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Articles from 2001 In March

*News and Market Information,1394,38,00.html

Protesters Attack NPPC Washington Office

Disgruntled activists upset over USDA’s decision to negotiate an agreement to continue the pork checkoff program occupied the Washington, DC, office of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) for about 45 minutes on March 26.

The 100 protesters grabbed, pushed and verbally abused the four NPPC employees present, creating a lot of disruption, says Steven Cohen, NPPC director of communications. They rifled through desks in every office, plastered doors and walls with paper stickers "Stop The Pork Tax" and chanted demands that NPPC Chief Executive Officer Al Tank be handed over. Tank was not in the office at the time of the protest, says Cohen. They attempted to fax a flyer discrediting the NPPC to the organization’s group list.

Cohen says the protesters would not agree to sit down and discuss their concerns and only left after police were called.

NPPC President Barb Determan says, "In today’s society, 100 protesters storming an office is not a simple protest, but a major security threat to our staff. I think this protest is an injustice to pork producers everywhere and should cause great concern for the safety of those working on our behalf."

Although the situation was "very intimidating," no one was physically harmed and no office equipment was damaged, says Cohen. Precautions will be taken against future protests, but he refused to provide details.

Determan adds that NPPC has tried to work with the activists, but that effort is over. "As a pork producer, I have had enough. We are going to stand strong against this attack and focus on the future of the pork checkoff."

USDA’s settlement agreement with NPPC allows the mandatory pork checkoff program to continue with some modifications.

The protesters included members of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Minnesota Land Stewardship Project and the Illinois Stewardship Alliance. All of these groups are part of the National People’s Action, an umbrella coalition based in Chicago which mounts mostly urban-oriented protests, says Cohen.

The previous night, a group of 300 activists was reported to have protested the pork checkoff ruling outside Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman’s house in Alexandria, VA. She was not home at the time.

Pit Additive Product List

Purdue University reviewed 35 manure pit additive products that appear in the March 15, 2001 article, "Pit Additives Score Low on Odor Tests."

The products and company details are as follows:

