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Articles from 2005 In March


EPA Extends Air Emission Agreement Deadline

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has extended the deadline for producers to sign the Air Emissions Consent Agreement to July 1, 2005. More information can be found about the agreement on the National Pork Producers Council’s website at: http://www.nppc.org/hot_topics/airemissions.html.

For more information about the agreement, including common legal questions and answers, see “Times Tight to Sign Up for EPA Program,” listed under “features” below. The article appeared in the Feb. 15, 2005 issue of National Hog Farmer, pages 10-11.

Animal Agriculture Group Meets

The National Institute for Animal Agriculture's (NIAA) annual meeting is April 3-7, 2005 at the Radisson Riverfront Hotel in St. Paul, MN.

Fifteen committees will present seminars addressing such issues as foreign animal diseases and animal identification.

A special feature will be a one-day symposium on April 7, “Protecting the Global Food Supply: Growing Concern for Emerging Zoonotic Diseases.”

More information can be found at www.animalagriculture.org or by calling (270) 782-9798.

Environmental Center Has Statistical Power

A new state-of-the art facility uses the latest equipment along with human panelists to decipher what really causes air and water contamination and how to correct those concerns.

Last summer, the new Purdue Swine Environmental Research Building was completed, supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Pork Board.

Studies are focusing on diet modification, management practices and the impact of manure on odors and water pollutants.

“Large livestock facilities don't fall under current emissions standards because there is insufficient baseline data for such operations, and there is even less information on the odor issue,” says Brian Richert, one of the animal scientists leading the effort at Purdue.

Agricultural engineers in six states (including Purdue) are currently evaluating baseline gas, odor and dust emission rates from mechanically ventilated hog and poultry buildings. Data was collected using climate-controlled mobile laboratories.

Farm Replication

The 15,500-sq.-ft. facility at Purdue can closely replicate conditions at an actual farm, says Richert. It features 12 rooms that hold a total of 720 hogs.

“Replication is important for testing abatement technology,” states Al Heber, an agricultural engineer at Purdue, who is coordinating a two-year benchmarking study, part of EPA's national air emissions consent agreement.

“For example, if you want to modify a diet, then you want to know if the new diet will affect emissions from a pig. To do this properly, you need at least two rooms with the new diet and two rooms with the old diet.

“This building allows proper replication and controlled measurements that we just can't do out in the field on actual farms,” adds Heber. “This facility gives us statistical power.”

In the middle of the facility is a large area with a complex gas sampling system that takes samples at 25 sites per 12 rooms. The system automatically records continuous, around-the-clock measurements of emissions being studied. Gases monitored include ammonia; hydrogen sulfide; methane; and carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, which are byproducts of ammonia. The heart of the gas-sensing system is a top-of-the-line analyzer that can test five gases at one time, says Heber. Particulate matter (dust) will also be monitored.

“There are several ways to measure ammonia, and we are using top-of-the line, EPA-approved instruments that use a chemiluminescence method to mix nitric oxide with ozone to create a glow,” says Heber. “We also use a pulsed fluorescence and similar methods for hydrogen sulfide.”

Separate Rooms

The facility features 12 identical rooms, enabling researchers to feed hogs varying diets to determine which factors cause manure and urine to emit offending chemicals and gases.

Rooms include self-contained manure pits and ventilation systems that can be set to mimic large confinement barns.

“We are going to be watching the activity of the animals, humidity and temperature, static pressure and air flow,” explains Heber.

“The fans are computer-controlled, so we know the air exchange rates exactly,” adds Richert. “Then we can sample the gases and determine precise emission rates for any compound we're monitoring. We've mimicked exactly what the industry has today, so we think we will have the best data available.”

The Nose Knows

After sampling and measuring the main gases, Heber still relies on the human nose to determine offensive odors. The researchers bag the odors and transport the bags 10 miles from the Purdue research farm complex at Montmorenci, IN, to the school's main campus at West Lafayette, IN.

There, eight trained panelists sniff the samples. A $30,000 olfactometer dilutes the odor in each bag with odor-free air in order to determine how much smell is offensive.

“We determine each panelist's odor dilution to threshold,” says Heber. “For example, in some cases we might have to dilute the odor 500 times before they can't smell it. For another person it might be 1,000 times.”

Combining all of the data from the continuous monitoring and the bags will allow scientists to calculate how far a farm should be from a neighbor to minimize odors.

“This facility allows us to measure odor concentration directly,” says Heber. “If we know the odor concentration and the air flow through the fan, we can calculate the odor emissions.

“We're establishing and refining methods and techniques that are being used around the country. Hopefully, our measurement protocol will become the official EPA standard,” he adds.

