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Articles from 2010 In December


Nutrition Facts Panels To Appear on Products

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is making important nutritional information readily available to consumers on 40 of the most popular cuts of meat and poultry products.

A new rule specifies that packages of ground or chopped meat and poultry will feature nutrition fact panels on their labels. Also, whole, raw cuts of meat and poultry will feature nutrition fact panels either on package labels or available for consumers at the point-of-purchase.

“More and more, busy American families want nutrition information that they can quickly and easily understand,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We need to do all we can to provide nutrition labels that will help consumers make informed decisions. The USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services work hard to provide the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years, and now consumers will have another tool to help them follow these guidelines.”

The nutrition fact panels will include the number of calories and the grams of total fat and saturated fat a product contains. Any product that lists a lean percentage statement, such as “76% lean,” on its label will list its fat percentage, making it easier for consumers to understand the amounts of lean protein and fat in their purchase, making it easier for consumers to understand the amounts of lean protein and fat in their purchase.

The goal of the panels is to provide consumers with enough information at the stores to assess the nutrient content of the major cuts, enabling them to select meat and poultry products that fit into a healthy diet.

This rule is effective Jan. 1, 2012. Consumers with questions about the new labels should call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at (888)-MPHotline (888-674-6854).

Producers and retailers seeking more information should contact Rosalyn Murphy-Jenkins, director, Labeling and Program Delivery Division, Office of Policy and Program Development, Food Safety and Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, MD 20705 or by phone (301) 504-0878.

National Hog Farmer

Year of Pigs Wins Top Honor

picture-nhf.jpgFriends of Indiana Pork,

Indiana Pork is proud to announce that the Indiana State Fair - Year of Pigs Presented by Indiana Pork Farmers campaign won the top honor of Judges Choice at the International Association of Fairs and Exhibitions conference this month. Cindy Hoye and Margaret Davidson from the Indiana State Fair Commission presented the award to the Indiana Pork Board of Directors on December 14.

The campaign was chosen for its creativity in marketing an agricultural product to consumers before and during the fair.

On behalf of the Indiana Pork Board of Directors and staff, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Sarah Ford

Director of Public and Industry Relations

sford@inpork.org

Webinar to Probe Why Farmland Prices Defy Odds

A panel of Purdue University experts will discuss factors behind the steady rise in farmland values during a free webinar. While farmland values grow, economic forces continue to pull down other real estate assets.

The online program takes place 1-2 p.m. EST Jan. 10, 2011. To register, visit the webinar home page at http://www.agecon.purdue.edu/commercialag/progevents/landvalueswebinar.html, click on the “Register Now!” link in the “Registration Information” box and complete the online registration form.

The panel consists of agricultural economists Mike Boehlje, Craig Dobbins, Brent Gloy and Chris Hurt, and Bruce Erickson, Purdue’s director of cropping systems management.

“We’ve continued to see farmland value increases, even when the overall economy was in a recession and when real estate values in housing and the commercial markets fell off,” Boehlje says. “According to survey by the Chicago Federal Reserve Board, farmland in Iowa increased in value by 13% between the fall of 2009 and fall 2010. Our survey for Indiana shows that farmland values since 1985 have gone up about 270%, or in essence, about 5.5% per year.”

Webinar panelists will talk about the forces driving land prices higher and the events that could keep them moving up or down. Among those forces are farming incomes, interest rates, development potential and inflation, Boehlje says.

“Institutional and outside investors view farmland as a pretty good portfolio asset,” he says.

Boehlje, Dobbins, Gloy and Hurt outline farmland price drivers in their paper, “Farmland Values: Current and Future Prospects.” The paper can be downloaded from the webinar home page and webinar participants are encouraged to read the document before the event.

Those who are unable to view the Jan. 10 program can listen to the webinar by phone by contacting Aissa Good at (765) 496-3884 or aissa@purdue.edu. The presentation will also be archived online for later viewing.

The webinar is sponsored by the Center for Commercial Agriculture within the Purdue Department of Agricultural Economics.

