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Cutting Gestation Feed Pays Clear Dividends

Typically in the Holden Farms' 30,000-sow production system, keeping sows slightly on the heavier side and with a slightly higher backfat of 3/4-in. (18-19 mm) has been the approach to optimizing genetic potential, says Nick Holden of Northfield, MN.

But subpar reproductive performance and 15% sow mortality forced the family-owned pork production company to take a different tact in October 2003, Holden reported at last fall's Leman Swine Conference in St. Paul, MN.

The sow gestation-feeding program was aggressively altered, dropping from an average daily feed intake of 5.5 lb. to 4.2 lb., and reducing backfat to 0.60-.68 in. (15-17 mm).

“This was accomplished by reducing (feed intake for) many sows that were at 4.5 to 5.5 lb./day during the first 12 weeks of gestation, down to 4 lb., and some as low as 3.5 lb.,” explains Holden.

Now, instead of feeding 6 lb. three and four weeks before farrowing, then 8 lb. the last two weeks before farrowing, then workers simply feed 6 lb. two weeks before farrowing.

“Any sows still over-conditioned were kept at 4.0-4.5 lb. until farrowing,” he adds.

Results Encouraging

“After a three- to four-month transition period, performance has been very encouraging,” reports Holden. “After 14 months of reducing gestation intake, 80% of the herd (a 2,200-sow farm called Triagra) was considered in good condition,” (Table 1).

Concerned that sows would get too thin, the base level for gestation feeding was gradually raised 0.3 lb., bringing it up to 4.5 lb. by December 2004.

“Today a majority of the herd is at a 4.5-lb./day average setting, and holding condition well,” says Holden.

The changes in gestation feeding levels have also resulted in substantial improvements in lactation feed intake, from 11.9 lb. to 13.9 lb./sow/day, on average, he notes.

In turn, breed-back and subsequent born-alive numbers have improved, and weaning weights have increased by more than 0.5 lb./pig during this time period.

Future Work

While the feeding program is working well for most sows, due to genetic differences within the herd, not all animals respond the same to the different feeding levels, explains Holden.

“Thus, some lines must be reduced to 4 lb. for a substantially longer time than other lines, and some down to 3.5 lb. for shorter periods of time,” he says.

Holden also notes that adjustments in average gestation feeding levels alone don't account for improvements in sow performance.

“We have worked hard on improving the quality of gilt entered, along with improvements in our boar stud, to help improve feet and leg issues and conformation,” he says.

Table 1. Some Selected Performance Numbers from Triagra (Holden Farms)
Parameter October 2003 April 2005
Farrowing rate, % 77.3 90.4
Born alive 9.8 11.7
Stillborns/litter 1.4 0.7
Mummies/litter 0.3 0.2
Percent bred by Day 7 77.5 94.0
Wean-to-estrus interval, days 7.7 5.2
Sow death, % 15.3 9.4

Innovation, Hard Work Required

Raising, processing and selling your own pork to supermarkets and restaurants can be a recipe for success in the pork industry.

Large, vertically integrated producers like Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods prove it every day.

With a bit of innovation and a lot of hard work, direct marketing can be a successful strategy for small and mid-sized producers, too.

With production from their 4,000-head finishing operation in Perth County, Ontario, Fred and Ingrid de Martines have proven direct marketing can be successful.

Every week, the de Martines ship 70-80 market hogs to Quality Meats' processing plant in Toronto. But, unlike the 25,000 other hogs received at the plant, the de Martines' hogs are segregated every step of the way from the time they are unloaded.

With a country-of-origin labeling (COOL) system already in place for the Japanese market, Quality Meats is able to hold de Martines' pigs separately and then track them through processing.

The de Martines buy back the primal cuts and deliver them to local butcher shops for further processing into specific cuts, which Fred de Martines needs to fill his weekly orders. “For instance, if you take a whole loin and take the backbone off before you sell it to a restaurant, it's a simple way to move a fresh loin and get a much better price,” de Martines explains.

Some of his pork is sold to small supermarkets, but restaurants and hotels in cities across southern Ontario purchase most of it.

His customers like to know where their food is coming from, so being able to offer pork raised on his farm is a big selling feature.

Most orders are received on Mondays and Tuesdays, then delivered on Thursdays, he explains. “Once you get to know your customers, the orders don't change that much. Menus don't change often, but when they do, I talk it over with the chefs to make sure we know what changes are coming.”

All About Control

For de Martines, the advantage to direct marketing boils down to just one word — control.

“Having control over pricing makes all the difference; it's what makes this fun,” he says. “I'm not just hoping to get a price from the market. I set my own margins. My chefs expect me to be making a profit. From time to time they ask me, ‘Are you getting your margins?’ They want to make sure that we are, because they don't want to worry about finding a new supplier. We're not used to that in farming.

“If you can't get the right price for all the different cuts, you're better off to just sell them to the packing plant,” he continues.

