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Articles from 2001 In February

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Product News

Pulsed Welding – Miller Electric Mfg. Co. introduces the Millermatic Pulser to solve aluminum metal inert gas (MIG) welding problems related to burn-through, warping or welding out of position. The pulser is an all-in-one MIG system that provides pulsed welding capabilities and permits welding aluminum as thin as 19 gauge. It features a 35-210 output amp (160 amps at 60% duty cycle). It comes equipped with two MIG guns. One is for welding with 0.030-in. and 0.035-in. aluminum wire, and one is for running 0.023-in. to 0.045-in. hard and cored wires in the short circuit and spray transfer modes. Contact: Miller Electric Mfg. Co. PO Box 100, Lithonia, GA 30058, 800/426-4553.

Waste Storage Treatment – Puremax Inc.'s Safelagoon technology provides waste storage treatment with little or no maintenance. The water treatment system eliminates the problems caused by scaling and algae in both the lines and the cool cells of the farm's fresh water system. It reduces odor and sludge and kills as much as 95% of fecal coliform. Contact: Puremax Inc., 237 Old River Road, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702, 800/877-5359.

Starter Diet – Omega Nutrition's Wean Assure is a highly digestible pig starter diet. It comes in a 2 mm.-pellet form and is designed for pigs weaned at 12 lb. and fed up to 20 lb. The pellets contain highly digestible cooked cereal grains combined with fish meal and milk products, and then balanced with vitamins, minerals and trace minerals. Contact: Omega Nutrition, 1273 Highway 15 South, Fairmont, MN 56031, 507/235-5116.

Cooling System – Farnam Equipment Products introduces Aqua-Breeze cooling system, a way to keep hogs cool. One unit can reduce the temperature of a 2,000-sq. ft. area by as much as 30F. The system works by "flash cooling" the air as water droplets are injected into a forced air stream and rapidly evaporated. The fan emits only 6 ft. of visible water vapor so that no water falls on the ground, walls or surrounding area. Contact: Farnam Equipment Products, 301 W. Osborn, Phoenix, AZ 85013-3997, 602/207-2168.

Pan Feeding System – The Turbomat 2 from Roxell Inc. is a pan feeding system for piglets and grower pigs. Feed and water are available from the same spot with 10 feeding places, each with four or six drinking nipples. Features include precise feed level adjustments, large pan, grill to keep animals out of the pan, good feed flow and easy cleaning. Contact: Roxell Inc., 3917 S. Old Mission Road, Springdale, AR 72764, 501/751-1944.

Heat Lamp Fixture – The Retroliter Hang Straight heat lamp fixture has an adjustable hanger attached to the 9-ft. power cord. Listed with Underwriters' Laboratories, the shock-absorbing, non-metallic shade will not dent or corrode and reduces the risk of damage to the heat lamp. Contact: RetroLite Corp. of America, 320 Jacksonville Road, Hatboro, PA 19040, 215/443-9370.

Bigger Bottle – Pfizer Animal Health now offers both RespiSure and RespiSure-One in one-liter size bottles. The bottle contains enough vaccine for 500 doses. A customized automatic syringe pack made for the bigger bottle is also available. The pack straps around the vaccinator's waist, and a 3-ft. tube connects the bottle to the pistol-grip syringe. The syringe automatically refills a 2-ml. dose every time the trigger is squeezed. Contact: Pfizer Animal Health, 812 Springdale Drive, Exton, PA 19341, 610/363-3785.

Boar Bot Accessories – The boar broom is a battery-powered sweeping device for use in hog barns. It sweeps for several hours between charges. Users can push it by hand or pull it behind Boar Bot, a four-wheel drive skid-steer unit originally designed to move a boar anywhere using radio remote control. The unit is from Swine Robotics Inc., which also introduced the Boar Hearse, designed to make dead animal removal easier. Contact: Swine Robotics Inc., 10858 - 365th Avenue, Leola, SD 57456, 605/439-3227.