  • Agri-Clean – Cal-Agri Products, 110 Rose Briar Dr., Longwood, FL 32750; (407) 332-9352 (phone); (407) 332-7153 (fax); e-mail
  • Agricycle – American Bio Catalysts, Box 15104, Richmond, VA 23227-0504; (804) 515-0564 (phone); (804) 515-0566 (fax).
  • AgriKlenz Plus – Aqualogy BioRemedics, 4331 E. Western Star Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85944-1007; (602) 893-9234 (phone); (602) 244-0522 (fax).
  • Alken-Murray Clear-Flo – Phoenix Processes Inc., 33405 Clear Pond Rd., Shawnee, OK 74801; (405) 878-9400 or (877) 976-9400 (phone); (405) 878-8908 (fax); e-mail ; visit
  • AWL-80 – NatRx Inc., 203 S. Main, Muleshoe, TX 79347; (877) 628-7948 or (806) 272-5745 (phone); (806) 272-3799 (fax).
  • Biocharge Dry – Biotal Inc., 6595 Edenvale Blvd., Suite 155, Eden Prairie, MN 55346; (952) 934-1195 (phone); (952) 934-0741 (fax).
  • Biological Manure Treatment – K-Zyme Laboratories, 3807 Brandon Rd., Suite 217, Roanoke, VA 24018; (504) 989-1216.
  • BIO-MAX Biosystem – RK Industries Inc., 1039 State St., Suite 203, Box 803, Bettendorf, IA 52722; (319) 359-9500 (phone); (319) 359-9555 (fax).
  • Conserve-N – IMC, 100 S. Saunders Rd., Suite 300, Lake Forest, IL 60045-2561; (847) 739-1427 (phone); (847) 739-1632 (fax);
  • Digest 54 Plus – Alltech Inc., 3031 Catnip Hill Pike, Nicholasville, KY 40356; (859) 885-9613 (phone); (859) 885-6736.
  • EM Waste Treatment – EM Technologies Inc., 1802 W. Grant Rd., Suite 122, Tucson, AZ 85745; (630) 293-1866 (phone); (630) 293- 4993 (fax); e-mail
  • GT-2000OC and BC-2000AF– G.T. Environmental Technology Inc., 7801-C Thomson St., Pearland, TX 77581; (281) 997-0200 (phone); (281) 997-0201 (fax).
  • INHIBODOR – Conklin Co. Inc., Animal Products Division, 551 Valley Park Drive, Box 155, Shakopee, MN 55379; Jen’s Consumer Products, 400 Commercial St., Lacon, IL 61540; (309) 246-2275 (phone); (309) 246- 3117 (fax); e-mail
  • KOPROS – Pennsylvania International Trade Corp., 234 North St., Harrisburg, PA 17101; (717) 234-6449 (phone); (717) 234-4739 (fax); e-mail
  • Krystal Air – Fischer Enterprises Inc., 2415 Utah Ave., Thor, IA 50591; (515) 378-3365 (phone); (515) 378-3375 (fax).
  • Lagoon Aid – Biotac Agri-Life Systems, 1919 S. 40th St., #106, Lincoln, NE 68506; (402) 489-2411 (phone and fax).
  • Manure Management Plus – Cytozyme Laboratories Inc., 134 S. 700 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84104; (800) 654-1726 (phone); (801) 537-1312 (fax); e-mail
  • MBA-S – Desert Microbial Products, 2069 E. Carson, Tempe, AZ 85282-7405; (480) 839-8063 (phone); (480) 838-7581 (fax).
  • MICROBE-LIFT– Ecological Laboratories Inc., 215 N. Main St., Box 132, Freeport, NY 11520; (516) 379-3441 or (800) 645-2976 (phone); (516) 379-3632 (fax); e-mail;
  • MUNOX – Osprey Biotechnics, 1833-A 57th St., Sarasota, FL 34243; (941) 351-2700 (phone); (941) 351-0026 (fax).
  • M2 Acid Buffer/M2 Microbial Activator – Bio-Surge Inc., 1003-1009 S. Lincoln Ave., Amarillo, TX 79101-3639; (806) 374-3586 (phone); (806) 373-5683 (fax).
  • Nature’s Key Pit & Lagoon Treatment – American Eco-Systems Inc., The Nature’s Key Co., Box 109, 125 9th Ave., Wellman, IA 52356; (800) 433-2999 (phone); (319) 646-2843 (fax).
  • N-P 50 – Neo Products, 448 E. Oliver St., Corunna, MI 48817; (888) 977-4848 (phone); (517) 743-8240 (fax).
  • OdorKlenz – Aqualogy BioRemedics, 4331 E. Western Star Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85044-1007; (602) 893-9234 (phone); (602) 244-0522 (fax).
  • Peroxy Odor Control – Kennedy Enterprises, 508 3rd Ave., NE, Belmond, IA 50421; (515) 444-3736; Randy Navratil, 327 Hilllcrest Dr., Story City, IA 50248; (515) 733-5053 (phone); (515) 733-4722 (fax).
  • Pit Remedy – Al Larson Distributing, 13105 Hamilton St., Omaha, NE 68154; (888) 231-1002 or (402) 493-0455 (phone); (402) 498-0268 (fax).
  • PS1 – A.D. Associates, LLC, 752 Gapter Rd., Boulder, CO 80303; (303) 499-3133 (phone); (303) 402-5305 (fax).
  • Roebic Manure Liquefier – Roebic Laboratories Inc., 25 Connair Rd., Box 927, Orange, CT 06477; (203) 795-1283; Bob Beer, 4920 Jule Dr., Panora, IA 50216; (641) 755-2996 (phone); (641) 755-2642 (fax).
  • Roebic Odor Eliminator – Roebic Laboratories Inc., 25 Connair Rd., Box 927, Orange, CT 06477; (203) 795-1283; Bob Beer, 4920 Jule Dr., Panora, IA 50216; (641) 755-2996 (phone); (641) 755-2642 (fax).
  • SEPTI-SOL – Kennedy Enterprises, Dave Kennedy, 508 3rd Ave. NE, Belmond, IA 50421; (515) 444-3736; Randy Navratil, 327 Hillcrest Dr., Story City, IA 50248; (515) 733-5053 (phone); (515) 733-4722 (fax).
  • Solmar AW-509 – Micro-Link, LLC, 110 Surrey Run, Williamsville, NY 14221; (716) 633-5678 (phone); (716) 633-6614 (fax); e-mail
  • Super Microbial Odor Control – SMSI Inc., 6610 Rockledge Dr., Suite 168, Bethesda, MD 20817; (301) 581-9577 (phone); (301) 897-4092 (fax);
  • UC-40 Microbe Formula – UCI Bioaugmentation Research and Technology, Boc 548, Klamath Falls, OR 97601; (541) 851-8311 (phone); (541) 851-8312 (fax).
  • X12 – Earth Balance Technologies Ltd., 752 Gapter Rd., Boulder, CO 80303; (303) 499-3133 (phone); (303) 402-5305 (fax).
  • ZymPlex – World Wide Enzymes Inc., Odor Research Div., Department 40, Box 025216, Miami, FL 33102; (506) 228-5853 (phone); (506) 228-5850 (fax).