Direct marketing is often touted as a way for very small producers, those with a couple hundred hogs or less, to make a few extra dollars. In Canada, those hogs are slaughtered at smaller, provincially-inspected slaughter facilities, with the pork sold through farmers' markets or farm stores.

De Martines tried that, too, but quickly ran into bottlenecks.

“We started off with whole hogs at small abattoirs,” he explains. “But, it is virtually impossible to get any volume doing whole hogs, because you end up with a lot of cuts that don't move at certain times of the year. Being able to buy back primal cuts alleviates that completely, because I don't have the problem of a high inventory of hocks and jowls, or having too many hams that end up being ground into sausage. There is just no money in inventory. It's too expensive.”

It seems that de Martines has found a way to have the best of both worlds. He has enough volume to sell into the commercial pork market, but he's adding value to a big chunk of his pork by selling into the wholesale and industrial market.

Not Rocket Science

“Developing markets is not rocket science,” says Bert Dening, a business development officer with the Alberta government. “Some producers who are direct marketing their animals have their own customers and deliver. Others sell through farmers' markets. Only one's imagination limits what a person can do.”

Fred de Martines finds his customers by asking to talk to a restaurant's executive chef. After introducing himself and describing his products, he finds most are quite interested.

“I am selling them the same product they can get from their current supplier, at a competitive price, but with better service,” he says.

As an example, de Martines says he can outshine any large company with his tight turnaround. “We've had calls on a Saturday night saying, ‘Could you please bring out some more product?’ because they didn't have anything for Sunday brunch. That's where we can make a difference and create some markets.”

De Martines' also offers perks to his customers. Not only has he turned his identity preserved (IP) product into a great selling feature, he has also turned his farm into a tourist destination. Brochures describing his farm and operation are available at the hotels he supplies. The brochures invite guests to take part in a farm tour, free of charge, in return for loyal patronage.

“It's a niche market, and you've got to play on the things that the competition can't do,” he adds.

Social Skills Required

Thinking of direct marketing for your operation? Better brush up on your social skills. To make an extra $34-$42/animal requires dealing with the public, which in itself is a separate skill set, says Dening.

“You're not just producing pigs anymore,” he says. “Now you're on the phone and have to deal with the abattoir, the customers and money. It's a different world than just shipping pigs to a big plant and getting a check every week. If you don't like people and just want to work in the barn, then you better forget direct marketing.”

And, de Martines adds, “If you don't like to be busy, don't do this, because it can sometimes cut into your social life. You've got to be available almost seven days a week. It's quiet in January and February. We enjoy that time of year and like to go on holidays. But we don't go on holidays in the summertime, because that's our busy time.”

Direct-marketed meat in the province of Alberta alone was a $30-million industry in 2004. The lion's share was in beef sales, but direct-marketed pork sales accounted for $4.2 million. While small compared to the dollar value of the commodity industry, Dening believes it will easily double to $60 million as smaller hog farms struggle to find viable options.

De Martines loves the contact he gets with his customers through direct selling. “By talking with people who are using our products, we find out what their needs are,” he says.

“I've told so many producers that if they would just do that, they would gain a much better understanding of their own industry. The vast majority say they'd much rather milk an extra cow or feed an extra sow than have to do what we're doing. They like to load their hogs and watch the back end of the truck as it drives down the lane. That's fine, and not everybody can do what we're doing, but I would certainly love to see more people try.”

Editor's note: all values expressed in U.S. dollars.


By Lorne McClinton

The Newfoundland hog producers association could hold its convention in a phone booth. Roosevelt Thompson, a pork producer from Point Leamington, operates the only remaining hog farm on the island of Newfoundland, Canada's most eastern province.

Until 1992, when the provincial government decided to close the island's last remaining hog slaughtering plant, there were dozens of farms. With no slaughter facilities, everyone took a government buyout and left the business. Everyone, that is, except Thompson.

Thompson expanded. Today he runs a thriving hog operation, and credits his success to his daughter's Cabbage Patch doll.

“When all the hog producers in Newfoundland went out of business, I was caught wondering what I was going to do,” he says. “My daughter had a cabbage patch doll that (as part of its marketing campaign) had adoption papers with it. This gave me the idea that perhaps we could start an adopt-a-pig (program).”

Thompson's adopt-a-pig concept was simple. Customers paid a C$50 ($42.50 US) down payment on a month-old pig, and Thompson raised it. When the pig reached market weight four months later, the customer paid an additional C$200 ($170 US) and received their live pig.

Customers could pay an additional fee to have the animal processed into pork chops, bacon, ham and sausage. Most paid it.

By the time all the extra fees are in, a pig can sell for as much as C$300 ($255 US), but the average is C$265 ($225.25 US).

Thompson made up adoption papers like flyers, then posted them in a town two hours away.

“After I put out that flyer, I really couldn't keep up with the business,” he says. “I had to stop putting the flyer out because I was getting swamped with orders. It's now almost 15 years later, and we're still getting orders coming in to adopt-a-pig.”

