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Articles from 2013 In February

Inject with Care

<p> Conscientious and effective administration of medications and vaccines is a high priority for all pork producers and swine caretakers.</p>

Effective swine health programs often require injections of vaccines, antibiotics, vitamins/supplements or other treatments. Each product has a specific and approved route of administration for maximum effectiveness. It is important to read and understand label directions for proper route of administration, injection site and dosage for the animal’s age and weight, paying special attention to appropriate withdrawal periods, when applicable.

Conscientious and effective administration of medications and vaccines is a high priority for all pork producers and swine caretakers. It is vital to develop standard operating procedures for handling and storage of vaccines and medications, selection of the proper syringe and needle used for injection, and hazard-free needle disposal. 

Pork Industry Forum Addresses Marketing, Outreach Initiatives

Pork Industry Forum Addresses Marketing, Outreach Initiatives

Tracking success on pork marketing and outreach initiatives will be the central focus of the National Pork Board's meeting next week in Orlando, FL.  With record-high feed prices causing significant financial losses within the pork industry, the board of directors will discuss how the Pork Checkoff's Pork Be Inspired marketing campaign can be strengthened to build new pork demand at a critical time for pork producers.

The board meeting is part of the annual Pork Industry Forum that will be held March 8-9. The board will meet Wednesday and Thursday, March 6 and 7, prior to the delegate sessions.

Since launching Pork Be Inspired at the 2011 Pork Industry Forum, the Pork Checkoff has regularly measured progress of the campaign’s success in reaching consumers.  Board members will review the latest tracking study that shows reported increases in pork consumption within the campaign's target audience.

In addition to marketing progress, delegates at last year's Pork Forum had asked the board to take specific steps to help producers with decisions about animal care and housing for pregnant sows. Sherrie Niekamp, the board's director of animal welfare, and Jarrod Sutton, assistant vice president of food channel outreach, will brief board members on the steps being taken to address the delegates' request.

Board members also will get reports on:

  • Revisions to the Pork Quality Assurance  Plus program. The revised program will be launched during World Pork Expo in Des Moines in June;
  • New animal welfare research and education initiatives;
  • International efforts to adopt animal welfare standards; and
  • Proposed strategic objectives for 2014

Meetings of the National Pork Board are generally open to the public. Those wishing to attend are asked to contact Lorraine Garner,, (515) 223-2600.




Consider Tradeoffs When Replacing Soybean Meal in Swine Diets

Consider Tradeoffs When Replacing Soybean Meal in Swine Diets

Swine nutritionist Hans Stein of the University of Illinois says canola, cottonseed, and sunflower products can replace soybean meal in swine diets, but they contain less protein and energy. To determine if it makes economic sense to use them, producers need to know the concentrations and digestibility of the nutrients they contain. To help them make the decision, Stein and his team of researchers examined amino acid digestibility for these products.

“Soybean is by far the biggest oilseed crop in the world,” says Stein, professor of animal sciences. “But canola, cottonseed, and sunflowers are grown in areas where soybeans can’t grow. When the oil is taken out of the seed, meal is left over, as with soybean meal.”

His team looked at amino acid digestibility in both intact canola seeds and canola meal, as well as in cottonseed meal, intact sunflower seeds, dehulled sunflower meal, and sunflower meal with hulls, on which there has been little recent digestibility research. The study included soybean meal for comparison.

Digestibility of amino acids in canola, cottonseed and sunflower meal was lower than for soybean meal. The main reason for their reduced digestibility was that these products have higher fiber content than does soybean meal. All of them except for the dehulled sunflower meal included hulls, whereas, soybean meal did not.

Also, Stein explains, “Soybeans do not contain as much oil as canola and sunflower. When you take more oil out, the seed hull becomes a bigger proportion of what you have left over – and that's where you have all the fiber. So, sunflower is over 50% oil, and canola is about 40% oil. Soybean is only 19 or 20% oil, so you concentrate the fiber more when you produce those meals.”

