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Articles from 2010 In April

Low Stress Pig Handling for Truckers

National Swine Nutrition Guide Now Available

The National Swine Nutrition Guide (NSNG) is now available for order.

At a cost of $125, it includes the NSNG book of 35 swine nutrition fact sheets, a booklet containing the nutrient recommendation tables and diet formulation and evaluation software.

The book is 320 pages and includes a CD and 20-page booklet. The CD can be used to perform two distinct functions. It can be used to formulate swine diets on a least-cost basis or evaluate the nutritional adequacy of existing diets.

The nutrition guide is a practical publication that was put together by a collaboration of various university swine nutritionists and swine industry specialists providing nutrient recommendations and feeding guidelines.

It is available from the U.S. Pork Center of Excellence and can be ordered online at

USDA Announces Veterinary Medicine Repayment Plan

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture NIFA) will begin accepting applications today from veterinarians wishing to participate in the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP), which addresses veterinary shortages in rural America by repaying the student loans of qualified veterinarians in return for their services in areas suffering from a lack of veterinarians.

“The lack of adequate veterinary services, especially in the area of food animal medicine, creates hardships for producers and endangers livestock throughout rural America,” explains Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This program will help alleviate the shortage of trained professional veterinarians who serve our producers, improving the health of the livestock industry and helping ensure a safe food supply.”

In return for a commitment of three years of veterinary services in a designated area, NIFA may repay up to $25,000 of student loan debt per year. Loan repayment benefits are limited to payments of the principal and interest on government and commercial loans received for the attendance at an accredited college of veterinary medicine that resulted in a doctor of veterinary medicine degree or the equivalent.

NIFA applications are due June 30 and offers will be made by Sept. 30. NIFA will host four interactive webinars for applicants on May 4 at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and May 12 at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Application forms and webinar instructions can be found on the NIFA Web site,

NIFA officials have designated more than 150 veterinary shortage areas throughout the United States. A map of all the shortage areas is available on the NIFA Web site.

A leading cause of veterinary shortage is the high cost of four years of professional veterinary medical training, which can average between $130,000 and $140,000. Congress established the VMLRP as a means to remedy this growing need.

Bacon Boom Builds

The bacon craze continues to build with loyal bacon fanatics inspiring the creation of organizations from the Royal Bacon Society, which dubs itself the “ultimate bacon resource,” to Bacon Camp, an ad-hoc gathering of people across the country who enjoy learning about bacon.

Restaurants like Wendy’s, finding innovative methods to add bacon to the menu, are leading the way. Popular options include the Baconator and the new Bacon and Blue Hamburger, featuring fresh-cooked applewood smoked bacon and blue cheese crumbles.

“Wendy’s, which is the fifth-largest restaurant chain in the world, has always been a very good partner for us,” says Paul Perfilio, national foodservice marketing manager for the Pork Checkoff. “They want to be known for bacon cheeseburgers, and this is good news for pork producers.”

Earlier this year, National Pork Board officials honored Wendy’s efforts to boost bacon sales with a Vendor Appreciation Day in Columbus, OH.

National Pork Board President Tim Bierman and Pork Board CEO Chris Novak also presented Wendy’s executives with an award for marketing innovation in bacon.

“We appreciate the added effort that operators like Wendy’s make to add more bacon and pork to their menus,” says Perfilio. “We don’t know where the bacon trend will lead, but we’re enjoying this opportunity to promote pork while helping restaurant chains like Wendy’s stay ahead of the curve and meet their goals.”

In the last eight years, bacon has become the second fastest-growing pork category, second only to ground pork and tied with pulled pork. More than 1.7 billion lb. of pork are consumed in the U.S. foodservice industry each year, notes Perfilio. He provides this breakdown:

  • 600 million lb. of the 1.7 billion total lb. are consumed in the South.
  • 436 million lb. are consumed in the Northeast.
  • 419 million lb. are consumed in the central United States.
  • 285 million lb. are consumed in the West.

“ Bacon is a big part of the pork business today, and it goes way beyond breakfast,” says Perfilio. “We’re pleased that a number of restaurant operators have come to us to learn more about bacon, and we continue to work with our chain partners to help them learn more about bacon’s possibilities.”

FDA Seeks Comments on Veterinary Feed Directive

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking comments by June 28 in its review of veterinary feed directive (VFD) regulations.

In its March 29 Federal Register notice, FDA indicates that complaints have been made that the directive process is burdensome. Other concerns have been expressed that the process will become problematic to administer as the number of approved VFD animal drugs increases.

