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Articles from 2014 In March


Status Update on Coronaviruses Recently Identified in U.S. Swine

The Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (ISU VDL) has been working hard since early January of 2014 to try to get a better understanding about the increasing diversity of corona viruses that are now circulating in U.S. swine herds.  The following update outlines what has been learned so far through diagnostic investigative studies, advanced genomic analysis methods and diagnostic tool development efforts.

Question # 1:  What have you learned concerning presumed origins of the more recently identified strains of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) or PEDV variants, that are genetically distinct from the PEDV strains identified in U.S. swine since April 2013? 

After an in-depth preparation and study of the PEDV genomic information using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies, ISU VDL’s virologists have concluded that it does not seem likely that the more recently identified PEDV variants originated from the strains of PEDV previously identified in the U.S. through a random mutation.

It seems more probable that more than one genotype of PEDV has been introduced into the U.S. These more recently identified PEDV variants most closely resemble another cluster of PEDV strains previously identified in Asia. According to the diagnostic data available at ISU VDL to date, the PEDV variants were retrospectively detected in U.S. swine at least from early October 2013. Plans for additional retrospective testing are underway.

ISU VDL is offering PEDV S1 sequencing (first 2.2 kb portion of the spike gene) to help clientele continue to monitor the genetic relatedness and epidemiology of PEDV. ISU VDL has also recently developed a PEDV S1-based differential real-time polymerase chain reaction test (RT-PCR) to distinguish the original from the variant U.S. PEDV strains. It should also be understood that PEDV real-time RT-PCR offered at ISU VDL is targeting the nucleocapsid (N) gene. The N-gene is known to be a conserved portion of the PEDV genome. Thus far, the PEDV N-gene real-time RT-PCR being conducted at the ISU VDL seem to be readily detecting all the PEDV strains  known to be present in US swine.

Question # 2:  What are you learning about the clinical significance of the recently identified Swine Delta Coronavirus (SDCV) and what diagnostic tools are available to identify SDCV?

Less is known concerning the clinical relevance of SDCV. The ISU VDL diagnosticians have been working closely with practitioners in efforts to better understand its potential role in case submissions that include a history of diarrhea in breeding age and suckling pigs that have not been able to be readily confirmed as being due to one or more of the more commonly recognized enteric pathogens. Most recently, the ISU VDL has been working with a practitioner on a case that seems to more strongly suggest that SDCV may be playing a role.

Case Description: Sudden onset of projectile diarrhea of 2 -3 day’s duration occurred in breeding-age swine. The epidemic started in one end of the breeding barn of a 2,500 sow breed-to-wean unit and progressed throughout the breeding and gestation barns over a 7-day period. Clinical signs of abrupt onset of diarrhea occurred in the farrowing rooms (both sows and piglets were impacted) approximately 8 – 9 days after the initial onset of clinical signs in the breeding barn.

This particular farm had no previous clinical signs, suspicion, or diagnosis of either PEDV or Transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE).

Fecal swabs from sows were submitted to the ISU VDL by farm staff upon the onset of the first clinical signs in the breeding barn and tested negative for PEDV by PCR). The attending veterinarian subsequently submitted fresh and fixed tissues from necropsy of acutely affected, euthanatized sows, as well as feces from cohorts with diarrhea from the breeding and gestation barns (as the sows and/or suckling pigs in the farrowing barn were not yet affected).

Post-mortem observations in the acutely affected gestating sows included stomachs full of feed, small intestines and colons markedly distended with fluid, watery contents, patchy hyperemia of mucosa of small intestine and cecum, and increased quantities of clear fluid in the peritoneal cavity. Histological evaluation revealed villus atrophy and fusion with attenuation of apical enterocytes in multiple sections of small intestine and mucosal edema was noted in the large intestine. Sections of stomach, kidney, liver, lymph node and spleen were unremarkable. Extensive molecular diagnostic investigation and bacterial culture work was conducted.

Tissues from these sows and multiple feces from cohorts with diarrhea tested negative for PEDV and TGE by PCR. However, feces from these sows and pooled fecal samples submitted tested positive for the presence of SDCV by PCR, with cycle-threshold (ct) values ranging from 14 – 19. The low ct value implies a very high number of SDCV genomic copies present in these samples.