Purdue has received $500,000 in federal monies to establish baseline emission data and another $1.3 million to pursue abatement strategies.

Sow Parity, Nutrition Drive Reproductive Efficiency

Ongoing changes in agricultural policy and the liberalization in trade have increased the world market for pork, making it all the more vital for the U.S. to strive for efficient, low-cost production.

The U.S. now exports approximately 11% of its production. To remain competitive in this global market, efficient, low-cost suppliers must also ensure a high quality, safe product.

A recent survey by the Danish Bacon and Meat Council, citing 2002 data, showed the U.S. has relatively low cost of production, but is less competitive in sow reproductive efficiency (Figures 1, 2, 3). Consequently, U.S. producers market fewer pigs/sow/year than many other countries (Figure 4).

The cost-of-production advantage is likely due to lower feed, building and labor costs, lower interest rates, the economies of unit size, and the adoption of new technologies and management strategies.

The Danish report suggests that one factor contributing to U.S. producers' lower breeding herd efficiency is the widespread use of slaughter animals as breeding stock. This practice lowers the genetic merit of the sows in some herds.

Other factors include poor gilt pool management, larger unit size, earlier weaning, lower labor input/animal and low unemployment rates, which reduces the availability of skilled, knowledgeable employees. Also, high summer temperatures and diseases, such as porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), certainly affect sow reproductive performance. But it is unlikely that these are more problematic in the U.S. than in other countries.

Parity Distribution Leaves a Mark

High sow wastage levels on many U.S. farms also contribute to poor breeding herd efficiency. Some important indicators of sow wastage are shown in Table 1. It is obvious that far too many sows are being culled in their early parities. The costs of high replacement rates can be very significant.

For an average herd with a 60% replacement rate that is producing 2.25 litters/sow/year, the percentage of gilt litters produced is 26.7 (60 % 2.25). Gilts produce smaller litters and have lower farrowing rates; therefore, more gilt litters produce fewer pigs born/sow/year (Table 2).

The effect of parity distribution on weaned pig cost is shown in Table 3. Weaned pig cost decreases as longevity in the herd increases. R. D. Boyd, with the Hanor Company, based in Spring Green, WI, has calculated that premature turnover of sows costs 25-30¢/weaned pig (US$) for each 1% change in sow turnover. The effects of culling rate on gilt replacement costs for a 1,000-sow herd paying $260/replacement gilt are shown in Table 4.

Obviously, production systems with lower sow replacement rates are more profitable than those with high sow replacement rates.

Major reasons for culling remain:

  • Reproductive problems (failure to show heat, repeat services, small litters);

  • Locomotor problems (osteochondrosis, foot lesions, injuries, conformation problems);

  • Degenerative problems (extremes of body condition (too fat, too lean), disease, abortion.

Although many factors contribute to high replacement rates, improper feeding programs for the gestating and lactating sow play an important role on many farms.

Feeding the Gestating Sow

Currently, most gestating sows are fed on the basis of condition score. However, condition scoring does not reflect the sow's backfat level. Also, because maintenance represents 75% to 80% of the total energy requirement of gestating sows, any feeding system that ignores sow weight cannot be accurate.

In a previous article, we presented a feeding system based on sow weight and backfat (see “Sow Backfat and Weight Watchers,” National Hog Farmer, Aug. 15, 2004, p. 18).

But most farms are not prepared or equipped to spend the time, effort or expense of weighing sows. Therefore, feeding tables based on visual estimates of sow weight or from regression equations using flank-to-flank measurements obtained by using a cloth tape (Figure 5) can be helpful.

The derived equation is: Sow weight, lb. = 26.85 × (flank measurement in inches) - 628.

Backfat is measured using an ultrasound backfat probe such as the Renco Lean Meater (Figure 6; Renco Corp., Minneapolis, MN).

Based on the estimates of sow weight and backfat level at the time of breeding, feeding allowances can be developed (Table 5).

These feeding allowances take into account the sow weight gain needed to attain a backfat level of 0.7-0.8 in. at farrowing. The maintenance requirement is calculated on the predicted mid-gestation sow weight; therefore, these feeding levels can be used from breeding to Day 100 of gestation. All sows should be fed an extra 2 lb./day from Day 100 to farrowing.

For those reluctant to weigh sows or to obtain flank-to-flank measurements, the sows should be assigned to weight classes as shown in Table 5, based on visual appraisal. Farms not using backfat measurement could replace the four backfat classes with condition scores of 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, >4. Thus, Table 5 could be used with visual estimates of sow weight and condition scores.