Among the alternative meals, sunflower meal had the greatest values for digestibility of crude protein and the most amino acids. In cottonseed meal, values for most amino acids were the same as, or greater than, those in canola seeds or canola meal.

Canola meal and cottonseed meal contained the greatest concentrations of crude protein and indispensable amino acids after soybean meal. Stein said cottonseed is not used as much as it could be in pig production because it contains gossypol, an anti-nutritional factor that prevents pigs from utilizing lysine.

“But low gossypol varieties are available now, and it's been shown that if you add enough iron to the diet, it can bind the gossypol, which will then not bind the lysine,” he explains. “So you can use some cottonseed in the diets and they'll do fine. Cottonseed meal has a relatively good digestibility compared with canola and sunflower meal, so more of it could be used than is used today."

Stein adds that sunflower meal and canola meal need to be significantly less expensive than soybean meal before they are an economical alternative because they have reduced amino acid digestibility and a lower concentration of amino acids and energy than soybean meal.

The researchers have not determined inclusion rates for canola, cottonseed and sunflower products. Stein says that this may be the subject of future research.

The study, “Amino acid digestibility in canola, cottonseed, and sunflower products fed to finishing pigs,” was published in Journal of Animal Science and was co-authored with Caroline González-Vega, a graduate student in the Stein Monogastric Nutrition Laboratory at the University of Illinois. The research information is available at







Bill Fails to Advance Judicious Use of Antibiotics

Bill Fails to Advance Judicious Use of Antibiotics

Legislation introduced this week by two Democratic members of Congress aims to provide more information on the amount and use of antimicrobial drugs given to food-producing animals.

But the legislation, introduced by Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY), fails to improve the process of judicious use of antibiotics – espoused by both pharmaceutical companies and the veterinary community.

See Related Story: Slaughter: Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria in Food Nearing a Public Health Catastrophe.

The legislation, “Delivering Antimicrobial Transparency in Animals (DATA) Act, purports to help public officials and scientists “better understand and interpret trends and variations in antimicrobial resistance” and provide means for preventing and controlling resistance.

Specifically, the bill would require drug manufacturers to obtain and provide more detailed information to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on antibiotic use in each class of food animals.

As well, producers would be required to supply detailed annual reports on type and amount of antibiotics given in feed to their animals.

For its part, FDA would also be mandated to report how antibiotics were used for growth promotion and feed efficiency, disease prevention, control and treatment. The agency would be required to provide a breakdown on drugs sold or distributed by state and quantities sold by class of animal.

Ron Phillips, spokesman for the Animal Health Institute, which represents animal drug manufacturers, says these issues are currently being addressed by FDA.

“As part of the Notice of Rulemaking last year, we submitted comments to FDA in which we said that any proposals for further data collection should be grounded in science, and there need to be good scientific reasons that advance science and help farmers and veterinarians use antibiotics even more judiciously. And clearly this bill does not meet that test,” Phillips says.

Further, the legislation ignores data from FDA that indicates it is inappropriate to compare antibiotic use in humans and animals. “Because we know in any food-producing country that there will be more antibiotics used in animals than in humans,” he says. It’s true in Denmark where there is actual data on the amount of antibiotics used in humans and in animals. They found that 72% of the antibiotics are used in animals.

See Related Story: Antibiotic Sales Doesn't Make Case for Public Health Threat.

Denmark (and Europe) banned growth-promotant uses of antibiotics in food-producing animals due to concerns about antibiotic resistance in humans. But the evidence shows that this practice did not reduce antibiotic resistance levels in humans and had no public health impact, Phillips says.

Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council, finds the proposed bill doesn’t further the knowledge about antibiotic resistance and is restrictive. It requires producers to report medicated animal feeds. However, that reporting requirement is focused only at large producers, “exempting a large portion of farmers and placing a large burden on those required to report.”

In her estimation, the DATA Act represents “an extremely complicated and burdensome proposal that would in no way improve public or animal health.” 