Piglets became clinically affected about 9 days after initial clinical signs in the herd. Acutely affected piglets were euthanized and necropsied for submission of samples to ISU VDL. Post-mortem observations included stomachs filled with milk, thin-walled and fluid-filled intestines. Histological evaluation again revealed atrophic enteritis and equivalent molecular diagnostic test results to those described above for the sows.

Although the findings in this case seem to support a role for SDCV in the epidemic of diarrhea in this herd, prospective research and more diagnostic case-based study are needed to conclusively determine the clinical significance of SDCV.

ISU VDL has developed and recently made a real-time SDCV-PCR assay available for routine diagnostic testing purposes. This new SDCV-PCR screening assay will enhance the ability of practitioners, diagnosticians, and researchers to better understand the clinical significance and prevalence of SDCV in the US swine herd going forward. 

In the meantime, many questions remain.

Special thanks to Dr. Karen Harmon, Ganwu Li, Kent Schwartz, Kyoung-Jin Yoon, and Jianqiang Zhang at the ISU VDL for contributing to this brief update on these emerging concerns within US swine industry.

 

Hog and Pigs Inventory in the U.S. Lowest Since 2007

pigs

There were 62.9 million head of hogs and pigs on U.S. farms as of March 1, which is the lowest inventory since 2007, according to the Quarterly Hogs and Pigs report recently published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

 

Other key findings in the report were:

  • Of the 62.9 million head of hogs and pigs, 57.0 million were market hogs, while 5.85 million were slated for breeding.
  • Between December 2013 and February 2014, 27.3 million pigs were born on U.S. farms, down 3 percent from the same time period in 2013.
  • U.S. hog producers intend to have 2.88 million sows farrow between March and May 2014, and 2.96 million sows farrow between June and August 2014.
  • On average, 9.53 pigs were born per litter from December 2013 through February 2014.
  • With 19.8 million head, Iowa hog producers had the largest inventory among the states. North Carolina and Minnesota had the second and third largest inventories with 8 million and 7.8 million head respectively.
  • While the national hogs and pigs inventory decreased since March 2013, growers in South Dakota, Minnesota and Nebraska increased the number of hogs and pigs in their states.

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To obtain an accurate measurement of the current state of the U.S. hogs and pigs industry, NASS surveyed nearly 7,800 operators across the nation during the first half of March. NASS interviewers collected the data by mail, telephone and through face-to-face personal interviews. NASS asked all participating producers to report their hogs and pigs inventories as of March 1, 2014.

The quarterly Hogs and Pigs report and all other NASS reports are available online at www.nass.usda.gov.

 

Do the Hogs and Pigs Report Numbers Really Add Up?

Do the Hogs and Pigs Report Numbers Really Add Up?

USDA’s quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report indicates significantly larger-than-expected market hog inventories and farrowing intentions.  Further, the inventory figures show numbers that are FAR greater than the ones I have derived using porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) case accession data.  The numbers were deemed to be bearish – and pretty severely so. 

While some readers may want to begin preparing the crow I may ultimately have to eat, I think I’ll pass on beginning that meal for the moment. And Monday’s futures market action suggests that I may not have to eat it at all.

The key national data from Friday’s report appear in Figure 1. 

Figure 1

 

Here are the most critical of those figures and their implications:

  • The market herd was estimated to have been 3.7% smaller than one year ago on March 1. Weight category inventories suggest that summer 2014 slaughter will run from 2 to 4% lower than year-ago levels. These numbers are important in that, when combined with higher slaughter weights seen this year and expected this summer, they would result in summer pork production very close to that of 2013. So, this report implies that any increase in prices would have to be demand-driven.

 

  • The market herd inventories do not reflect the sharp declines in slaughter that have been witnessed in March, and do not fit with the September-November pig crop.  USDA’s 180-pound and over inventory was 4.8% lower than one year ago, while March weekly slaughter totals have been, on average, 6.7% lower.  Further, those sharply lower slaughter totals come from a September-November pig crop that is still estimated by USDA to be the same size as one year earlier. 

 

  • The breeding herd is estimated to have numbered 5.851 million head on March 1. That is 0.3% larger than one year ago and nearly 1 full percentage point larger than analysts had expected. It is also 94,000 head larger than on December 1. The University of Missouri reports that gilt slaughter through the first 10 weeks of 2014 was 0.2% larger. Q1 slaughter of U.S. sows (i.e. omitting Canadian sows) was down 2.5% or just 14,000 head from last year. We don’t see how those figures would add up to 94,000 more sows.