Stock Trailers – Featherlite introduces new models of its stock and utility trailers. Model 8107 is a 16-ft., all-aluminum stock trailer featuring safety keepers on the cam and pressure latches and a new slam latch. Model 8120 features redesigned, lockable slider, safety keepers on pressure latches and rear door, a redesigned slam latch and a new drop gate latch. Model 8200 features a new lockable slider, redesigned slam latch and a new drop gate latch. Model 5320 features 53-in. sides, corrugated panel between the air spaces, deeper Plexiglas track (1/2 in from 1/4 in.), Plexiglas track on the top and bottom of the air spaces and optional aluminum trim. Contact: Featherlite Trailers, Hwy. 63 & 9, PO Box 320, Cresco, IA 52136, 319/547-6000.


Stabilizing Sow Herd Health

Sows and gilts with active or recent infections are more likely to shed a virus or bacteria to offspring. The goal of sow herd stabilization is to reduce that exposure.

Three key considerations for evaluating sow herd stability are: biosecurity and parity distribution, isolation and acclimation protocols and vaccination programs.

1. Biosecurity refers to ways to reduce disease introduction. Minimizing disease risk helps stabilize the immune status of swine units. Know what diseases are present on your farm, isolate new breeding stock after arrival, purchase breeding stock from one source, and use different boots and coveralls after sending cull animals or going to markets.

Also, minimize farm visitors, shower before entering the unit and establish traffic patterns to reduce exposure to disease-causing agents.

A written and well-defined biosecurity plan helps reinforce the importance of curbing disease entry.

2. Incoming animals are isolated to minimize disease introduction; 60 days is recommended. Acclimation ensures new introductions will be exposed to existing disease problems. Expose replacement gilts and boars to cull breeding stock to expose them to farm pathogens. Manure feedback and vaccination also are common practices.

Vaccination programs are important tools to help boost immunity in replacement animals. Each farm will have different needs based on location, disease loads, weaning age, immunity of the source farm and the perspective of the owner/manager.

First, assess what diseases are present. Serology or blood testing can help establish this information. Routine sow herd monitoring and the isolation/acclimation (I/A) area can ensure gilts have proper immunity.

Case Study No. 1

I was called to a 1,500-sow gilt multiplier. The farm had some respiratory disease and a chronic finisher cough. The breeding and gestation areas seemed to perform well. But sow herd stability was questioned. There were no isolation protocols. Blood samples were drawn in the sow herd and finishing herd from which replacements were selected. PRRS (porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome) and Mycoplasmal pneumonia titers were identified in late finishing. The sow herd had very low titers.

I recommended finding an isolation area for the finishing gilts. Because the PRRS titers were high, there was increased risk to the sow herd to take them directly into the gestation barn. We planned to remove the gilts at 180 lb. and move them offsite to allow time to build up natural immunity. Cull sows were taken to expose gilts to any other farm diseases. Gilts were vaccinated for parvovirus and leptospirosis, mycoplasma and PRRS in the isolation area.

In larger herds or where multiple gestation barns are available, we recommend housing gilts and first-parity females together and second parity and older sows in other gestation barns. In isolation areas, vaccination protocols and housing similar-aged animals together all help to lower the challenge or disease exposure to other herd mates. By decreasing this exposure you help minimize disease risk to other sows and offspring.

Case Study No. 2

I was called to a 1,200-sow, farrow-to-wean farm to evaluate some off-feed gestating sows. They were coughing and had fevers of 105F. The number of abortions increased from the previous week, and many lactating sows were also feverish. Many sows had a nasal discharge and a very characteristic barky cough.

I took blood samples and nasal swabs from sows with temperatures more than 105F. Blood samples showed very high antibody titers for the H3N2 strain of swine influenza virus (SIV).

We isolated SIV from nasal swabs. The entire breeding herd was placed on aspirin in the drinking water to help combat the fevers and get the sows eating. An autogenous SIV vaccine was made from the H3N2 farm isolate and used on the entire breeding herd. It was given twice in I/A for incoming gilts to increase the level of protection for SIV.

By blanket vaccinating the herd and ensuring that gilts are previously exposed and vaccinated for SIV, the sow herd becomes less active for SIV and more stabilized.

Sow herd stabilization is an important part of a herd health plan. Routine monitoring of the isolation area helps to ensure that gilts have been exposed to important pathogens on the farm.