In 1992, he had about 75 sows. Today he has 150. “We're still expanding slightly, but mainly concentrating on processing,” he says.

A big advantage to Thompson's adopt-a-pig program is it lets him know in advance how many pigs he will need to market four months later. Of course, there's also the added cash flow advantage of having the pigs paid for in advance.

“If you multiply a thousand pigs by $50, it gives you a cash flow,” Thompson says. “Some will pay the $50 down payment and then make monthly $25 payments. By the time the pig is 5 months old, it is almost completely paid for. I've got money in the bank before the pig has left the barn.”

It's also a big advantage to know in advance how much each pig will return. On average, Thompson estimates he gets $1.75/lb. ($1.49/lb. US) for his hogs.

Since he is dealing directly with the consumer, not with a processor, he can set his own prices, which he's raised gradually over the years.

“Usually, the customer pays $2/lb. for pork chops in the store,” Thompson says. “If the price of pork the producer gets goes down to 35¢, pork chops are still going to be $2/lb. in the store. The store makes the money. Consumers don't really see the benefit of those low prices when the price goes down for the producers.”

Any excess pork is featured in truckload sales. Thompson sends out flyers noting when his refrigerated truck will be in an area. Fresh pork is available by the side, and cut, packaged and ready for the freezer, he says. The flyer features a diagram of a side of pork broken down into its various cuts. Smoked and cured bacon and ham costs extra.

PMWS: New Mystery Disease?

Just as progress is being made on PRRS, another “mystery” disease surfaces.

The newest “mystery disease” is PMWS, or postweaning multi-systemic wasting syndrome. It shares many features with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS):

  • Both started out as mysteries to scientists and veterinarians;

  • Both seemed to begin in Europe and slowly spread to North America;

  • Both are very economically devastating in the most severe form;

  • Both seemingly have a porcine-specific virus as their root cause;

  • Both have distinct strains that dictate the severity of the disease; and

  • Both have had scientists scratching their heads and arguing in the early stages of the syndrome.

The other similarity is the variation in clinical signs and severity between farms. Nearly every farm and population of pigs has evidence of circovirus — with some farms seriously impacted, and others showing little or no clinical signs. In some cases, there may be one finishing barn out of four with severe signs, while the pigs in the other three barns remain clinically normal.

Disease Symptoms

Up to half the pigs in a group can be affected in severe cases, but generally 10-20% are affected; nearly every pig that shows clinical signs of PMWS eventually dies. The clinical signs are pretty well described by the syndrome's name: postweaning multi-systemic wasting syndrome.

Most recently reported cases occur not only postweaning, but also post-nursery in the early stages of grow-finish production.

Many infected grower pigs carry a respiratory component of the disease in addition to the wasting syndrome.

Clinical signs, other than simply falling back, can be very subtle: increased respiratory rate, pale in color, rougher coat and slightly dehydrated. Often, the caretakers report: “The pigs just ain't doin' right.”

A small number of pigs in the group may have skin lesions or dermatitis, also often associated with kidney problems. This condition is referred to as PDNS, or porcine dermatitis and nephropathy syndrome.


A definitive diagnosis of PMWS requires the veterinarian to observe clinical signs, perform a necropsy on a typical pig and submit tissues to a diagnostic lab for confirmation.

Control of PMWS

While there are no vaccines or treatments commercially available in the United States for PMWS, a number of management practices seem to help control this syndrome.

First, the producer must attempt to eliminate or minimize the effects of other pathogens commonly impacting pig populations, including PRRS virus, swine influenza virus, parvovirus and Mycoplasmal pneumonia.

Next, control the secondary bacterial pathogens such as Pasteurella multocida and salmonella with properly timed treatments.

Finally, reassess all management practices that have been helpful for other disease outbreaks:

  • Adhere strictly to all-in, all-out pig flows;

  • Decrease stocking density and utilize hospital pens or barns in order to promptly remove affected pigs;

  • Minimize mixing and moving of unaffected pigs;

  • If possible, stick to a single source of pigs from suppliers with no history of PMWS. It may also be crucial to switch genetic lines.

  • Concentrate on all biosecurity protocols, and follow disinfectant measures to minimize the spread of viral pathogens.

Case Study

The manager of a 10,000-head finishing site called to report that “quite a few” pigs were falling back and beginning to appear unthrifty. This group of pigs had been placed about eight weeks earlier, and had been performing well to that point. It was late summer, and since the new corn crop had yet to reach the mill, the manager was concerned about feed quality and the affect it could be having on the pigs.

Upon examination, I found that 5% of the pigs marked as “fall behinds” were obviously distressed and had a slightly increased respiratory rate. One pig had PDNS lesions.

At necropsy, I found that the affected pigs had rather mild lung lesions and marked edema of the spiral colon, along with a slight jaundice. Blood and tissues were collected and immediately submitted to the diagnostic laboratory.