Veterinary feed directive drugs are those that can be used in animal feed but only with a licensed veterinarian’s supervision and a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship.

Under this process, a veterinarian who determines use of animal feed containing a VFD is indicated, must fill out and sign an approved form with information about himself/herself, the client, the animal (s) to be treated and the drug to be used. All parties are required to keep copies of the form for at least two years.

The FDA has approved use of two antimicrobials as VFD drugs. Tilmicosin has been approved as a VFD drug for swine and florfenicol is approved for use in swine, catfish and salmonids. Extra-label use of any medicated feed is prohibited.

Comments are due by June 28. To send comments online, go to and search for docket number FDA-2010-N-0155. Fax comments to (301) 827-6870 or mail to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.

National Hog Farmer

Purdue 'Corn and Soybean Field Guide' available

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The 2010 "Corn and Soybean Field Guide" is now available from Purdue Extension.

The 22nd annual publication is an "in-field" reference guide covering topics related to corn and soybean production. In the pocket-sized publication, one can find condensed information on disease, weed and insect pest identification; nutrient deficiency and herbicide injury symptoms; and information covering general corn and soybean production practices.

Corey Gerber, director of Purdue's Crop Diagnostic Training and Research Center, said the guide provides crop production information for producers ranging from just prior to planting up to harvest.

"These guides are excellent diagnostic tools that better help producers identify issues that they may encounter in the field throughout the growing season," Gerber said.

Gerber said in the 2010 guide there have been slight changes in recommendations for herbicides, insecticides and fungicides, as well as in fertility recommendations.

The guide includes full-color photographs. Kevin Smith, editor for Purdue Agricultural Communication, said: "The guide also includes several new photographs for easier weed, insect, disease, herbicide injury and nutrient deficiency identification."

The guides cost $7 each. To order a copy, contact The Education Store at 888-EXT-INFO or visit

Writer: Elise Brown, 765-496-7481,

Sources: Corey Gerber, 765-496-3755,

Kevin Leigh Smith, 765-494-9558,

Ag Communications: (765) 494-8415;

Steve Leer,

Agriculture News Page

Legendary Swine Researcher Stanley Curtis Dies at Age 68

Legendary Swine Researcher Stanley Curtis Dies at Age 68

Stanley Evan Curtis, 68, of Urbana, IL, died Sunday, April 25 at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana; he was a retired professor in the University of Illinois (U of I) Department of Animal Sciences.

Born on a small farm at Plymouth, IN, Curtis distinguished himself as a student receiving valedictorian honors and achieving status as a National Merit Scholarship Finalist. He received a bachelor’s degree in 1964 from Purdue University, followed by a master’s degree and PhD in animal sciences and environmental physiology.

He became an assistant professor in dairy husbandry at the University of Missouri in 1968, before moving to the U of I in 1970. There he rose through the professional ranks and became known internationally for his acclaimed research, teaching and outreach programs in farm-animal environmental physiology, behavior and care.

In 1990, he was named the head of Penn State’s Department of Dairy and Animal Science. He returned to the U of I in 1998.

Curtis focused on research to address practical problems in livestock, but focused mainly on pigs, his first love. His behavior-based approaches produced improved animal equipment and facility designs.

In all, he generated more than 135 peer-reviewed journal articles, 150 scientific meeting papers and 45 book chapters.

His knowledge led to features in The Wall Street Journal, The (London) Times, LIFE, Scientific American and National Geographic. He also appeared on CBC, ABC, Animal Planet, BBC, Children’s Television Workshop and CNN.

Curtis authored the first comprehensive textbook on animal-environmental management. For more than 40 years, he formulated science-based responses to organized criticism of farm animal well-being, writing and addressing audiences around the world on the topic, while also serving on countless university, state, national and international committees.

A legacy in the classroom, his teachings left a lasting impact on students in courses focusing on animal environmental needs, management, growth and energetics. He advised more than 120 undergraduate students, 35 master’s students and 16 PhD students, many of whom are recognized globally as leaders in the field of animal environmental management.

James Pettigrew, U of I professor of animal sciences, admired Curtis when he was a PhD student, even though Curtis was outside of his discipline of nutrition.

“Dr. Curtis was arguably the most accomplished communicator the field of animal science has ever known,” Pettigrew says. “His facility with words, in both written and oral forms, was both impressive and powerful. He essentially created the specialty of environmental physiology within the field of animal science. By force of intellect and personality, he made people in both industry and academia acutely aware of environmental influences on animals.”

Curtis’ work was timely and crucial in the development of modern confinement production practices for the pig. This achievement resulted in his identification as one of the 50 most influential people in the U.S. swine industry by National Hog Farmer magazine in 2005, attests Neal Merchen, head of the department of animal sciences at the U of I.

“More than any other animal scientist in the United States, Stan Curtis took the fundamentals of the science of environmental physiology and studied the ways that they applied to the housing, management and well-being of farm animals,” Merchen says. “His work represents the best kind of example of the expectations of a public land-grant university – it extended basic science into application in ways that improved agricultural practices.”

His work earned him many awards and honors, including the National Pork Producers Council Distinguished Service Award, National Pork Producers Council Innovation in Applied Swine Research Award, AAALAC Bennett J. Cohen Award, Distinguished Purdue Agricultural Alumnus, U of I Funk Award, CAST Charles A. Black Award, American Association of Swine Practitioners Dunne Memorial Lecturer, ASAS Animal Management Award, U of I Outstanding Instructor in Agriculture and ASAS Midwestern Young Researcher Award.

Curtis was a member and leader in many organizations including the American Society of Animal Science, American Dairy Science Association, The Poultry Science Association, American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists, International Society of Applied Ethology, International Society of Biometeorology, Alpha Zeta, Gamma Sigma Delta, FarmHouse and Sigma Xi.

Curtis is survived by his former wife, Carol, who resides in Champaign, IL, his mother, one son, two daughters, four grandchildren, three brothers and one sister.

Memorial services will be held at Morgan Memorial Home, 1304 Regency Drive West, Savoy, IL.

Prairie Swine Centre Adds Research Scientist

LeAnn Johnston has been added to the research team at Prairie Swine Centre, announces President Lee Whittington.

Prairie Swine Centre (PSC), located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, has been rationalizing facilities, activities and people to ensure survival in the worst economic times the pork industry has ever faced.

“It is time to begin looking ahead, the industry will be different, but one thing that has not changed is the need for leadership and fresh ideas to assist pork producers to reach new heights in efficiency,” says Whittington. “With feed costs typically representing 60% or more of the cost of production, reinvesting in our ability to provide nutritional breakthroughs is an area where the industry and PSC will see immediate and lasting return on investment.”

Johnston’s position will be nutrition research and leading the Contract Research group at PSC. Since inception, PSC has served the needs of private corporations worldwide that wished to have their products and services evaluated under commercial-like conditions with rigorous scientific oversight.

Johnston can be reached by phone (306) 667-7445, fax (306) 955-2510 or e-mail

The Case of the Vanishing Pigs

Where have all the pigs gone? Or better yet, were those pigs ever really here? Those are the questions circulating through the industry the past few weeks as federally inspected (FI) slaughter totals fell far below the expected levels, then recovered somewhat last week (see Figure 1). It appears to me that there are three possible answers to the questions:

1. USDA simply overcounted the pigs in the March survey and Hogs & Pigs report. That would be a real surprise since the March 1 inventories were already lower than most analysts expected. Some categories were, in fact, much lower than expected. Could it be that the numbers were still far too high? It’s always possible in a process which involves inferring information for an entire population from a statistical sample. USDA’s statisticians face their greatest challenge in getting the numbers right when the industry is in some sort of transition and 2009-2010 is such a period.

2. We may finally be seeing the cessation of pigs coming from some large farms that stopped breeding last summer. Smithfield’s Texas operations and North Carolina-based Coharie Farms come to mind. And, there were other large sow units that ceased breeding last summer. Now would just about be the time for those pigs to reach market weight.

3. Producers see higher and higher prices and are still battling slow weight gains and may have simply waited to sell some pigs – almost certainly profit-maximizing behavior given current slack finishing space. While appearing large in Figure 1, the 86,000-head shortfall vs. the forecast for the week of April 9 was only two hour's worth of pigs through U.S. slaughter plants. The 50,000-head shortfall would be a little over one-hour’s worth of slaughter operations. So, relative to total supplies, we’re not talking a large number of hogs; a number easily small enough to be the result of just a few producers’ decisions. But most producers are not terribly concerned with the answers to those questions as cash hog prices have exploded. Last week’s national negotiated net price – the best thing we have for a national spot market value for market hogs – of $82.97 was the fourth highest since mandatory price reporting (MPR) began in 2002 (Figure 2).

There are a few pre-MPR liveweight prices from 1983, 1986, 1987 and 1990 that were higher when adjusted to a carcass-weight basis, but not very many.

Give Some Credit to Product Values
What is driving the increase in hog prices? Short supplies certainly help but higher product values are, in my opinion, the big reason for this run-up in hog prices. Are the higher product values driven by lower supplies? Sure, but that relationship is not immediate and would not have this large of an impact without relatively strong demand, in my opinion.

I don’t mean to bury you with charts this week, but Figures 3 through 6 clearly demonstrate that virtually every cut has pushed hog values higher in recent weeks. Even the prices of cuts not shown here – butts, picnics and spareribs – have increased substantially since March 1.

And there may very well be more to come. The hog price chart is obviously not suggesting that a top is at hand. Neither is the cutout value chart. Ditto for loins, trimmings and bellies. Hams are a bit of a question mark since Mexico is usually the driving force behind hams at this time of year and the price-sensitivity of the Mexican market raises serious questions about just how long they may remain buyers.

The Choice beef cutout value gained another $1.04/cwt. last week. Eastern hen turkeys gained over $2/cwt. Composite chicken prices, boneless/skinless breasts and wings all lost some ground last week, but legs were quoted 7.4% higher – very likely the result of renewed interest from Russian buyers.

CME Signals
With all of that said, this morning’s action in Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Lean Hog (LH) futures is a bit concerning. Every contract from June forward broke below its 10-day moving average. While that is by no means a sure-fire sell signal, it marks the first such occurrence for all of these contracts since the pre-Hogs & Pigs report selloff the last week of March. You could do much worse than $84+ summer hogs and $73+ fall hogs. Both of those numbers offer handy profits relative to breakevens in the $63-$66/cwt. carcass range.

History tells us that these summer contracts usually peak in mid-May barring, of course, anything goofy like a misnamed human influenza virus. Without a recurrence of such a catastrophe, these prices may run a bit higher over the next two weeks – but will they go enough higher to make saying “no” to today’s prices a wise decision?

Click to view graphs.

Steve R. Meyer, Ph.D.
Paragon Economics, Inc.

Most See Profits – Finally

It’s been a long time coming, but the majority of the pork producing units is making money.

The trend started in March and continues into April. Most producers are receiving cash prices over $160/head. With breakevens around $135/head, most producers will average close to $20 profit from an operational standpoint. That is welcome relief for everyone involved in this industry.

In talking to producers, they seem to fall into two camps – one wondering when the other shoe will drop, the other thinking happy days are here again. It’s important to remember that a year ago the industry was being hit with the fallout of H1N1 influenza virus, which had a crippling effect on hog prices for a good part of 2009. Barring any major trade issue or something that would affect demand – export or domestic – I think the pork supply is in good shape with where demand is today.

Price Reporting – As I continue to look at hog prices every day, the trend indicates we are short on supply. If you look at the negotiated price for pigs on the daily afternoon report,, you will see the weighted average on a carcass basis is $80.61. This price does not include grade and yield and or sort loss. If you scroll to the bottom of the page, the live bid is $65.24. The bid is on a live basis only (no grade and yield premiums), but there is no sort loss either. If you bring this price back to carcass it equals $86.99 ($65.24 @75% yield). The difference is rather large – nearly $5-6/head. The packers bidding for these hogs are playing within the rules of pricing pigs, but as you know, almost all are marketing agreements that have a base price based off of a carcass price. Since the beginning of this year, the live bid has been higher because of the shortage of pigs. This trend will continue when the market is short of pigs, but it is a trend worth watching.

Margin Calls in a Rising Hog Market – Last month, I noted that some production systems locked in prices at lower levels than they are currently. On the Friday of the USDA’s Hogs & Pigs report (March 26), I took some time off to babysit my 20-month old granddaughter. As the USDA report came out that afternoon, she was taking a nap, so I was on the computer. When I saw the report, I thought: “There are going to be some serious margin calls coming.” I emailed our staff at AgStar Financial Services to alert them that we will be funding a significant amount of margin money and, therefore, will need to assess increasing some hedge lines on certain systems. Soon, I started getting phone calls from producers asking: “What do we do if hogs go over $90?” Similar calls are still coming in. I stress to these producers that they locked in profits and they still have some hogs that are left open, and these are helping the overall margin for your business. I remind them that it is very difficult to pick a top in the market and that they will never be right on a direction in the market all of the time. I also remind them: “You locked-in profits; you never go broke locking up profits and margin calls, at the end of the day, are actually a good thing.”

Mark Greenwood
Swine Industry Consultant
Contact Greenwood at