Producers May Benefit from Vitamin Conspiracy

Pork producers may have major claims to recover in pending lawsuits against vitamin manufacturers, a veterinarian and a lawyer involved in the case said during Pork Industry Forum in Orlando, FL.

The main allegations cover Jan. 1, 1990, to Dec. 31, 1999. Some single-ingredient vitamin supplements, straight bulk vitamin products and premix may be covered during a shorter time period.

"Swine producers are considered indirect purchasers of vitamin products by means of their purchases of premix, base mix and complete rations from an entity other than the manufacturer, such as a feed mill or other source," explains Steve Henry, DVM, Abilene, KS. "If we overpaid for vitamins by $1/pig, that total is very large over the 10 years covered by the allegations," he adds.

There have been many lawsuits filed since 1997, alleging a long-running international conspiracy to fix prices of certain bulk vitamins and vitamin products, says Tom Patterson, Sioux City, IA, attorney. "These lawsuits have been filed on behalf of both direct and indirect purchasers of vitamin products," he says.

Plantiffs filing indirect purchaser vitamin lawsuits in state courts reached a partial settlement Oct. 10. A Master Settlement Agreement was reached with defendants Aventis Animal Nutrition, BASF Corporation, Hoffmann-LaRoche Inc., Roche Vitamins, Takeda Chemical Industries, Caiichi Pharmaceutical Co. and Eisai Co.

"This Master Settlement Agreement, if approved by the state courts involved, will establish a claims process for indirect purchasers of vitamins, such as pork producers, to file a claim for damages they may have incurred as a result of the vitamin manufacturers’ illegal price fixing," says Patterson. "Once the settlement has been approved by the court, pork producers would have 90 days to opt out of the settlement or 120 days to remain in the settlement and file a claim," he says.

Further information on the antitrust matter is at Patterson can be reached at (712) 255-8838. Another attorney in the case, Robert Hopper of Minneapolis, is available at (612) 341-0400 or log onto the Web site

NPPC Names New Officers

Barb Campbell Determan, Early, IA, is the new president of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). She and husband Steve operate a 300-sow, farrow-to-finish operation.

New president-elect Dave Roper of Kimberly, ID, owns Magic Valley Pork, a 140-sow, farrow-to-finish operation.

New vice president is Jon Caspers, co-owner of Pleasant Valley Pork Corp., a farrow-to-finish operation that markets 20,000 hogs/year.

Elected to three-year terms on the NPPC board of directors were Don Buhl of Tyler, MN; Richard Brauer of Oakford, IL; James Quackenbush of Chokio, MN, and Bob Bloomer of Sebewaing, MI.

Mike Townsend of Overland Park, KS, senior vice president of sales and marketing, Premium Standard Farms, was elected to an associate member seat on the NPPC board of directors.