The manager immediately removed the affected pigs to hospital pens and treated them individually with a broad-spectrum, long-acting injectable antimicrobial to address the respiratory component of the symptoms.

Attention was given to ventilation, temperature, stocking density and feed quality to assure optimal pig comfort.

While the laboratory confirmed moderate lesions indicative of PMWS and the presence of porcine circovirus Type 2, the early intervention in this case appeared to forestall severe losses.

Spreadsheet Identifies Limiting Amino Acids

One of the best ways to reduce nitrogen excretion by pigs is to reduce the dietary protein level by supplementing with amino acids.

This requires knowledge of the order in which the amino acids become limiting as dietary protein, and the relative magnitude of difference between that order. This information is fairly well known for corn-soybean meal diets, but is less known for alternative feedstuffs.

To bridge this gap, a user-friendly Microsoft Excel program was designed to identify the limiting amino acids in various combinations of feed ingredients for pigs at all stages of growth, and for gestating and lactating sows.

Various feedstuffs that contribute amino acids are graphically illustrated in the order that they become limiting.

The program converts the dietary concentrations of amino acids to a percentage of the pig's requirement, then regresses those percentages on the inclusion level of the major protein sources in the diet. As the protein source decreases from a level meeting >100% of the pig's amino acid requirements to a level of zero, the regression line for each amino acid intersects a horizontal line, which is set as 100% of the requirement for each amino acid. By following the horizontal line, one can readily assess the order and spacing between the amino acids as they become limiting.

The program applies to amino acids on a total, apparent-digestible or true-digestible basis. An economic component is also included.

With this program, nutritionists can identify potentially limiting amino acids in different feedstuffs or growth stages. It also helps pinpoint the amount of intact protein that can be replaced with amino acids to reduce nitrogen excretion.

An example of how this spreadsheet can be applied is shown in Figure 1.

The program is free of charge and can be accessed at:

Researchers: Gary Cromwell, Beob Kim and Merlin Lindemann, University of Kentucky. Contact Cromwell by phone (859) 257-7534; fax (859) 323-1027; or e-mail [email protected].

Phase Feeding Affects Sow Productivity

When regulations in the Netherlands required that ammonia emissions be cut by 50%, animal scientists at Wageningen University looked at phase-feeding sows a low-protein, low-phosphorus diet.

Gestating sows account for about 85% of phosphorus and nitrogen excretion, and lactating sows, 55%, says Martin Verstegen, an animal nutrition professor at Wageningen. Nitrogen is a bigger issue in his country, he adds.

Addressing the Minnesota Nutrition Conference on parity and phase feeding, Verstegen presented results of the study.

Sows were fed a control diet or phase-fed diet for four parities in the 185-sow study. The control group received a conventional gestation diet containing 13.5% protein and 4.7 grams of phosphorus per kg. The phase-fed group received a diet of 11.8% protein and 4.1 g/kg. phosphorus in the beginning of gestation. Sows of Parities 1, 2, 3 and 4 were fed the low-protein, low-phosphorus diet during the first 4, 8, 10 and 12 weeks of gestation, respectively. All lactating sows received the same commercial diet containing 16.5% protein and 6.0 g/kg. phosphorus.

Gestating sows were housed in cubicle, free-access stalls or in groups with an electronic sow-feeding system. Sows were locked in the cubicles during feeding.

Results of the study showed:

  • Phase feeding does not affect culling rate.

  • Phase feeding does not affect body weight or backfat thickness over four parities.

  • Phase feeding did not affect numbers born live, still-borns, birth weight, number weaned, weaning weight and wean-to-estrus interval.

  • In Parity 1 and 2 sows, phase-feeding increased the percentage that recycled after first breeding. In Parity 1, recycles increased from 9.1 to 17%. In Parity 2, it increased from 14 to 24%.

  • In Parities 3 and 4, the percentage of sows that returned to estrus was similar between groups.

  • Phase feeding reduced nitrogen and phosphorus excretion by 4.5%/sow/year.

  • Replacement rate, which averages 45-48% in the Netherlands, was lower for phase-fed females.

The return-to-estrus issue in early parity females makes a low-protein diet unadvisable, notes Verstegen. Sows are still gaining weight at that age and need more protein. In Parity 3 and 4 sows, however, a low-protein diet during early gestation did not hurt performance. Keep in mind, the Dutch scientist says, that if only Parity 3 and older sows are phase-fed, the reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus excretion will be lower than the 4.5% found in their research.

Irradiating Spray-Dried Plasma Improves Nursery Pig Performance

Feeding irradiated, spray-dried animal plasma in the nursery may help get pigs off to a better start, compared to feeding them non-irradiated plasma in the Phase 1 diet, according to Kansas State University (KSU) researchers.

In recent trials, KSU scientists achieved equal performance results between pigs fed irradiated, spray-dried animal plasma and pigs fed pelleted nursery diets. The researchers evaluated the effects of feeding both meal and pelleted diets with regular or irradiated, spray-dried animal plasma.