Click here to view more upcoming events on our calendar page

No Surprises in Pig Crop Report

USDA’s quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report, released Monday afternoon, indicated hog inventories quite close to expected levels, but also contains production forecasts that will likely be viewed as bullish in Tuesday’s trading. Analysts are calling the report anywhere from neutral to moderately bullish. The key data from the report appear in Table 1. Here are a few highlights:

• Inventories of market pigs and breeding stock were within 1% of the average of analysts’ pre-report estimates. Differences of that magnitude usually mean a neutral report, but note that all but one of the actual year-on-year percentage numbers is smaller than the analysts predicted. That fact may lead to some strength for Lean Hogs futures on Tuesday.

• While federally inspected (FI) hog slaughter has run ahead of year-ago levels for much of the fourth quarter, that is not true of December. Comparing equal numbers of weekdays and Saturdays for 2010 to 2009, FI slaughter this December has been only fractionally higher than last year, which agrees with USDA’s 180-lb. and over inventory and that is virtually equal to that of December 2009.

• Ditto for our other check of the Sep-Nov pig crop vs. the under 50-lb. inventory. Feeder pig imports from Canada are getting closer and closer to year-earlier levels, implying some stability in these numbers. In fact, I have not adjusted my weekly slaughter forecasts for May onward due to this stabilizing of weaner/feeder pig imports from Canada. The changes in these numbers have necessitated such adjustments in the past.

• Litter size growth has returned to 2% per year in this report, following a two-quarter slowdown into the high 1% area. This pushes the past three years back to an average litter size growth rate of 1.92% per year, the highest for any three-year period in history (Figure 1).

• The curious numbers in this report are definitely the farrowing and farrowing intentions figures, which were all lower than expected. Specifically, the March-May quarter intentions of 2.863 million litters were more than 3% lower than expected. Year-on-year farrowing intention changes that are larger in the downward direction than the change in the breeding herd obviously suggest lower sow productivity for the first half of the year. Most of that decline could be offset by larger litters, but the fact that the report includes a decline in sow productivity will likely be bullish for deferred Lean Hogs futures.

• As Figure 2 shows, weekly slaughter in 2011 will look very much like that of 2010, based on these data. Weights will be higher than year-earlier levels for the first half of the year and lower the second half, which suggests production totals will mimic the year-on-year weight changes. Assuming constant demand, annual average prices in 2011 will be close to those of 2010, but 2010 has had some screwy quarterly patterns due to performance issues tied to corn and feed quality.
I still contend that Lean Hogs futures markets are trading much stronger demand at the present time, making them higher than fundamental supply analysis would suggest. They may be right, since demand has certainly strengthened in late 2010, and a weak U.S. dollar should be quite supportive to pork exports and by-product values.

I expect national net negotiated prices in the upper $70s in Quarter 1, upper $80s to low $90s in Q2 and Q3, and mid- to upper $70s in Q4, with an annual average price in the low $80s for 2011.

Watch next week’s Market Preview for our quarterly compilation of analysts’ forecasts.

Click to view graphs.

Steve R. Meyer, Ph.D.
Paragon Economics, Inc.
e-mail: steve@paragoneconomics.com

Looking Back

Since I have been continuously shoveling and snow-blowing my driveway this past month, I have had a lot of time to reflect. Thinking back to the mid-’70s when I was in high school, believe it or not the Minnesota Vikings football team was in the Super Bowl. Of course, those of you under the age of 40 wouldn’t remember that.

I also reflected back to 1975, when a tremendous blizzard hit the Midwest. I remember my father and I had to get to the hog barns to check on the pigs. One barn had the feeders and waterers outside. As my dad and I were walking, I told him we were standing on the roof of the barn! He didn’t believe me at first, but as we started digging, he realized that’s exactly where we were. We did not have electricity for several days and, since water and feed were outside, the pigs struggled and we unfortunately lost a few. We worked as hard as we could to get feed and water to the hogs, but the snow and the cold were too much. I remember how stressed my father was in trying to take care of the pigs and the hours we spent digging and shoveling snow. The only good thing I remember from this timeframe is I didn’t have to watch another Vikings loss.