Adoption of a feeding system based on sow weight and backfat will result in:

  • Lower feed cost/sow/year;

  • A high proportion of sows farrowing with the targeted backfat level of 0.7-0.8 in.; and

  • Vitamin and trace mineral requirements of older, heavier sows being met.

Vitamins Are Vital

When sows are fed on the basis of condition score, all sows with the same score receive the same level of feed, regardless of their weight. As Boyd recently pointed out, when sows are fed only on the basis of condition score, the heavier, older sows do not receive sufficient vitamins and trace minerals to meet their requirements.

Research has shown that when older sows (Parities 6-11) were fed based on condition score, and body weight was not taken into account, pigs weaned/litter decreased in those parities (see “Control” line in Figure 7). However, when sows were given a constant amount of vitamins and trace minerals per unit of body weight, there was no decline in pigs weaned/litter with increasing parity number (see “Test” line in Figure 7).

Feeding sows according to the weight categories in Table 5 will allow equal intake of micronutrients per unit of body weight. Feed and calcium and phosphorus intakes of sows of three of those weight categories are presented in Table 6 using condition scoring (CS), or on the basis of backfat and an estimate of feed intake/day.

Data shown in Tables 6 and 7 confirm that feeding gestating sows on the basis of some estimate of weight will insure that the older, heavier sows in the herd will receive their required levels of trace minerals and vitamins, which may avoid the age-related decline in litter size.

Feed allowances for gestating sows should be based on sow weight and backfat level. Weight-based feed allowances will increase efficiency of feed usage, help reduce variation in sow condition at farrowing, and supply the correct amount of vitamins and trace minerals relative to body weight.

Frank Aherne, Alberta Pig Company, North Saanich, British Columbia, Canada; and Malachy Young, Gowans Feed Consulting, Wainwright, Alberta, Canada.



Click to view graphs.

product news

Liquid Feeder

The Ascend Liquid Feeder from Land of Lincoln Products Inc. keeps liquid feed in suspension, reduces waste, insures sanitation of the feed in the feeder and operates efficiently at any pressure. Liquid feed exits the feeder valve laterally through three or more holes and enters the feeder from the bottom of the bowl. This fill action creates a swirling motion when the bowl fills. The valve also has a check valve for backflow protection and a built-in float that prevents the cup from over-filling. In addition, the feeder bowl sits flat on the floor, making cleaning easy.
(Circle Reply Card No. 101)

Mineral Premix

Developed by INZO, ACYL is a mineral premix designed to acidify sows' urine by lowering the pH, with the goal of limiting the development of bacteria, a source of urogenital pathologies. Administered twice a year to the whole herd, the ACYL effect results from a synergic association of specific molecules and ions with different actions. The animal reacts by creating a system of ion exchange that results in acidification of the urine, which limits the development of bacteria in the bladder. The acidification alone cannot treat existing pathologies, but can be used in association with antibiotic treatment.
(Circle Reply Card No. 102)

Cooling Fans

The Aquafog Turbo XE fans from Jaybird Manufacturing Inc., produce a very fine, dry-mist fog that evaporates quickly as it cools the air. The nozzle-free fans can atomize ordinary water supplies and handle a large variety of fumigation or evaporative cooling applications. The Aquafog Turbo XE fans can be direct or gravity-fed and are very resistant to acidic chemicals.
(Circle Reply Card No. 103)

Multi-Gas Monitor

Industrial Scientific introduces the M40-M, a multi-gas monitor designed to provide optimum protection in environments where hazardous levels of oxygen, methane, carbon monoxide and/or hydrogen sulfide may be present. Weighing just 8.6 oz., the ergonomically designed monitor has a large, custom LCD for continuous real-time gas readings and a unique amber backlight to provide clear display visibility. International graphic symbols and a four-button interface provide intuitive instrument setup, operation and calibration, while the M40-M's five-second “off” feature prevents unintentional shutoffs. The monitor is housed in a rugged, impact-resistant case to provide superior performance and durability.
(Circle Reply Card No. 104)

Swine Influenza Test Kit

IDEXX Laboratories Inc., announces the launch of the HerdChek Swine Influenza H3N2 Antibody Test Kit for the detection of antibodies to swine influenza type H3N2 virus in serum samples. The USDA has licensed this product after extensive research and significant sampling in U.S. swine operations. The kit provides rapid screening for the presence of antibodies to swine influenza type H3N2 virus, indicating a herd's vaccine-immune response or field exposure to the viral strain.
(Circle Reply Card No. 105)