Irradiation greatly reduces the bacterial levels in plasma. Pelleting also reduces the overall bacterial levels in the diet.

The researchers found irradiating the plasma greatly elevated performance of pigs fed the meal diets, but had little impact on pigs fed the pelleted diets.

For the overall research period, pigs fed the meal diet containing irradiated plasma had similar growth performance as pigs fed the pelleted diets with either the irradiated or non-irradiated plasma.

In the 25-day trial, 192 pigs went on test weighing around 13.2 lb. and averaging 21 days of age. Pigs were randomly allotted to pens of six pigs/pen and six pens/treatment. Four dietary treatments were evaluated. The main dietary treatments were a meal or pelleted form of a single diet, with irradiated, spray-dried animal plasma; or non-irradiated, spray-dried animal plasma fed for 11 days during Phase 1. A common diet was fed from Day 11 to 25 during Phase 2.

Pigs fed pelleted diets from the first day of the experiment to Day 3 had both a greater average daily gain and average daily feed intake, in addition to an improved feed-to-gain ratio when compared to pigs fed meal diets.

Irradiation of spray-dried animal plasma had no effect on performance from the first day of the experiment to the third day.

From Day 3 to 11, pigs fed irradiated, spray-dried animal plasma in meal form had similar growth performance to those pigs fed pelleted treatments.

There is some speculation that the heat and conditioning of ingredients before pelleting may be contributing to the improved performance seen when starting nursery pigs on pellets, as compared to starting pigs on meal diets.

It has also been demonstrated that irradiation of spray-dried animal plasma significantly reduces bacterial levels and results in improved nursery pig performance.

KSU researchers found the meal diet with the irradiated plasma source was only slightly reduced in the total bacterial plate count, compared to the non-irradiated meal diet.

Irradiation costs approximately 10¢/lb. of product irradiated. However, other lower-cost technologies, such as formaldehyde-based Termin-8, have shown similar benefits by reducing bacteria in feed ingredients and improving pig performance.

Researchers: Crystal Groesbeck; Mike Tokach; Joel DeRouchey; Robert Goodband; Steve Dritz, DVM; and Jim Nelssen, Jon Bergstrom, Casey R. Neill, Kelly R. Brown and Nolan Z. Frantz, Kansas State University. Contact Tokach at (785) 532-2032.

Table 1. Composition of Diets, As-Fed Basis
Item Day 0 to 11a Day 11 to 25b
Corn 44.02 53.71
Soybean meal, 46.5% calcium phosphorus 19.40 31.54
Spray-dried whey 20.00 10.00
Spray-dried animal plasma 5.00
Menhaden fish meal 5.00
Soy oil 3.00
Monocalcium phosphate, 21% phosphorus 0.75 1.50
Limestone 0.65 0.95
Salt 0.25 0.35
Vitamin premix 0.25 0.25
Trace-mineral premix 0.15 0.15
Antibioticc 0.70 0.70
Zinc oxide 0.38
L-Threonine 0.08 0.13
L-Lysine HCl 0.23 0.33
DL-Methionine 0.15 0.15
Total 100.00 100.00
Calculated analysis
Total lysine, % 1.50 1.30
Metabolizable energy, kcal/lb 1,552 1,474
Protein, % 22.6 20.9
Calcium, % 0.88 0.84
Phosphorus, % 0.80 0.76
Available phosphorus, % 0.57 0.46
Lysine:calorie ratio, g./Mcal 4.38 4.00
aThe Phase 1 (Day 0 to 11) diet was feed in either meal or pelleted form with irradiated, spray-dried animal plasma or non-irradiated, spray-dried animal plasma.
bThe Phase 2 (Day 11 to 25) diet was a common diet fed to all pigs in meal form.
cNeoterramycin 10/10
Table 2. Aerobic Bacterial Concentration
Item Total Plate Count, CFU/g. Total Coliform Count, CFU/g.
Spray-dried animal plasma
Plasma, non-irradiated 110,000 < 10
Plasma, irradiateda < 10 < 10
Diet with non-irradiated plasmaa
Meal 26,000 390
Pellet 2,000 < 10
Diet with irradiated plasma
Meal 21,000 < 10
Pellet 4,800 < 10
aSpray-dried animal plasma was irradiated at 11.92 kGy.
Table 3. Effects of Meal and Pelleted Diets with or without Irradiated Spray-Dried Animal Plasmaa
Non-irradiated Plasma Irradiated Plasma
Datab Meal Pellet Meal Pellet
Day 0 to 3
ADG 0.50 0.65 0.48 0.68
ADFI 0.29 0.37 0.26 0.32
F/G 0.58 0.57 0.64 0.55
Day 3 to 11
ADG 0.67 0.85 0.87 0.88
ADFI 0.94 0.99 1.03 0.99
F/G 1.40 1.19 1.18 1.12
Day 0 to 11
ADG 0.62 0.79 0.77 0.83
ADFI 0.76 0.82 0.83 0.82
F/G 1.22 1.04 1.09 0.99
Day 11 to 25
ADG 0.88 0.96 0.96 0.95
ADFI 1.13 1.28 1.25 1.27
F/G 1.30 1.33 1.31 1.34
Day 0 to 25
ADG 0.78 0.89 0.88 0.90
ADFI 0.99 1.09 1.09 1.09
F/G 1.27 1.23 1.23 1.21
aA total of 192 pigs (six pigs per pen and 8 pens per treatment) with an average initial weight of 13.9 ± 1.8 lb were used in the study.
bData is provided for average daily gain (ADG), average daily feed intake (ADFI) and feed/gain (F/G).

