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Articles from 2016 In February

Swine Health Monitoring Project serving as swine disease surveillance system

Swine Health Monitoring Project serving as swine disease surveillance system

The Swine Health Monitoring Project is a national program geared toward controlling swine pathogens that are significant in the United States. The project’s principles are grounded in bringing both short- and long-term value to participants and the U.S. swine industry as a whole. In the short term, the SHMP helps determine incidence of pathogens important to the industry and helps identify risk factors associated with infection at the system and aggregate levels.

In the long term, the project serves as a surveillance system for swine diseases that can be a useful tool to help prepare the industry for new and emerging pathogens.

The SHMP started in 2011 with a convenience sample of 371 sow herds from 14 production companies who shared exclusively porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus data. First participants provided retrospective data from July 2009 to the date of enrollment followed by prospective data thereafter through June 2013. Beginning July 2014, the project incorporated porcine epidemic diarrhea virus monitoring, adding seven other systems that shared solely PEDV incidence. Currently, the project also includes Deltacorona virus and Seneca Valley virus surveillance.

As of today, the SHMP has gradually expanded to include 26 systems composed of three regional PRRSV projects and 23 companies or coordinated systems. A total of 736 herds (1.98 million sows) participate for PRRS and 993 (2.52 million sows) report PEDV activity. Since retrospective data at the beginning of the project now exceeds six years and the risk of incomplete data is probable, all new participants provide only prospective data.

SHMP participation is on a voluntary and anonymous basis unless the system chooses to make its participation known publicly by including its logo on the weekly report. At the time of enrollment, all participants are required to sign participation and confidentiality agreements.

Beginning July 1 of each year, cumulative incidence is computed as the proportion of susceptible herds (epidemiological units) with new PRRSV or PEDV cases. The weekly incidence of new infected herds is monitored with an equally weighted moving average. The approximated EWMA (smoothed) number of infected herds is estimated per week and an epidemic threshold is defined. In this way, there is an objective indicator if and when an epidemic has started and ended for the sample of herds.

During the first four-year period of the study, weekly PRRSV incidence was low during spring and summer and high during fall and winter (Figure 1).

The EWMA signaled the onset of a PRRSV epidemic during the last two weeks of October and one week of November each year. The incidence changed in 2013-14 with significantly fewer PRRSV cases being observed during this period and the onset of the annual epidemic was delayed approximately two to three weeks. This reduction could have been due to:

  • Spurious observations and no real decrease
  • Increased awareness of PRRSV seasonality and consequently, increased application of biosecurity for PRRSV
  • Biosecurity steps to decrease spread of PED virus may have also decreased PRRSV virus incidence,
  • Increased number of herds filtering incoming air, decreased incidence in these filtered herds and therefore less virus in growing pig sites
  • Increased use of PRRS virus vaccine which could decrease shedding
  • Weather changes

As of today, PRRSV incidence has been similar to the trend observed in the last two years and promises to be low again in 2015-16 (Figure 2). This lower incidence is very encouraging and suggests a fundamental change in biosecurity or risk of PRRSV infection.

During the first year of PEDV emerging in the United States, incidence increased to over 50% for the sample of herds (Figure 3). The incidence changed the following year in 2014-15 with a substantial decrease in PEDV cases observed. Again, this drop in cases was likely attributed to increased biosecurity, as well as residual immunity still present in herds from the first epidemic.

Similar to PRRSV, PEDV incidence appears to follow a seasonal trend with higher incidence observed during the winter and spring and diminishing during the warmer months. As of today, PEDV incidence continues to be significantly lower. Although diminishing incidence appears promising, as immunity continues to wane incidence is likely to increase and follow a yearly ebb and flow similar to PRRSV.

In 2015, the National Pork Board approved the creation of a Swine Health Information Center. The SHMP continues with financial support of the center, and along with that support the project will continue its expansion to bring further value to the industry. In addition, an advisory task force has been established composed of participants and other industry leaders. The SHMP looks to this group for guidance on ways to address project and industry related challenges.

The SHMP would not be possible without the support from producers who are willing to share their premises ID and pathogen status. The project is greatly appreciative of all participants for putting a great deal of time and effort into the project on a weekly basis to ensure its continued success.

If interested in enrolling in the Swine Health Monitoring Project, contact your local veterinarian or the project directly at

High-protein canola meal beneficial for growing pigs

High-protein canola meal beneficial for growing pigs

A new study at the University of Illinois has determined that high-protein canola meal could prove to be a valuable ingredient in swine diets.