The reason I bring this up is there are people who are not familiar with the livestock industry that are questioning why we raise animals in confinement. I can clearly tell you, back in 1975, if we would have had our livestock in confinement where they had access to water and feed, we would not have lost the animals that we did during that blizzard.

There are very sound reasons why hogs are raised in climate-controlled buildings, providing them with adequate feed, water and protection against the weather – hot and cold. All of us involved in the industry must continue to educate the public about the livestock sector and how these processes/efficiencies are the right choices for the animals and our businesses.

Looking at 2011 – As I write this article on Dec. 22, hog futures for next summer are over $90 for June and July. If you take the average price on the board for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) for 2011, that price is over $84/cwt. The crazy part, with hog futures prices so high, is it still only gives an average profit of $5-$10/head. Corn prices being close to $6/bu. for all of 2011 puts breakeven prices close to $80/cwt. or $160/head, depending on sale weight.

These price levels put us very close to where we were in 2008, and we still have not even thought about planting next year’s crop. The successful producers of today are managing this volatility by managing margin and not trying to over-analyze what may or may not happen to the grain or hog markets.

When things are this volatile, it is very difficult to predict what could happen. Therefore, sticking to a plan that focuses on a margin you can accept is crucial to survival.

Putting Things in Perspective – In closing, it is important to keep things in perspective. This past year, I have realized that faith and family are the most important things in life. We need to take time to cherish both. In the grand scheme of things, the markets are immaterial.

Happy holidays and best wishes for the New Year.

Mark Greenwood
Swine Industry Consultant
Contact Greenwood at mgreenw@agstar.com

Sixty-Thousand-Plus GIPSA Comments Filed

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said at a briefing on the proposed GIPSA (Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration) rule regarding livestock and poultry marketing practices that the department had received more than 60,000 public comments. USDA will take time to analyze and evaluate the comments. He also said that a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis will be conducted on the proposed rule. Last September in a letter to USDA, 115 congressmen had asked that an economic analysis be conducted on the proposed rule.

Ethanol and Biodiesel Tax Credits Extended — The recently passed tax cut/stimulus package extends the 45 cents-per-gallon ethanol blender credit and the tariff on imported ethanol for one year. The $1.00/gallon production tax credit for biodiesel is made retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010 and has been extended through 2011. The ethanol trade association, Growth Energy, said that extending the ethanol blenders tax credit will “provide certainty in the marketplace and give us a chance to work with Congress and the administration to enact longer term tax policy reforms that will level the playing field in the fuels market.” The American Meat Institute, which opposed the extension, said, “For 30 years, the American taxpayer has been subsidizing corn-based ethanol and unfortunately the Senate has failed to break that dependency relationship once again, even as this country teeters on the brink of a budgetary abyss. For yet another year, $6 billion U.S. taxpayer dollars will be diverted from hardworking families to the pocketbooks of the ethanol industry for production that is mandated by the federal government, despite the fact that the American people are crying out for fiscal responsibility.”

Food Safety Bill Sent to President — Congress passed the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act, which increases FDA’s oversight of the food sector. The legislation expands FDA’s authority with mandatory recalls, increased inspection rates, collection of fees and requires all facilities to have a food safety plan. The legislation now goes to President Obama for his signature.

Child Nutrition Now Law — President Barrack Obama signed into the law the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.” The legislation reauthorizes federal child nutrition programs and provides an additional six cents/meal for the school lunch program. This is the first non-inflationary increase for reimbursement since 1973. In an effort to address childhood obesity, national nutrition standards will be established for all foods sold at schools.