Monitoring the sow herd through blood testing and observing for clinical signs of disease will help determine the success of the stabilization strategy. The goal of disease stabilization is to prevent clinical disease in the swine unit to minimize negative effects on production.

Contact your veterinarian to discuss sow herd stabilization and how to implement your herd health plan.

Change Illustrated by 15 Years of Sow Records

Two Indiana producers have used PigCHAMP sow records since their veterinary clinic first tested the industry's leading recordkeeping program.

The year was 1986. USDA's Hog & Pigs Report found 395,510 hog farms in the country on Dec. 1, 1985. Ninety-three percent of hog farms had less than 500 head. USDA reported a weaned pigs/litter average of 7.67 the previous fall. Recordkeeping on many hog farms meant logging information with pencil and paper.

In 1986, clients of Swine Veterinary Services, Greensburg, IN, began beta testing PigCHAMP's first sow herd recordkeeping program, which was being launched by the University of Minnesota.

"It was 1986, if you wanted to do PigCHAMP, you had to buy a computer," explains Larry Rueff, DVM at the clinic. "In the mid-80s, nobody did records. Today we take it for granted that people have the programs."

Charlie Beggs, Greensburg, and Jim Douglas, Flat Rock, IN, were two of the producers who began PigCHAMP records in 1986 or 1987. Both farms have used the information gathered on their sow productivity to expand and efficiently manage those larger sow herds.

Much like the PigCHAMP bureaus of today, the veterinary clinic staff did the data entry for producers in 1986.

"Both of these herds reflect the industry in the sense that they penmated 100- to 150-sow herds," Rueff says. "Today, they are total AI, total crate gestation, 300- and 700-sow herds, (respectively). The information they had for their 100 or 200 sows helped them make a decision to expand."

Indeed, Douglas took seven years of data on his 120-sow, penmated, outdoor gestated herd and decided to expand in 1994. His PigCHAMP records showed 16 pigs/sow/year and 68% farrowing percentage.

The herd was expanded to 300 sows, with gestation, farrowing and nursery facilities on the home farm and finishing at another site. But, Douglas did not realize the productivity gains he expected from the transition to crated indoor gestation and handmating.

"Since 1994, we were really challenged with getting productivity out of the sow herd, compared to what the norm should be," Douglas says. "Grow-finish and nursery performance were fine, but we continued to suffer in the sow herd."

Douglas' efforts were then divided. He expanded the herd to 700 sows and implemented total AI by 1997. In addition, he investigated why the new line of sows did not produce any more pigs than their outdoor-gestated predecessors. He set a goal - to reach the PigCHAMP national average. For reference, averages for 1999 were 76.4% farrowing percentage and 19.6 p/s/y.

"We questioned every avenue there was," Douglas says. "If you don't have sow productivity, you don't have anything. The rest of the system does not work."

So, Douglas and Rueff began examining every aspect of the operation. In fact, the expansion made the mystery even more complicated. Douglas had brought new employees and genetics into the operation at the same time.

First, they quickly determined no major health issues were causing the problems.

Second, gilt feeding and acclimation were examined and deemed to be correct.

Then, they examined the sensitive issue of personnel. Rueff explains that they checked the employees' work methods and how they treated the animals. They found the employees were properly trained and performing their jobs well.

The last link in the chain was genetics. Between 1994 and 1998, Douglas changed genetics three times. First, new animals were brought in when the herd was expanded to 300 sows. In 1996, he switched to another line from the same supplier but found no improvement in productivity.

Finally, in April 1998, with the farrowing percentage still at 70% and 7.9 pigs/weaned/litter, Douglas decided to switch maternal line genetics again, turning to Premier Genetics gilts.

Records now show they had found the glitch in the system.

"The reality was that previous genetics did not fit this farm," Rueff says. "That point was proven out by the next step that different genetics worked better."

Indeed, in 1999, as the farm incorporated the new genetics without depopulating, farrowing rate increased to 76%, and p/s/y climbed to 18.

Douglas' 2000 farrowing rate increased to 80.3% and p/s/y to 19.1. Pigs weaned/litter is at 8.3. Sow mortality dropped from 10% in 1998 to 3.6% in 2000.

Rueff acknowledges that the pigs weaned/litter needs improvement. "We still have some weaning issues to work on, but our productivity has moved drastically forward," he says.