“Canola meal is an excellent plant-based source of protein that is often included in swine diets,” says Hans H. Stein, a professor of animal sciences at U of I. “In recent years, canola varieties have been developed which contain greater concentrations of protein than conventional varieties. Our study has provided new information on the nutritional value of high-protein canola meal.”

High-protein canola seeds have thinner hulls than conventional canola seeds. As a result, the meal derived from these seeds has a lower proportion of fiber, and a greater proportion of protein and oil, than conventional canola meal.

Researchers in Stein’s lab conducted two experiments to determine how well pigs digest energy and amino acids in high-protein canola meal. “The digestibility of energy in high protein canola meal is greater than in conventional canola meal when fed to broilers and turkeys,” says Stein. “But we do not yet have data for pigs for this particular source of high protein canola meal.

“We used a source of high-protein canola meal that was produced from a variety of high-protein canola that had been selected for low glucosinolate content, so we also tested if the reduced glucosinolates improved digestibility of protein and amino acids.”

Stein’s team determined that the standardized ileal digestibility of crude protein in high-protein canola meal and conventional canola meal was less than in soybean meal (83, 78, and 93% respectively). The same was true for most amino acids. The digestibility of crude protein was greater in high-protein canola meal than in conventional canola meal, but there was no difference observed in the digestibility of individual amino acids.

High-protein canola meal contained 37.5% standardized ileal digestible crude protein, compared with 31.7% in conventional canola meal and 45.8% in soybean meal. Similarly, the concentration of digestible amino acids was greater in high-protein canola meal than in conventional canola meal, but less than in soybean meal.

The concentrations of digestible and metabolizable energy were not different in high-protein canola meal (2,969 and 2,470 kcal/kg, respectively, on an as-fed basis) and conventional canola meal (2,632 and 2,305 kcal/kg). Both sources of canola meal contained less digestible and metabolizable energy than soybean meal (3,733 and 3,375 kcal/kg).

Stein says the results indicated that high-protein canola meal can be a valuable ingredient in swine diets. “High-protein canola meal supplies the same amount of digestible energy and more digestible amino acids for growing pigs compared with conventional canola meal.”

The paper, “Energy concentration and amino acid digestibility in high-protein canola meal, conventional canola meal, and in soybean meal fed to growing pigs,” was co-authored by Yanhong Liu, Neil Jaworski and Oscar Rojas. It was published in a recent edition of Animal Feed Science and Technology, and the full text can be found by clicking here.

Senate bill to preempt state GMO labeling

Senate bill to preempt state GMO labeling

The Senate Agriculture Committee will consider Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R-KS), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, proposed legislation that preempts states from issuing their own mandatory labeling laws for foods that contain genetically modified organisms.

The bill requires the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national voluntary labeling standard for GMO foods. Roberts says that time is running out for Congress to act. The Vermont law goes into effect on July 1 and food companies are trying to make decisions now.

Another concern is a number of states are considering mandatory GMO labeling bills and if passed would create a patchwork of laws that companies would have to comply with which is nearly impossible. Efforts continue to try to find a bipartisan compromise prior to tomorrow’s markup.

The U.S. House of Representatives last year passed legislation that would allow for voluntary labeling and prevent states from requiring labels on genetically modified foods.

Ag coalition favors Roberts' bill

In related news, a coalition of 650 agricultural organizations and companies have lined up in favor of Roberts’ voluntary GMO labeling bill. The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food in a letter to Roberts said, without a national uniform solution to biotech labeling, U.S. agriculture would be threatened with large economic costs.

The coalition said, “The application of biotechnology to agricultural production has led to increased crop yields, decreased use of pesticides, and lower food costs for consumers. Congress must ensure we avoid senseless mandates that will thwart agricultural advancement and hurt consumers — especially those low income Americans who can least afford to pay more to feed their families.”

Those signing the letter included American Farm Bureau Federation, Agricultural Retailers Association, American Bakers Association, American Seed Trade Association, American Soybean Association, Food Marketing Institute, National Corn Growers Association, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Cotton Council, National Restaurant Association and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

As agriculture stated its support for the bill, an organization called “Moms Across America” came out in strong opposition to the bill stating, “This bill is an affront to our democracy and promotes poisoning the American people with our own money. Citizens who are aware of the reality of GMOs will not vote for any Senator who supports this bill.”

