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Articles from 2020 In March

MIDDAY Midwest Digest, March 31, 2020

A distance of 6 feet apart might not be enough, says one researcher of exhilations.

USDA reports will be overshadowed by COVID-19 and economic recovery, says one analyst.

A son of the son of the Great Depression, Max offers his perspective as he watches what's happening in our nation. 

FMD preparedness remains top priority for USAHA

Getty Images Keep out sign on gate warning of foot-and-mouth disease

The world knows how quickly a virus can spread, as COVID-19 extends its tendrils throughout the globe. The coronavirus epidemic reminds U.S. livestock producers how critical it is to have a vaccine bank in advance of a foreign animal disease threat like foot-and-mouth disease.

While FMD is not zoonotic (it impacts cloven-hooved animals only), its economic impact would be significant if it were to hit the U.S. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, "the global annual cost of FMD in terms of production losses and the need for prevention by vaccination has been estimated to be approximately $5 billion. In a severe event in 2001 in the United Kingdom, the direct and indirect impacts are estimated to have cost as much as $30 billion."

Getting the ball rolling
The 2018 Farm Bill established the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program, which allows the USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to enter into cooperative agreements with states, universities, industry and other entities on projects and research to advance animal health. It further established the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank to maintain sufficient quantities of vaccine and other countermeasures to help address an outbreak of FMD or other high consequence FAD. In addition, it reauthorized the National Animal Health Laboratory Network with authorized appropriations of $30 million per year.

On March 30, APHIS announced that it had established a consultation board to assist the agency with implementation of the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program. The consultation board will recommend annual funding priorities, provide input to improve program policies and processes, nominate experts to review and rank funding proposals, and make recommendations for the program's annual spending plan. 

Call to action
Response to a FAD often includes mass depopulation of animals, but the USDA FAD PReP plan for FMD is contingent on vaccination for all but the smallest, localized outbreak. Unfortunately, the U.S. currently does not have access to enough FMD vaccine to handle more than a very small, localized disease event, said members of the United States Animal Health Association, an organization made up of leaders from government, industry and academia working alongside producers.

According to the USAHA Committee on Animal Emergency Management, "Worldwide vaccine production is limited, and there is no surge capacity to produce the millions of doses needed to address a large-scale outbreak in the U.S. The cumulative impact of an outbreak on the U.S. beef and pork sectors over a 10-year period would be more than $128 billion. The annual jobs impact of such reduction in industry revenue is 58,066 in direct employment and 153,876 in total employment. Corn and soybean farmers would lose $44 billion and nearly $25 billion, respectively, making the impact on these four industries alone almost $200 billion. A workable FMD vaccine bank can minimize the impact on the U.S. economy and reduce government costs of a catastrophic FMD outbreak in the U.S."

As a result, the organization passed the following resolution: "USAHA urges USDA and state animal health authorities to support a total of $92 million for the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank, with a minimum of $20 million for each of the first four years and $12 million in the fifth year, of the funding established in the 2018 Farm Bill to provide adequate number of doses of FMD vaccine and surge capacity. This $92 million for NAVVCB is to include a reasonable stockpile of foreign animal disease testing kits/reagents needed for outbreak response.

"Additionally, the 2018 Farm Bill prevention funding the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program should not be used to fund current USDA, APHIS activities with the states nor should it inhibit full appropriation of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network laboratory authorization within USDA, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Food and Agriculture Defense Initiative and APHIS budgets."

Progress being made
In January this year, APHIS announced the progress it's making to implement programs funded by the 2018 Farm Bill, including moving forward with developing a FMD Vaccine Bank.   A number of USAHA members have held the vaccine bank as a priority issue, including the National Pork Producers Council and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, among others.

Specifically, APHIS announced that it is awarding $10.2 million to support disease prevention and emergency response training. As part of this funding, APHIS is moving forward with developing the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank. The first priority of the bank is to increase the U.S. stockpile of FMD vaccines.

APHIS is also issuing a request for proposals and plans to have the initial FMD vaccine contracts in place by the end of the second quarter of FY2020, and the agency's goal is to invest between $15 million and $30 million on the vaccine by the end of this year.

Sarah Tomlinson, DVM associate deputy administration of USDA APHIS Veterinary Services, has said 2020 will bring "great strides" in developing an FMD vaccine bank.

Members of USAHA and industry welcome these advances.

"U.S. pork producers and other farmers are currently faced with a wide range of challenges," says NPPC chief veterinarian Liz Wagstrom, DVM. "A solution for FMD preparedness is in our grasp. We urge USDA to move as quickly as possible to establish the bank."

Marty Zaluski, DVM, state veterinarian for the Montana Department of Livestock and USAHA president, agrees. "We are fortunate within USAHA to have such a unique cross-section of people who work together to protect and improve the health of the U.S. livestock industry. Our work on the vaccine bank is just one example of the many initiatives USAHA has supported."

Source: United States Animal Health Association, which 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.

Papua New Guinea confirms African swine fever

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Papua New Guinea (PNG) has reported its first outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in free-ranging pigs in the island nation's Southern Highlands province, according to to a notice from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

The finding brings the ASF virus ever closer to Australia, after confirmed recent detections in nearby Indonesia and Timor Leste.

PNG told OIE the incident was first reported by a provincial livestock officer on March 5, and its National Agriculture Quarantine & Inspection Authority dispatched an investigating team on March 11 that investigated and collected whole blood and sera for testing. Samples were dispatched to the Veterinary Laboratory in Port Moresby, PNG, as well as to the Australian Animal Health Laboratory.

In a statement, Australia Minister for Agriculture, Drought & Emergency Management David Littleproud noted that Australia's biosecurity is more critical than ever.

“Australia already has strict measures in place to prevent ASF from hitting our shores; however, it is important that we regularly assess and improve the measures we have in place," he said. “With the confirmation of ASF in our near neighbor, our biosecurity measures are more important than ever. We offer our assistance to PNG as they work to contain this disease.

“Biosecurity measures in place in the Torres Strait have been ramped up as a result of COVID-19 and are being re-assessed to ensure they effectively manage the risk that ASF in PNG poses to Australia," Littleproud said. “While ASF is not a public health concern, it could devastate Australia’s pork industry if it were to arrive here."

The Torres Strait, at approximately 150 km at its narrowest point, separates PNG from Cape York in northern Queensland.

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Lessons learned as a production system's first nutritionist

AMVC Trey Kellner, AMVC swine nutritionist, visits with Amanda Winslow, AMVC sow farm manager at a sow farm in southern Iowa.
Trey Kellner, AMVC swine nutritionist, visits with Amanda Winslow, AMVC sow farm manager at a sow farm in southern Iowa.

Do you remember your feelings and emotions as you drove to the first day of your first "real" job? Were you excited, nervous, scared? Were you frantically running through your checklist of remembering names and wondering how am I going to make an impact on Day 1 (or at least you thought so at the time)? Now, take those first day anxieties and add to it that not only is this your first day of your first real job, but also it is the first day of a brand-new position for the company.

With most "firsts," there are successes and failures, and my experience is no different. Thus, the objective of this editorial is to pass on the six biggest lessons learned over the past three years from working as a production system's first nutritionist. To aid not only future swine nutritionists in a similar position, but any other young swine professionals avoid some of the pitfalls or ignorance I had.

Lesson 1: Buy-in takes time
AMVC Nutritional Services currently oversees the feeding of over 1.2 million annual marketed pigs and 150,000 sows across 28 different feed mills, 46 sow farms, 23 nurseries, 65 finishing sites and 115 wean-to-finish sites. In terms of people involved, that is easily over 800 involved in feed manufacturing, delivery and feeding execution on-farm. Thus, don't expect a protocol change to work like a light switch. Our system is dynamic and ever-changing. Our team is also striving to get better every day. Thus, a feeding protocol change may land No. 1 on a priority list for some sow farms and growers, while for other sow farms and personnel, it may land lower in terms of implementation.

Coming out of graduate school, I was completely naïve to this concept. I thought if the production team, director, COO and myself approved a protocol change it would be implemented in that exact moment. Not the case. It takes more than just a vote in a meeting in an office to make change. You must champion the change with each key influencer, manager and grower down to the slat level. This takes time, commitment and validation with each person involved in carrying out this change.

Let me provide an example of how I learned this lesson. In my first six months on the job, I noticed the system's stillborn rate was increasing at 0.2% per month (Figure 1) and was on the search for dietary or feeding strategies to help reduce this steady increase.

AMVCFigure 1: System-wide increase in stillborn rate from January of 2016 to August of 2018.

Figure 1: System-wide increase in stillborn rate from January of 2016 to August of 2018.

At the time, our system had no standard feeding protocol for feeding pre-farrow sows (sows that have been loaded into farrowing but have yet to farrow). After a literature review, we conducted a commercial research trial (Figure 2) that found stillborn rates can be reduced by 3% via feeding 2 pounds twice per day, versus feeding 4 pounds in the morning or 6 pounds twice a day. A significant finding that would provide an economic return for each sow farm, however each sow farm had different degrees of difficulty in implementing this new pre-farrow feeding protocol.

AMVCFigure 2: Impact of pre-farrow feeding amount and time on stillborn (percent).

Figure 2: Impact of pre-farrow feeding amount and time on stillborn (percent).

The first of these hurdles, was the feed system able to run 2 pounds of feed twice a day? If not, was the farm willing to pay for someone to hand feed pre-farrow sows or invest in improving the feed system? For some sow farms finding the additional labor took time. For others it took convincing of key influencers to invest in additional labor or feeding system changes.

The second hurdle, as mentioned before was where this protocol change landed in terms of priority for each sow farm to implement. I found it key to identify an individual at each farm to champion the protocol change on site. In all cases, the pre-farrow feeding protocol took continued championing from our production team and me and took varying amounts of time to implement. Figure 3 shows this lesson clearly. The decrease in our system stillborn rate did not occur swiftly. Instead, the decrease was slow and steady.

AMVCFigure 3: System wide decrease in stillborn rate, after pre-farrow feeding protocol changes in August of 2018.

Figure 3: System wide decrease in stillborn rate, after pre-farrow feeding protocol changes in August of 2018.

Lesson 2: There is a constant need to re-coach, stay positive and explain why
Building off Lesson 1, there is also a constant need to re-coach. AMVC has over 700 employees and these employees often get promoted, cross-trained to another department, or pursue other opportunities. Meaning the person you coached on a protocol or a feeding strategy may not have the same responsibilities on your next visit. Even on the grow-finish side of production, managers can change, the primary caretaker may change, and new sites can be incorporated into the system. This constant change means you cannot just expect to go over a protocol once per site and expect it to be in place forever.

I learned that the need for re-coaching is constant, and even though it might be 20,000th time you have gone over how to weigh feed boxes, or how to mat feed iso-weans, it is likely the first time the person you are coaching has heard the information. Thus, when explaining the protocol, be positive and treat it like it is the most important task they and you will do today.

When reviewing protocols always explain "the why." The best part about the swine industry is we all care. This how we can feed our families while helping to feed the world. People want to know why they are doing a certain task a certain way. Take time to explain why this protocol is important, how implementing this change will save them time in the long run and make them more successful. The implementation rate of a protocol will be higher if you take the time to explain why versus than just printing off a piece of paper and saying here you go.

Lesson 3: Don't be afraid to step up when you can fill a void
Successful companies hire you for your diverse skill set and knowledge to aid them in solving complicated questions and problems. Be knowledgeable about your strengths and skills. Take an internal survey of skillsets of your team members or people around the room and ask yourself how can I best help in this situation. When you identify a void in which one of your strengths is needed, don't be afraid to step up and say I can help answer this question.

I was asked to be a part of discussions that I would deem as "above my pay grade" because I had the strength to take known and unknown economic variables and can create predictable outcomes. That's a fancy way of saying I am good at math and can work an Excel file to breakdown complicated questions into something everyone understands, dollars and cents or risk and return.

When stepping up, it is effective to provide "aid" or "support" and not the solution. Remember the people around the room have been successful at problem solving and pork production for longer than you have. Don't be arrogant. Don't assume that you are correct. Don't stop listening just because you have a potential answer to the problem. Be a team member and a colleague in the effort.

Lesson 4: Be an independent thinker
Building off Lesson 3, people will seek out your input if you can assimilate information into an independent answer. A weakness I often see in my peers is they will "take a poll" or "read the room" to ensure that they agree with the majority or the leader. Falling into the false trap of thinking if people see we are on the same page or have the same thought process I can advance faster. It's human nature to want people to like our thoughts and ideas. It is difficult for me as an extrovert, to not sway my thoughts based on what my peer or superior said before I am to provide my input. However, if you want your advice to be sought after, if you want to be an influencer, you must have independent thought. By going along with the flow, by definition, you are a follower and not a leader. Now, don't misinterpret this lesson into always playing the devil's advocate. That will create unnecessary conflict and is not the message I am attempting to convey at all. What I am saying is conduct independent homework/background research. Come up with your own solution. Don't just call five of your peer nutritionists to see what level of a synthetic amino acid they are including and then pick the average. Don't just see what your CEO says first, and just agree with whatever he or she has to say. If you want to be a leader and influencer, then think and provide input like one.

Lesson 5: Be conscious of your time
Nutritionists generate return over investment scenarios all the time for various production scenarios, but when is the last time you have generated a return over investment breakdown of your performance for your company? Your employment comes with known costs to your company, salary, benefits, travel costs, research budget, continuing education, technology needs, etc. One of the key ways for you to maximize your return to your company is via proper time management and being as efficient as possible.

Are you spending your time dedicated to $1,000 per hour jobs, $100 per hour jobs or $10 per hour jobs? How many tasks are you able to accomplish per day, week and month because you are efficient with your time? There will be a lot of requests of your time. Suppliers, peers, managers, veterinarians, growers, feed mill personnel, clients, etc., will all ask for your time. It is up to you to manage these requests and determine how big of a priority are they for maximizing your return over investment to your production system. For me saying "no" is a lesson I have learned and will continue to relearn until I retire.

Just as important (if not more important) is how you manage your time between work and home. It is stressful knowing that someone is entrusting and paying you to manage the biggest cost of producing a pig. There will be times where you feel like you are behind or stuck doing urgent tasks only. It can and will be overwhelming.

Help yourself out and set guidelines of how much you are going to travel and how you are going to handle inquiries beyond the normal work time. Have hobbies and enjoy them. Know yourself and your indicators for when you are becoming stressed, tired or overwhelmed. Acting on them earlier will allow you to be more productive, and just plain happier to be around. Finding the balance between work and home is just as important as it is assigning work time based on priority.

Lesson 6: Enjoy and share your team's wins
Lessons 1 and 2 show how many people are involved in the execution of a successful feeding program. When there are successes in implementing a change, share those successes with each of those individuals and thank them for buying in. They deserve the credit, not you. Don't make the mistake of sitting on a board touting how successful you were and how much of an impact you made. You helped guide the ship and coach the team. They got you to the destination and made the play.

To conclude, please don't take this editorial as I have it all figured out and here are the answers for you. On the contrary, there is a lot I have yet to learn. I am excited to make those mistakes and get better from making them. I just wanted to pass along the need to champion your changes and re-coach your practices; step-up and think independently; manage your time and share your team's successes as best you can.

Source: Trey A. Kellner, 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. The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.

U.S. pork trade remains strong amid COVID-19 market uncertainty

U.S. Meat Export Federation nhf-usmef-chilledporkpromo-asia-covid.jpg

As COVID-19 continues to shift the landscape for U.S. pork domestically, one sector that has been largely unaffected thus far has been U.S. pork export markets.

"With January export data being the most current that we have, we were at almost 516 million pounds, which was the second highest month on record for U.S. pork exports, and largely that was driven by the huge increase to the Chinese market, but we continue to see that the product is moving," says Clay Eastwood, director of international marketing for the National Pork Board.

While impact from COVID-19 may be more evident in the February and March data that will come out in the next few months, Eastwood says so far supply and demand fundamentals and market access improvements are expected to support strong U.S. pork export growth throughout the year.

"Pork production was 5% higher in 2019 than it was in 2018 and forecasts show that production will continue to grow in 2020, so we continue to know that exports are critical to providing that significant value back to producers," Eastwood says. "There's a lot of opportunity in Asia, whether it be trying to help fill the demand and the need of the protein gap in China, but also focusing on markets like Japan, Mexico, places where we have had trade headwinds in the last couple of years."

For example, she points to Japan, the No. 1 value market for U.S. pork and a market NPB and the U.S. Meat Export Federation have been heavily focused on recapturing market share. Eastwood says the January data confirm those efforts have been paying off, as the United States was able to regain market share from competitor Canada.

Another market focus has been Mexico, where U.S. pork faced retaliatory duties for several months. "We're focused on not only recapturing some of the market share that we would have lost there, but also diversifying," Eastwood says. "We send a lot of hams to Mexico and so if we can diversify that product mix and provide some different opportunities and different products for those consumers, that's a really great opportunity for U.S. pork as well."

Outside of those major markets, the Pork Checkoff has been examining further business opportunities in places such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand. Eastwood points to the China market assessment study the Pork Checkoff completed last year as to the detailed information they hope to report back on from those countries.

"We hope to provide some of those similar insights that we can then turn into action for our packer export community, in places like Vietnam and the Philippines, where you've got emerging types of economy and as the consumers have more disposable income, that really one of the first places they want to spend money on is protein," Eastwood says. "We want to kind of see how within those markets, what are the things that we can do to position U.S. pork for long-term success."

In the short term with global COVID-19 quarantines and restrictions in place, NPB and USMEF have had to revise their marketing efforts abroad but are still making headwinds. For example, USMEF implemented a promotion for chilled U.S. pork at 105 Park N' Shop outlets in Hong Kong on March 21. Driven by newspaper ads and in-store point-of-sale materials, merchandisers will rotate through eight stores every weekend through April. USMEF's strategy is to position chilled, vacuum-packed U.S. pork with consumers as an alternative to frozen pork and Hong Kong's fresh pork supply, which has been crippled by African swine fever.

U.S. Meat Export Federationnhf-usmef-sandwichsample-usporklogo.jpg

In Japan, McDonald's is now marketing U.S. pork in its Tonkatsu sandwich. A breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet, Tonkatsu is a staple item in the Japanese market so the promotion puts a unique spin on the product with U.S. pork in the food service sector.

"What we've seen, especially in those markets like China and Japan and those Asian markets is that, retail meat sales remain strong and retailers and restaurants, much like here are utilizing either the e-commerce route or delivery services to make sure that product is still moving," Eastwood says. "We know that because of a lot of the impact of people having to stay home in these Asian markets, that they have adjusted some of their marketing programs and are figuring out how they can explore new promotional opportunities, including some direct delivery to consumers."

MORNING Midwest Digest, March 31, 2020

A higher percentage of Americans could end up out of work than during the Great Depression.

The planting intentions report comes out today.

There's a joint funeral service today for the first married couple to die from the pandemic.

Ford Motor Company went from manufacturing automobiles on lines to making facemasks assembled by hand in a matter of days.

the EPA is warning Americans to NOT flush anything but toilet paper.

Farm Progress America, March 31, 2020

Max Armstrong shares insight on the work of USDA during the coronavirus crisis. The agency announced that has accepted 3.4 million acres into the Conservation Reserve Program. Max shares details of how the program works and what it means to farmers and ranchers who participate. The program has been in place for 35 years.

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.

Photo: simonmayer/iStock/Getty Images Plus

NPPC cancels 2020 World Pork Expo

World Pork Expo 18 crowd

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has announced that its board of directors has decided to cancel the 2020 World Pork Expo in June due to COVID-19 human health concerns. World Pork Expo 2021 is scheduled for June 9-11 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

"While deeply disappointed to cancel this year's Expo, NPPC's board of directors unanimously agreed it was prudent to make this decision now," said NPPC President Howard "A.V." Roth, a pork producer from Wauzeka, Wis. "By eliminating COVID 19-related uncertainty surrounding the event, we allow producers and others across the industry to focus on the essential role we play in the nation's food supply system at this critical time."

"We will do our part to support the nation's transition back to normalcy and look forward to making next year's World Pork Expo better than ever," added Roth.

 World Pork Expo is the world's largest pork-specific trade show, where more than 20,000 industry professionals gather for three days to showcase innovations, introduce new products and participate in training and educational programs. 


Dealing with fires, twisters and explosions

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Insurance companies can give you the numbers — it doesn't happen often — but when a catastrophe happens to your farm, Cameron Schmitt says you need to be ready. Tornadoes, fires, pit gas explosions and power outages — many pork producers may think these disasters will never happen to them. However, Schmitt says producers should keep Murphy's law in mind.

"There is a reason for backup systems," Schmitt says. "We train and test them every week, and as boring as it is, they are important. It may save your pigs, people and farm someday."

Since joining Pipestone Veterinary Services and Pipestone System in 2002, the veterinarian has had to help several farms pick up the pieces after a catastrophe. While Schmitt says every situation will be different, there are some important considerations production teams should consider when dealing with a disaster.

In April 2011, tornadoes ripped through north-central Iowa damaging some barns that Schmitt works with. Roofs had been torn off the facilities, leaving animals behind. Driving up to the sites and seeing pigs safe, standing there as if they still had a roof over their heads was a strange site to see, Schmitt says, but for the pork production team it was a devastating scene to take in.

"For these young farmers, these barns are an integral part of their life," Schmitt says. "You become a disaster relief counselor and recovery team lead for families as well as pigs."

Following a tornado, there are some key action items to implement and evaluate immediately, Schmitt says:

Human safety. Driving to a farm after a tornado can be treacherous. With steel and metal debris everywhere, it's important to consider equipment and employee safety, in addition to the herd's safety. Determine a "safe zone" of operation early on. Work with your emergency service teams to evaluate when it is safe.

Event documentation. It's crucial the farm's veterinarian is on-site to document and take a complete set of photos of the damage. Schmitt also points out that insurance companies will turn to the veterinarian for record of the damage details of the incident.

Daily records. Keep good records, every day. In the event of disaster, they will come in handy.

"Date, time, number, weight, age — any records on-farm that you can take a picture of — even the mortality or the daily recorded mortality logs, water usage — all those factors may become an important fact weeks or months later as an investigation goes on," Schmitt says.

Within hours of a disaster, Schmitt says reality starts to set in. Where do we go with the living pigs? Health status, marketing options and medication withdrawals need to be considered. Sunburns can occur fairly rapidly on a barn without a roof, and that is not an everyday vet call.

What should be done with the injured animals? How are animals loaded when there is no barn left? Those were all questions Schmitt says he was forced to address and often didn't have answers to, but he learned to slow down, gather information and take time to make decisions.

"Having a fire is one of the most devastating experiences a farmer can go through," Schmitt says.

He suggests producers make an effort to give local fire crews tours of their barns. Then they will be familiar with that site's firewalls and barn design, and be able to make educated decisions if they need to fight a fire there.

It's also important to recognize that fires have a particularly devastating effect on employees. People who care for the animals are so compassionate, they feel the loss of life as if it was their own, Schmitt says. Recovery is challenging and needs to be addressed by owners and managers to keep everyone going emotionally.

"When you have 10 employees and tomorrow their job is gone, what do you do?" Schmitt says. "Do you let them go, fire them, temporarily relieve them, move them to other farms? How do you manage biosecurity? All of those things are real issues that don't cross my radar on a normal day as a veterinarian."

Crisis management plans will help relieve the stress of "not knowing" for employees and owners.

At the time of any disaster involving loss of life (pigs or people), Schmitt says it's also important to manage the public, media, site traffic and site perimeter. Producers need to have trained, experienced people on-site to manage what could create untruths — or, as he says, a "rumor mill" — that could potentially be dangerous to the farm and its employees. It's critical to speak truths in a timely, respectful fashion.

State pork associations, consultants and veterinarians can help producers design a plan to deal with adverse events.

During the cleanup process, be prepared to meet with several investigators, Schmitt says, especially when insurance companies are dealing with a loss of $1 million or more. The veterinarian says producers also need to be cognizant of subrogation claims and their liability. Consult an expert if needed.

"In this situation, a contractor working on-site had cut a hole in a steel-end wall, creating heat, and left for the day. Two hours later, the farm was on fire. Be aware of, and take all safety precautions with, construction and maintenance; it may save someone's life," Schmitt says.

Power failure
Schmitt calls a power failure a "midsummer disease of pig farms," as that is generally when it happens. There can be more mortalities due to the heat stress in pigs.

Schmitt reiterates the importance of backup devices and alarms. Set a routine alarm and backup checklist, with dates and initials of inspection recorded. This information will be requested by the insurance company.

Flash fires
Flash fires are caused by a pit foam release of methane that inadvertently ignites, an incident Schmitt says most often occurs in an empty barn. Last year, the Pipestone team had a client who ended up having more than 60% of his body burned, due to a flash fire caused by a pit foam release of methane. It's important to follow strict protocols when pit foam is a factor in the barn, and never work alone.

"Flash fires most commonly occur in empty barns because there's nothing continually dropping down into the pit, and it allows foam to occur," Schmitt says.

Schmitt has been involved with one flash fire where pigs were in the barn, but very few animals were lost in the event. However, the veterinarian says it is important for producers to remember to take extra precautions during times when barns are empty. Pit gases and foam can be very dangerous.

Time to decompress
No matter when or what type of disaster strikes, Schmitt says it is essential that every production team and family take time to deal with it emotionally. He encourages producers and veterinarians who experience a disaster to reach out to friends and family, and give support to other team members. Likewise, reach out to friends and families experiencing hardship, as you may be the shoulder they need today.

"After you go through one of these high-stress events, you need to be able to relax and reflect," Schmitt says. "When you have one of these catastrophic events, usually you're going to spend 10 to 20 hours at the site, possibly for days.

"If you haven't been through them before, you’ve got to be tough and call on your support team to get through it. They aren't any fun, but you have to find a way to decompress. Find the 'glass half full' side of the event, spend time reflecting, improving — and get started again."

Gerry Daignault joins The Maschhoffs team

The Maschhoffs The Maschhoffs pigs

The Maschhoffs recently welcomed St. Louis native Gerry Daignault as vice president for Support Operations.

Daignault, born and raised in Ferguson, Mo., graduated from University of Missouri St. Louis with a bachelor's degree in finance. Right out of college, Daignault began working for Purina as director of Finance for the eastern half of the United States. After 15 years at Purina, he landed an opportunity as CFO for PM Ag Products Inc., an animal-nutrition business.

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Daignault's swine acumen visibly expanded from there as he transitioned into the genetic improvement sector. He worked for Newsham Hybrids for five years before becoming CFO of PIC. He was the co-founder of Spectrum Agribusiness and spent the past five years as CEO of Double L Group, which specializes in ventilation and flooring for swine and poultry. "We are extremely excited Gerry joined the team. He brings a vast amount of experience, operational excellence and a passion for people," says The Maschhoffs CEO Bradley Wolter.

Daignault credits his success over the years to his passion for team building. He is fascinated with getting the right people together, pulling the rope in the same direction. He says his greatest success is seeing people around him succeed.

"I've always had a lot of respect and admiration for The Maschhoffs," Daignault says. "When you consider the business that Ken, Julie, Dave and Karen have built, it's pretty amazing. I'm honored to be a part of this company."

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