 

  • The December-February pig crop is estimated at 27.316 million head, 2.8% lower than last year.  That total is driven lower by sharply smaller litters (9.53 pigs, down 5.5% from last year and the smallest since the December-February crop reported in the March 2009 report) but is increased by farrowings estimated to be 2.8% LARGER than one year ago – from a breeding herd that was 1% smaller on December 1, and virtually even with last year on March 1.In addition, intended farrowings from that herd are up 2.4% and 2% the next two quarters. All of those farrowing numbers look large versus the herd size, but there could be some increases driven by odd re-breeding patterns for sows that lost litters to PEDV. They could, I suppose, be possible.

 

  • Finally, USDA’s state-level production data indicates December-February pig crops in Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois – three states hit particularly hard by PEDV this winter -- are 2%, 5% and 3% LARGER than last year. Those data are in sharp disagreement with anecdotal evidence from producers, packers and veterinarians in those states, and with state-by-state PEDV case accession data published by the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV).  Further, they do not seem to fit breeding herd, farrowing and litter-size data for the past three quarters (See Figure 2). In fact, the only state among those most hard-hit by PEDV for which USDA’s data appears reasonable is North Carolina.  So anyone who thinks this has anything to do with “the big guys” not cooperating should probably think again. 

Figure 2

The magnitude of pig losses to PEDV is still unknown, and available data are conflicting.PEDV case accessions at animal disease diagnostic laboratories rose dramatically this winter and suggest slaughter levels could be 10% or more below year-ago levels this summer, according to reports published by Paragon Economics, Rabobank North America and others.

USDA’s quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report for March indicates much smaller year-on-year reductions than PEDV case data suggest. The Hogs and Pigs Report data would be deemed by most analysts to be more reliable than the case accession data since it results from a well-known and proven methodology at USDA.The report is, however, based on samples, surveys and statistical estimates that can and do sometimes result in errors. The futures market on Monday seems to be at least partially dismissing the USDA numbers.

About the only thing that is certain is that the “true” numbers for today’s market inventories will be known only when slaughter levels are observed in the weeks and months to come.

Our quarterly compilation of analysts’ slaughter and price forecasts appear in Figures 3 and 4. Iowa State University’s forecasts were not available at press time.

Figure 3

Figure 4

 

Livestock Industry Mourns Passing of Scott Hurd

The livestock industry lost a clear voice of reason with the recent passing of straight-talking veterinarian, Scott Hurd. Hurd's ability to make sense of the often complex "rest of the story" behind food safety issues helped defend animal agriculture on issues such as antibiotic use and animal welfare. He passed away last week after battling cancer for several months.

As Meatingplace.com reports, Hurd spoke on behalf of animal agriculture in the media and social media, including National Public Radio, USA Today, Huffington Post, and the Dr. Oz Show. Hurd maintained his own blog site called “Hurd Health.” A year ago, he started a blog on Meatingplace titled, “The Gentle Vet," and he wrote several articles for National Hog Farmer as well.

Kay Johnson Smith, the CEO of the Animal Agriculture Alliance noted that Hurd served as an outspoken champion for truth relative to farm animal and food safety issues, and he worked hard to diligently correct misinformation, as well as the misrepresentation of the facts surrounding issues, such as the important role of antibiotics in caring for animals.

 

Meatingplace reports that Hurd started his veterinary career at a dairy practice in South Central, Pennsylvania. This was one of the first practices in the country to computerize their herd health records and the data collected in this program piqued his interest in epidemiology. As a result, he earned a Ph.D. in epidemiology and economics from Michigan State University in 1990, after graduating from veterinary school at Iowa State in 1982.

Hurd spent 15 years of his career in government service, working in three different branches of the USDA. He was also appointed USDA's deputy acting under secretary for food safety in 2008. There he served as the country’s highest-ranking food safety veterinarian and policy advisor to the Secretary of Agriculture.

Hurd was most recently an associate professor at Iowa State University’s Department of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine, as well as director of the Food Risk Modeling and Policy Lab at Iowa State.

Hurd is survived by his wife, Susan, his seven sons and his daughter. Visitation will be at St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Ames, Iowa, from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 6. Funeral mass will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday, April 7.