Report: GMO labeling would add to food budget

Meanwhile, the Corn Refiners Association released a study that says the Vermont mandatory GMO labeling law would require the American family to spend an additional $1,050 per year on groceries.

The economic analysis, “Cost Impact of Vermont’s GMO Labeling Law on Consumers Nationwide,” said the increased cost was due to the cost of the new labeling systems and because consumers will likely view the GMO labeling as warnings, leading food companies to switch from GMO ingredients to more expensive non-GMO ingredients. Other key findings indicated that low-income families would be disproportionately affected and food prices nationwide would increase nearly 2% in the first year.

Report: TPP would increase net farm income by $4.4 billion annually

Report: TPP would increase net farm income by $4.4 billion annually

Net farm income will increase by $4.4 billion annually with passage and implementation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement according to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s newly released economic analysis on TPP benefits to American agriculture.

According to the report, more than 40,100 jobs will be added to the U.S. economy as a result of TPP.

Other key findings include:

  • Livestock receipts with implementation are $5.8 billion higher with approval than without. For the crops sector — including fruits and vegetables — receipts are $2.7 billion higher. Net farm income is also $4.4 billion higher.
  • U.S. beef and pork exports are expected to be $1 billion and $940 million higher, respectively.
  • U.S. beef production would increase by 324 million pounds annually as a result of TPP. Increased exports would put upward pressure on prices resulting in a $1.14 billion increase in cash receipts.
  • U.S. pork production would increase by 794 million pounds annually because of TPP. Exports are expected to increase by 1.1 billion pounds, mostly on increased exports to Japan and Vietnam. Cash receipts would increase by $1.1 billion.
  • Farm prices for corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, cotton, fed steers, feeder steers, barrows and gilts, wholesale poultry and milk are all projected to be marginally higher with the agreement in place than without.
  • Net trade increases for rice, cotton, beef, pork, poultry, butter, cheese and non-fat dry milk.
  • Net trade of corn declines slightly, but overall use increases and corn revenue rises as higher feed use is needed to provide for the added beef and pork exports rather than being exported as raw commodities.

Menu labeling bill passes house

The House of Representatives passed legislation that would revise the Food and Drug Administration’s menu labeling regulation to provide more flexibility for restaurants, grocery stores and other retail food establishments. The “Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015,” allows nutritional information to be provided remotely via the internet or mobile app, instead of on a menu board inside an establishment.

Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Angus King (I-ME).

Keeping pork storage numbers in perspective

Keeping pork storage numbers in perspective

As expected with the winter months, weather events have disrupted the movement of hogs. This week’s slaughter total was 100,000 head less than market analysis anticipated as Saturday kill did not make up for the shortfall on Thursday. For the week, hog slaughter reached 2.211 million head, down 2.1% from last year, but 3.6% from the previous week. Slaughter weights have remained relatively flat from a year ago at an average of 284.6 pounds.

Packers’ margins are still profitable and all intentions are to keep it that way. Market watchers are reporting that slaughter numbers could be short this week, again. If the downward trend in slaughter numbers continues it is indication that pig numbers are dropping and not the actions of the packers.

Last Friday, the USDA National Agricultural Statistic Service released the January livestock slaughter data showing total hog slaughter at 9.744 million head, 0.2% lower than a year ago. Noteworthy, sow slaughter was higher after three consecutive months of decline. Average sow slaughter at 11,620 head per day was 3.8% higher than January 2015. Market analysts are asking if this is the beginning of the decline in the breeding herd.

Cold storage numbers perception

The USDA NASS recently released “Cold Storage” report shows record high inventory of pork, beef and chicken in freezers in January. On Jan. 31, the combined amount of beef, pork, chicken and turkey in cold storage penciled at 2.270 billion pounds, which is a reflection of the growth in production overall (refer to Figure 1).

A record amount of frozen pork was in freezers on Jan. 1. Pork in cold storage is up 17% from year-end 2015 but only 7% higher than a year ago. According to the USDA, total frozen pork inventories are at the highest level for January since 1915 with stocks of pork bellies up 13% from the previous year ago.

