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Articles from 2013 In April

Researching Alternative Swine Feed Ingredients

Feed costs for corn and soybean meal skyrocketed following the 2012 drought. University of Illinois researchers investigated alternative sources of calcium (Ca) and phosphorus (P) to reduce those costs.

Hans Stein and his research team have developed equations for calculating the concentrations of these minerals in byproducts from the rendering industry.

They determined the digestibility of Ca and P in meat and bone meal (MBM), which is traditionally used as a source of protein in animal diets. MBM contains greater concentrations of Ca and P than all plant feed ingredients, so it can replace inorganic phosphates in swine diets without harming the bones or negatively affecting growth of the animals.

However, to use MBM effectively as a source of P and Ca, producers need an accurate assessment of the digestibility of these minerals when fed to pigs.

“There is quite a bit of variability in meat and bone meal, which is probably caused by different types of raw materials going into it,” Stein says.

The researchers formulated eight diets using MBM from five companies in the United States. The ninth diet was P-free and was used to determine the endogenous losses of P from the animals. This value was used to calculate the standardized total tract digestibility (STTD) of P in the eight sources of MBM.

Results indicated that there is a negative correlation between ash content in MBM and digestibility of Ca and P, but all sources of MBM had a relatively high digestibility of Ca and P. Moreover, Ca and P concentrations varied two to four times more among the batches of MBM than protein and acid hydrolyzed ether extract concentrations. However, ash content had a highly significant positive correlation with Ca and P concentrations.

“Thus, if you know the concentration of ash, you can calculate the concentration of calcium and phosphorus,” Stein says. “Ash is easy and inexpensive to analyze.”

Stein and his team also developed equations to calculate Ca and P concentrations in MBM and proposed models for estimating STTD of P and Apparent Total Tract Digestibility (ATTD) of Ca.

The equations are presented and the research described in detail in the article “Digestibility of phosphorus and calcium in meat and bone meal fed to growing pigs” by R. C. Sulabo and H. H. Stein, which was recently published in the Journal of Animal Sciences (2013.91:1285-1294) and is available online at


Producer Group Responds to Canadian Retailers’ Position on Sow Housing

Canadian pork producers respond to announcement about gestation stalls

The chair of the Canadian Pork Council (CPC) says the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) commitment on sow housing provides an opportunity for productive dialog between farmers and retailers.

“As a farmer, my first priority is the care and welfare of the animals. I am proud that my farm helps the Canadian pork industry provide consumers a healthy and safe food supply,” says CPC chair Jean-Guy Vincent. “Any change on farm must be done in a way that protects the welfare of the animals and keeps Canadian farms strong.”

Significant work has been undertaken by the industry in animal care through research, the Animal Care Assessment program and involvement in the National Farm Animal Care Council review of the Code of practice for pigs.

At the same time, the Canadian Pork Council understands that stakeholder expectations are changing.


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The RCC announcement recognizes that the conversion of sow housing is a significant investment, which will require support from other stakeholder groups. Not only will substantial capital investments be needed to physically change barns, but also considerable human resource efforts to choose the right system and train stock people to a new way of handing animals.

The CPC looks forward to meeting with RCC to hear its proposals on how changes to sow housing can be managed and how the value chain and others can share in the investment.

RCC grocery members support the Canadian Pork Council’s process to update its Code of Practice and will work toward sourcing fresh pork products from sows raised in alternative housing practices by the end of 2022.

The CPC serves as the national voice for hog producers in Canada representing a federation of nine provincial pork industry associations.

To read the RCC’s full release on its position on sow housing, visit


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Taking Health Precautions at Upcoming Swine Shows

Taking Health Precautions at Upcoming Swine Shows

An Iowa State University (ISU) Extension swine veterinarian says with county fair swine shows just a few weeks away, exhibitors and fair participants should take precautions to decrease health risks for animals and people involved in these events.

“Exhibitors are strongly encouraged to vaccinate their show pigs for erysipelas, a common and rapid spreading illness in pigs,” says ISU’s James McKean. “They should consult with their veterinarian about specific vaccines, follow the label dosage, observe the required withdrawal times for each vaccine and be sure to allow adequate time for the animals to develop immunity,” he adds. “Also, they should consult with their veterinarian about whether/which influenza vaccine should be considered at the same time.”

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McKean says this recommendation is not new. At least four years ago, pre-exhibit vaccination with both erysipelas and influenza vaccines was strongly encouraged through Iowa State’s Iowa Pork Industry Center, where he serves as  associate director.