Floor Protector

Super Slick Non-Stick Farm Slide from National Industries Inc., is all-surface safe and multi-functional, providing maximum friction reduction as well as protection from moisture, corrosion, ultraviolet rays and sunlight damage. The product is effective on all metal, painted or plastic, and porous surfaces, and is resistant to many chemicals, including acids, fertilizers, oil, grease, animal waste and most other soils and contaminants. It is easy to apply, dries in minutes and lasts for years.
(Circle Reply Card No. 106)

Real-Time Livestock Service

DTN Livestock, a new release of DTN's industry-leading producer series, is focused specifically on livestock and features many new functions that help producers make better market and operational decisions. The service gives market updates throughout the trading day and specific trading recommendations on corn, soybeans, wheat, cattle and hogs. DTN Livestock also provides easy access to real-time local and regional pricing information for all feedstuffs and distillers' grain. DTN's exclusive PrecipTimer gives customers precise weather information, allowing producers to prepare for extreme weather conditions.
(Circle Reply Card No. 107)

Flush Kit

Prima TechUSA has developed a Flush Kit for the Prima Vaccinators product line. The Flush Kit is designed to flush the interior of the vaccinator, eliminating any contaminates that could cause the vaccinator to malfunction. The Flush Kit is easy to use by attaching the tube to the inlet valve of the vaccinator, then coupling the screw cap of the kit to a faucet and increasing the water pressure until the vaccinator is completely flushed.
(Circle Reply Card No. 108)

Send product news submissions to Dale Miller, Editor(952) 851-4661; dpmiller@primediabusiness.com

Outlook Profitable For Most of '05

Pork demand and a series of other factors have taken hog prices to new heights, and made them seemingly resistant to record meat supplies.

The meteoric rise of hog prices in 2004 and 2005 may slow later this year — but what a magical ride it has been.

In early 2004, hog prices were facing insurmountable odds similar to 2003: increased pork supplies exacerbated by rising slaughter numbers and carcass weights. Plus, sow slaughter started out the year up 4%, adding more tonnage to the market.

Then the hog market suddenly took off, rising to highly profitable levels. When feed prices plummeted later in the year, profit margins rose some weeks to levels not seen since the summer of 1990, reports John Lawrence, Iowa State University (ISU) Extension agricultural economist.

“What has really driven this market has been demand,” he observes.

For all of 2004, total meat supplies were actually down 3%, because beef production fell nearly 8%. But pork supplies were up 2.6% and slaughter climbed 2% to record levels, says Lawrence. “Those were record supplies of pork and we are anticipating slightly larger supplies in 2005, up 1-2%.”

He declares: “Pork demand has been phenomenal this past year. Although pork supplies were up, prices were also up about 30%,” defying the normal laws of supply and demand.

“Trouble is, I can predict supplies coming based on farrowing intentions, breeding herd numbers, pig crop, etc.,” he continues. “But I don't have a clue where demand comes from, when it is going to decline or when it is going to grow. I can't tell you what to expect.”

Factors Affecting Hog Prices

Lawrence says pork demand appears to be slacking off a bit. Competing meat supplies will further dampen prices. Both poultry and beef are expected to add to total supplies in '05. The anticipated opening of the U.S. market to Canadian cattle in March and expected growth in Canadian meat exports to the U.S. will cause beef prices to fall and consumers to start backing away from pork, he predicts.

As it stands, beef prices have been fairly high since late 2003. In fact, the ratio of beef prices to pork prices is the highest it has been in 17 years, making pork a pretty good value and part of what has been driving demand, Lawrence points out.

Beef stocks have also taken a hit with Japan's ban on U.S. beef, due to a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Japan is importing more U.S. pork, giving the pork industry “a huge edge.”

According to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), U.S. pork exports to Japan in 2004 set new records with exports of nearly 345,000 tons, up 16% over 2003, plus setting a new dollar value of $978,541, up 25%.

The U.S. pork industry exported more than $2 billion worth of pork and more than 1 million tons of pork and pork variety meat products in 2004 for the first time, based on USMEF data. The $2.227 billion represents over half a billion dollars more than the value of U.S. pork exported in 2003.

U.S. pork exports in 2004 recorded the 14th consecutive record-breaking year for volume sales.

With hog and pork supplies virtually stable, any increases basically hinge on increased productivity in the U.S. breeding herd and in the number of pigs and slaughter hogs imported from Canada. In 2004, Canada shipped 5.6 million weaned and feeder pigs to the U.S., up about 13%, while live market hogs increased to almost 2.5 million head.

Short-term, regardless of the outcome of the U.S. duty case against Canada, more pigs will enter the U.S., he says. But long-term, he sees Canada continuing to add slaughter capacity and shipping the U.S. more pork products not impacted by duties.