Still, keeping it in perspective, the amount of pork in cold storage is 41 million pounds more than last year due to an increase in the inventory of ribs. “Demand for ribs has been extremely strong and prices are quite firm. It does not look to us that ribs are backing up in the freezer, rather they reflect efforts on part of some in the market to use the freezer as a hedge for their spring needs,” wrote Len Steiner and Steve Meyer in “Daily Livestock Report”.

In comparison, at the end of January a total stock of frozen beef was also record high at 518.5 million pounds, 5.4% higher than last year and total chicken cold storage inventories were 824.8 million pounds, 13% higher than a year ago (refer to Figure 2).

Nevertheless, if meat and poultry exports struggles linger, heavy cold storage inventories are indication that the domestic market cannot absorb the additional supply, states Steiner and Meyer.

Consumer spending positive

As market analyst Steve Meyer has been reporting on the winter meeting circuit, domestic meat demand has been on an excellent run for the last three years. The U.S. Commerce Department says the consumer spending grew 0.5% in January — the largest jump in a month since May 2015. This should be good news for pork demand as retail pork prices fell to the lowest price since July at $3.793 per pound, making an attractive animal protein for consumers.

While pork exports have been slightly sluggish, a game changer would be if the Chinese stick to their statement and do not devalue their currency. Currently, the spread between China and U.S. hog prices is quite wide, explains Dennis Smith, Archer Financial Services. Presenting this example, Smith says “Current hog prices in China are just above 16 yuan per kilo compared to 5.85 yuan per kilo in the U.S. hog price. Hog prices in China are 185% higher than in the U.S.”

If this pricing trend continues, it will drive more pork to China from the United States and European Union. While it is great news that pork imports to China are likely to rise, the European Union has clear advantage with already capturing 70% of the market. Still, this could be a real market opportunity for U.S. hog producers, especially as several U.S. plants regained eligibility to ship pork to China. 

Merck Animal Health awards scholarships to swine veterinary students

In partnership with the American Association of Swine Veterinarians Foundation — the charitable arm of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians — Merck Animal Health today announced the 2016 recipients of the AASVF/Merck Animal Health Veterinary Student Scholarships.

“Merck Animal Health is committed to supporting the education of the next generation of swine industry leaders,” says Jamie Lehman, D.V.M., associate director of Swine Technical Services, Merck Animal Health. “We remain dedicated to providing veterinary students with vital real-world experiences that will equip them with the skills they need to help ensure the health and well-being of animals, as well as help feed the world.”

“It is gratifying to see Merck Animal Health recognize the value and significance of supporting veterinary students pursuing a career in swine medicine and production,” says Tom Burkgren, D.V.M., AASV executive director. “The AASVF greatly appreciates the company’s commitment to supporting the mission of the development of students and veterinarians, as they will play an integral role in the future of our industry.”

The recipients, who will each receive a $5,000 scholarship, are:

  • Alyssa Anderson, University of Minnesota
  • Daniel Carreno, North Carolina State University
  • Emily Mahan-Riggs, North Carolina State University
  • Rachel Schulte, Iowa State University
  • Thomas Wurtz, Washington State University

The recipients were announced earlier today at the 47th Annual AASV Meeting in New Orleans, La. Second- and third-year veterinary students enrolled in American Veterinary Medical Association-accredited or recognized colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America and the Caribbean Islands are eligible. Learn more at

Comprehensive technical manual for Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae management available

In collaboration with a team of seven Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae experts, Zoetis is providing veterinarians with proven strategies and protocols for managing this costly disease through a new resource — the Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae Technical Manual.

The manual — A Contemporary Review of Mycoplasma Hyopneumoniae Control Strategies — is the first comprehensive published resource since 2008 to focus on this topic. It was first presented to veterinarians during the American Association of Swine Veterinarians Annual Meeting, held Feb. 27-March 1, in New Orleans.

“Unlike other swine health threats such as porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus, there aren’t clearly defined MH management strategies readily available,” says Lucina Galina Pantoja, DVM, PhD, senior manager, Pork Technical Services, Zoetis. “Behind PRRSV and swine influenza virus, MH is the third most common cause of pneumonia. So our intention was to create an industry reference that provides real-world, practical protocols and allows veterinarians to understand MH control strategies.”

The manual was developed with the unique perspectives and experiences of a diverse group of eight experts who represent animal health, academia, diagnostics, swine veterinary practices and a genetics company.

