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Articles from 2016 In December

FFA Chapter Tribute: Top of the 2016 crop

The top three FFA Chapters of the year are awarded this week, coming in 3rd is Bronaugh FFA, Bronaugh Missouri, in 2nd the Paoli FFA, Paoli Indiana, and coming in 1st place is Holden FFA, Holden Missouri.

This Week in Agribusiness, December 31, 2016

Part 1

Max Armstrong opens this week’s special episode with a review of what is to come, a look back at important events from this year, and Orion Samuelson’s interview with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack one last time. Max Armstrong talks to Mike Pearson, host, Market to Market, about the big stories of 2016. Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Network, comments on issues his part of the country faced this year.

Part 2

Max Armstrong talks to Duane Murley, KWMT – Fort Dodge, Iowa, about the crops produced in the state this year. The top three FFA Chapters of the year are awarded this week, third is Bronaugh FFA, Bronaugh Mo.; in second, the Paoli FFA, Paoli Ind., and in first place is Holden FFA, Holden, Mo. And Agricultural Meteorologist Greg Soulje gives an overview of what to expect from winter in 2017.

Part 3

Max Armstrong talks to farm broadcaster Steve Bridge, WFMB – Springfield, Illinois, about the year farmer’s had in his area of the country.

Part 4

Orion Samuelson begins his interview with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for a historic eighth time.

Part 5

Orion Samuelson continues his interview with Tom Vilsack.

Part 6 

Orion Samuelson continues his last conversation with Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, who talks about his humble beginnings and his time in office.

Part 7

Once again, Orion changes Sameulson Sez to Secretary Sez, so Tom Vilsack can give one last insight as Secretary of Agriculture.

A This Week in Agribusiness Tradition: Secretary Sez

Orion hands the reins to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who uses this opportunity to thank the citizens he has served, everyone working in the American agriculture industry, and thanks his family for their continued support.

MIDDAY-Midwest Digest-December 30, 2016

Max Armstrong offers a look at a January 1 event in several states - a boost to the minimum wage. Twenty states will boost wages for workers including several Midwest states. He explores how those increases impact retailers. The winter meeting season starts right after the start of the New Year. And Max shares that this last week of the year has been filled with year-end requests for charities - and he advises you check out any charity where you donate. He notes that several groups may not have an agenda that agrees with you. He also suggests some others to consider.

Midwest Digest is a twice-daily look at news from around the Midwest. Veteran broadcaster Max Armstrong offers news and commentary for the region.

Farm Progress America - December 30, 2016

Max Armstrong offers some interesting insights, and motivational quotes, from Walt Disney. Max shares these as an end-of-the-year reflection noting that the insights from the "man behind the mouse" are applicable to farmers too. Disney, who in his early days flirted with financial disaster, ended up building what has become over 93 years, a massive media empire. His quotes show the drive he took to build the company.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

MORNING-Midwest Digest-December 30, 2016

Max Armstrong offers some insight on "move over" laws requiring drivers to slow and move over if there's an emergency vehicle on the shoulder. Some states are expanding the law to cover all vehicles in the shoulder require you to move over. Max also looks at the strengthening beef market, which appears to be ending the year on a high note. And the industry's eyes are on the new Administration's trade moves after Jan. 20. And he shares that 2016 was a quiet year for tornadoes, with a death toll the lowest in 30 years.

Midwest Digest is a twice-daily look at news from around the Midwest. Veteran broadcaster Max Armstrong offers news and commentary for the region.

Research reaffirms the necessity of tail docking for pigs

Getty Images A rear view of a lineup of white piglets.

A pig being bitten over and over feels pain. The standard operating procedure of tail docking, performed to prevent the common historical problem of tail biting, is also criticized for inflicting pain. The issue to dock or not dock the tail has been under scrutiny. Since tail biting may not occur to all pigs, it is fair to ask the question if it is necessary to dock every pig’s tail to prevent tail biting.

Past research shows that once tail biting begins, it will continue and may intensify due to the attraction of pigs to the smell and taste of blood. Obviously, experiencing constant pain can negatively impact animal welfare and overall pig performance. Therefore, to minimize the risk of tail biting, hog farmers routinely dock tails.

While pain is associated with tail docking, it can be minimized when the procedure is performed as early as possible in a pig’s life and with an appropriate analgesia. Yet, it still receives criticism from non-agriculture groups.

A University of Minnesota research team took another look at the consequences of raising pigs without tail docking under modern, confinement housing system conditions. The study was conducted to compare welfare, behavior and performance of pigs with and without tail docking.

Research specifics

A group of 352 pigs farrowed within a week was used for the study. At farrowing, in each litter half of the pigs’ tails were docked within the first 24 hours of birth and the remaining pigs’ tails were left intact. All piglets were weaned at 4 weeks of age.

Once weaned, all pigs — weighing an average of 17.2 pounds — were housed in a confinement nursery barn with eight pigs per pen for five weeks. During the nursery period, there were 20 pens of docked pigs and 24 pens of undocked pigs.

At 9 weeks of age, due to space limitations, and the intent to track data in the grow-finish unit separate from the nursery, 240 pigs (initial average weight of 54.8 pounds) without any tail damage were moved to a confinement finishing barn and housed in eight pens of 30 pigs for 16 weeks (average final weight of 277.5 pounds).