House Agriculture Committee Chairs Named — Congressman Frank Lucas (R-OK), chairman-elect of the House Agriculture Committee, named six members to serve as subcommittee chairman of the House Agriculture Committee for the 112th Congress. They are: Congressmen Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Conservation, Energy and Forestry; Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Department of Operations, Oversight and Credit; Mike Conaway, General Farm Commodities and Risk Management; Tom Rooney (R-FL), Livestock, Dairy and Poultry; Jean Schmidt (R-OH), Nutrition and Horticulture; and Tim Johnson (R-IL), Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture.

Baumes Named Director of Energy Policy and New Uses — Harry Baumes has been named as USDA’s director of the Office of Energy Policy and New Uses (OEPNU). Baumes will provide policy advice to the secretary of agriculture on energy and bioproduct issues. He has served as associate director of OEPNU since 2006. Baumes holds a bachelor of science degree from Cornell University, and a Master's and PhD degree in agricultural economics from Purdue University.

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

Using Carbon Dioxide For On-Farm Euthanasia

Research at Texas Tech University studied the potential use of carbon dioxide (CO2) as a practical method of on-farm euthanasia for young pigs in farrowing as an alternative to blunt force trauma. The pigs’ small size can make the use of captive bolts dangerous and impractical.

For CO2 to become a practical on-farm alternative to blunt force trauma, best management practices must be developed for commercial swine farms, taking into consideration animal welfare and worker safety.

An objective of this study was to compare pre-fill with gradual-fill methods of CO2 euthanasia. The pre-fill method involves filling the euthanasia chamber with 100% CO2 before placing the pig in the chamber. The gradual-fill method involves placing the pig in the euthanasia chamber and then administering the gas.

The euthanasia chamber measured 30.2 x 16.8 x 19.7 in. For the gradual-fill method, 100% CO2 was gradually released at a flow rate of 20% per minute while the pig was in the chamber. For the pre-fill method, the chamber was filled with 100% CO2 prior to placing the pig in the chamber.

To assess the well-being of piglets during CO2 euthanasia, physiological and behavioral measures of stress were recorded. Blood samples were collected prior to euthanasia and just after death to measure cortisol concentrations, a common indicator of stress in animals. Heart rate and brain activity were used to assess time of death. Pig behavior and vocalizations were recorded using a camcorder. Behavior and postures recorded included breathing intensity (heavy, gasping), escape attempts, loss of consciousness and paddling.

Responses differed between methods of gas administration, influencing the time to onset of all behaviors measured.

The time to onset of heavy breathing, gasping, loss of balance, performance of escape behaviors, loss of posture, paddling and the last gasp were quicker in pigs euthanized using the pre-fill method compared with the gradual-fill method.

Most importantly, the time to death was shorter in pigs euthanized using the pre-fill method based on measured brain activity and heart rate.

Based on these results, the pre-fill method of euthanasia appears to be more humane than the gradual-fill method, and best management practices should be written accordingly

Researcher: Mhairi Sutherland, Texas Tech University (where the research was conducted) and Ruakura Research Centre, Hamilton, New Zealand (current address); and Pamela J. Bryer, Lamar University, Beaumont, TX. For more information, contact Sutherland by phone +64 7 838 5503, fax +64 7 856 2836 or e-mail Mhairi.sutherland@agresearch.co.nz.

Group Size Has Limited Effect on Stress Levels At Marketing

The size of grow-finish groups of pigs had limited effect on stress responses at loading and unloading and transport losses in market weight pigs in a study at Iowa State University.

At loading, pigs raised in small groups of 36 pigs had reduced open-mouth breathing and skin discoloration compared to pigs kept in large groups of 324 pigs/pen.

But following a one-hour journey to the packing plant, pigs raised in large groups throughout grow-finish had reduced skin discoloration when compared to pigs raised in small groups.

Although pigs raised in large group sizes showed higher stress responses than pigs raised in small groups at loading and lower stress responses at unloading, there were no differences in transport losses between group sizes at marketing.

For the study, pigs were transported to three commercial wean-to-finish facilities at 18 days of age and marketed at about 200 days of age. The pigs were from a standard commercial, terminal genetic line and selected to be free of the HAL-1843 stress gene.