NPPC Supports EPA's OK of Air Agreements

Agreement protects producers from penalties for emissions violations.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) recent approval of air consent agreements, which protect animal feeding operations from EPA enforcement actions, has drawn support from the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).

Livestock producers who signed the agreements will be exempt from past air emission violations and from potential infractions over the next four years.

Later this year, EPA will embark on a two-year air emissions monitoring study of animal feeding operations. The data will be compiled to develop emissions estimates for farms that can be applied nationwide.

So far, EPA has approved 20 consent agreements, 10 from the swine industry and 10 from the egg industry.

That action paves the way for EPA to approve consent agreements signed by 2,700 producers, comprising about 13,000 operations, including 4,900 hog operations.

A key component of the EPA agreement, which NPPC helped negotiate, is the EPA-approved monitoring and research study conducted by independent researchers and supported by pork checkoff funds.

The study is expected to help develop a sound, reasonable and effective air emissions regulatory program.

NPPC Opposes EPA Feeding Rule Deadline

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has filed comments on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) new deadline for pork producers to comply with a pending rule on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

EPA proposes March 30, 2007 as the deadline, even though the agency doesn't expect to publish a final rule until the end of 2006.

“Both the states and farms will clearly need more time to respond” to the final rule, NPPC says.

The courts forced the EPA to revise its 2003 CAFO rule, and the agency proposed new deadlines.

In its comments, NPPC also objected to a single deadline for pork producers to propose and implement nutrient management plans. It suggested two deadlines, because proposed plans must be reviewed and approved by EPA, be subject to public review and comment and incorporated into discharge permits.

Illinois Awarded Swine Genome Grant

The University of Illinois (UofI) was awarded $10 million by the Agriculture Department to provide the initial genome sequence of the pig.

U of I animal geneticists Lawrence Schook and Jonathon Beever recently provided a comparison of the human and pig genomes, and will now take their work to the next level.

“This is the ultimate comparison,” says Schook, project director. “We've had the pieces for the human genome and the pig in a side-by-side comparison. But now we'll be able to see how the various proteins in the genes work together to make, for example, a human toenail as opposed to a pig hoof.”

While there are remarkable similarities between pigs and humans, they are also very different. “There may be 2 or 3% of the genome that actually determine whether the organism becomes a pig or a human,” says Schook. “This information will show those differences.”

The $10 million will provide half the funds needed for the project. Funding commitments have also come from foreign countries, state pork producer associations and the National Pork Board ($750,000).


In the article “PMWS Sweeps Across Ontario,” on page 15 in the Jan. 15, 2006 issue of National Hog Farmer, Canadian swine veterinarian Martin Misener discusses the impact that porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) has on sow herds.

The article incorrectly states that Misener successfully vaccinated sows and then injected them with Pulmotil to reduce the severity of the vaccine response. The article should have stated he used Pulmotil pre-mix in the feed.

Not All DDGS Created Equal

The current boom in U.S. ethanol production means more distiller's dried grains with solubles (DDGS) available for pigs.

In fact, the swine industry is the fastest-growing sector utilizing the feedstuff.

Knowing the nutrient content and amino acid digestibility of the by-product is the biggest challenge to feeding DDGS, according to Jerry Shurson, a University of Minnesota animal scientist who has done much of the research on DDGS for pigs.

High-quality corn DDGS has a metabolizable energy (ME) value equal to corn (Table 1). And, like corn, it is low in lysine relative to crude protein. Threonine is the second-limiting amino acid, and should be monitored when more than 10% corn DDGS is added to swine diets.

Only light-colored, golden sources should be used for pigs, Shurson says. But even among golden corn sources, dryer temperature and length of heating can cause a wide range in digestible lysine.

What distinguishes high-quality corn DDGS from other by-products is fat content and high phosphorus availability, which makes it an attractive, partial replacement for supplemental inorganic phosphorus. About half the savings when feeding DDGS is replacement of dicalcium phosphate, he adds.

Whiskey distilleries produce a different type of DDGS because of the mixture of grains they use. And some products labeled as DDGS are really corn gluten by-products or blends of by-products.