There were four pens of docked and four pens of undocked pigs, each consisting of 15 barrows and 15 gilts during the grow-finish period. Weight gain and feed intake were recorded throughout the study.

Every four weeks and during outbreaks of tail biting, all pigs were assessed for tail damage. For this experiment, an outbreak is defined as blood showing on the tail of one or more pigs. Tail lesion severity was assessed on a scale of zero (no damage) to 4 (partial or total loss of the tail). Pigs with a score of 3 or 4 were removed from their home pen and placed in a hospital pen. Carcass weights and incidence of carcass trim loss were recorded.

University of Minnesota


Overall, undocked pigs experienced more tail damage. As shown in the table, during the nursery phase tail lesions were visible on 41% of undocked pigs compared to only 2% of docked pigs.

Similarly, 89% of the undocked pigs in the grow-finish periods suffered lesions from tail biting. The first outbreak of tail biting began at 11 weeks of age, which occurred six weeks earlier compared to docked pigs. Furthermore, 18% of undocked pigs as opposed to 5% of docked pigs were removed from the grow-finish unit due to tail damage.

For pigs that were not removed, feed intake was not different between pens with docked pigs and pens with undocked pigs. Weight gain was similar in both treatment and control pens. However, as a consequence of carcass trim loss, carcass contamination and mortality, 90% of undocked pigs, in contrast with 97% of docked pigs, were harvested for full value.

Results of this study indicate that raising pigs without tail docking in a confinement housing system increases the incidence of tail biting and tail damage, resulting in higher morbidity, reduced value and compromised welfare of pigs.

Also, costs of production could rise for farms that choose not to dock the tails of the pigs, because an increasing amount of time is needed to monitor the injuries and increase the amount of hospital space.

In conclusion, the scientists reaffirm the short-term pain of tail docking seems worthwhile to protect pigs from suffering tail damage later in the grow-finish phase.

Researchers: Yuzhi Li and Lee Johnston, West Central Research and Outreach Center, University of Minnesota, Morris, and Wayne Martin, University of Minnesota Extension, St. Paul.

For more information, contact Yuzhi Li at 320-589-1711 or

2017 brings changes all around

Illustration of pig with Happy New Year

As we get ready to turn the calendar page to 2017, there are a lot of things on producers’ minds. Foremost producers are cautiously watching the market with eyes on expansion taking place in the industry, and curiosity of what impact new packing plants coming online will have.

Of more immediate concern are the expanded Veterinary Feed Directives that go into effect on Sunday. Producers, veterinarians and feed mill operators have had a few years to prepare for Jan. 1, 2017, when the new VFDs modify the way feed- and water-based antimicrobials are utilized in animal production.

For producers the regulatory change will result in the removal of some antibiotic products or eliminate growth promotion use of the antibiotics. Growth promotion and nutritional efficiency labels on medically important antibiotics will be removed by December 2016.

National Hog Farmer has tried to provide our readers with the most-complete information about the VFDs through our “Weekly Preview” and “Weekly Wrap-Up” newsletters, as well as articles in our print magazine.

We will continue to bring you the best information that you can use to better your operation in 2017. What will change is how we deliver that information. National Hog Farmer magazine will continue to show up monthly in your mailbox. But gone are the “Weekly Preview” and “Weekly Wrap-Up” newsletters, only to be replaced by “National Hog Farmer Daily” that will come into your email Inbox Monday through Friday.

Each of the five daily newsletters will have a specific topic, highlighting subject matter to assist you in having the healthiest, most profitable hog operation moving forward.

A recent visit to has also shown that our website has received an overhaul. It is highly integrated and a one-stop shop for the latest news, in-depth research and valuable information for the swine business. Log on, take a look around, and by all means weigh in on your likes and dislikes of the website.

Just as the hog industry continues to evolve, so does National Hog Farmer. Thanks for allowing us along for the ride. Here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017.

MIDDAY-Midwest Digest - December 29, 2016

Max Armstrong looks at markets including traders' eyes on the upcoming wheat report, including talk that Kansas cut back significantly. There's greater attention to "move over" laws, which require drivers to move over when they see emergency vehicles on the shoulder; and Max shares the history of the Illinois version of the law known there as Scott's Law. And he reminds drivers to be cautious.

Midwest Digest is a twice-daily look at news from around the Midwest. Veteran broadcaster Max Armstrong offers news and commentary for the region.

MORNING-Midwest Digest - December 29, 2016

Max Armstrong talks about the dangers of severe cold weather, especially to the elderly. A Michigan mother wants a major retailer to change how it displays candy and magazines. He also looks at 2016 ethanol production levels, including how exports and domestic demand have boosted sales from Iowa's 43 plants. And the new Missouri Ag Director is Chris Chinn, an active Farm Bureau member, and was one of the first Faces of Farming and Ranching from the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.

And finally, Max shares news that the Salvation Army had a slow holiday start, but it appears that the kettles got filled as Christmas neared.

Midwest Digest is a twice-daily look at news from around the Midwest. Veteran broadcaster Max Armstrong offers news and commentary for the region.