Batch Farrow System Beggs used his records to determine what type of operation he and a partner needed when they expanded their operation to 300 sows.

In 1997, he had 100 sows split into three groups with outdoor gestation and natural mating. He expanded to 300 sows with batch farrowing, crated indoor gestation and AI. Five groups were formed, with 13 farrowings a year.

Weaning was dropped from 4-5 weeks of age to 19 days of age. All-in, all-out (AIAO) was implemented.

"The decision was made to be a part of the new production technologies," Beggs says. Clinic records reinforced this production style's success.

Beggs admits being skeptical that breeding sows as soon as five days after weaning was effective. He also questioned the effectiveness of AI and the viability of early weaning 19-day-old pigs.

Matt Ackerman, DVM, produced the PigCHAMP records to support the effectiveness of the changes.

"We have data today that proves that those concerns were unfounded," he says. "At that point, having a database of other producers' records was key."

In order to fill the 48 farrowing crates with sows or gilts who farrow within five days, Beggs hired a part-time breeding manager. His sole responsibility was to breed sows for one week every month.

That move freed Beggs and other employees to handle the cropping side of the operation. Beggs' son is responsible for the farrowing house care.

Hiring the breeding manager has paid off for Beggs with a farrowing rate of 87.2%. Beggs' target is to have 50 or 51 sows in a 58-sow group farrow a litter. The farm is exceeding the target of 432 pigs weaned/group by 5%.

A Call to Arms

In the past few weeks, I have talked with dozens of pork producers about the pork checkoff referendum. Time and time again I have heard the same comment from those who voted "no" in the referendum.

"I didn't vote against the checkoff; I voted `no' to send a message to NPPC administrators and leadership because my concerns were not being taken seriously."

Trust me, your message came through loud and clear. The 50:50 split in the voting sent a resounding message.

Half of you either do not approve of how your checkoff dollars have been allocated or, for whatever reason, you don't clearly understand the limitations of how they can be spent. Whatever the case, the outcome signals serious concerns that must be addressed.

As I write this, a ruling on the outcome of the referendum is stalled in a Michigan court. I hope the short hiatus will give everyone on both sides of this issue some time to reflect on what the outcome will mean.

Whether the checkoff continues or not, I hope you will think long and hard about the truth and consequences of the outcome.

Think through both scenarios thoroughly. Allow yourself to visualize the pork industry with or without a checkoff. Allow both scenarios to sink into your core because the work ahead could well be the most important work we have ever undertaken.

Irrelevant Victor Whoever emerges the victor, it will soon become irrelevant.

The sooner both sides can shake off their differences, the quicker we can set about the business of building a solid, progressive future for the most efficient pork production system in the world.

I'm not being dramatic here. It has to be done.

This is a call to arms folks. We are at a point in the pork industry that will set a new course for all pork producers.

Think about the power of the "Pork - The Other White Meat" slogan that is programmed in the minds of our domestic, even our global, customers.

Think about the access and flow of information in today's open pork industry. Stubbornness or shortsightedness could eventually make it all proprietary and available to but a few.

Think about the value of the Pork Quality Assurance program and what it means to others in the pork chain.

Think about the gains made in domestic and global pork consumption. Or, the potential of new ethnic and fast food markets.

Think about pork's emergence as a major, acceptable protein source in the foodservice market.

Think about the critical need for the united front against animal rights activists as they challenge proven, efficient production systems.

Think about the Water Keepers' class action lawsuits being waged. As an industry leader pointed out: "These guys are hell bent on destroying pork producers, and they do not care if you are the largest in the industry or the smallest. Once they establish a precedent - if they don't like having your pigs nearby - they will use that precedent against you."

We have tremendous talent and vision in the pork industry - people with a desire to do the right thing.

Another Turning Point Industry veterans cite the Moline 90 meeting held in 1965 as a turning point for the U.S. pork industry. It was. From that meeting came an industry-unifying program called "Blueprint for Progress," which served as a master strategy to organize pork producers. It also served as a springboard for the self-help checkoff programs.

We need such an event in 2001.

The checkoff referendum was the most divisive event I've seen in nearly three decades of pork industry reporting. What a shame it would be if we frittered away our strengths and opportunities as a result. The chicken and beef folks would be ecstatic if we did.

