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Loss-of-function mutations cause embryonic lethality in pigs

Kelli Jo/iStock/Getty Images pigs - many young pigs on plastic floor_Kelli Jo_iStock_GettyImages-831729236.jpg

Researchers from the Animal Breeding & Genomics unit at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and Topigs Norsvin studied mutations that impair the functioning of essential genes and cause embryonic lethality in pigs.

According to WUR, the study will be used to lower the frequency of these harmful mutations to improve pig fertility. The researchers published their findings in the journal PLOS Genetics.

Lethal recessive mutations cause prenatal or postnatal death in homozygous-affected individuals (those carrying two copies of the lethal mutation), thus reducing fertility in various populations, WUR said.

Although recessive lethal mutations occur in every population, their effect is generally masked by extremely low frequency. However, within commercial livestock populations, WUR said those mutations might be exposed by inbreeding, increasing to higher frequency by a process called genetic drift — the random change of mutation frequency in small populations.

In this study, the researchers found five recessive lethal genes in the pig populations under study. The lethal genes have a large effect in carrier-by-carrier matings (two carriers of the same lethal gene that mate) of decreasing litter sizes by approximately 20%, WUR said.

By using whole-genome sequencing and gene expression data, the researchers could accurately pinpoint the causal mutations and the part of the gene that was affected. Some of the mutations were found at relatively high frequency, which could be driven by a positive effect of the mutation on other important traits in pigs (e.g., growth), something that was found in a previous study, WUR reported.

However, for the mutations in this study, no positive effect was found, showing that these mutations are purely the result of genetic drift -- something that was also supported by the researchers in a simulation study.

The lethal recessives affect up to 3% of the population litters and are responsible for the death of one in 200 embryos, WUR said. This study, therefore, will allow for monitoring and facilitate the purging and partial elimination of recessive lethal mutations in frequently used pig breeds, which will improve pig fertility, the researchers concluded.

Source: Wageningen University & Research, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

MORNING Midwest Digest, March 27, 2019

A winning Powerball ticket was sold in Wisconsin. It was the thrid-largest jackpot in lottery history. 

Another jury judgement out of California ordered Monsnto to pay damages to a man who used Roundup, and got cancer.

A company based in England arranges fireworks displays that incorporate funeral ashes.


Photo: ComicSans/Getty Images

Farm Progress America, March 28, 2019

Max Armstrong shares news on the growth of FFA in an interesting place: urban and suburban schools. There’s been growth in the country too, but faster growth is occurring in those more urban settings. He shared that in Indiana, for example, growth in urban and suburban schools by 121% while in the country chapter growth is about 21%.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Strep control

National Pork Board Piglets

By Emily McDowell, DVM, Pipestone System
Streptococcus suis (commonly known as strep) is a very common bacterial agent present in all pigs. S. suis gets into the pigs’ bloodstream and then affects pigs throughout their entire body. Classic clinical signs of S. suis include fever, meningitis (walking without coordination and paddling while lying on its side), swollen joints, pneumonia/coughing and sudden death. These clinical signs are observed most often in the farrowing house and in the weeks after weaning. S. suis easily colonizes pigs and is likely present in every pig; however, prevention strategies are important to help minimize the symptoms of S. suis which can affect overall pig health and performance.

Historically, S. suis is most commonly a secondary or opportunistic pathogen in pigs. This means that the S. suis usually only causes clinical disease if the pigs immune system is not working well. Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, circovirus, flu, and/or Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae (to name a few) could cause the immune system to not work as well. In this scenario, S. suis is likely present in every pig but because the pig has PRRS (for example) you will also see more signs of S. suis as well.

One puzzling trend being observed more recently is that S. suis is being found in the absence of viruses or agents that would depress the immune system. Thus, S. suis is considered a primary pathogen because we are seeing clinical disease in normal or healthy animals.


With these recent observations, now is a great time to reevaluate the control strategies you have in place to prevent strep on your farm. Here are some to consider:

One critical cornerstone to preventing Strep is preventing the pathogens that cause the immune system to not work as well. Biosecurity is critical in preventing PRRS, flu, circovirus or M. hyopneumoniae. Your veterinarian can help you develop this preventative plan. Do not let these pathogens hitch an unwanted ride into your farms!

Poorly ventilated or under ventilated rooms is a common trigger that can cause increased clinical signs of S. suis. Transitional ventilation seasons (going from winter to summer ventilation or vice versa) are difficult times to properly ventilate a barn. Make sure rooms are not overcrowded, the heaters are running as they should and humidity can be removed from the barn by moving enough air. Barns with poor or improper ventilation tend to have more clinical disease and S. suis is no exception.

Colonize piglets
One experimental strategy used to prevent clinical S. suis involves reducing the amount of Strep that the pigs are exposed to. Piglets are colonized with S. suis when they pass through the birth canal of the sow. This method is based on reducing the amount of S. suis that the pig is exposed to at birth. This control strategy involves administering a dilute chlorhexidine solution intravaginally to sows and gilts prior to farrowing. I want to strongly stress that this method should only be used under the direction of your veterinarian as there can be some detrimental side effects with this strategy if done incorrectly. The clinical impression with this technique is favorable in reducing the amount of Strep clinical signs. Pipestone participated in a project to quantify the reduction of bacteria that could be detected from vaginal swabs pre- and post-treatment. This unpublished study showed no decrease in bacterial detection from vaginal swabs post-treatment. Despite these results, some feel that there is a perceived clinical benefit/reduction in clinical signs of Strep from this experimental strategy.

Autogenous vaccines
In the more recent cases where S. suis is present in healthy animals, creating an autogenous vaccine is one option to consider. Responsible antibiotic use and improved autogenous vaccine technology are some of the driving factors behind this control strategy. However, these vaccines are not tested to show a benefit of their use. Pipestone is working on methods to better establish product efficacy using autogenous vaccines.

Veterinarian recommended treatment regimen
If clinical S. suis is present, work with your veterinarian on a treatment regimen that is best fits the needs of your farm. Your veterinarian may want to collect tissues or swabs that will be used to grow or culture S. suis. From this culture, an antibiotic sensitivity can be run which will help to determine which specific antibiotics will result in the most effective treatment response. Armed with this information, your veterinarian may implement an antibiotic treatment or control program at the source farm and in pigs downstream from this source farm. Pigs clinically affected with Strep should be treated with an antibiotic and a steroid. Common individual pig treatment regimens include penicillin and dexamethasone. The earlier the pigs are identified as being sick and treated, the better their response to individual treatment will be. Your veterinarian is happy to assist you with the best control and treatment plan for your farm. Likewise, your veterinarian may also assist you with strategies to prevent clinical Strep.

Despite the fact that all pigs are colonized with S. suis, the best control mechanism is minimizing the triggers that lead to clinical S. suis in pigs. Practice good biosecurity to prevent viruses from getting into your farms. Prevent ventilation mistakes that result in more clinical disease. A vaginal treatment is an experimental strategy to reduce the amount of Strep that a pig is exposed to at birth. Finally, autogenous vaccines present another option that can be used in healthy flows. Please consult your veterinarian for a targeted approach to help with S. suis on your farm.

For any questions or concerns regarding this topic please do not hesitate to contact our Pipestone team of veterinarians and swine specialists at 507-562-PIGS.

Source: Emily McDowell, Pipestone System, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

New insurance policy aims to provide relief in expenses if ASF hits

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For pork producers concerned about insuring their business if African swine fever or foot and mouth disease should even cross the United States border, James Allen Insurance has a new policy designed to do just that.

“With the expense reimbursement model, it will pay just if African swine fever enters the country,” says Chris Moore, who represents James Allen Insurance and ONI Risk Partners. “If it’s found in a wild boar in southwest Texas and I have a sow farm in Minnesota, I can have certain expenses -- some of my fixed costs that I have -- the insurance policy can reimburse me for those fixed costs.”

Previously the policy was called the business disruption or market value policy and would indemnify based on the value per hundredweight; however, Moore says there were not many insurance and reinsurance companies that understood the dip in the hundredweight production or the hundredweight value. They did understand the expense reimbursement model.

While hog producers with finishing units would rather utilize their risk management through hedging and options, the expense reimbursement policy has garnered interest from producers raising weaned pigs, genetic multipliers and boar studs.

“They are more limited in what they can do from a risk management standpoint in terms of options and what they can do on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, so those people buy this option a lot,” Moore says.

In the event either ASF or FMD were to enter the United States, a claim would be triggered with this policy. Once a claim is triggered, the insured will suffer the first two months of the indemnity period with no expenses reimbursed. After that, the insurance policy will reimburse the producer those expenses incurred or the monthly allocation for those expenses.

Moore gives the example of a 3,000-sow farrow-to-wean operation, with $208,000 in monthly expenses. The expenses are then divided by categories, such as feed costs, medication, payroll, waste removal services, etc. The policy would provide a gross annual coverage limit of $2,496,000 and a net annual coverage of $2,080,000. The difference between the gross and the net is two months.

“The goal behind this product is to provide a hog producer relief in expenses during a catastrophic event for the pork industry,” Moore says. “Our hope is that in the event there were to be an ASF outbreak, producers that buy this insurance will be able to maintain their equity in their operations.”

The new expense reimbursement policy was announced two weeks ago, and JAI has been busy writing the first round of policies that will go into effect April 1. Thus far 10 farms, representing 50,000 sows have signed up for the new insurance program.

For producers more worried about the direct impact an outbreak on their farm or in their region would have on their business, JAI also still has a mortality policy for ASF and FMD. The policy can be purchased as a stand-alone or can be wrapped into an overall farm mortality policy, however the producer gets to decide the value they want per animal, rather than just current market value.

Not only are we able to give them insurance on the actual sow value from a market perspective, but we are also allowed to put in the business income component,” Moore says. “We are able to give them insurance for the lack of that production value that sow would ultimately have over a lifetime, rather than what she is worth on the market today.”

The mortality policy will pay out if that farm breaks with ASF or FMD, if the farm is in an area the government deems as a mandatory slaughter zone, and if the producer needs to transport pigs across regional or state lines and there’s a stop movement in place.

Moore says the policies basically address two segments within the industry.

“If someone is worried about the impact of ASF and not necessarily worried about it coming close to the farm, but worried about if it came into the country, they are more apt to buy the expense reimbursement model,” Moore says. “If the school of thought is I am worried about ASF coming into my farm or due to large stop movement issue, I’m worried about the availability to move pigs, they will buy the mortality policy. Some people buy both.”

Pork production expected to edge past beef by end of 2028

marina_karkalicheva/iStock/Thinkstock Pork carcasses hanging in cooler

By the year 2028, what’s likely to be the situation for the U.S. livestock sector? According to the USDA’s latest 10-year projections, the industry will see larger hogs, larger cattle and larger chickens, as well as increased production of pork, beef and chicken.

“Pork production is expected to edge past beef production at just over 30 billion pounds by the end of the projection period,” says David Stallings, USDA Outlook Board analyst.

Increasing corn prices and lower pork prices in the first half of the decade will lower the hog feed price ratio (hog price/corn price), creating incentives to decrease farrowings. However, increased slaughter weights and the continued commercialization of the industry will continue the upward trend in pork production, according to the USDA long-term projections published earlier this month.

Pork production is expected to continue to grow along with per capita pork disappearance in 2019. Disappearance is expected to stabilize between 53 and 54 pounds per capita for the remainder of the decade. Throughout the projection period, pork exports continue to dominate imports, and pork production gains are expected to be sufficient to accommodate both the widening trade surplus as well as increased domestic demand.

According to Stallings, the projected 2028 prices for hogs will average around $44.20 per hundredweight, which is $2.30 higher than what’s forecast for this year and $1.70 less than last year’s average price.

U.S. pork exports are projected to grow faster than beef exports and on par with poultry exports. Production efficiency gains in the hog sector continue to enhance the sector’s international competitiveness. The United States is expected to maintain its position as the second largest exporter of pork behind the European Union while exporting more than twice the third largest exporter, Canada. Over the next decade, the EU is expected to increase its market share as the United States’ and Canada’s market shares are expected to decline.

While the analysts making these projections assume no disruptions in industry or current trade situations, and farm programs would remain the same for whole 10 years, Stallings says “we know that is probably not going to happen.”

The projections in the report were prepared July 2018 through February 2019 and the report was released on March 13.

Source: USDA, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.


MIDDAY Midwest Digest, March 27, 2019

An increase in gas tax and transportation fees is being proposed in Illinois.

A law goes into effect tomorrow in Michigan so you don't have to have training or registration to paint houses.

There's been another silo accident. This one contained gravel.

Twenty-one cases of measles have been documented in Detroit since mid-March.

The campaign for president has started, and many candidates are visiting Iowa already.


Photo: JimVallee/Getty Images

Ohio pork producers taste the fruits of their labor

Ohio Pork Council 2019 Ohio Taste of Excellence
Cider-Glazed Pork Loin with Spice Pickled Apple, Butternut Squash Gratin and Shredded Brussels Sprouts was prepared by Chef Aaron Braun of Meadowlark Restaurant, who was awarded the Chef Par Excellence Award and People's Choice Award.

Braised Asian "Ham" Pork Tacos, Cider-Glazed Pork Loin with Spice Pickled Apple and Baked Pork Bun were just a few of the culinary delicacies Ohio pork producers were able to sample Tuesday evening at the annual Ohio Pork Council Taste of Elegance Chef Competition and Legislative Reception. 

Chef Aaron Braun, Meadowlark Restaurant, took top honors earning the coveted Chef Par Excellence award. Braun was also awarded the People’s Choice award for the second consecutive year. 

Chef Broc Baltes, Mercy Health, was named Superior Chef, while Chef Tom Tiner, AVI Foodsystems, was selected as Premier Chef.

This year, each of the three chefs prepared an appetizer and entrée featuring pork. Judging the event were Connie Surber, past OPC Board Member and longtime supporter of Ohio’s pork industry; Chef Todd McDunn, resident director of Food Services, Scotts Miracle-Gro Campus and five-time Taste of Elegance winner; and Greg Lestini, attorney, Bricker and Eckler.

A signature tradition of Taste of Elegance, guests received white gloves and a bone-in pork chop to begin the evening. After sampling assorted flavors of bacon, cheeses and appetizers, they were invited to taste samples from each of the chefs’ menus. Additionally, a selection of Ohio wines was offered by the Ohio Grape Industries while the Ohio Farm Bureau’s Cover Crop Beer was also served.

The evening provides a unique opportunity for Ohio farmers to mingle with chefs who have prepared the fruit of their efforts – pork – in unique and exciting ways. Although many farmers have spent their lives raising pigs, few have had the opportunity to dine on what may be considered culinary delicacies.

Pork chops, as well as the pork used by each of the chefs, were donated by J.H. Routh Packing Company in Sandusky, Ohio.

Event sponsors included the Ohio Pork Council, Farm Credit Mid-America, J.H. Routh Packing Company, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Ohio Grape Industries, Ohio Soybean Council, PIC and United Producers, Inc.

Source: Ohio Pork Council, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Key financial indicators for commercial success

iStock/Getty Images Plus budgeting

By Drew Hesker, director of Financial Planning and Analysis, The Maschhoffs
Financial measures such as debt to equity ratio, profit margin and cost of production are likely towards the top of most producers list of ways they monitor the success of their operation. Rightly so, as these are important when analyzing your financial health, communicating with your banker or benchmarking against the industry. However, they are lagging indicators of performance and can cause delayed reaction to challenges on the farm.

To stay ahead of cost increases, and ensure the aforementioned metrics will look good at year’s end, a majority of your financial review time should be spent consuming in-process cost information.

The MaschhoffsNHF-TheMaschhoffs-Drew Hesker.770.jpg

Hesker says the change in the cost per head in inventory should be highly correlated to the change in feed ingredient costs.

In-process yardage costs are some of the most challenging to monitor, thus easy to ignore. However, they account for approximately 25% of COP and warrant the time spent monitoring. Here are some key in-process yardage items to keep your eye on:

  • Each payroll cycle, you should benchmark the labor costs per piglet produced or per average head in finishing against prior payroll periods.
  • Set a repair and maintenance budget for the year on a per head basis and closely track spend against that budget. Setting the target per head enables you to spend more if production is up and know when repair and maintenance items should be delayed if production is down.
  • Review space utilization metrics in finishing such as fill time. The quicker you fill the barn, the sooner you’ll be able to market the last load and fill the barn again. Filling the barn 2 days quicker can lower COP by $0.20 - $0.25/head.

Additionally, monitoring in-process costs across all expenses buckets is achieved by tracking the cost per head in inventory in comparison with the average age of the head. The change in the cost per head in inventory should be highly correlated to the change in feed ingredient costs. Most producers keep a keen eye on feed costs since they are over 50% of COP. Use this information to overlay the change in both costs monthly. When they become less correlated, it’s time to dig deeper into the other expense areas such as animal health and reproductive costs. 

Tracking and controlling in process costs such as yardage many months prior to them appearing on your financials will set you up for success when using the lagging financial metrics to submit to your bank or benchmark against the industry.

Source: Drew Hesker,The Maschhoffs, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Six North Carolina producers, one firm honored at N.C. Pork Conference

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Jim Stocker of Kenansville was inducted into the N.C. Pork Council Hall of Fame for a career that helped shape North Carolina’s thriving pork industry.

The North Carolina Pork Council honored six North Carolina hog farmers and one allied company for their exceptional industry contributions at the annual N.C. Pork Conference last week.

Jim Stocker of Kenansville was inducted into the N.C. Pork Council Hall of Fame for a career that helped shape North Carolina’s thriving pork industry. Stocker became involved in the industry in 1976 when he joined Murphy Farms.

Stocker helped steer many cost-reducing technological production changes in the 1980s and 1990s. He also authorized and advanced numerous research and development efforts aimed at exploring the opportunities in energy and nutrients from manure.

“Put simply, Jim Stocker was an architect of much that Murphy Farms did to develop and expand in North Carolina – and beyond – and to achieve success that brought benefits and economic activity to a broad region of the state,” says Ed Emory, chairman of the N.C. Pork Awards Committee and emcee of the ceremony.


Joey Carter of Beulaville was named the Outstanding Pork Producer of the Year. “Joey exemplifies the We Care principles in caring for his pigs, the people he works with, his community and environment where his family lives,” Emory says.

Carter has owned and operated a finishing operation in Duplin County since 1985. He has an excellent environmental compliance record with state regulatory agencies and has been a leader in embracing and experimenting with environmental research.

But his community service is what makes Carter stand out, Emory told the crowd. Carter has served his community through his work with the Beulaville Fire Department, Duplin County Sheriff’s Office and Beulaville Police Department. Carter and his family are active members of the Sandy Plain Baptist Church.


Dexter Edwards of Beulaville received the W.W. Shay Award for Industry Distinction. He’s been involved in the industry since he started in 1976 with Carroll’s Foods. In his 42-year career in the swine industry, Edwards has been instrumental in getting hundreds of local farmers involved in the industry by helping them preserve their farming way of life through diversification. He also made major impacts on the quality of pork produced.

“Dexter has been a true ambassador for our industry through the many organizations he has worked with,” Emory says.


The Award for Industry Innovation was given to Hog Slat, Inc., for its 50-year history of providing industry-leading products. The Newton Grove-based company was started in 1959 when Billy Herring developed his own flooring for his hog barns because he couldn’t find anything in the market that fit his needs. Other farmers took notice and asked him to produce flooring for them, and the company was born. Since then, Hog Slat has provided flooring, buildings, feeders and many other solutions for farmers in North Carolina and around the world.

“Pork and poultry producers from around the globe look to Hog Slat to provide them with expert knowledge, products and facility designs to help them be the best and most efficient producers in the world,” Emory says.


Justin and Erica Edwards of Beulaville were named Emerging Leaders, an award given to producers 40 or under who show leadership in the industry. They are both committed to sharing the story of agriculture and how food is grown. Justin has done this through direct marketing of produce from his farm and other outreach, including his involvement in several video projects with the N.C. Pork Council. Erica has done it through classroom involvement with Ag in the Classroom programming in Duplin County schools. The Edwards also hosted an event at a school last year that attracted more than 600 students and exposed them to several agricultural commodities. In addition, the Edwards are actively involved in the N.C. Farm Bureau through the Young Farmers and Ranchers program.


Eve Honeycutt of Snow Hill was given the Lois Britt Award for Community Service for service to the industry. Honeycutt is an extension agent with the Lenoir County Cooperative Extension Service.

Honeycutt works with livestock producers in Lenoir and Greene counties. She works with them on environmental regulations, permit paperwork and other educational programs.

“Eve is a passionate defender of the farmers she serves and is a vocal and steadfast supporter of the swine industry.” Emory says.

Honeycutt organized donations for farmers across the Southeast after hurricanes Matthew and Florence. She also serves as chair of the Carolina Swine Circuit, organizes the Coastal Plain Livestock Show and Sale and is actively involved in her church.

Source: North Carolina Pork Council, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.