See related story: Logic vs. Fear: Antibiotic Issue Draws Passionate Response.

Welfare is also a concern when it comes to attempts to restrict antibiotic use, whether it be in humans or in animals, says Matt Anderson, president-elect of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians. “Judicious use is a very valuable tool in the care and proper husbandry of animals.”

Antibiotics also serve a critical role in treating groups of animals therapeutically for bacterial infections – treating that population in breaking the infectious cycle and not allowing that bacteria to jump from one animal to another, he explains. “This is a very important part of really being able to deliver a wholesome, safe, affordable food supply.”

“I am convinced that we have never had a safer, more wholesome, more affordable food supply than we do today,” stresses Anderson with Suidae Animal Health, Algona, IA.    



Furloughs Shouldn’t Include Meat Inspection

Senator Pat Roberts, a senior member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, said that under law, USDA is obligated to perform meat and poultry inspections for the safety of consumers despite threats by the Obama Administration to furlough Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) employees due to forced spending cuts set to take effect March 1, 2013.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack with other senators from rural states, Roberts decried the scare tactics of the Obama Administration in implementing spending cuts that amount to a small percentage of government funding, writing, “We are confident you have the ability to implement sequestration at USDA without jeopardizing the ability of Americans to feed their families and seriously hurting U.S. farmers, meat and poultry production facilities, and workers in those facilities.”

“The administration should produce legal justifications and furlough plans to provide transparency to the American people for USDA’s implementation of sequestration,” Roberts said. “The costs to farmers and ranchers, already hard hit by drought, will be enormous.

“USDA must explain whether it can cut costs and other operating expenses to protect the safety and availability of our food supply.”

Industry experts say the USDA furloughs would cause meat, poultry and egg product plants to shut down, impacting approximately 6,290 establishments nationwide and costing more than $10 billion in production losses, while industry workers would experience more than $400 million in lost wages.

Roberts joined Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in sending a letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack signed by Senators Thad Cochran, Deb Fisher, Mike Johanns, John Boozman, Saxby Chambliss, John Hoeven and Jerry Moran.

A copy of the signed letter can be found here.





Webinar to Address Employee Performance, Engagement, Retention

What motivates employees to sell, manage, service, and connect with customers the way they do? How can you place the right people in the right jobs and motivate them to achieve more for your business?

According to Tulsa Business Coach, Nathan R Mitchell, it all starts with individual values. In other words, the underlying motivators, which cause a person to want to perform well.

At 1:30 p.m. March 6, The Power of Purpose in Business, co-founded by Nathan R Mitchell and Jim Whitt, will be hosting a complimentary webinar titled, “What Motivates You Really? Understanding the Importance of Values.”

“Individual values can differ greatly from person to person,” says Mitchell. “When we consider a person’s experiences, education, skill-sets, and training, we know WHAT they can do. When we look at each person’s behaviors, we know HOW they do it. When it comes to what motivates people individually, we must look at WHY they do what they do. And that all starts with an increased understanding of workplace motivators and values.”

Mitchell, the founder Clutch Consulting, a Tulsa business coaching company, has been consulting with businesses and professionals since 2010. He has certifications in both behavior and motivator analysis.

“With an increased understanding of the importance of motivators, we can become more effective managers and leaders by encouraging employees in a way that satisfies them,” adds Whitt. “And that’s just one benefit. Identifying the values of individuals on your team reduces conflict, increases employee retention, improves overall productivity, and energizes employees to work together toward organizational goals.”

Whitt, the founder of Purpose Unlimited, a business consulting company, has been working with organizations since 1988. He is a “Professional People Provoker,” and the author of three books, including “Riding for the Brand: The Power of Purposeful Leadership,” “The Transformational Power of Purpose,” and “Road Signs for Success.”

Mitchell and Whitt will be conducting additional webinars in the weeks ahead on Behaviors, Emotional Quotient (EQ), and Growth Curve Analysis.

“These webinars are driving a lot of value for area businesses,” says Mitchell. “So far the feedback we’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive.”