Let's not. Instead, let's bolster the pride and vision of those who remain at the industry's core. Let's rally behind this defining point in our industry's history. Let's reach beyond traditional pork producer circles and include all of the beneficiaries of our production, quality and promotional gains. It's time for all in the pork chain to contribute dollars and sense.

I believe this industry is on the verge of great advancements. At the risk of sounding evangelical, I'll quote these words of a friend who said it better than I could: "It's all about leadership now; it's all about vision; it's all about selflessness; it's all about creating the future; it's all about doing the right thing. It is nothing else."

No matter the outcome of the checkoff referendum, we are at a turning point in the U.S. pork industry. I pledge to do whatever I can to keep it strong. I hope you will do the same.

Manure Value Rises as Fertilizer Prices Soar

Hog manure may be just the ticket to replace high-priced, commercial fertilizer as corn farmers make plans for spring plantings. Here are some steps to estimate the current value of manure.

Hog manure is definitely one of the potential solutions to the fertilizer cost and availability issue, according to industry experts.

The cost of anhydrous ammonia has nearly doubled, due to the skyrocketing price of natural gas, which is used to manufacture the popular nitrogen fertilizer.

While the exact cost and availability of anhydrous ammonia will not be known by crop farmers until spring, soil scientists are already discussing alternative methods of fertilizing the nation's 2001 corn crop.

"The value of manure is increasing directly to the price of nitrogen," says Mike Schmitt, Extension soil scientist at the University of Minnesota (U of M).

Schmitt notes two key factors in figuring the value of hog manure, both to the pork producer and the crop farmer.

The first key is the cost of the commercial fertilizer replaced by manure. Nitrogen, in the form of anhydrous ammonia, costs about $0.14/lb. in 2000. This year, the cost is estimated at $0.25/lb.

If a nitrogen recommendation of 140 lb./acre is used, the fertilizer cost for one acre of corn will rise from $20/acre in 2000 to $35/acre this year.

Based on U of M research, hog manure from finishing barns contains an average of 56 lb. of nitrogen/1,000 gal. If the manure is injected into the soil in the spring, about 70% of the nitrogen is available to that year's crop. Therefore, application of 4,000 gal./acre provides 157 lb. of nitrogen/acre, which is enough for a 140 bu./acre crop.

The second key to remember is the cost of transporting and applying the manure. Schmitt suggests using local commercial manure haulers' rates to estimate this cost. If the going rate is 0.75/gal., then the application cost for that 4,000 gal./acre is $30.

Therefore, a pork producer can estimate a value of $30-35/acre for 4,000 gal./acre application of finishing barn manure.

Pork producers should not think of selling hog manure as a profit center but as a way to defray the cost of production, says Leonard Meador, Global Eco-Tech, Rossville, IN.

The current fertilizer prices may serve as a catalyst for both crop and livestock producers to re-examine the nutrient value of manure.

"Manure will take on a new meaning in the next couple of years," Meador says. "We will see more attention to the nutrient value of manure. Higher costs of commercial fertilizer will result in better utilization of manure."

Steps for Selling Manure Meador suggests taking the following steps if you are a pork producer with manure to sell to a crop farmer:

1. Test the manure for nutrient levels. Using book values for manure when crop nutrient prices are high is like playing with fire, he says.

2. Inform the crop producer how the manure will be applied so he understands what will happen to his fields.

3. Based on the manure testing, provide the crop farmer with the nutrient figures and the amount of manure available.

4. Use soil tests to determine the existing soil nutrients and how much manure is agronomically necessary for the crop.

5. Estimate the cost of application, taking into consideration equipment needs, distance from barns, application window and labor.

6. Negotiate reimbursement. Both parties can benefit from the agreement. The crop farmer receives the nutrients for less cost than commercial fertilizer, and the pork producer reduces his cost of manure handling.

7. Write up a brokerage agreement and sign it. The agreement should log where the manure came from, to which fields it was applied, who applied it, the application rate, date of application and weather conditions.

Pork producers may have to educate their neighbors about manure and the available nitrogen/1,000 gal., Schmitt says. Testing of the manure will back up that educational effort.