Small groups (SG) were housed in single-sex pens of 36 pigs. Large groups (LG) were housed in single-sex pens of 324 pigs.

Pigs were moved from their home pen to the loading ramp by the same four-person loading crew, and all handling methods met the production system’s standard operating procedures. Groups of four to six market hogs were removed from their pen, moved down the building’s center aisle and loaded onto the transport trailer using sort boards and electric prods, when necessary.

Aluminum straight-deck trailers (Wilson Trailers, Sioux City, IA) were used for both trials. The National Pork Board’s Transport Quality Assurance program guidelines were followed for trailer setup and ventilation. Fresh wood shavings were used as bedding.

Hogs were analyzed at loading and unloading for open-mouth breathing, skin discoloration and muscle tremors and at the farm for non-ambulatory condition.

SG pigs had less open-mouth breathing and skin discoloration at loading than LG pigs (Table 1). At unloading, skin discoloration was higher for SG pigs, but no differences were observed between group sizes for open-mouth breathing or muscle tremors.

LG pigs had a higher incidence of open-mouth breathing and skin discoloration at loading, while at unloading a higher incidence of skin discoloration was observed in SG pigs.

No differences between SG and LG pigs were noted for fatigued, non-ambulatory and total losses at the harvest facility.

Two pigs were injured from the LG pigs and none from the SG pigs, and no dead on arrivals were found in either group size.

Total transport losses for both treatment groups in this study were very low compared to estimated national averages (0.69%; Ritter et al. 2009).

Further research is needed to determine whether larger, grow-finish group size is a useful strategy on grow-finish sites experiencing high numbers of transport losses or numbers higher than the estimated national average.

Researchers: L.M. Gesing, A.K. Johnson and K.L. Stalder, Iowa State University; H. Hill, S. Abrams, A. Whiley and M. Faga, Iowa Select Farms; R. Bailey, JBS Swift and Co. and M.J Ritter, Elanco Animal Health. For more information, contact Gesing by phone (563) 568-9651 or e-mail Gesing2@illinois.edu.

Delay Processing of Low-Birth-Weight Piglets

Average litter size in commercial herds has increased substantially in the past decade, resulting in large numbers of low-birth-weight (LBW) piglets.

Mortality rates are higher in piglets that weigh 2 lb. or less.

A team of Canadian researchers investigated the effects of processing LBW piglets during the first 24 hours of life vs. processing piglets at 3 days of age.

In the study, six piglets/litter from 20 litters were weighed at birth and designated as LBW (2.2 lb.) or average-birth weight (ABW greater than 2.6 lb.), and processed (tail docked and ear notched) at either 1 or 3 days of age.

Piglets were assessed for viability at birth. Those piglets incapable of standing, walking or suckling were excluded from the experiment.

During the study, piglet vocalizations were recorded and behavioral responses were observed. Piglets were observed for six hours after birth and after processing to determine if they attended nursing sessions and if they remained in close contact to their littermates.

On Day 5, blood samples were collected to determine concentrations of immunoglobulins, a measure of colostral intake and suckling success.

Piglet weights were recorded at birth and at Days 5, 14 and 21. Mortalities were recorded until weaning.

High-frequency vocalizations have been shown to be indicative of distress in piglets. In this study, both groups of weight classes produced these calls, indicating that processing is equally distressing for both LBW and ABW piglets. However, LBW piglets produced fewer calls overall, possibly reflecting lower vigor in these animals.

Regardless of age at processing, LBW male piglets had the lowest attendance at nursing time and spent the greatest amounts of time alone when nursing was not occurring.

Both male and female LBW piglets had lower concentrations of immunoglobulins than ABW piglets.

Overall, LBW piglets were 5.5 times less likely than ABW piglets to survive to weaning.

Some LBW piglets suckled less often, spent more time isolated and had a lower immune status, suggesting it may be advisable to delay processing until Day 3 for LBW piglets. This will avoid needlessly processing piglets that won’t survive the first few days of life.

