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Articles from 2009 In March

Vilsack Extends Sign-up Deadline

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced he is extending the sign-up deadline for the 2009 direct and counter-cyclical payment program from June 1 to Aug. 14 to give producers more time to analyze their options under the 2008 farm bill.

Vilsack, testifying before the House Appropriations Subcommittee, said the move was in response to concerns he had heard from producers who were worried about making their decisions in time for the June 1 deadline.

“This action should provide producers with sufficient time to learn about the new ACRE program and to make informed decisions about their sign-up options,” said Vilsack. The secretary was referring to the average crop revenue enhancement program that bases counter-cyclical payments on crop prices and revenues.

He also announced USDA would be making Milk Income Loss Contract or MILC payments to help producers struggling with the recent downturn in milk prices. The MILC announcement follows USDA’s decision to use 200 million pounds of non-fat dry milk for school-feeding programs and the TEFAP program.

USDA will also make bonus commodity purchases through its Section 32 authority. The purchases will include $30 million for walnuts, $25 million for pork, $60 million for turkey and $2 million for lamb.

During the hearing, Vilsack said the Obama administration’s budget plans will bring reform to USDA and revitalize rural America.

“The president’s budget reflects a new direction for our country,” said Vilsack. “This budget will set us on the path to recovery by providing a strong foundation and diverse opportunities for farmers and ranchers to succeed.”

Vilsack said rebuilding and revitalizing rural communities will be one of his top priorities.

“Starting with the implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and continuing through implementation of the farm bill, USDA will expand broadband networks in rural communities, increase investment in rural infrastructure, and develop renewable energy,” he said.

“The budget puts a strong emphasis on rural economic development, providing more than $20 billion in loans, loan guarantees, and grants to support rural development activities. Of great importance to me, this budget proposal is consistent with the administration’s efforts to ensure that all of rural America will have access to quality broadband service, which is essential to keeping pace in a world that relies on rapid telecommunications.”

USDA, he said, is committed to modernizing the food system, focusing on preventing rather than mitigating the consequences of food-borne illness, which affects everyone from the consumer back down to the producer.

“Our budget proposal for 2010 includes additional resources to improve food safety inspection and assessment and to enhance the ability to determine food safety risks. I am also proud to be a part of the Food Safety Working Group and look forward to meeting with you on ideas to improve the food safety system.”

Two North Carolina Veterinarians Expire

The American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) is reporting that two of its North Carolina members passed away on March 28.

Bill Plumber, DVM, Goldsboro, NC, was a long-time member of AASV and had a very storied career as a military aviator and swine veterinarian.

Monte McCaw, DVM, was a 1980 Iowa State University DVM graduate and completed his PhD at the University of Minnesota in 1989.

McCaw was named a visiting assistant professor in swine medicine at North Carolina State University in 1988 and was promoted to associate professor in 1995. He was considered a leader in porcine virology and immunology.

Small Swine Enterprise Report Released by USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) has released the “Small Enterprise Swine Operations in the United States 2007.”

The objective of the survey was to describe the health and management practices of operations with fewer than 100 pigs.

Participants included states at risk for exposure to feral swine and transmission of classical swine fever (hog cholera) and pseudorabies. Thirty-one states participated, accounting for 88.3% of swine and 84.4% of operations with fewer than 100 pigs nationally.

Results of the study showed:

--Overall, one third of operations (38.9%) had sows or gilts for breeding, but only 28.6% of small operations had sows or gilts for breeding on July 1, 2007, compared with at least two-thirds of medium and large operations.

--Overall, litters produced from July 2006 through June 2007 included an average of 8.8 piglets, 8.0 born alive and 7.3 weaned.

--Overall, nearly 24% of operations included the presence of feral swine in their counties. One-half of operations in the south contained the presence of feral swine in their counties, a much higher percentage than elsewhere.

Access the report on the NAHMS web site.

A CD of NAHMS reports is also available by contacting Anne Berry of NAHMS by phone (970) 494-7243, fax (970) 494-7229 or e-mailing [email protected].

Antibiotics Vital to Hog Health, Food Safety

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) is voicing strong opposition to two pieces of legislation that would remove and restrict antibiotics for veterinary and farm use.

In a letter to Congress, AFBF President Bob Stallman says the bills (H.R. 1549 and S. 619) would restrict the efforts of veterinarians and livestock and poultry producers to protect the nation’s food supply and maintain herd health.

“Farmers and ranchers and the veterinarians they work with use antibiotics carefully, judiciously and according to label instructions, primarily to treat, prevent and control diseases in our flocks and herds,” he notes. “Antibiotics are critically important to the health and welfare of the animals and to the safety of the food produced.”

Stallman says more than 40 years of antibiotic use in farm animals demonstrates that such use does not pose a public health threat.

In fact, “recent government data shows the potential that it might occur is declining,” he adds. For example, bacteria survival through food processing and handling is decreasing, food-borne illness is down, development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in animals is stable and resistant food-borne bacteria in humans are declining.

“In order to raise healthy animals, we need tools to keep them healthy – including medicines that have been approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration,” Stallman states. “Restricting access to these important tools will jeopardize animal health and compromise our ability to contribute to public health through food safety.”

Meadowbrook Farms Files For Bankruptcy Protection

Meadowbrook Farms Cooperative has officially filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of Illinois.

The producer-owned pork processing plant in Rantoul, IL, had been delaying filing to find

last-minute financing to keep the struggling business afloat.

A meeting of creditors is scheduled for May 29 in East St. Louis.

Read more about these developments on pages 7-8 of the March 15, 2009 issue of National Hog Farmer,.

Purdue Experts Discount Risk Of Pigs Spreading MRSA

A report in the New York Times that sought to establish pigs as a source of MRSA infection for humans is “highly speculative,” according to Purdue University experts.

MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) or antibiotic-resistant staph, is found throughout nature, according to Paul Ebner, a livestock microbiologist at Purdue University.

While it’s true there has been an increase in the number of MRSA infections, and that pigs and other animals can be carriers, the vast majority of infections occur from skin-to-skin contact with infected humans.

At this time, there is no proof to link MRSA in humans to pig operations, adds Ching Ching Wu, professor of veterinary pathobiology and head of microbiology in Purdue’s Animal Disease and Diagnostic Laboratory. He says more scientific evidence is present to support the spread of MRSA among humans, and from humans to animals, rather than from animals to humans.

Studies at the University of Iowa mentioned in the Times column looked at only two farms and only one of them had the organism. Another Dutch study was also inconclusive, say the Purdue experts.

Ebner and Wu agree because MRSA is so prevalent, the best way to avoid infections is to always practice proper hygiene.

The March 12 New York Times op-ed by Nicholas Kristof, titled “Our Pigs, Our Food, Our Health,” is available online.

Pork Board Issues Call For Euthanasia Projects

The National Pork Board has placed a special call for proposals about on-farm euthanasia of swine.

The deadline for proposals to be submitted is 5 p.m. central daylight time April 28, 2009.

Euthanasia is an inevitable part of swine production. However, there are a limited number of humane methods available for pork producers to use – especially for nursing pigs up to 12 lb. and nursery pigs up to 70 lb.

The Pork Board’s Animal Welfare Committee has committed $500,000 specifically for on-farm euthanasia research. Proposals are being solicited that:

--Validate existing recommended methods of euthanasia of swine, especially for nursing and nursery pigs.

--Identify and validate new methods of euthanasia of swine.

The full details of the research funding proposal (RFP) can be found at

Questions about the RFPs can be directed to Sherrie Niekamp at [email protected] or (515) 223-3533.

For specific questions about the Web site and submission process, contact Beverly Everitt, Research Programs assistant, at [email protected] or (515) 223-2750.

Boehringer Ingelheim Announces PRRS Research Award Winners

Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. (BIVI) has announced the four recipients of its annual Advancement in PRRS Research Awards.

This year BIVI provided $100,000 in support of four studies by independent producers and practitioners to investigate novel ways to diagnose, control and eradicate porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS).

This is the seventh year that BIVI has sponsored the PRRS research awards. The 2009 awards, presented in March at the American Association of Swine Veterinarians Annual Conference in Dallas, TX, are as follows:

--Jerry Torrison, DVM, University of Minnesota – A study on the effects of biofilters on the quantity of virus to determine the amount of PRRS virus exhausted from mechanically vented finishing barns vs. barns with biofilters placed on the outside of exhaust fans.

--Darwin Reicks, DVM, Swine Vet Center, St. Peter, MN – A study on the effects of modified-live PRRS vaccine alone or in conjunction with killed-virus vaccines on late-term pregnant gilts.

--Spencer Wayne, DVM, Pipestone (MN) Veterinary Clinic – An evaluation on the ecology of the PRRS virus in farrowing and the risk factors of virus transmission prior to weaning.

--Amber Stricker, DVM, Suidae Health and Production, Algona, IA – A study to determine if there is a predictable degree of variability in PRRS virus sequencing (ORF5) within and among state diagnostic labs.

The entries for the 2010 Advancement in PRRS Research Awards are due Jan. 1, 2010. For more information, visit their website.

Minnesota Team Unveils New Biosecurity Manual

Researchers at the University of Minnesota Swine Disease Eradication Center (SDEC) have released a new swine biosecurity manual that provides biosecurity protocols for the prevention of spread of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV).

The 17-page document was developed with a grant from the American Association of Swine Veterinarians Foundation (AASVF). It is available at the AASV web site for members under the PRRS Committee in a PDF format.

Scott Dee, DVM, director of the SDEC, says the manual is based on biosecurity protocols that were developed at the university’s swine research farm in western Minnesota. Those efforts were reported in National Hog Farmer (“Reducing the Area Spread of PRRS,” Nov. 15, 2007, pages 8, 10 and 11). Browse this back issue.

“It is knowledge that is written for veterinarians and producers and lay people and that we want to disseminate throughout the pork industry,” Dee says.

The AASV site provides a place where veterinarians can go to obtain the full document, written in producer-friendly language and illustrated with color photos, to share with pork producer partners.

Sections of the manual cover direct routes of virus spread, such as pigs and semen, and indirect routes including facilities, needles, transport, personnel, fomites, insects and aerosols.

The document covers other areas of concern including pig meat, lagoon effluent and carcass disposal, and provides a lengthy list of research article citations as suggested reading.

“We are trying to reach producers as well as practitioners and really putting forward standardized ways on such areas as how to handle people entry, air filtration, trucks and what disinfectants to use,” Dee explains.

The primary author of the document is Andrea Pitkin, who received her master’s degree last summer, and is a second-year doctor of veterinary medicine student under advisor and co-author Dee. Another contributing author is Satoshi Otake, DVM.

CAST Releases Document on Individual Stalls for Sows

The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) has issued a report on “Scientific Assessment of the Welfare of Dry Sows Kept in Individual Accommodations.”

The nine-member international task force of this new issue paper critically evaluates the scientific evidence of individual gestation accommodations (IGAs) for sows, including considerations for behavior, nutrition and feeding, reproduction, clinical examination and health, manure management, worker safety and system design.

The authors of the report indicate that no compelling evidence exists from scientific evaluations and comparisons of sow gestation systems that individual or group housing is more suitable for dry sow housing systems.

Chair of the task force is Stanley Curtis, Department of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

The 20-page report is available free online at and in print by calling (515) 292-2125; there is a fee for shipping/handling.