“With up to three weeks before full protection after a vaccination and a required three-week withdrawal period, these vaccinations need to be administered in a timely manner,” he says. “Collective action by exhibitors adds an effective tool in an exhibition’s biosecurity plan.”

Both erysipelas and influenza can spread rapidly in a group environment such as a swine barn at a fair, leading to major difficulties in providing good swine welfare. It also decreases marketing options for all swine at the exhibition. McKean says when in doubt, people should leave ill pigs at home and consult with their veterinarian about how to handle other animals that have been exposed to those pigs.

“Pigs that are off-feed, have a fever or generally appear unwell should not be brought to a show,” McKean says. “And likewise, people who’re feeling ill with influenza symptoms should not go in swine barns. Both people and pigs can bring influenza viruses to an exhibition.”

To read the entire report, click here


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HSUS-UEP Egg Bill Introduced

Proposed egg legislation is being debated in Washington
Would "egg bill" set a precedent for other facets of animal agriculture?

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR) have introduced the “Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013.”  This legislation, known as the “egg bill,” would codify the 2011 agreement between the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the United Egg Producers (UEP). 

The U.S. egg industry would transition from conventional cage housing for layers to enriched colony cage housing by the end of 2029. 



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A number of agricultural groups oppose the bill because of concerns that this congressional mandate would establish precedent to impose housing standards on other sectors.  Those opposed include the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council.  This legislation was also introduced in the last Congress.  


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Coalition Opposes Food Safety User Fees

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Baucus Announces Retirement

Coalition Opposes Food Safety User Fees


A coalition of 41 organizations has sent a letter to U.S. Senate and House leaders opposing new "user fees" for inspection activities proposed in USDA’s FY2014 budget.  The new Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) fees would be charged based on "sample failures" or activities due to "regulatory non-compliance" and are estimated to generate $4 million in new revenue for the department.  Those signing the letter included the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Meat Institute, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Farmers Union, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation, North American Meat Association and the Snack Food Association.  


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Court Orders FDA to Implement Food Safety Rules


The U.S. District Court in San Francisco has ordered the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to establish a new timetable to implement regulations for the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).   The Court said, “Congress signaled its intention that the process be close-ended, rather than open-ended.  Thus, the court finds that imposition of an injunction imposing deadlines for finalization of the regulations would be consistent with the underlying purposes of the FSMA.”  The Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed suit against FDA last fall for missing the deadline for promulgating FSMA regulations.  

Comments on RFS Impact on Agricultural Requested

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Thursday is asking for comments on the agricultural impacts of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The RFS mandates that 13.9 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol be blended in 2013.  This amount is estimated to use approximately 4.9 billion bushels of corn. 

Baucus Announces Retirement


Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, became the eighth senator to announce he would not be running for re-election in 2014.  Senator Baucus has been an active member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and was very instrumental on trade issues before the Congress.  

New Mandatory Reporting is Good, but not without Pain

New Mandatory Reporting is Good, but not without Pain

The “big change” has been made and the pork industry is now trying to figure out just how to use it.

The newly-minted mandatory reporting data for wholesale cuts will take some getting used to. Some are saying the change is huge; others think it is something that will just take time.  To some degree, both are correct.

Here’s what we know and don’t know about this new data reporting system:

The complete changeover from voluntary to mandatory has occurred quicker than anyone wanted.  Most everyone knew the reported prices would be different. That’s why producers, packers and processors pushed for a 12-month overlap of the two systems so the relationships could be observed and worked into pricing formulas.  Over half of all hogs are formulated off either the cash hog price (which is itself driven primarily by the cutout value) or directly from the cutout value.  Most believe that an even higher percentage of some pork cuts are formulated off reported wholesale prices.  Knowing how those base prices might change was important to everyone.

The 12-month overlap, however, required some major resources for USDA, resources everyone knew would be hard to come by. USDA said they would go six months provided the data remained available. The plan was to publish daily data on a one-week delay to leave an incentive to continue voluntary reporting.  That was a good plan until the actual data appeared in January.



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To everyone’s surprise, the average wholesale cut prices under the mandatory system were higher than the voluntary-reported prices.  The working assumption had always been that pricing formulas created a strong incentive for packers to report the highest prices received, since that high price would set the value for so much more product.  By including all sales in the mandatory system, the theory was that they would bring all of the lower prices into the weighted average calculations, pulling the averages – thus the cutout value – lower.  Pretty logical, right?  Wrong.

The mandatory-reported prices for virtually every cut have been higher than before and drove a large differential between the cutout based on voluntary data and the cutout based on mandatory data (Figure 1).  It also caused a number of high-level USDA people to be very uncomfortable publishing lower prices in real time and higher prices lagged one week.  Their concerns became public and that, in my opinion, doomed the voluntary system.  Voluntary-reported volume began to deteriorate quickly and the system was discontinued on April 11.

Figure 1:

Don’t get me wrong, the new system is much better.  It captures far more trade volume (Figure 2).  It includes far more products, including value-added products and products shipped to Mexico and Canada.  It includes less-than-truckload shipments.  It actually includes the products that are traded (e.g., derind bellies), in addition to those that are sort of “manufactured for price reporting (e.g., skin-on bellies). 

Figure 2:

Change is Painful

Change, as it relates to information, is very painful.  New information sometimes has no context.  A perfect example is the new weekly pork export data.  Was the 51,200 metric tons exported the week ending April 18 good or bad?  About all we know is that it was more than the 31,000 metric tons shipped the week before.  Other than that, who knows?  We’ve never had the data before.

The same is true of these prices.  There is no doubt that the rising cutout values of the past two weeks are good for everyone, but are they the same relative to hog values and the old cutout values?  Should they be?

I think the answer to both of those questions is “no.”  These are different numbers.  They are based on a broader set of cuts – a good thing, but a challenge.  They are the result of a new set of cut yields, which is a good thing since the new yields reflect the way things are now, not as they were in 2006 when the last yields were updated. Still, they are a challenge.  The new values should be different in absolute terms and are quite possibly different relative to the value of a hog.

The challenge is to find a way to relate the new data in a fair and equitable manner.  That’s no small job and it won’t be done quickly.  Packers and producers must sort this out. The truth is that each of them likely deserves part of the differential – packers for adding value to raw pork cuts and producers for delivering carcasses that contain more of those raw pork cuts. 

It will all come out in the wash, but the washing process will not be easy or pretty.


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Does H7N9 Chinese Flu Pose a Threat for Pigs?

A recent outbreak of avian influenza virus in China has made headlines in the mainstream media during the last several weeks. As of April 28, 24 people have died and 122 have been reported as being infected.

Influenza viruses are classified in subtypes based on the two main proteins that coat the virus: hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N). The avian influenza virus causing the current outbreak has been characterized as subtype H7N9.

Avian influenza viruses typically affect poultry and wild birds. Birds infected with avian flu can sometimes develop severe disease, but at other times they remain asymptomatic, but can still transmit the virus.

Some strains of the virus have the ability to infect humans while others don't. The current H7N9 virus is difficult to control because it does not cause disease in birds, although it can prove fatal to humans.

Of those influenza virus strains that can infect humans, only some have the ability to be transmitted from person to person. The current H7N9 virus has the ability to infect humans, however it is not clear if this virus can be transmitted from person to person.

In fact, most people affected by the virus had been in contact with birds. Chinese authorities are currently monitoring family members of affected people, who had not been in contact with birds, to try to figure out if there is human-to-human transmission.

Swine Link 

The ability of this H7N9 avian influenza virus to infect swine is still being investigated. So far there is no evidence suggesting that the virus can be transmitted to swine. There have been no reports of disease outbreaks in swine, and all of the testing performed by Chinese authorities on swine in the affected provinces has been negative so far.



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Additional testing in Chinese farms is being done and experimental inoculations of pigs with this virus will be performed. 

There is no evidence of the presence of avian influenza virus H7N9 in people, birds or swine in the United States.

The same diagnostic tests that are routinely used for diagnosis and surveillance of swine influenza virus in the United States (polymerase chain reaction and virus isolation) would be able to detect avian influenza virus H7N9 in the case of an introduction into the U.S. swine population.

It is important to continue to monitor the influenza virus strains circulating in U.S. swine herds. Influenza viruses typically affecting swine are H1N1, H1N2 and H3N2. Every month, thousands of swine samples are being tested for influenza virus in state and national laboratories throughout the country.  Over 6,000 samples were tested during the first trimester of 2013 at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. The results from this testing show that most of the samples are negative, while positive samples contain H1N1, H1N2 and H3N2 viruses (Figure 1).


Figure 1.Results of Influenza Virus Testing and Typing at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, January-March 2013.


While there is no evidence that this new influenza virus can infect pigs, and there are no reports of the virus in humans and birds outside of Asia, U.S. swine producers should stay vigilant and continue to practice sound biosecurity measures.

Recommended measures include limiting contact of domestic swine with wild birds and sick people. More information and updates on the progress of this outbreak can be found at

Specific information on the potential role of swine is available at


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