The research was funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Researchers: Kristi Bovey and Stephanie Torrey, both of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at Guelph, Ontario and the University of Guelph Department of Animal and Poultry Science; Tina Widowski of the University of Guelph Department of Animal and Poultry Science; Nicolas Devillers, Martin Lessard and Chantal Farmer, all of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at Sherbrooke, Quebec; and Cate Dewey of the University of Guelph Department of Population Medicine.

Estrus Status is Key to Success With P.G. 600

U.S. pork producers replace over half of the sows in the breeding herd with replacement gilts each year. It is extremely important that a high proportion of selected replacement gilts reach puberty at an early age, conceive and easily enter sow groups at weaning.

P.G. 600 (Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health) is a combination of two hormones — equine chorionic gonadotropin (eCG; 400 I.U.) and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG; 200 I.U.). P.G. 600 is a drug labeled for stimulating estrus in prepubertal, non-cycling gilts. It is not for stimulating or synchronizing estrus in gilts that have reached puberty and begun cycling.

Although P.G. 600 is an effective tool for advancing the onset of puberty, there is a great deal of variation in its efficacy amongst farms. Figure 1(A) shows the profile of blood progesterone in gilts during the estrous cycle. When gilts are in estrus, progesterone levels are low. Ovulation occurs during estrus, and corpora lutea (CL) that subsequently form on the ovaries secrete high levels of progesterone, suppressing follicular growth, ovulation and the signs of estrus.

At approximately Day 16 of the estrous cycle, progesterone levels begin to decline and gilts ultimately return to estrus. Thus, the inter-estrus interval is normally 20 to 21 days.

In the 1960s, researchers at the University of Missouri conducted an experiment during which mature, cycling gilts were treated with eCG on Day 5 or 6 of the estrous cycle, and 72 to 96 hours later the gilts received hCG. Although at the time of treatment the gilts were under the influence of progesterone secreted by the spontaneous CL, the eCG and hCG caused follicle growth and ovulation (with no display of estrus), and a new set of CL were induced. The original, spontaneous CL began to regress on Day 15 to 16 of the cycle, but the new, induced CL also functioned for a normal period of 15 to 16 days, thus extending the cycle and increasing the inter-estrus interval.

It was hypothesized that perhaps some of the erratic performance of P.G. 600 on some farms was due to treatment of gilts that were actually cycling and not prepubertal. And, depending on the day of the cycle at treatment, P.G. 600 may cause silent estrus and ovulation, formation of induced CL and a longer estrous cycle as diagramed in Figure 1(B).

To test this hypothesis, 80 prepubertal gilts were each placed in one of five treatment groups. Gilts received P.G. 600 (Treatment 1) or were allowed to display a natural first estrus, and then administered P.G. 600 on Day 6, Day 12 or Day 18 of the cycle (Treatments 2, 3 and 4, respectively). Another group of gilts received no P.G. 600 (Treatment 5). Gilts were checked daily for the return to estrus in the presence of a mature boar.

All gilts (100%) in Treatments 4 and 5 displayed normal estrous cycles of 17 to 24 days. Fewer gilts in the other treatment groups displayed normal estrous cycles, and the percentage was lowest (60%) for Treatment 3 (treated with P.G. 600 at Day 12).

Blood samples were collected and analyzed for progesterone on the day of first estrus and at 10-day intervals thereafter. Figure 2 shows the progesterone concentrations for gilts in Treatment 3 that had either normal estrus lengths (nine gilts, mean of 20.2 days) or abnormal (five gilts, mean of 32.5 days).

That circulating concentrations of progesterone remained elevated 20 days after estrus in the gilts displaying abnormal length estrous cycles suggests that P.G. 600 administered at Day 12 of the cycle caused ovulation and the formation of induced CL that resulted in an extended inter-estrous interval. The results of this experiment demonstrate the need to correctly classify replacement gilts as prepubertal or cycling before administering P.G. 600.

Researcher: Mark J. Estienne, Virginia Tech-Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center. For additional information, contact Estienne by phone (757) 657-6450 or e-mail mestienn@vt.edu.