anil, DVM; and John Deen, DVM, University of Minnesota. Contact Sukumarannair S. Anil by phone (612) 625-4243, fax (612) 625-1210 or e-mail [email protected].

Floor Space Requirements Lowered For Finishing Pigs

University of Illinois research has concluded that growth rates of finishing pigs can be optimized when housed at much lower floor space requirements than previously reported.

Two studies in a commercial wean-to-finish production system confirm that a space allowance of 7.3 sq. ft./pig will achieve maximum growth rates, compared to previous minimum requirements of 8.8-9.0 sq. ft./pig.

If implemented in grow-finish barns, these findings could increase throughput and provide new welfare guidelines for the pork industry.

Study 1 used 3,132 pigs grown from 75 lb. to 255 lb., allotted to three floor spaces: 6.6, 7.3 and 8 sq. ft./pig.

Study 2 used 1,740 pigs grown from weaning (about 17 days of age) to 265 lb., allotted to five floor spaces: 6.2, 6.6, 7.0, 7.4 and 7.9 sq. ft./pig.

Pigs were housed in groups of 29 pigs/pen, and pen sizes were adjusted to the required floor spaces.

Data on pig weights and feed delivery and disappearance were recorded for both studies.

Pigs at the lowest floor space (6.2 and 6.6 sq. ft./pig) had reduced growth rates in both studies compared to the highest floor spaces tested.

Morbidity and mortality levels were also highest in the first study for pigs reared at the lowest floor space treatment. But floor space did not affect morbidity and mortality rates in the second study.

In both studies, pigs raised at the lowest floor spaces had the highest percent lean and least backfat.

Again, both studies suggest that growth rate was maximized at a floor space allowance of 7.3 sq. ft./pig, much lower than published values for the minimum floor space allowance for maximum growth rate.

Researchers: B.A. Peterson, M. Ellis, J.M. DeDecker, M.J. Ritter and C.R. Bertelson, University of Illinois; B.F. Wolter and R. Bowman, The Maschhoffs, Inc.; N. Williams and C. Zeir, PIC USA. Contact Ellis by phone (217) 333-6455, fax (217) 333-7088 or e-mail [email protected].

Severity of Claw Lesions Analyzed Over a Parity Cycle

A study of a commercial farm in Minnesota revealed that the severity of claw lesions may become more severe over a parity cycle.

In the Pork Checkoff-funded trial, the feet of 98 sows (Parities 1-8) were individually examined between 110-114 days of gestation when the sows were in farrowing stalls.

Lesions consisted of erosions, cracks and overgrowths. Lesions were scored and examined again in their subsequent parity.

Results indicated that the intensity of lesions (front and hind feet) increased over a parity in the lateral (outside) claws and decreased in medial (inside) claws. The intensity of lesions increased in the hind leg lateral claws (toes) in the subsequent parity, whereas front feet lateral claw scores did not differ greatly between parities.

Within the hind leg lateral claws, overgrown heels and intensities of lesions on side walls and white lines increased, while the severity of lesions at heel-sole junction decreased in the next parity.

Within the front leg medial claws, the intensity of white line lesions was reduced in the following parity.

The intensity (irrespective of the orientation of legs and claws) of overgrown heels increased, and intensity of lesions at heel-sole junction decreased in the subsequent parity. The presence of overgrown heels increased, and the presence of lesions at heel-sole junction decreased in the hind feet in the subsequent parity.

The presence of overgrown heels in the front feet was higher in the subsequent parity.

Regardless of the orientation of hooves and legs, the presence of lesions at heel-sole junction decreased, and overgrown heels increased in the subsequent parity.

Results suggest that lesions on hind leg lateral claws may increase in severity over time.

The development of hoof lesions is the result of a complex interaction of floor surface and the horn of the foot. Lesions don't develop equally on all hooves. More lesions have been reported in lateral claws than in medial claws due to greater weight-bearing surface in the lateral claws.

The increase in area of the weight-bearing surface is obviously not corresponding to the increase in weight of the modern breeds that are developed for rapid growth.

As bodyweight increases, the pressure exerted on the hoof area increases the chance of injuries. This may also increase the risk of hoof lesions with the advancement of parity, adding to the number of sows that are culled due to lameness at a younger age than those removed for other reasons.

Researchers: Sukumarannair S. Anil, DVM; Leena Anil, DVM; and John Deen, DVM, University of Minnesota. Contact Sukumarannair S. Anil by phone (612) 625-4243, fax (612)625-1210 or e-mail [email protected].

Data Suggests Foot, Leg Problems Vary By Packing Plant

A large number of transport losses at slaughter are due to pigs that have difficulty in walking during unloading, commonly referred to as non-ambulatory, non-injured (NANI).

NANI pigs may be part of the cause of dead and fatigued pigs at slaughter, and one possible factor leading to finishing pigs going down during transport to the packing plant.

In trials coordinated at Texas Tech University, data for feet and legs were collected from paired NANI and control pigs at each of four processing plants in the United States (Plants A, B, D and E). There were actually five plants in the overall study, but feet data was unavailable for Plant C.

Plants were located in the lower to upper sections of the Midwest. Plant daily capacity ranged from about 10,000 to 20,000 pigs/day.

The four plants studied comprised 15-20% of annual pig production in the United States.

At the plants, feet and legs of NANI and control pigs were examined for cracked hooves, swollen joints or abscesses. Feet and leg lesion scores were recorded. Score 0 was normal, a score of 1 included minor hoof, pad or joint problems and a score of 2 indicated severe foot or leg problems. All four feet were observed, but the resulting score reflected the worst condition of any foot.

Overall, hoof and foot pad problems were similar for control and NANI pigs, although problems varied by plants (Table 1 on page 27).

NANI pigs had a greater percent of pad problems compared with their control pig counterparts at Plant A.

Total percentage of hoof and pad problems was greater in NANI pigs than in control pigs at Plant E. But the percentage of hoof problems was lower among NANI pigs than control pigs at Plant A, and the number of hoof problems with a score of 2 was lower in NANI pigs than control pigs at Plant B.

Moreover, the percentage of severe hoof and pad problems was greater in NANI pigs than control pigs at Plants A and E.

Conversely, severe foot and pad problems declined more among NANI pigs than control pigs only at Plant B.

In all, more than 50% of pigs surveyed had hoof or pad problems of some kind, and over 30% of these problems were severe.

Results suggest that hoof and pad problems among slaughter weight pigs are a major problem and a welfare concern that deserves attention. These problems represent one of the main causes of NANI pigs that cost the swine industry over $100 million in losses annually.

Researchers: Mhairi Sutherland, Jerry Smith and John McGlone, Texas Tech University. Contact Sutherland by phone (806) 742-2805, ext. 255; fax (806) 742-4003 or e-mail [email protected].

Temperature, Humidity Can Take a Toll on Market Hogs in Transit

Temperature had opposite effects on the percentage of dead on arrival (DOA) and non-ambulatory, non-injured (NANI) pigs being hauled to market, in a study conducted by Texas Tech University researchers.

The percentage of DOA pigs increased as temperature increased, while the percentage of NANI pigs decreased as temperature increased (Figures 1 and 3).

Prospective data were collected from 16,323 trailers transporting 2,730,754 pigs to a packing plant during a 12-month period.

Pigs that were DOA, NANI and injured on trailer (IOT) were evaluated for the impact of temperature and humidity during transport to slaughter.

In the study, the percentage of DOA pigs increased when temperatures exceeded 68° F. The highest percentage of DOA pigs occurred at temperatures of 77° F and higher.

In contrast, the percentage of NANI pigs decreased as temperature increased above 32° F. The percentage of NANI pigs was 53.4% lower at temperatures of 41° F and above, compared with temperatures below 41° F.

Temperature was not a major factor on the percentage of IOT pigs (Figure 2).

Relative humidity was not a key event for DOA, NANI and IOT pigs in this study.

The increase in DOA pigs as temperature increased may explain the decrease in NANI pigs at high temperatures.

For example, pigs that may have turned into NANI pigs at lower temperatures may not cope at high temperatures (above 68° F) and die, therefore showing up as DOA.