These webinars are yet another way Jim and Nathan continue to fulfill their purposes of empowering and helping others reach their full potential.

To register for the upcoming webinar, “What Motivates You Really? Understanding the Importance of Values,” visit the following link. This webinar is limited to the first 50 who register.

Market Access Must Be Enforced

During this week’s The Ag Minute, guest host Rep. Rick Crawford (AR-R) discusses the recent trade setback with Russia, one of the major markets for U.S. meat products.

Click here to listen toThe Ag Minute. The transcript from Crawford is below.

“A major market for U.S. meat exports has been effectively closed.  Russia announced a ban on U.S. meat imports produced with the feed additive ractopamine. This ban is not supported by science.    

“Our meat exports contribute $832 billion annually to the U.S. economy.  Unfortunately, they face these types of arbitrary trade barriers when countries decide to protect their domestic industry. 

“Russia is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and has claimed to be committed to fair and open trade practices, but closure of their market for unfounded reasons is a direct violation of their agreement.

“Unfortunately, the administration was unsuccessful in heading off Russia’s move, which is now costing our producers significantly.  The United States exports over $600 million in beef, pork, and poultry products to Russia each year.  Further, Russia’s decision has already emboldened other countries, like China, to follow suit.

“The administration had promised our farmers and ranchers that they would benefit from Russia’s inclusion in the WTO. Now the administration must take the necessary steps to ensure full access to this important market.”

The Ag Minuteis Chairman Frank Lucas's weekly radio address that is released from the House Agriculture Committee.



Meimann, Wegner to Retire from National Pork Board

Jim Meimann and Mike Wegner
<p> Jim Meimann, senior vice president for governance and operations for the National Pork Board, (left) and Mike Wegner, vice president of communications for the National Pork Board.</p>

Jim Meimann, senior vice president for governance and operations for the National Pork Board, and Mike Wegner, vice president of communications for the National Pork Board, will retire April 1.

Meimann began his 27 years of service to the pork industry with the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) in 1986 at the start of the Pork Checkoff and joined the Pork Board in 2001. Over the years, he has made many contributions to the industry.  One of his notable contributions included organizing the Pork Checkoff and ensuring a smooth transition during the separation of NPPC and the National Pork Board.

 “Few individuals have done so much for the pork industry, with so little fanfare,” National Pork Board CEO Chris Novak said. “Jim's farm background, passion for producers and the pork industry, institutional knowledge and attention to detail have always made him the person that producers and staff turn to for help in solving problems.  He has been a cornerstone for work done for, with and on behalf of producers.”

This has included guiding legal counsel during a five-year trademark infringement challenge of the use of Pork. The Other White Meat. He helped secure a resounding and precedent-setting victory.  He also has been the chief advisor and counselor to five different Pork Board and NPPC CEOs, who have all counted on him for his wisdom, experience and professionalism.

Prior to his service to the pork industry, Meimann was an Iowa assistant secretary of agriculture in charge of marketing, administration, commodity promotion and commodity referendums.

Wegner, with the Pork Board for 11 years, has been instrumental in branding the Pork Checkoff and helping producers understand how their Pork Checkoff is invested on their behalf.  When he came on board in 2001, just over half of producers supported the work of the Pork Checkoff, compared with 85% today.

“Through Mike's vision, his energy for telling the pork story and his dedication, he has worked tirelessly to ensure that pork producers understood how their Pork Checkoff dollars were creating a return for the industry,” Novak said.  “He has brought a unique perspective to our team that has challenged us to go farther than convention would dictate.”

During his time with the National Pork Board, Wegner led a team of industry leaders in developing the pork industry's ethical principles that serve as the foundation for the We Careinitiative. He helped create the Operation Main Street speakers program and has overseen the development of a social media program, an industry-leading issues management program and has been a major contributor to the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance's consumer outreach efforts.