The university offers a web site to assist producers in identifying U.S. corn DDGS sources to nutrient profiles. Obviously, plants that produce the type of DDGS with a nutrient profile and color that matches the feeding application are most desired.

Processes Impact Quality

Several ethanol companies are modifying processes to boost yield and change the end by-product, notes Shurson. The most widely discussed processes involve new enzyme technology to increase the crude protein content of DDGS, remove the germ and/or bran from corn prior to fermentation, and remove the phosphorus prior to producing DDGS. This would not enhance the feeding value for pigs.

Dakota Gold is offering a high-protein DDGS that has 34% more protein than typical Dakota Gold DDGS. The increase is at the expense of fat, a 59% reduction, and phosphorus, a 42% reduction. The proportion of nutrients in the high-protein DDGS is similar to distiller's dried grains (without solubles), Shurson points out. Solubles are what carry fat and phosphorus.

Metabolizable energy estimates provided in nutrient specification sheets for the higher-protein product indicate an energy value that is the same as typical DDGS. This is unlikely, he says. The large reduction in phosphorus content also makes the high protein product less appealing.

Glutenol and corn protein concentrate (CPC) are two other examples of corn-based by-products resulting from a modified ethanol process. These products come post-fermentation, after the germ and primary fiber components are physically removed prior to fermentation. Both are substantially higher in protein than typical DDGS, but lysine and other amino acids are not increased proportionately.

Diet Formulations

Shurson formulated a typical DDGS diet, and diets containing new distiller's by-products, in an effort to compare economic value.

Diets were formulated using different nutrient specifications and amounts of synthetic amino acids. Different diets at a DDGS inclusion rate of 10% affected opportunity cost significantly. A diet using synthetic lysine, methionine and threonine had an opportunity cost of $78/ton, and a diet using synthetic lysine HCL was worth $80/ton due to differences in lysine, sulfur amino acids and threonine levels.

Phosphorus (P) is the third most expensive nutrient in swine diets, and the lower phosphorus content of high-protein DDGS adversely affects its economic value, since more dicalcium phosphate must be added to get the desired level of available P. In fact, using the price for DDGS at $80/ton, and the nutrient content assumptions for high-protein DDGS, one could afford to pay only $51/ton for high-protein DDGS.

CPC and glutenol are higher in crude protein, but estimated energy value and poor protein quality means minimal reductions in corn and soybean meal, compared to adding the same level of DDGS. A slightly higher phosphorus content of CPC compared to DDGS is an economic advantage, but not for glutenol. The economic value or opportunity cost of CPC and glutenol is $61.60/ton and $63.40/ton, respectively, which is much less than typical DDGS, according to Shurson.

If the price is right, swine nutritionist Gregg Sample, of LeRoy, MN, adds DDGS at 10-15% of the diet in the grow-finish phase at Next Generation Pork, an operation that markets over 100,000 pigs.

Sample uses the spreadsheet shown in Figure 1 to determine opportunity cost. When DDGS is cheaper than corn, soybean meal and dicalcium phosphate, they substitute it. Currently, both corn and soybean meal prices are too low to use DDGS, he says.

They also use phytase in all diets, so when DDGS is used, dietary phosphorus is substantially reduced, which in turn reduces phosphorus output in the manure. Most of their DDGS comes from Pro Corn in Preston, MN.

More than 7 million (metric) tonnes (7.7 tons) of distiller's dried grains with solubles were produced in 2005, and some industry experts predict production will reach 10 to 14 million tonnes (11 to 15.4 tons) in three years.

The bottom line: know the source of DDGS. Processes that reduce the fat content of distiller's by-products significantly reduce energy value, which make them more difficult to economically fit into least-cost formulations.

Table 1. Comparison of the Nutrient Composition of Golden Corn Distiller's Dried Grains with Solubles (DDGS) Produced in Minnesota and South Dakota to Examples of Other “DDGS Sources” (100% Dry Matter Basis)
Nutrient Golden Corn DDGS DDGS High Fat DDGS Partial Degermed DDGS Whiskey DDGS Pelleted DDGS
Crude protein, % 31.8 29.3 31.6 30.1 29.9 27.0
Crude fat, % 11.3 3.5 15.3 8.9 8.8 9.0
Crude fiber, % 6.3 7.9 N/A 7.8 10.6 15.1
ADF*, % 12.4 11.8 17.9 21.0 20.2 N/A
Ash, % 6.9 5.3 4.6 7.3 3.7 4.3
Calculated ME* (swine), kcal/kg 3,781 3,577 N/A 3,560 3,789 N/A
Lysine, % 0.92 0.61 0.90 0.83 0.99 N/A
Methionine, % 0.62 0.54 0.54 0.66 0.61 N/A
Threonine, % 1.17 1.01 1.04 1.13 1.10 N/A
Tryptophan, % 0.25 0.18 0.23 0.25 0.27 N/A
Calcium, % 0.07 0.12 0.06 0.51 0.04 0.17
Phosphorus, % 0.77 0.78 0.89 0.68 0.57 0.62