A memorial fund is being set up to support parenting and family missions programs through the Regnum Christi Mission Corps, a youth formation and leadership training program. Donations can be written to Dr. Scott Hurd's Charitable Memorial Fund and sent to the family at 3275 400th Street, Roland, IA 50236.

 

Strong Industry Commitment to FDA’s Antibiotic Resistance Strategy

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it had received strong support from the animal health industry on its strategy to phase out the use of antibiotics to promote growth in livestock.

According to FDA, 25 out of 26 animal drug companies have agreed in writing that they will voluntarily participate with FDA’s Guidance 213. 

The companies participating represent 99.95% of the total sales of the products affected by Guidance 213.

FDA announced last December its new policy to phase out the use of medically important antibiotics in food animals for food production purposes and reinforce that the therapeutic uses of these drugs will be implemented under the oversight of a veterinarian.

 

Meat Groups Move Forward on Merger

The nation’s largest meat organizations have taken the first step to merge the North American Meat Association (NAMA) with the American Meat Institute (AMI).

NAMA’s board of directors voted overwhelmingly in favor of the merger. 

In a press statement NAMA said, “The NAMA Board feels strongly that the members will be best served by this merger.

In a press statement NAMA said, “The NAMA Board feels strongly that the members will be best served by this merger. We’re excited to have this opportunity to form a new industry organization.  The time has come for the industry to speak with one voice.” 

The AMI board of directors will vote on the merger proposal in April. 

 

Farm Loan Program Changes to Help Producers

The United States Department of Agriculture announced changes to the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Farm Loan Program that are intended to help producers.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “Our nation’s farmers and ranchers are the engine of the rural economy.  These improvements to our Farm Loan Program will help a new generation begin farming and grow existing farm operations.” 

According to USDA the changes will expand lending opportunities to producers to begin and continue operations, including greater flexibility in determining eligibility, raising loan limits, and emphasizing beginning and socially disadvantaged producers.

 Immediate changes include:

  • Elimination of loan term limits for guaranteed operating loans.
  • Modification of the definition of beginning farmer, using the average farm size for the county as a qualifier instead of the median farm size.
  • Modification of the Joint Financing Direct Farm Ownership Interest Rate to 2 percent less than regular Direct Farm Ownership rate, with a floor of 2.5 percent. Previously, the rate was established at 5 percent.
  • Increase of the maximum loan amount for Direct Farm Ownership down payments from $225,000 to $300,000.
  • Elimination of rural residency requirement for Youth Loans, allowing urban youth to benefit.
  • Debt forgiveness on Youth Loans, which will not prevent borrowers from obtaining additional loans from the federal government.
  • Increase of the guarantee amount on Conservation Loans from 75 to 80 percent and 90 percent for socially disadvantaged borrowers and beginning farmers.
  • Microloans will not count toward loan term limits for veterans and beginning farmers.

The changes were made possible as a result of the 2014 Farm Bill.

 

Hubbard Feeds

Three Strategies For Promoting Good Gut Health

Three Strategies For Promoting Good Gut Health

A healthy gut in young pigs promotes intake and growth, provides defense against disease pathogens and reduces the incidence of scours. To help ensure a successful starter program, Hubbard Feeds incorporates three strategies when formulating nursery diets.

Decrease gut inflammation:

Tight junctions between the cells lining the gut create important barriers to pathogens and compounds that cause intestinal damage.  If these “tight” junctions open and allow gut material to bypass the gut cells and enter the blood and lymph system the junctions are called “leaky”.  This leakage results in an inflammatory response that spreads throughout the body. With less inflammation, there is an increase in feed intake and nutrient digestibility that results in an improvement in growth rate and feed efficiency.

“One example of a low inflammatory ingredient is rolled oats”, states Dr. Stewart Galloway, Senior Swine Nutritionist with Hubbard Feeds, “This is the ingredient our grandfathers recommended and it continues to be proven as a highly digestible and gut-friendly ingredient.”  New processing technologies and Hubbard Feeds research have produced combinations of high quality protein and amino acid sources that decrease gut inflammation and stimulate feed intake.

Research shows that increased feed intake in weaned pigs improves the gut environment through increased length of intestinal villi, improved absorption of nutrients and decreased pathogen numbers.  GutCIE  a unique, all-natural lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product developed by Diamond V and Hubbard Feeds has been shown to increase feed intake and ADG by 5% the first 21 days in the nursery, resulting in heavier nursery out weights.

Another area that is addressed in Hubbard Feeds pig starters is molds and mycotoxins.  High quality ingredients, mold inhibitors, and specific ingredients that help mitigate the effects of mycotoxins all work together to lower the risk of negative performance effects from molds and their toxins.

Decrease Pathogens:

Improved nutrient digestibility means there is less remaining feed in the gut for pathogens to use as a food source. Hubbard also includes unique ingredients such as OptiRemedy, a combination of five essential oils, to decrease specific pathogens. The inclusion of GutCIE and other bacterial and yeast components have been shown to increase the growth of good bacteria in the gut, which in turn reduces the number of pathogenic bacteria.  The addition of pharmacological levels of copper chloride and zinc oxide have negative effects on the proliferation of disease-causing bacteria in the gut.  Acidifiers added to the feed help create an environment in the gut that is detrimental to pathogen growth and improves digestion and absorption of nutrients. Galloway notes that with the increased interest in nutrition programs without antibiotic feed additives, the use of natural feed ingredients to decrease gut pathogens will become more important and a greater part of research programs

Decrease Water Loss

New processing technologies have resulted in diets that have better water holding capacity in the gut.  Hubbard Feed swine nutritionists Jamie Pietig says that formulation strategies that address water retention in the gut have proven quite successful with the producers he works with.  Pietig says “feed intake and stool condition are visual reminders of the importance of gut health accomplished by nutrition.”

The inclusion of ingredients with lower ash content causes less water to be pulled into the lumen from the cells lining the gut. These ingredients, in addition to increased nutrient digestibility and decreased pathogen growth described above, combine to create firmer stools in the pigs. 

Gut health was a popular topic at the American Society of Animal Science meeting in Des Moines in March, says Dr. Galloway. Many speakers specifically addressed the importance of improving gut health.  Suggested ways to accomplish this included the use of anti-inflammatory ingredients, prebiotics and probiotics, new combinations of proteins, and ingredients that either enhance water uptake by the gut or decrease water loss into the gut. 

Striving to Raise Pigs Right

Striving to Raise Pigs Right

The focus of this issue of National Hog Farmer is “Raising Pigs Right.” As the pork industry aims for 30 pigs/sow/year, increased attention must be paid to sow and piglet care, with an eye on the goal of raising a viable market-weight pig. As producers are well aware, there are a lot of “moving parts” that go into attaining these production goals.

Critical factors early on in the process include good heat detection and successful insemination. Gestation diets also have a role to play. In this issue Laura Greiner, DVM, director of swine nutrition and research at Carthage Innovative Swine Solutions, Carthage, IL, offers thoughts on the impact of gestation diets on pig birth weights. She provides thoughtful discussion surrounding bump feeding, the process of increasing feed allowance during the last 21 days of gestation as part of a strategy to improve piglet birth weights, particularly in gilt litters.

A big part of the productivity equation, of course, also rests on the sow. According to Chris Hostetler, director of animal science for the National Pork Board, sow lifetime productivity (SLP) is defined as the total number of quality pigs that a sow weans, from the time she becomes breeding-eligible until the time she leaves the herd. He says roughly 40% of the females that are bred for the first time have fewer than nine pigs and get culled after their first parity. Another 20% of the females are culled at the second parity. The cumulative effect is that an attention-getting 60% of the sows in the U.S. breeding herd never reach a third parity.

Based on these statistics, the pork checkoff has undertaken an ambitious project to help improve SLP by 30% in seven years. Hostetler says the pork industry is currently producing an average of about 35 pigs in a sow’s lifetime. This means that a 30% improvement would boost SLP to about 42-43 pigs per sow’s lifetime. Read more about the research that is going into hitting this target in the story, “Sow Lifetime Productivity Project Gains Traction,” in our February 2014 issue of National Hog Farmer.

Delving a little deeper into some specifics of SLP, Billy Flowers, Department of Animal Science, North Carolina State University, presents research findings comparing two 2,400-head commercial sow farms and the specific factors that contribute to sow longevity success. On one farm, 26% of sows reach a sixth parity, while the other farm only sees 12% of its sows farrow six litters. Flowers explores the management activities that contribute to the difference in farms in the story, “High and Low Sow Longevity.”

Meanwhile, Larry Coleman, DVM, Broken Bow, NE, has been helping his pork producer clients focus on improving day one piglet care through implementation of 24/7 attended farrowing strategies. Coleman points out that 24/7 farrowing care offers numerous benefits ranging from decreased stillbirths to increased sow well-being.

He notes that the success — or failure — of a transition to a 24/7 care program hinges on the farm’s leadership. Coleman offers tips for successful 24/7 farrowing care in a story in the February issue of the magazine, and explores the leadership aspects that support a transition to the new attended farrowing program in the story, “The Ultimate Swine Leadership Challenge.” He provides more thoughts about providing the leadership that leads to good animal care in a guest editorial, featured on page 34, titled “Caring for Pigs: It Is a Bigger Circle Than You Think.”

In this issue you will also find a story exploring how constant swine diet-tweaking has become the norm for today’s pork producers. John Patience, Iowa State University Extension swine specialist, explains how decisions for the successful feeding program should be made in the broader context of the overall farming operation, in the context of the ingredient marketplace, and in the context of the hog marketplace. Read “Setting the Right Feeding Program,” also in the February issue.

Raising pigs right involves continuous improvement in all phases of every operation. We hope this issue of National Hog Farmer provides some food for thought. Happy reading! 

Tours Prior to World Pork Expo Provide an Inside Look at U.S. Agriculture

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has developed two tours in conjunction with the 2014 World Pork Expo which will be aimed toward visitors who want a further glimpse into U.S. agriculture. A two-day tour, which will take place June 2-3, will feature a broad agricultural overview, from crop and pork production, to farm equipment and shipping. A one-day tour will highlight agribusiness throughout central Iowa. Both options include meals on tour days and free admission to World Pork Expo, the world’s largest pork-specific trade show.

Greg Thornton, the director of producer services for NPPC noted that the pre-World Pork Expo tours will allow visitors the ability for first-hand exposure to U.S agriculture, as well as highlighing farming methods for both grain and pork production. Both provide an excellent picture of the Midwest, which many individuals believe is the breadbasket of the world.

The two-day tour, underwritten by the Illinois Soybean Association, will venture into eastern Iowa, western Illinois and northern Indiana, giving visitors an up-close look at U.S. corn and soybean production. A highlight will be an afternoon at the Pig Adventure at Fair Oaks Farms, which shows visitors modern pork production in action. After an overnight stay at Harrah’s Joliet in historic Joliet, Ill., Day 2 will include a barge trip on the Mississippi River — a vital waterway for shipping U.S. agricultural goods around the world, as well as a visit to the John Deere Harvester Works.

The one-day tour on Tuesday, June 3, will feature insights into crop research and production at DuPont Pioneer, and advances in swine nutrition and feed ingredients at Kemin’s new research center. Leading Midwestern pork producers will join the group for lunch at an Iowa institution, The Machine Shed Restaurant. A stop at the John Deere Des Moines Works will provide a look at equipment used by both livestock and crop farmers. A visit to a new, innovative Hy-Vee grocery store will provide a look at the U.S. retail food sector.

Tuesday evening, both tour groups with have dinner with National Pork Board representatives at the organizatin's headquarters. 

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The registration deadline for both tours is Friday, May 2. The fee for the one-day tour is $175 per person. The cost of the two-day tour, which includes hotel accommodations for the night of June 2, is $400 per person. Space for both tours is limited.

Both tours will start and end at the Holiday Inn Des Moines-Airport. Included in the packages are bus transportation and three meals during each day of the tour. Registration also includes a three-day pass to World Pork Expo, and access to free transportation between the hotel and Expo grounds, June 4-6.

For more information and to register for these tours, go to www.worldpork.org and select “Attendees” on the blue registration button. Then, scroll down to "Industry Tours."

The website also has the latest details about room availability at the official Expo hotels, a schedule of activities, and answers to frequently asked questions about traveling to World Pork Expo. Regular updates are available when you connect with World Pork Expo on Facebook, follow World Pork Expo on Twitter (#NPPCWPX) or download the official app by searching for “World Pork” in the Apple Store, Android Market or Blackberry’s App World.

World Pork Expo takes place June 4-6 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. More than 400 commercial exhibits will be on display from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 4, and Thursday, June 5, as well as from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, June 6. The swine breeding stock sales will take place on Saturday, June 7, from 8 a.m. until they're completed.