In addition to the National Pork Board, Wegner spent nearly 20 years in a variety of reporting and editing positions at The Des Moines Register, where in 1991 he was project editor for a series of stories that won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

The National Pork Board has responsibility for Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. Importers of pork products contribute a like amount, based on a formula. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, technology, swine health, pork safety and environmental management.

For information on Checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-7675 or check the Internet at



Novel Feed Ingredient Cuts Finishing Pig Costs


A solution to skyrocketing feed prices facing the pork industry may be found in the renewable energy sector. A team based at the University of Guelph recently tested a novel feed ingredient with the potential to reduce production costs for finishing pigs and increase market opportunities for bio-diesel producers.

“Crude glycerol is a co-product of bio-diesel production that can be used as an energy source for animal feeding,” explains Phil McEwen, livestock research specialist from the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus. “The reason for conducting the trial was to find out if incorporating crude glycerol into a feeding program would be an avenue for pork producers to maintain performance and achieve cost savings without any deleterious effects on carcass and meat quality.

“So far all the signs are pointing in the right direction. We haven’t completed the total analysis, but it definitely looks like we can incorporate crude glycerol into swine diets without compromising performance or carcass quality,” McEwen says.

An Added Bonus

As an added bonus, this potential new use could help Ontario’s fledgling bio-diesel industry by providing a new market for the co-product.

“If we are looking at bio-diesel production on a small scale, it’s an avenue for the smaller renewable energy producer to have a home for some of the crude glycerol that is being produced without having to refine it,” McEwen says.

Crude glycerol used in the trial was manufactured at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus bio-diesel production facility with the help of professor Rob Nicol. The production process involves hydrolyzing oil extracted from oilseeds (e.g. soybeans) to produce bio-diesel and the co-product, crude glycerol. Producing one liter of bio-diesel will yield approximately 80 grams of crude glycerol with the energy value of glycerol reported to be comparable to corn.

Trial Results

The research feeding trial was conducted at the Arkell Swine Research Facility using 120 pigs (barrows and gilts). The animals were fed one of five different dietary treatments – receiving crude glycerol at 0, 2.5, 5, 10 or 15% of the ration as dry matter during the growing and finishing phases of production.

The team, which also included University of Guelph professors Ira Mandell and Kees de Lange as well as Hypor swine nutritionist Greg Simpson, found no difference in days to market and very little difference in growth rate and feed efficiency across all five treatments. Carcass and meat quality were also consistent between the groups.

Cost Savings

Just how much the novel feed ingredient could save producers is still being investigated. “The cost of crude glycerol seems to be relatively constant,” McEwen says. “But energy ingredient prices will need to remain high in order to incorporate it into a swine diet in a cost-effective way.”

Another requirement is approval from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). “The regulatory process to make it an approved feed ingredient still needs to be completed before a swine producer could incorporate this energy source into a feeding program,” explains McEwen, who received special approval from CFIA to conduct the testing.

Next Steps

McEwen is encouraged by the results to date and eager to see more trials. “This co-product looks highly promising but further research is needed to get regulatory approval and to look at the economics of using it in swine diets,” he says.

In the meantime, pork and bio-diesel producers can look forward to potentially helping lower each other’s production costs in the future.

This project was funded in part through Growing Forward, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of several Growing Forward programs in Ontario.



Joining 30 Million Diabetics was a Wake-up Call

Joining 30 Million Diabetics was a Wake-up Call

Last summer I got a bit of a wake-up call when a health screening pointed out that my blood sugar level was far too high.  In my experience, the medical profession allows no room for error on this one.  I was dubbed diabetic, immediately, and got to learn more than I wanted to know about glucose, insulin, my pancreas, diabetic diet principals and intentionally poking holes in my fingers. 

I know none of you read this column to keep up with Steve Meyer’s health status.  Until recently, it would not have been a very pretty story.  But I offer this as the prelude to a proposition:  The U.S. animal protein sector has before it a great opportunity if we are bold enough to grasp it.  Allow me to explain.