In earlier studies, humidity has not been found to be a cause of DOA. However, regardless of external humidity, the humidity inside a trailer during transport is likely to quickly soar to 100% when the truck stops. This reduces the pig's ability to use evaporative cooling as a means of heat loss. Providing air movement is critical for pigs in trucks that stop for more than a few minutes during warm weather.

The risk of NANI pigs increases in winter, so extra precautions should be taken to prevent market hogs from getting cold during transport and lairage.

Researchers: Mhairi Sutherland and John McGlone, Texas Tech University. Contact Sutherland by phone (806) 742-2805, ext. 255; fax (806) 742-4003, or e-mail [email protected].

Shorter Holding Time Reduces the Impact of Heat Stress at Slaughter

Market pigs should be kept in lairage less than three hours to improve animal welfare in times of heat stress, according to studies at the University of Missouri.

Researchers evaluated three seasonal environments: temperate (TMP), cold stress (CS) and heat stress (HS); two on-farm handling intensities: conventional (CONV) and passive (PAS); two transport stocking densities: tight (TSD) and loose (LSD); and two holding times at slaughter (lairage): 45 minutes and three hours, and their impact on digestive tract temperature and blood plasmal cortisol levels. Studies were funded by Pork Checkoff.

Market hogs weighing an average of 275 lb. were harvested at TMP (42.8 to 55.4° F), CS (23 to 32°F) and HS (71.6 to 95° F).

At 16 hours prior to slaughter, a computer-activated temperature logging device (Ibutton) was placed down the throat of market hogs. Half the group was randomly subjected to PAS handling and the other half to CONV handling, with each group loaded on trailers with identical dimensions.

Half the pigs loaded were subjected to tight loading (4 sq. ft./pig) and the other half to loose loading density (6 sq. ft./pig). At the plant, half the pigs were allocated to the 45-minute lairage and the other half to the three-hour lairage treatment prior to slaughter. Ibuttons were collected at harvest.

Before handling, CS pigs had higher body temperatures than the other two groups harvested. But during handling, CONV-handled pigs from the HS group displayed no difference in temperature compared to PAS-handled pigs from the CS harvest. Researchers suggested the added activity during CONV handling accelerated the body metabolism of the HS pigs, raising their temperature.

During lairage, pigs from the HS harvest had higher temperatures than pigs from the TMP harvest, which had higher temperatures than CS-harvested pigs. Researchers concluded that the reestablishment of dominance in lairage increased the metabolism of the HS pigs.

Pigs experiencing the three-hour holding time tended to have higher temperatures than pigs kept in lairage for 45 minutes.

Pigs from the HS harvest subjected to TSD had higher cortisol levels than TMP and CS pigs at a TSD, as well as HS and CS pigs at a LSD. This suggested that TSD worsens heat stress.

Pigs from the HS harvest given three hours of lairage had higher cortisol levels than TMP pigs held three hours before slaughter. HS and TMP pigs with three hours of lairage had higher cortisol levels than HS and TMP pigs given 45 minutes of lairage, suggesting that a three-hour lairage exacerbates heat stress.

Researchers: Eric Berg and Chadwick Carr, University of Missouri. Berg took a position at North Dakota State University. Contact Berg by phone (701) 231-6271 or e-mail [email protected].

Table 1. Feet and Hoof Problem Scores, Percent of the Group, and Gender of Non-Ambulatory, Non-Injured (NANI) and Control Pigs from Four Processing Plants in the United States
Plant A Plant B Plant D Plant E Plant Averages
Measure NANI Control NANI Control NANI Control NANI Control NANI Control
Number of pigs 39 39 36 36 60 60 62 57 197 192
Hoof damage/injury
No. score 1 24.0 33.0 21.0 10.0 21.0 25.0 24.0 21.0 22.5 22.3
No. score 2 3.0 0.0 2.0 11.0* 10.0 10.0 9.0 3.0 6.0 6.0
Total score 27.0 33.0 23.0 21.0 31.0 35.0 33.0 24.0 28.5 28.3
% hoof problems 69.2 84.6* 63.9 58.3 51.7 58.3 53.2 42.1 59.5 60.8
Pad damage/injury
No. score 1 11.0 4.0 20.0 13.0 9.0 14.0 17.0 19.0 14.3 12.5
No. score 2 3.0 0.0 8.0 17.0 25.0 20.0 28.0 14.0 16.0 12.8
Total score 14.0 4.0 28.0 30.0 34.0 34.0 45.0 33.0 30.3 25.3
% pad problems 35.9 10.3* 77.8 83.3 56.7 56.7 72.6 57.9 60.7 52.0
Total feet and leg injuries, % 105.1 94.9 141.7 141.7 108.3 115.0 125.8 100.0* 108.5 105.0
Severe foot problems, % 15.4 0.0* 27.8 77.8* 58.3 50.0 59.7 29.8* 37.5 38.5
*Measures for NANI pigs for each plant and overall differ significantly from controls at P < 0.05.

Pork Quality

Addressing Eating Quality Traits In Fresh Pork Products

To provide products that consumers prefer, pork processors have worked to learn more about the traits in fresh pork that can help predict eating quality.

These traits include pH (a measure of the acidity in meat) and marbling (the visible intramuscular lipid). A higher pH means less acidity and expectations for a higher-quality fresh pork product. Greater lipid content has often been linked to softer texture and juicier product.

Animal and food scientists at Iowa State University conducted an analysis to determine the relative contribution of both of these traits to fresh pork quality.

Researchers examined data from a group of fresh pork loins from the National Barrow Show progeny tests in 1991, 1992 and 1994, focusing on composition, pH and sensory quality. Loins from Berkshire, Chester White, Duroc, Hampshire, Landrace, Poland China, Spotted and Yorkshire pigs were represented.

After accounting for variation due to year, breed, gender, test date and halothane genotype, the contributions of lipid (determined chemically) and pH to fresh pork tenderness, chewiness and juiciness were determined.

In general, lipid was not shown to be a good indicator of eating quality. However, high pH consistently resulted in fresh pork that was more tender and juicy.

At higher pH (greater than 5.8), lipid did not improve fresh pork sensory quality. This was likely because the product was of superior quality at high pH. At low pH (lower than 5.5), the product was neither tender nor juicy. Under these conditions, adding lipid did not improve pork quality.

The results suggest that high pH product (above 5.8) is superior to lower pH product for sensory quality, texture and cooking loss.

In general, at high pH, adding lipid doesn't improve tenderness, chewiness, juiciness or star probe values. At low pH (below 5.5), pork is of inferior quality in virtually every category. At low pH, greater lipid content doesn't improve pork quality.

Lipid content does contribute to pork sensory traits in pork loins with intermediate pH (between pH 5.5 and 5.8). This effect of lipid content within the intermediate pH classifications indicates that only a small portion of the variation in sensory quality can be attributed to variation in lipid content.

Researcher: Steven M. Lonergan, Iowa State University. Contact Lonergan by phone (515) 294-9126, fax (515) 294-9143 or e-mail [email protected].

Halothane Gene Still Exists In Small Numbers of Hogs

The halothane gene mutation (HAL-1843) still is relatively widespread in the U.S. hog population, but apparently at a relatively low level, according to a survey of packing plants conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois. The gene was detected in about 11% of farms that were represented.

Tissue samples were collected from 2,018 hogs processed at four Midwest packing plants, including 644 dead on arrival (DOA), 725 non-ambulatory, non-injured (NANI) and 649 normal pigs to determine the frequency of the halothane gene. The sampled pigs originated from 454 farms, transported on trailers averaging 152 pigs/load at an average weight of 275 lb.

Frequency of the HAL-1843 gene was only 2.7% of the total pigs sampled being either homozygous recessive (two copies of the gene) or carriers (one copy of the gene) for the mutation, and 97.3% of pigs being homozygous dominant for the normal allele gene (no stress genes).

The 55 pigs with at least one copy of the mutation came from 53 different farms, suggesting that the mutation was relatively widespread. Of the 11% identified as carrying the mutation, 2% of the farms had homozygous-recessive animals and 9% had carrier animals.

There were differences among plants in the frequency of carrier animals, but the differences were modest and a larger study would be required to detect any difference in the frequency of homozygous-recessive animals between the plants.

The gene mutation was found in all three classes of pigs tested — 1.8% of normal, 1.8% of NANI and 4.7% of DOA animals having at least one copy. There was a higher frequency of carriers in DOA than normal and NANI pigs (3.74 vs. 1.64 and 1.61%, respectively).

However, the frequency of the mutation was low in all classes, suggesting that although this mutation may be a factor in transport losses for individual animals, it is not a major cause. Therefore, efforts to reduce transport losses should focus on other genetic and non-genetic causes.

Researchers: M. Ellis, M.J. Ritter, G.R. Hollis and J.M. Schlipf, University of Illinois. Contact Ellis by phone (217) 333-6455, fax (217) 333-7088 or e-mail [email protected].

Sow Stall Ban Passes Despite Intense Efforts

Animal extremists succeed in banning gestation stall use in Arizona.

Pigs for Farmer John (PFFJ), Snowflake, AZ, and other agricultural groups mounted a valiant effort to defeat Proposition 204, banning the use of gestation stalls and veal crates in Arizona effective the end of 2012.

But those efforts were shot down by “shrewd political strategists and effective communicators armed with loads of ready money, who had the luxury of a largely urban population of voters,” says Steve Duchesne, consultant for Clougherty Packing Co. of Los Angeles, CA. He is also a spokesman for PFFJ, the largest hog operation in the state and openly targeted by activists in offering the initiative.

Since the initiative was passed (62 to 38%), PFFJ must “look very closely at its business options in the years ahead” to decide what is best for the 13,500-sow operation that markets about 250,000 hogs annually to the Clougherty plant, he adds.

Both PFFJ and Clougherty are subsidiaries of Austin, MN-based Hormel, which purchased the joint businesses in 2004. Farmer John is the brand of pork produced at Clougherty and is sold mainly in southern California and Arizona.

PFFJ houses most of its gestating sows in individual stalls, but a number are also group-housed in pens.

“Sows are housed in stalls for some very good reasons. They provide very clear benefits to the sows, keeping them free from injury caused by other sows, ensuring that the sow is able to receive a full ration and providing access to fresh water throughout the day,” explains Duchesne. Stalls also enable workers to care and treat sows and quickly detect physical ailments, he adds.

Duchesne reports the Humane Society of the United States and Farm Sanctuary poured more than $2 million into the campaign, more than twice the amount spent by the Arizona Coalition of the Arizona Pork Council (APC), Arizona Cattlemen's Association (ACA), United Dairymen, Arizona Farm Bureau and Arizona Poultry. National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), corn and soybean growers and countless individuals also contributed.

Hard-Learned Lessons

The spokesman says the lessons learned from this hard-fought campaign are that the activists are not going away anytime soon, and that they probably won't wait another four years to start their next fight if the political environment is right for them. Four years ago, they led the first successful effort, facing virtually no opposition, to ban gestation stalls in Florida.

Tom Miller, APC executive director, agrees agriculture put up a good fight against Proposition 204. He called the effort “the greatest cooperative effort by American agriculture since I became involved in the Arizona pork industry in 1967.

“My plea is for all pork producers and meat and dairy animal producers to move this to a high priority on their list of concerns,” says Miller. He served as NPPC president in 1987-88, and has held many leadership roles in Arizona, where he raised pigs until 1990.

“It's likely this ban will be pushed in other states or possibly included in the 2007 Farm Bill,” adds NPPC President Joy Philippi, a pork producer from Bruning, NE.

She shunned the despicable behavior displayed by animal activist groups involved in the Arizona stall ban initiative. Written death threats were sent to some coalition members and the offices of the ACA were vandalized.

“We were shocked and dismayed that animal rights extremists resorted to threatening people who opposed this ill-advised new law,” says Philippi. “There is never room for threats or violence in the democratic process, and we support the FBI in its investigation and prosecution of these unlawful acts.”

Duchesne says activists broke into one of PFFJ's sow units one night, taping and later airing a video on a Web site purportedly showing sows in distress in stalls. He says it is ironic that activists claiming to support animal welfare would break into a farm, violating strict biosecurity standards and putting animals at risk of a potential disease outbreak.