*Acid Detergent Fiber

*Metabolizable Energy

Figure 1. Distiller's Dried Grains with Solubles Opportunity Cost
+ DDGS 200 x $0.039 = $7.80
+ Limestone 3 lb. x $0.015 = $0.05
Total (A) $7.85
Corn 178 lb. $0.029 = $5.24
Soybean Meal, 46% 19 lb. $0.082 = $1.55
Dicalcium Phosphate, 18.5% P 6 lb. $0.120 = $0.72
203 lb. Total (D) = $7.52
Opportunity Cost:
Total (D) - Total (A) - Goal [$ _____ ] = Opportunity Cost of DDGS $_____/200 lb.
$7.52 - $7.85 = $ (0.33) $_____(0.002)
$_____/ton (3.31)
Value of DDGS: $74.69
Current Cost of DDGS/ton $78.00
Current Cost of Corn/bu. $1.65
Current Cost of SBM, 46%/ton $163.20
Current Cost of Limestone $0.015
Current Cost of Dical., 18.5% P $0.120
Enter the current cost of ingredients in the table above to arrive at the value of DDGS.

Returns Rally to the Plus Side

My optimistic nature was rejuvenated and rewarded this week as the hopes for a change in market direction for hogs and pork were actually fulfilled. This week's rally wasn't a real bell-ringer, but daily moves with plus signs in front of them were a welcome respite.

Gains of $1-$3 for Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Lean Hogs futures prices certainly help the outlook for hog prices. The biggest gainer, of course, was this year's previous biggest loser -- February. That contract goes off the board on Tuesday and is still selling at a $3.48 premium to the CME Lean Hogs Index. The Index, by nature of its construction (a trailing two-day average), usually lags moves in the futures market, but something will have to give to reconcile that difference -- and cash is king, especially in the latter days of a cash-settled contract.

While the rally hasn't been as marked in contracts from April onward, their prices have improved and suggest some recovery in this complex. There still appears to be plenty of risk and, while most producers may have the strongest balance sheets they have ever had, some risk protection is likely prudent. Watch these rallies for selling opportunities. Summer futures could be back above $70 soon. How many times have you actually sold very many hogs for live prices of $50 or better and done it in the third year of a hog cycle?

Animal Health Concerns Continue
Animal health situations continue to affect world meat markets. Argentina announced today that they have identified 70 animals infected with foot-and-mouth disease. Argentina was the sixth-largest net exporter of beef in the world in 2005, so any disruption to their exports would be a major issue in world beef trade. The case is in northern Argentina, and that has prompted Brazil to announce that it will step up border-monitoring activities. Brazil is the world's largest beef exporting country.

In addition, the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian influenza has been found in Nigeria. This presents a real threat to European poultry flocks since there are several species of birds that migrate from western Africa to Europe.

How will Europeans react to chicken and turkey if H5N1 is found there? That's a hard one to read. Consumers in Asia backed away from poultry when bird flu became widespread, and affected humans there, and the same trend appears to have happened in eastern Europe in recent months. European consumers are likely better informed and more highly educated than some of these other groups, but they are also the ones who brought the world the precautionary principle in their apparent effort to avoid all risk.

Perhaps the more important question is "What will the European Union (EU) do if it has to destroy a large portion of Europe's poultry flock?" It's hard to imagine the EU opening its doors very wide to imported poultry to fill the production gap that such a depopulation might cause. The last time I checked, they still weren't too keen on any kind of food imports. I don't really expect this situation to change that.

Canadian Pig Imports Climbing
Pig imports from Canada are on the rise. While the import totals of the past two weeks have been lower than the week that ended Jan. 21 (the largest week of imports since before the antidumping duties were imposed in October 2004), the trend is definitely up (see Figure 1). That trend dates back at least to last summer when the duties were lifted, but it appears to have picked up steam since Canada's corn duties were announced in December.

A more telling story may be that of pig prices (see Figure 2). Spot prices for weaned pigs have fallen by more than $15/head since Christmas. While pig prices usually peak in mid-winter and fall into the spring, this decline is both early and severe. I had expected the price graph to send us the first signals of more pigs being available in Canada, and I think that expectation is being met. Whether the pigs come across the border or not, the fact that they might can have a negative effect on U.S. prices. Contacts in Canada believe that some pigs will be sold here, but that many producers are trying to custom feed pigs in the United States.

Downers Latest Japanese Trade Ploy
And finally, a senior agricultural official in Japan now says that the United States must explain reports of "downer" cattle being used for meat in the United States before exports of U.S. beef to Japan can continue. That doesn't make much sense to me, and appears to be another step by Japan to use the goofed-up beef shipment as a reason to call the United States on the carpet. Each of these public statements will slow down both the process of reopening the border and the recovery of Japanese consumer confidence. I still think the latter will be the more critical issue for U.S. beef -- and could take awhile for sure.

Click to view graphs.

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