As is true for many men, and probably a good number of women of my age, the scales have been telling a sad tale for many years.  In my case, it was nothing new.  I think I was born overweight.  I do not remember a time when I would have been light enough to score a “normal” body mass index (BMI).   Of course, I’m pretty confident that the only people who can score a normal BMI are those semi-anorexic marathon runners whose lanky bodies are moved by some unseen propulsion system.   But I’m not trying to bash the BMI system, flawed as it may be.

Last summer’s diagnosis, though, certainly got my attention and I knew that the number one thing I could do was lose some weight.  I went through the education programs and listened to a nurse and then a dietician rail against carbohydrates and fat.  The former was quite understandable.  But the latter was not when the challenge was purely blood glucose level.  The reason for the fat-phobia, of course, was the correctly-placed emphasis on weight loss.   Lower fat almost always means lower calories.  But I also knew it may not mean fewer pounds.

So I went on the “Meyer” diet.  I faithfully paid attention to carbohydrate exchange units per the normal diabetes diet recommendations.  But I decided to apply what I had learned in studying the Atkins diet a few years back and not worry much at all about fat intake as long as it was good fats and came with protein.  I have basically eaten meat as desired, cut carbs dramatically, eaten high-protein snacks like nuts and cheese and made sure I ate less at meals, but snacked whenever hungry.  I also have made it a point to eat more vegetables (I know some great new ways to fix kale, collards, asparagus and squash) and, unlike the Atkins diet, have eaten fruit often as both a snack and part of my meals.

The results have been great!  I went from an ashamed-to-admit-it 295 lb. in July to 272 lb. in January and 267 lb. last week.  My A1C (a hemoglobin test that is the gold standard for long-term blood sugar levels) went from 8.9 in July to 7.5 in October and 5.8 in January.  That number should be less than 7.  My cholesterol is down from 185 in July to 166, the lowest it has ever been.  Total triglycerides, which have always been my bugaboo and the number that indicated I was “pre-diabetic” a few years ago, dropped from 201 to 117.  The critical value is 200.   The only blood lipid number that I still have on the wrong side of things is high-density lipids or good cholesterol which, at 36, is up from 34 in July, but still below the critical level of 40. 

I am not sharing all of this medical history to brag, but to point out my success using animal proteins as part of a weight- and diabetes-fighting diet.  And every time I tell the story, I run into others who have done the same thing, including the dramatic improvement in blood lipid levels.  And there are 30 million of us diabetics – and that’s no small “market segment.”

This approach to diet works and the meat industry needs to capitalize on it.

Why might this play better this time around?  It is my observation that the medical profession is far more supportive of the concept now than it was in 2002 or so when the Atkins diet became popular.  I was surprised when my doctor listened to what I was doing and heartily endorsed it, saying, “The problem for diabetes, obesity and even heart disease has never been meat, it is carbohydrates and the huge quantities of them that we consume.”  He indicated that he is far from alone in that belief and the press contains frequent reports supporting his statement.

Will it overcome the animal rights movement and their campaign to eliminate animal agriculture?  Probably not, but it will help.  Wouldn’t it be better to enter the discussion from the point of having a product that improves health rather than one that does not?  There would still be opposition, but it eliminates the “and-it’s-not-even-good-for-you” argument that usually follows the animal rights or environmental opposition.

How can it be done?  First and foremost, the entire sector needs to be “ALL IN!”  I know we weren’t united in support of high-protein regimens promoted in the early 2000s.  Part of that reticence was due to opposition from the medical community, but as I mentioned, that is waning.  I don’t think the same is true of the dietician and “food police” communities, so we must stand strong and together in those environs.

It’s a big challenge, but the time may be right.  I know it has worked for me.  I’m wearing clothes that had enjoyed an eight-year vacation in the back of my closet.  I’m climbing stairs much more easily.  My back feels better than it has in years.  And I’ve done it all while still enjoying many of the foods that I really like.  Now if I can just figure out a better way to enjoy cheesecake, biscuits and gravy and German chocolate cake.  There is a cost to anything, I suppose.