Price Projections

Using the hog cycle as a price barometer, Lawrence projects a $50 cash hog market for 2005, with prices expected to weaken somewhat after Labor Day (See Table 1).

Hog prices could dip further in 2006, causing some herd liquidation. But, he adds, “I don't know if that is going to happen or not, because again, this market is demand-driven, not supply-driven.”

Table 1. Iowa State Production & Price Forecast (2005)*
Quarter Pork Supply Futures Price Live Price
Jan.-March +2.5% $53.50 $47-50
April-June +1.5% $55.62 $52-55
July-Sept. +2.5% $50.65 $49-52
Oct.-Dec. +1.5% $42.50 $42-45
2005 +2% $50.57 $48-52
*Live hog price predictions made by John Lawrence of Iowa State University are based on futures price data from the Chicago Board of Trade for Jan. 24, 2005.

Delving deeper

Deep soil testing tracks nutrient movement

Going far below the surface for soil testing has been a trademark in eastern Manitoba for more than 10 years. Samples for nitrogen content are routinely collected at 1-ft. intervals to depths of 8-10 ft.

Two farm groups and a private consultant use hydraulic soil sampling machines to collect deep soil samples. The machines can be mounted on trucks, trailers, tractors, skid steers or ATVs.

Private Ag consultant Ron Tone, Tone Ag Consulting, St. Pierre, Manitoba, does soil sampling as part of his package for developing manure management plans, environmental audits and agronomic assessments on irrigation projects.

“We can go as deep as 40 ft.,” Tone says.

In practice, sampling to 10 ft. has been adequate. Clients for this deep sampling include a few large hog operations and potato growers.

“We like to look at 1-ft. increments down to 10 ft. or to the depth of the water table,” he says. “We charge about $100 Canadian per site to that depth and do a minimum of three sites on a field.” Lab fees are additional.

Tone finds more problems with high nitrogen values in heavy clay than on light soils. It's a function of the cropping practice rather than soil type, he says.

In Tone's area, the manure-treated clay soils are usually in an annual crop, whereas the light soils are usually in grass or other forage. Even at double the recommended rate on grassland, there has been no problem with nitrogen leaching.

“Compared to grass, annual crops don't appear to take up as much nitrogen,” he says.

Producer program

A producer-based, deep nutrient testing program began in Manitoba in 1992, says John McGregor, Manitoba Agriculture extension specialist at Steinbach.

“The Southeast Soil Conservation Organization (SESCO) was trying to determine base levels for nitrates in the soil. There were concerns about nitrates moving down in the different soil types and to what levels.”

A 6-in. test with a hand probe had been an industry standard. Sometimes crops lodged after a soil-test recommendation had been followed.

SESCO introduced deeper sampling. Today, SESCO and a second group, South Interlake Land Management Association, use a Giddings Machine Company unit made in Ft. Collins, CO. A four-cylinder engine mounted on a trailer operates the 4-in. auger.

“Our testing showed nitrogen content in each 1-ft. level down to 6 ft. was fairly high — except for the top foot,” he recalls. Today, 2-ft. sampling is the recommended minimum and some growers use 4-ft. samples.

Some older livestock operations had a long history of applications close to the barn. “Deep sampling showed them it was time to spread it elsewhere,” McGregor says. “They were starting to lose the yield advantage.”

SESCO recently re-sampled sites where 9-ft. samples had led to management changes in the late 1990s.

“We saw they were drawing down the surplus nitrogen levels on those fields. The producers were saving money, because they basically had applied no fertilizer for four or five years on some of those fields,” he says.

Manitoba's hog industry went into a major expansion phase in the southeast around 1997. Manure application regulations became more stringent. Today, SESCO tests approximately 20 fields a year where manure has been applied.

“On the newer operations we're not seeing a buildup of nitrogen in the soil profile,” says McGregor. “With changes to environmental regulations that require manure management plans, we're seeing an attitude change. We're treating manure more like fertilizer, putting it on at rates that match crop production.”

Shelter study

A study of nutrient penetration under an outdoor hoop structure for hogs was presented in September 2004 by John Maltman, provincial swine specialist from Dugald, Manitoba, at the first annual Bedded Livestock Conference in Iowa. The deep sampling methods were used.

“We found that nitrogen and phosphorus were not moving down,” says Maltman. “Chlorides are, but that's only an indication that moisture is moving down. It showed we can continue to construct shelters this way, regardless of the soil type.”

Results from similar testing in Iowa and Australia were quite different. Both climates are warmer and rely heavily on sprinkler systems to cool hogs in the hoop structures. Iowa producers used corn stover for bedding, while Australian producers used cereal straw.