Information is also available on the NPPC Web site at

Illinois Leaders Honored at Industry Forum

Veteran pig behavior specialist Stan Curtis was presented the Pork Industry Distinguished Service award during the Pork Industry Forum, March 8-10 in Orlando FL. Curtis, currently adjunct professor of animal sciences at the University of Illinois-Urbana, has spent more than three decades studying the socio-political issues surrounding swine care and housing. He pioneered research on swine environment, housing and equipment with an emphasis on pig behavior and well-being.

Curtis was in the forefront as animal rights issues emerged in the 1970s, urging the pork industry to recognize and address any animal care issues raised by activists. He contributed to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) Animal Welfare Committee and was instrumental in developing and drafting new guidelines for pork producers to address the issue.

Throughout his career, Curtis has served Purdue University, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Illinois. During his tenure, he has made more than 700 presentations to producer, scientific and government groups in all 50 states and 20 countries.

Also recognized during the annual Pork Industry Forum banquet were Ellen & Ray Hankes as inductees into the Pork Industry Hall of Fame. The award commemorates pork producers who have devoted their life’s work to building the U.S. pork industry.

The husband-wife team have been active throughout all levels of pork organizations. Ray chaired the committee that developed the "Pork – the Other White Meat" campaign. Also, during his term as NPPC president (1988), the first World Pork Expo was staged.

Ellen, an active partner in the family hog operation, Thrushwood Farms, served as the first woman president of the Illinois Pork Producers Association. Ellen was also an active member of the National Pork Council Women organization, developed and presented workshops on diet and health issues and served as a spokesperson for the Agriculture Council of America’s Foodwatch program.

Both earned their bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Illinois; Ray also received his doctorate in ruminant nutrition and meat science there.

The Hankes recently moved to Nashville, TN where Ray manages a new IBP meat plant which produces retail-ready steaks, chops roasts and ground beef near Goodletsville, TN.

Most Hogs Sold on Contract

National Pork Producers Council checkoff-funded research shows that 82.7% of U.S. hogs are sold on some type of marketing contract.

Glenn Grimes, University of Missouri agricultural economist, reported the findings at the 2001 National Pork Industry Forum.

"Non-spot or non-cash purchases in 2001 accounted for 82.7% of the purchases," Grimes reports.

In 2000, 74.3% of hogs were purchased on contracts. In 1997, 56.6% of hogs were non-spot market transactions.

Eleven packing companies were surveyed and asked to classify their purchases during January. The companies include Smithfield/Morrell, IBP, Swift, Cargill/Excel, Hormel/Rochelle, Farmland, Seaboard, Premium Standard/Lundy, Indiana Packers, Hatfield and Clougherty.

Federally inspected (FI) slaughter for Jan. 2-27 was 7,442,297 head. Companies surveyed included 86.9% of FI slaughter.

The survey shows that 17.3% of hogs were sold on the spot market, 54% were sold via a formula (a reported price plus some amount), 16% were sold on a fixed price tied to a feed price and 6% were sold on a fixed price tied to the futures market price. (To download Table 1, click here. This requires Adobe Acrobat Reader, free download.)

Several pricing options do not affect the variance of price received by producers, Grimes says.

"Only cash contracts, the one usually tied to futures and contracts without ledgers reduce producers’ price risk," he outlines. "These classes of agreements account for 16.7% of the hogs covered by this survey, up from 15.6% in 2000 and 9.9% in 1999."

Hog production owned by packers or companies with packing plants is estimated at 27%, up from 24% a year ago.

For more information, visit

Source: NPPC press release

How to Avoid Foot-and-Mouth Disease

The recent outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the United Kingdom and elsewhere have put the U.S. pork industry on alert. Producers need to exercise caution to avoid spread of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), says an official of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).

FMD is not a human health risk, but the virus can be carried on clothing, shoes, body (particularly the throat and nasal passages) and personal items, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The disease spreads easily among cloven-hoofed animals including cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and deer.

"Observe the biosecurity measures recommended by USDA, which are posted on NPPC’s Web site, if traveling to countries with FMD or hosting visitors from FMD-infected areas," says Beth Lautner, DVM, NPPC vice president of science and technology. Strictly avoid contact with U.S. livestock or wildlife for five days after visiting areas with FMD. Properly clean travel clothes. Wear other clothing for contact with livestock, she says.