  • Lucina Galina Pantoja, DVM, PhD, Pork Technical Services, Zoetis
  • Kent Schwartz, DVM, Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine, Iowa State University
  • Jim Lowe, DVM, MS, DABVP, Lowe Consulting, and a visiting instructor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Maria Pieters, DVM, PhD, Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, University of Minnesota
  • Maria Jose Clavijo, DVM, PhD, PIC North America
  • Joseph F. Connor, DVM, MS, Carthage Veterinary Services Ltd.
  • Paul Yeske, DVM, MS, Swine Vet Center
  • Doug King, DVM, formerly of Zoetis

Their knowledge was formulated into repeatable protocols as part of a systematic, five-step approach for MH management that veterinarians can follow with their producer clients:

  1. Establish current herd status of MH on the farm and goals based on that status.
  2. Leverage diagnostics techniques that reveal your current status.
  3. Understand and manage risk factors that influence disease transmission.
  4. Consider control measures including maintaining a negative herd, vaccination, medication and disease elimination.
  5. Monitor the efficacy of interventions.

“Regardless of a farm’s MH status, there are chapters in this manual that will be beneficial for production veterinarians,” Galina adds.

Connor and Yeske are two of the collaborators who are sharing their decades of practical insights about managing the MH pathogen.

“I’ve seen change from our small farms to the production systems that we have today and recognize Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae is still a major part of the disease complex,” Connor says. “This manual puts together years of experiences as we have transitioned to different production systems and lets us look at this disease differently than we ever have before.”

Click here to see a video that features a few of the collaborators and gives an overview of the manual. 

“In the manual, we explain what’s going on, why this disease changed from where it was historically to what it’s doing today and how practitioners and producers can put together a control program that works for their specific farm,” Yeske says.

Approximately 60 pages in length, veterinarians can obtain a printed version by contacting their Zoetis representative. The manual also is available for download at, where veterinarians also can find a video series with more MH management insights provided by several of the manual’s collaborators.

5 swine pathogens on the radar

Herd health is imperative to the health of all hog operations

Foot and mouth disease, classical swine fever, African swine fever and influenza A virus top the prioritized list of top 25 pathogens of concern as presented by the Swine Disease Matrix Project as presented by the Swine Health Information Center’s Executive Director Paul Sundberg. Others on the list, such as porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus, porcine epidemic diarrhea virus and Seneca Valley Virus have garnered many headlines and work continues to find solutions to battle these diseases.

Sundberg says the Swine Disease Matrix will be used to prioritize actions and research this year by SHIC.

The Matrix, completed by the Swine Health Monitoring and Analysis Working Group, is created by rating each pathogen using three-part criteria: 

  1. Production economic effects post entry
  2. Effects on domestic and international markets
  3. Likelihood of entry

With that in mind, some pathogens made this list that may not be on U.S. producers’ minds, but should be. Here are five that should be on producers, veterinarians and the industry’s radar screen.

South Africa now taking U.S. pork

South Africa now taking U.S. pork

South Africa is now accepting U.S. pork exports. The National Pork Producers Council, which worked with the Obama administration to convince Pretoria to lift a de facto ban on U.S. pork, welcomed the news.

The United States can ship to South Africa a variety of raw, frozen pork, including bellies, hams, loins, ribs and shoulders, for unrestricted sale and other pork for further processing.

“NPPC is pleased that South Africa has followed through with a commitment to open its market to U.S. pork. Now, we can sell safe, high-quality and affordable U.S. pork to more than 50 million new consumers,” says NPPC President Ron Prestage, a veterinarian and pork producer from Camden, S.C. “U.S. pork producers had been on the outside looking in as competitors from Brazil, Canada and the European Union sold pork to South Africa, which banned our product using non-science-based restrictions that didn’t pass the red face test.”

One of those restrictions was to prevent the spread of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome to South African livestock even though the risk of disease transmission from U.S. pork products was negligible. There is no documented scientific case of PRRS being transmitted to domestic livestock through imported pork. (New Zealand, a PRRS-free nation, imported pork for 10 years from PRRS-positive countries without getting the disease.)

In early January, after the Obama administration threatened to suspend its trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act — duty-free access for products exported to the United States — South Africa announced it would partially lift its ban on U.S. pork.

“While we now can sell pork in South Africa,” Prestage says, “there is no scientific reason to restrict any of our pork, so we’ll continue to work with the governments in Washington and Pretoria to get complete access to that market.”

Click here for details on the products South Africa is accepting.