“The difference is bedding management,” says Maltman. “Cereal straw is very absorbent. By the time animals are out of the hoop structure, in our climate, the straw probably is 3 to 4 ft. thick. Most of the ammonia is tied up in the straw. The phosphorus, as we expected, is tied up in the top 18 in. of soil.”

As a result of deep soil testing efforts in eastern Manitoba, he says, protocols have been developed for fields when tests do show that nitrates are moving down.

“If nitrogen is a problem at 4 or 5 ft., we recommend that canola be grown on that field as often as the rotation will allow,” says Maltman. “At less than 4 ft., we recommend cereals. At more than 5 ft., we recommend a permanent cover with alfalfa, because alfalfa roots will pull nitrogen up from as much as 12 ft. down.”

Covering up the smell

Negative air pressure systems offer other benefits besides odor reduction.

You might think that big piece of black plastic fabric was floating on fresh water. That's how fresh the air really is near the negative air pressure (NAP) covers floating on a handful of lagoons in Canada and the U.S.

Odor control is the big selling point, though it's not the only one, says Doug Small, Canadian co-developer of the NAP system. The cover also:

  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Prevents nitrogen losses.
  • Keeps rain out of the storage.
  • Prevents erosion of the slopes.

A secondary feature, a compressed-air agitation system, was added in 2003, which permits pump-out without removing the cover.

Small and his partner, Dennis Hodgkinson in Winnipeg-based DGH Engineering, developed the NAP technology after first trying an opposite-air supported dome approach.

“Instead of blowing a cover up and pressurizing, we turned the fans around, sucked the air out and sucked the cover down to the surface,” Small says. “It worked so well that we commercialized it and formed Encon Technologies to market it.”

The prototype, placed on a primary cell in Manitoba in 1996, is still functioning. Since then, DGH Engineering has found an improved, 20-ml UV-inhibited fabric. “We rate the cover to last at least 10 years,” says Small.

One-Piece Installation

On site, an installation crew welds the plastic material into a single sheet. They dig a trench around the perimeter of the cell, fold out the plastic and place it in the trench. A small air duct goes in at the same time. Several one-third horsepower fans and centrifugal blowers are connected to the duct, to draw out biogas and any air that seeps in through the soil.

The trench is refilled and the fans are turned on. As air is sucked out, a static pressure develops that presses the fabric to the liquid surface. Even high winds can't get a grip on it. Operating cost is less than $500 Canadian/year for the fans.

Odor, evaporation and nitrogen loss stop immediately. Rain can be pumped off before it gets into the lagoon.

Bubbles of biogas in summer gradually move to the perimeter to be sucked out. It's a concentrated ‘burp’ of biogas, but very small in relation to the size of the storage.

Small estimates nitrogen losses with the NAP system at less than 2%, compared to around 40% on earthen manure storages that have straw or other covers.

“If nitrogen value is 30-35¢/lb., what you save in nitrogen content virtually pays for the cover in about seven years,” he says.

Independently, he adds, Encon Technologies and the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute have reached very similar conclusions on cost/pig for the floating cover.

“If you have a covered storage, it adds 24¢ to the cost of raising that pig,” says Small.

Air agitation system

The second part of the system, compressed air agitation, solves a perennial problem with solids in liquid manure storages and offers some damage prevention.

Conventional methods agitate only one part of the storage at a time. “Solids are settling 15 minutes after you move the nozzle,” says Small. “You end up chasing the solids around the storage.”

As well, clay-lined earthen manure storage requires special care. “People keep the agitator in one position too long and erode a hole in the clay liner. Our system eliminates that risk,” he says.

Encon's solution is some ¾-in. PVC pipe, a set of proprietary air diffusers on a 39.4 in. grid at the bottom of the lagoon, and a wet well beside the lagoon.

“We hook up an industrial air compressor and blow air through the diffusers while we're pumping from the wet well,” says Small. “The bubbles create enough turbulence to stir up the solids — under the cover.

“The diffusers are a very simple design and not expensive. They can lay at the bottom without any operation for 12 months or more while solids build up on top — but they won't plug up over that period,” he explains.

Cost of the air agitation system, which can be used without a cover on the lagoon, is similar to the cost of conventional agitation.

Independent study results

Nazim Cicek and Qiang Zhang, University of Manitoba Biosystems Engineering professors, launched a two-year independent study of odor emissions from different types of farm operations in early 2003. Biogas or greenhouse gas emissions have been measured from open hog manure storage, straw-covered storage and NAP-covered storage.