Even though the U.S. has been free of FMD since 1929, NPPC’s Swine Health Committee and pork producer representatives are working to ensure all steps are being taken to avoid an outbreak of a foreign animal disease like FMD.

"Even though we have been fortunate in the U.S. and have not had to deal with a severe animal disease outbreak like the U.K. is experiencing, it doesn’t mean that we can become complacent," says Jon Caspers, NPPC Swine Health Committee chair and Swaledale, IA, producer.

Nationally, NPPC is a founding member of the National Animal Health Emergency Management Steering Committee. The steering committee has developed a new partnership model for emergency management coordination. This includes assessment of state and industry preparedness and educational materials to producers and veterinarians.

Information on foreign animal diseases, including an awareness video, is available on NPPC’s Web site

Databases Provide Knowledge to Producers

"In our knowledge-based industry, the only sustainable competitive advantage is to apply knowledge faster than the competition," says Earl Dotson, NPPC vice president of Education, Environment and Production Research. "Environmental issues are the number one issue determining whether or not a producer stays in business. The National Environmental Database will help producers understand industry benchmarks."

Environmental Database

A database of information collected during 1,700 On-Farm Odor/Environmental Assessment Program farm visits shows most challenges can be corrected with management and were addressed within six months.

Reviews of hog farms by unbiased, third-party environmental professionals show that 67% of challenges were addressed by pork producers within six months. The average time to address the issue was 19 hours. The cost ranged from zero to $5,000.

The top challenges identified are the lack of a comprehensive environmental plan, although most producers had a partial plan already developed; and dust accumulation on fans, which causes unnecessary potential for odor inside and outside of buildings and slows air flow.

Financial Database

Analysis of the National Production and Financial Standards Database shows big differences in how producers keep financial records and that all can benefit from standardized recordkeeping.

With standardized records, producers can compare and analyze their records against the National Pork Database and therefore, stay competitive in the marketplace.

"Once established, both production and financial benchmarks will allow pork producers and their advisers to better understand the impact of production practices, new technology, debt, equity and capital in their operations," Dotson says.

To share information already gathered, a curriculum has been developed for producers, lenders, veterinarians, extension and adult ag educators and chief financial officers. For producers, 22 classes are scheduled throughout the country this year. Each producer will take six classes in a nine-month period.

Classes offer information on the production model, the return-on-equity model, production and financial reports, commodity and activity managerial accounting, chart of accounts, National Pork Database, benchmarking and give the opportunity for the producer to use his/her records for decision-making purposes.

For more information, visit or contact your state pork producers association office.

Source: NPPC

Composting: Economical Alternative to Rendering

As rendering costs and biosecurity concerns increase, Iowa producers turn to composting death losses. In Ohio, producers are fine-tuning their techniques after six years of composting.

When Dan Opheim stocked his new 2,000-head contract finishing barns last spring, he faced the tough decision of how to handle any mortalities.

While dealing with dead pigs is not a pleasant thought, every producer must be prepared to handle them. The Cylinder, IA, producer's plan included mortality composting as part of a Iowa Pork Industry Center demonstration project spearheaded by Iowa State University Extension livestock field specialist Dennis DeWitt and Extension ag engineer Kris Kohl.

In 2000, DeWitt enlisted pork producers to try composting as a cost-effective alternative to rendering services. In Iowa, much as in other states, rendering companies are charging more for their services. Some have closed.

“The cost of on-farm rendering service is rising to several hundreds of dollars a month,” DeWitt says. “Producers are seriously seeking a biologically and environmentally safe method of mortality disposal. Composting appears to fit the bill.”

As Opheim's finishers were being built, he considered buying a $4,000 incinerator or using a rendering service, which would cost at least $2,000/year.

Instead, Opheim built a composting unit in between his new contract barns for New Fashion Pork and a 500-head, open-front unit on another farm. That puts the composting unit about one-half mile from each barn site. This required Opheim to get an Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) permit to compost mortalities.