“Preliminary results from the negative air pressure site show that the synthetic cover had a very significant effect on how much odor was emitted,” says Cicek. “Odor is reduced by almost 99.9%. It is high in concentration, but very, very little is coming out of those pipes and it is very low in relation to the overall mass.

“The preliminary results indicate carbon dioxide was reduced by 97% and methane was reduced by 87%, so there's a dual benefit from the negative air pressure system,” he adds.

NAP availability

A joint strategic alliance to market, supply and install negative air pressure floating cover systems in North America was announced in April 2003 between Encon Technologies and Layfield Geosynthetics & Industrial Fabrics.

The covers are patented, lightweight systems using geomembrane material produced by Layfield. The company, with offices in Seattle, WA, and Edmonton, Alberta, is ISO 9002 registered, with over 25 years of experience in supplying flexible membrane liners.

Swine Research Grant

A team of scientists at Michigan State University (MSU) has been awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study factors affecting meat quality.

Researchers have analyzed various management strategies to produce leaner pork to increase consumer appeal. Genetic selection methods have improved lean meat production in pigs; however, it has caused a decline in meat quality.

MSU scientists are looking at DNA markers and gene expression patterns to find the genetic components controlling lean growth and meat quality traits.

“This grant gives us the opportunity to broaden the scope of the research we have been doing here at MSU,” says project leader Cathy Ernst, associate professor in the Department of Animal Science. “Locating and utilizing specific favorable genes for lean growth and meat quality will help overcome the natural antagonistic relationship and allow improvement in both efficient production and product quality.”

By looking at genetic markers that differ between Duroc, known for good meat quality, and Pietrain, known for lean growth but low-quality meat, researchers hope to develop methods to improve growth and meat quality traits.

Time's Tight to Sign Up for EPA Program

As the May 1 deadline for signing the recently announced Air Emissions Consent Agreement nears, pork producers are scrambling for clarification.

In an effort to clarify key points about the agreement available to pork, egg and poultry and dairy producers, John Thorne, president of Washington-based C&M Capitolink and a National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) environmental policy consultant, joined Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staff at several regional informational meetings.

The agreement came about because EPA, the USDA and the National Academy of Sciences all agreed that adequate data to establish air emissions compliance thresholds for livestock operations does not exist, Thorne explains. To obtain real-life, real-time emissions data, they knew they needed the cooperation of producers and an incentive for them to participate.

That incentive — the consent agreement — provides producers with legal protection from liability for past emissions, as well as during the two-year period of the study and the air emissions policy development period that follows.

By signing the agreement, producers enter a legal contract with EPA and join a diverse pool of farms from which a select few will be chosen to generate the compliance threshold data used to establish and regulate air emissions.

The National Pork Board has allocated $6 million in pork checkoff funds for the two-year benchmarking study. Pork Board Environmental Committee Chairman Max Schmidt, a producer from Elma, IA, says the checkoff funds were allocated to provide producer input on how sound scientific data can be used to develop and apply air emissions standards. Without actual on-farm measurements, regulators may have relied on “best estimates” that may not be accurate, he adds.

EPA approved the design of the study, which will be used to develop the methodologies used to estimate emissions. This emissions data will be used with aggregate, existing emissions data to draft compliance requirements that will apply to all producers, whether they signed the agreement or not.

Purdue University was selected to lead the study and to subcontract with other university scientists to collect data using the latest technologies available. Data will be collected from select hog farms in three regions — Southeast, Midwest and West. Farms will be chosen based on phase of production, ventilation technology and manure storage and treatment technologies available. Data will be recorded every few seconds for two years, non-stop, by mobile laboratories (fixed in place for two years) that will measure the impact of such factors as temperature, humidity, ration changes and much more.

Emissions to be measured include: ammonia (NH3), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), total suspended particles (TPSs), particulate matter smaller than 10 and 2.5 microns, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

The Penalty That's Not

Contained in the final order for compliance with the terms of the agreement is a section describing an assessment called a “penalty.” Thorne says, “Don't get hung up on the terminology. It is a legal consideration, does not admit guilt, and serves as one of the key things that binds you to the consent agreement.” The fee is due when EPA approves the agreement.

For producers with just one farm, and if that farm is below the large concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) threshold, the penalty contribution is the minimal $200. The penalty fees will be assessed on a sliding scale according to size (number of farms) and complexity outlined in the agreement. These fees are non-refundable and are deposited directly into the U.S. Treasury.

Signing Up

Sign-up forms are available from the NPPC web site, www.nppc.org/hot_topics/airemissions.html or may be downloaded from EPA at: www.epa. gov/compliance/resources/agreements/caa/cafo-agr-050121.pdf. The sheet must be signed to certify the accuracy of the information.

Specific questions about the consent agreement can be directed to Bruce Fergusson, EPA office of enforcement, 202-564-1261. For questions about the monitoring study, contact Sharon Nizich, Office of Air, 919-541-2825.

Common Legal Questions & Answers

Eldon McAfee, Beving, Swanson & Forrest, P.C., Des Moines, IA, attorney at law and legal counsel to the Iowa Pork Producers Association provided the following list of the most common legal questions and answers posed during the informational meetings:

Q: If these federal air emissions laws have been in effect for many years, why haven't they been enforced against agriculture until now?

A: Although these laws have never expressly exempted agriculture, for many years they were only applied to industrial (smoke stack) businesses. However, in several recent court decisions, the courts have applied these air emissions laws to livestock operations.

Q: Why do I have to sign an agreement with EPA and pay a penalty if it is not certain that my operation violated any of these federal air emission laws?

A: In developing the agreement, it was determined that the legal protections for potential past violations would be stronger if producers signed an agreement and paid a “penalty.” Primarily, this is because these federal air emissions laws allow citizens to file lawsuits demanding that courts enforce the law even if EPA has not. If these lawsuits are successful, the livestock operation is not only required to pay penalties for past violations, but also may be required to pay the citizen groups' attorney fees and other legal expenses. The rationale for the penalty is that it should protect against citizen suits because the EPA has taken enforcement action against the producer who signs up and pays the penalty.

Q: If I sign the agreement, am I assured that EPA will sign it, too?

A: No. EPA may not sign the agreement if it determines there is inadequate funding for the monitoring study (not likely for the pork industry), or if it determines that there is inadequate representation of eligible livestock groups and types of livestock facilities. EPA has stated that the number of participants for each type of operation must provide a representative sample to monitor. Other than that, there has been little guidance from EPA as to how it will determine what is inadequate representation of eligible livestock groups.

Q: Will my name and the information I submit about my operations be available to the public?

A: Yes, on both counts. However, in most states, much if not all of the information submitted is already public due to permits and manure management plans.

Q: Although signing the agreement does not provide protection from nuisance suits by people living near a hog operation, will it help against nuisance lawsuits?

A: Nuisance suits almost always involve complaints about odor, not the emission of the gases subject to the consent agreement. Current research shows that odor from manure is made up of many different compounds. In most states, the courts define nuisance as the unreasonable interference with a person's use and enjoyment of their property. The study is not measuring odor directly and therefore will not have a direct impact on nuisance issues. If you are sued for nuisance, the fact that you signed the consent agreement can be used in court to show that you are proactive and doing everything you can to comply with environmental laws. However, the attorney for the person suing you may try to use it to show that you sought legal protection for potential violations of air emissions laws. In short, your decision to participate in the consent agreement should not hinge on its effect on potential nuisance lawsuits against your operation.

Q: I feed hogs owned by another person in my buildings under contract; should I sign up?

A: Both contract growers and those who own pigs being fed by contract growers may sign the agreement. The legal protections extend only to those who sign the agreement. For example, if you sign up and the owner of the pigs doesn't, you are eligible for legal protection from the agreement and he is not. The most important point is that, ultimately, if any changes are required in your operation under the agreement, you must implement those changes or neither you nor the owner of the pigs has protection under the agreement.

Q: What could be required under federal air emissions laws covered by the agreement?

A: There are two areas of federal air emissions law which apply to livestock producers. The first is a reporting requirement for operations that emit over 100 lb. of hydrogen sulfide or ammonia on any given day (24-hour period), during a year. The second area is for farms which emit over 250 tons/year of hydrogen sulfide or ammonia. Under this requirement, livestock farms could be required to obtain a permit and install emission control equipment and implement practices to reduce the emissions. The exact emissions levels of hog operations are not known — the very reason why the monitoring study will be conducted. However, most experts expect most hog operations, except the larger farms, to trigger only the reporting requirements.

Q: Assuming my operation is not large enough to require anything other than filing reports, why can't I just start filing those reports now, or when the results of the monitoring study are released, instead of signing the agreement and paying a penalty?

A: You could do that, but you would not have the protection the agreement provides for past violations of the air emissions reporting laws. Many question if EPA would be able to “go after” everyone. While EPA may not be able to reach everyone, keep in mind the potential for citizen suits plus the fact that public records (permits, manure management plans, etc.) in most states have information on the size and type of your operation. In addition, if you start filing reports, the EPA will have the information on your farm and will know that you chose not to participate in the consent agreement. In short, each individual producer must weigh the potential risks and benefits of signing the agreement against the risks and benefits of not participating in this program