Opheim purchased eighteen 10-ft.-long concrete pen dividers from a local ready-mix plant for $40 each. He constructed three 20 × 30-ft. bins, using soil to hold the partitions in place. Under the bins is a layer of 8 to 10 in. of cement truck washout (the leftovers from pouring cement), purchased for $400.

The total cost was $1,120 plus the one day Opheim spent constructing the bins.

To compost the dead hogs, Opheim uses the corn stover bedding from the open-front sow housing unit. He starts with a 1-ft. base of the bedding in the bin. The dead hog is laid on top of the bedding and then covered with more bedding. Subsequent mortalities, about 100 over six months, are added and covered with bedding. The demonstration project requires producers to keep a log of additions to the pile.

After eight weeks, Opheim uses a tractor with a front-end loader to turn the pile into the second bin. A third bin is used to complete the composting. In the fall, the finished compost is spread on fields in compliance with his nutrient management plan.

“I think producers will compost as they find how efficient this system is,” he says.

The composting pile allows him to immediately dispose of dead hogs and keep the rendering truck away from the farm.

Back to the Basics

DeWitt outlines the basic rules for composting in Iowa: producers must use a site with an all-weather surface (such as concrete or compacted gravel) and dispose of dead animals within 24 hours.

In addition, the Iowa DNR requires composting in a manner that prevents formation and release of runoff and leachate and controls odors, flies, rodents and other vermin.

The principle of composting is simple: the natural bacteria in the dead pig works to degrade the carcass while a carbon material absorbs the fluids, holds in odor and enhances the natural degradation process.

Any carbon source (sawdust, wood chips, bedding, corn stover, turkey or chicken litter) can be used.

The basic principle is to have a carbon (sawdust, etc.) to nitrogen (pig) ratio of 20:1.

The ratio should be adjusted depending on the consistency of the carbon material, DeWitt says.

“If the material is coarse, just add more depth to the pile,” he says.

Kohl gives a visual reference to use when making a compost pile. “Think of the pile as a chimney with air coming through the bottom and up to the top,” he says.

The amount of time needed to degrade carcasses depends on the age and size of the animal. Baby pigs can be totally composted in 30 days, but sows and boars may need 3 months or more.

Temperature Matters

Kohl and DeWitt suggest using a thermometer to record the daily temperature when beginning to compost. This will familiarize producers with the proper temperatures for efficient composting.

Temperatures inside a pile should reach about 140-160° F. Higher temperatures do not necessarily mean faster composting, Kohl stresses.

“People get excited when they reach high temperatures like 180 degrees, but those temperatures can also kill the bacteria that we want working in the pile,” he reminds. “On the flip side, temperatures below 120° F mean the pile may not be working.”

Producers should add more carbon when pile temperatures dip below 120° F.

Kohl describes a working compost pile as “fast, warm and non-odorous,” and a non-working pile as “slow, cold and stinky.”

Common Mistakes

Pork producers in Ohio have been composting their mortalities for six years. Roger Bender and Steve Foster, Ohio State University Extension agents, have helped producers become certified, a requirement in Ohio.

They outline common composting mistakes:

  • Not enough fresh sawdust on top of the compost pile. “We encourage producers to recycle the compost material, but we always recommend adding a foot of fresh sawdust on top as a biofilter,” Bender says.

  • No fence around the compost bins. Using wire fence panels to keep scavengers out is just good common sense, Bender says.

  • Not adding new mortalities immediately. Foster suggests assigning one person to be in charge of collecting the deads and properly placing them on the compost pile.

  • More precise management of a bin composting system may be necessary. Because bins have a limited amount of space, optimum management is needed to keep the pile active, therefore making room for the new mortalities.

  • And, don't forget convenience, Foster stresses. The pile must be located where it is easy to dispose of dead pigs.

“We have to find a labor-efficient way to handle the mortalities,” he says. “It needs to be a least-labor expense because the producer has already lost money on that pig when it died.”

Enhanced biosecurity is another key for producers to remember, Bender says.

“When the dead stock truck doesn't come around anymore, you greatly enhance biosecurity at the farm,” he says. “Those trucks violate every principal of biosecurity.”

Foster and Bender offer this analysis of the cost of mortality handling options.

If a producer has a 5,000 head/year finishing operation and 3% death loss, he will have about three 150-lb. hogs die each week.

If rendering services charge $50/trip, one stop a week costs $2,600 annually; two stops/week would cost $5,200.

Using the same operation, mortality percentage and an estimated incineration cost range from $0.80 to $1.75/lb., the cost to incinerate the mortalities would be $18,720 to $40,950/year.

Terry Knapke, Versailles, OH, set up a windrow composting pile (roughly 4-ft. deep and 35-ft. long) when he built two 960-head contract finishing barns.

The pile, which uses wood chips as the carbon source, is located next to the buildings. The wood chips are free from a local tree trimming service, Knapke says.

“I've used rendering services and buried animals, but this is easier and cheaper,” he says.

Size Matters

Opheim's composting unit is oversized, but that allows him to use a tractor loader to add mortalities, mix and spread the finished compost.

If producers choose to use a bin system, they can use a formula to estimate the space needed.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) swine mortality composting module uses a formula to estimate the pounds of death loss/day, which is used to figure the space needed to compost.

Here's a synopsis of the formula:

  • Total the number of pigs born/year, number of sows, nursery and finishing pigs;

  • Multiply each number by the average weight of the animals and then by the percentage of death loss for each category or stage of production;

  • Take those four figures, add them together and divide by 365 for daily death loss.

  • Take that figure and multiply by 20. (NPPC figures 20 cu. ft./lb. of death loss).

  • Next, divide by 5, because the maximum bin height is 5 ft. This will equal the primary bin area.

  • Divide the primary bin area by the size (sq. ft.) proposed for each bin. This should provide the number of primary bins needed.

  • Round that number up to the nearest whole number and estimate a minimum of one secondary bin for two primary bins. Then add another bin for storage of carbon material.

NPPC estimates the cost of building a structure to compost mortalities at $1,500 to $2,000/bin.

Basic Principles for Composting Mortalities

Here are several basic principles to remember when composting swine mortalities.

Each state has rules on composting sites. Some states, like Minnesota, require a roofed structure. Other states only require that composting is done on an all-weather surface, for example, concrete or packed gravel.

Another important thing to remember in using an outdoor pile is proper maintenance. The top of the pile should be groomed regularly to avoid depressions that could collect rainwater. Extra water could slow the bacteria process, causing odors and drawing flies, reminds Roger Bender, Ohio State University Extension agent.

An unused, open-front barn may be perfect for composting. The roof prevents too much moisture (rain or snow) from entering the pile, the building allows for storage of extra carbon material, and the floor is slopped appropriately for drainage.

The basic layout of a compost pile is the same whether a bin is used or a windrow system is implemented. A 1-ft. or thicker layer of carbon material should be spread, then the dead animal placed on top, then another layer of carbon. The carcasses should not touch and should be placed in the pile before they start to freeze or decay.

Moisture content is a big key to getting a compost pile started. The appropriate range is 50-60%.

Placement of deads in the pile should be routine for workers. The biosecurity procedures should be the same for the compost pile as they are for the farm. One worker should have composting responsibilities, preferably at the end of the work day.

Any carbon material will work in a composting pile, reminds Dennis DeWitt, Iowa State University Extension. A material with multiple particle sizes works better than all coarse or all fine material.

Compost material that has been partially used will work faster than new material because it is already inoculated with bacteria.

Location of the composting pile is important. Producers should consider aesthetics and landscaping, provide limited or appealing view for neighbors or passing motorists when siting a pile. In addition, maintaining biosecurity precautions is a must, DeWitt reminds.

For more information on composting or to acquire the NPPC swine mortality composting module, contact NPPC at (515) 223-2600, visit or contact your state pork producers association office. The cost is $15.

Consult your state department of agriculture or department of natural resources for regulations governing composting of swine mortalities.

Several Web sites offer a wealth of information on composting: