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Articles from 2004 In May

Checkoff Case on Supreme Court Docket

Checkoff Case on Supreme Court Docket

The pork checkoff program will continue to operate, and a decision about its future will be put on hold, while the U.S. Supreme Court hears an appeal of an 8th Circuit Appellate Court ruling that found the Beef Promotion and Research Act in violation of the First Amendment.

Similar to the beef checkoff challenge, a district court judge ruled in 2002 that mandatory collections of the pork checkoff violated the First Amendment rights of producers who disagreed with certain messages paid for with checkoff funds. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision in 2003, resulting in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Justice Department requesting that the Supreme Court hear the case.

“I’m glad this has happened. I just really felt all along that the commodity checkoff cases in question needed to go to the Supreme Court,” says Craig Christensen, Ogden, IA, pork producer and National Pork Board president. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the beef checkoff case by the first half of 2005. It may take a year or more to decide the pork checkoff case, he speculates.

In the meantime, Christensen wants pork producers to participate in how pork checkoff programs are run, and to help build educational programs to keep producers competitive.

“We are not going to just sit on our hands. We have some great opportunities to move protein in the food chain to meet increasing pork demand both domestically and from an export standpoint,” he emphasizes. “We need to take advantage of those opportunities, and that is what the pork checkoff is set up to do.”

Adds Illinois Pork Producers Association President Art Lehmann of Strawn, IL: “Since 1985, pork producers have relied on the pork checkoff to increase demand and expand markets for pork and to provide on-farm information. We believe that the success of the pork checkoff has been well documented.”

Producers can learn more about the pork checkoff by contacting their state office or by calling the Producer Service Center at (800) 456-7675 or visiting

Pork Checkoff Update

The U.S. Department of Justice's request for a review of an appeal court's ruling striking down the pork checkoff program should be determined by the end of May, according to National Pork Board officials.

In the fall of 2003, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2002 ruling by a Michigan federal judge that the pork checkoff program is unconstitutional.

Congress created the pork checkoff so pork producers could provide promotion, research and consumer information about pork. Producers invest 40¢ for each $100 value of hogs and pigs sold.

If the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, it could be on the docket in the fall. If the higher court turns down the request, all pork checkoff functions would end within 30 days.

Lightweights Cause Havoc

There are no easy ways to manage and market lightweight pigs. Seek out solutions that fit your system and your packer, and pay attention to disease management, says a Minnesota veterinarian.

The U.S. pork industry faces up to $1.2 billion/year in pig attrition losses from dead, cull and lightweight pigs, says University of Minnesota Swine Center Director John Deen, DVM.

These three groups of pigs comprise the biggest source of weight variability and loss of profit in an operation, he argues. An estimated 30 to 35% of newborn pigs never reach acceptable market weight, translating into an attrition loss of $10-12/ head in grow-finish.

Deen lumps the three groups together because they are frequently one and the same problem.

“Often the dead pig is the cull pig that we gave a shot, which stopped the pathogenic process, but (the pig) never started growing again,” he explains.

Managing Lightweights

Hog operations need to improve weight uniformity by developing a management program to deal with lightweights. Tighten down the range of weights produced in a group to boost their value at the packing plant.

Don't fool yourself into thinking that if you hold pigs back to equalize weight at weaning or at nursery closeout, that it will make up for age and slow growth, says Deen.

“Historically, average daily gain does make a difference, and so we end up with slow-growing pigs that in many cases came in looking pretty even,” he warns.

Don't view these slow-growers as a normal part of production, because they create huge farm inefficiencies. They generate higher treatment and mortality costs, as well as wreck weight distributions, says Deen.

They should be viewed as an opportunity to improve and implement intervention strategies.

“This is critical if we as an industry want to focus on increasing the value of our outputs, rather than continuing to just look at inputs and cost of production,” he adds.

Set key attrition benchmarks at 6-8% preweaning mortality, 2% nursery and grow-finish mortality and 10% for culls and lightweights in grow-finish.

Disease is a big part of attrition in grow-finish because it is where ileitis often strikes, says Tom Marsteller, DVM, Swine Technical Services manager, Elanco Animal Health.

Deen says enteric diseases like ileitis “create poor-doing pigs that grow more slowly.”

Tylan offers an easy, effective treatment for ileitis, because it prevents and controls all forms of the disease, improves performance and reduces mortality, reduces attrition and improves pig flow, says Marsteller.

Marketing Options

Pork producers have several options for marketing lightweight pigs, says Deen:

  • Find an understanding packer who will pay top dollar.

  • Maximize weekly sorting strategies.

  • Run the barns longer so slow-growers hit target markets.

  • Revise the barn design to mechanize and improve sorting and marketing programs.

However, none of those options is a cure-all for the nagging problem of lightweight pigs. However, it's a problem which is naturally built into most production schemes, Deen says.

“All-in, all-out production forces producers to continue to close out buildings and sell lightweights or do something else with them,” he says.

Normal pig flow patterns and marketing schemes do not eliminate variation problems caused by lightweight pigs, he states.

Sorting can help reduce variation and capture some of the opportunity costs available to producers by moving pigs into weight brackets preferred by packers, Deen stresses.

Sorting is often criticized because it disrupts social order within a group of pigs. “Pigs do fight and grow more slowly, and there are welfare concerns, especially in small pens (40 head and under),” he concedes. But fighting only involves the heaviest group of pigs left in the pen, as they try to reestablish social order.

Sorting is also beneficial, because removing the heaviest pigs gives the remaining group a better chance to express potential growth.

Deen recommends sorting pigs weekly as they near market weights. Don't depend on eyeballing, because producers aren't a good judge of guessing actual weights; however, they are skilled at visually selecting the heaviest hogs.

Marketing Losses

The big beef over variation has been whether lightweight hogs are simply penalized on a pounds basis or whether there are larger profit losses from missing the packer matrix.

“If we compare a 210-lb. pig to a 260-lb. pig, in many of our matrixes, even at prices of $38-40/cwt., we are losing somewhere around $30-40 over feed costs with these lightweight pigs,” he explains.

At the retail level, lightweight carcasses drain profits mainly because there is little demand for small pork loins. Again, it's a matter of consistency. Loins must fit the box just as chicken breasts fit the box.

Management in a Low-Margin Market

Producers and their consultants aren't making abrupt changes in their operations, but continue to focus on fine-tuning production methods.

Bob Baarsch, president of Next Generation Pork, Inc., LeRoy, MN, says a practice that has saved him money is electronically importing feed invoices directly into accounting and grow-finish management software.

“Your feedmill should provide this cost-free,” he says. “The downside is you will want to be invoiced every week so you can keep your system more up to date. The feedmill will get paid quicker as incentive, but the interest cost is low now. This alone saved our 100,000-hog/year company over one-half person in the office. You can easily justify purchasing software in the 10¢/hog/year range and come out better all the way around.”

Baarsch has been doing more re-rationing in the last six months than in the previous two years. Bakery by-products, meat and bone meal, wheat midds and distiller's dried grains are popular choices in his least-cost formulations. “And with high ingredient prices, we have to be looking at Paylean (Elanco Animal Health). We're putting it in to head off selling weights that historically go down in the summer,” he says. Phytase is cost-effective in the premix and deserves a look.

Producers who use contract growers may want to renegotiate those agreements, he continues. “Many growers have done better than projected. They've refinanced at lower rates and many have paid off loans faster than expected,” he says. “Some growers may want to consider renting barns or taking a small rate reduction to lower costs to the integrator.”

The big-hitter for Baarsch, however, is his auto-sort system. “We can only reduce costs so much, and then have to improve revenue,” he says. Last month, barns with the (Farmweld) FAST auto-sort system earned $5/pig more. About 40% of Next Generation barns will be equipped with auto-sort systems by the end of the year.

Soybean Substitution

Kansas State University (KSU) nutritionist Mike Tokach says a frequent question producers are asking is what to substitute for soybean meal (SBM). He suggests lysine levels up to 6 lb. instead of the normal 3 lb. in grower rations and 4.5 lb. in late-finisher diets.

“Use appropriate amounts of methionine and threonine to maintain ratios,” adds Tokach. The ratio in early stages is about 65% threonine to lysine and 60% methionine to lysine; levels are figured on a true digestible amino acid basis. Six pounds of synthetic lysine replaces about 160 lb. of 46.5-47% protein SBM and can save from 70¢ to $1/pig in grow-finish diets.

“Synthetic lysine won't price in for some producers. Ingredient prices really vary depending on location and the producer's purchasing arrangement,” Tokach says. “Soybean meal price is as high as I've ever seen. There are worries that we will simply run out. In the past, if alternatives were close to breakeven, I tended to use SBM. Today I tend to use synthetics to conserve SBM.”

Most farms need to work on feeder adjustment. Particle size is still an issue. “If producers don't monitor it, it's almost always too high,” notes Tokach. The correct range is 600-700 microns for grow-finish diets. For $10, KSU will analyze a grain sample.

“Make sure anything that doesn't cost much money to fix is being done correctly,” he adds.

Particle Size, Particle Size

It's a constant battle to get even the big farms to get particle size right, states Dale Hendrickson, an Indiana-based veterinarian who consults for systems that market 10 million hogs. “I recommend sending in a sample of ground corn every month. Keeping particle size at 700 microns is one of the biggest cost-savers for a hog operation. Hammers and screens wear out and they aren't checked. Every month, I had guys bring me the old screen and hammers. They had to lay them on my desk. That's the only way I knew it was being done.”

The Farmland, IN, swine practitioner says there's no magic in cutting costs, just required diligence. Vaccination and drug usage, for example, should be reviewed every six months. Too many producers implement a program and neglect to take anything out once a problem is corrected.

Opportunity in Alternatives

Illinois producer Bret Burgener says he is just “looking for opportunities.” One of those opportunities is in field peas. The Moweaqua, IL, farmer figures the peas will be a good replacement for SBM, so he planted 80 acres this year. He thinks there could be a substantial savings with peas at $3.50/bu. vs. soybeans at $10. They can also be double-cropped with soybeans.

Burgener, who farrows 650 sows, is also a member of the Meadowbrook Farms Cooperative, a 200-plus producer group that owns a packing plant in Rantoul, IL. Joining the cooperative meant shaving market weights to 260 lb. to meet Meadowbrook's primal cuts requirements. Burgener, like other members, is banking on more income from value-added product. The plant kills about 3,000 hogs daily.

Accurate Feed Budgeting

With seven phases in the grow-finish ration, Bert Huftalin needs tight control of his feed budgets. An invaluable aid is software from a Minnesota company called Alliance Control. Their Simplicity software interfaces with Huftalin's WeighTronics grinder. The program is set at a certain number of pounds of feed/pig. After they enter the number of pigs in each group, the computer figures the total. Once that amount is ground, the software asks if the user is ready to go on to the next group.

The Malta, IL, producer has a (Farmweld) FAST auto-sort system in one barn to confirm that phases are advanced at the right weight. He plans to shop for more of the automatic scales at World Pork Expo in June.

Least-cost rationing for the 800-sow, farrow-to-finish operation is getting more emphasis. Huftalin is using alternative products like distiller's dried grains, wheat midds and higher levels of synthetic lysine.

Check Your Refrigerator

Iowa State University veterinarian John Carr believes producers who want to save money in a hurry should focus on feed waste. Feeder adjustment is difficult, but the task should be the number one goal on a daily basis, he says. If you can't run feeders with a tight adjustment without them plugging, think seriously about putting in different feeders.

In the health area, Carr warns that many refrigerators are not working at the right temperature. “Far too many are careless about refrigerator management. When they're frozen, vaccines don't work.”

He offers these refrigeration tips:

  • Refrigerators should have a maximum/minimum thermometer inside.

  • Temperature should be 36-47° F. (2-8° C.). If it fails to maintain this temperature, change the settings and check the insulation and door closure policy. If the refrigerator persistently fails to maintain the temperature, replace it.

  • Icebox refrigerator/freezers, commonly used on farms have several temperature zones. At the back of the refrigerator, cold air from the freezer compartment falls. Vaccines placed against the back can freeze and become inactivated. To prevent this, place a small, flat piece of polystyrene against the back of the inside of the refrigerator.

Emphasis on Small Details

“We're concentrating on the small details,” says Art Lehmann, Strawn, IL. The current president of the Illinois Pork Producer's Association and his family own and manage farrow-to-finish operations on four farms totaling 4,000 sows. Some things they're doing are:

  • Locking in almost 100% of corn and SBM needs.

  • Hedging hogs to lock in favorable prices.

  • Watching market weights. “We're trying to stay close to the top of the packer matrix without going over. We're not cutting back on weight, just monitoring more carefully by doing a better job of sorting and speeding marketing up a bit.”

  • Reviewing medication protocol. Growth promotants have been removed from feed. “We're trying to get by with nothing, and when there's a need, use therapeutic levels.”

  • Using by-products like meat, bone meal and bakery waste and being more aggressive about least-cost rationing. “Another issue this year — try to stretch out bean meal.”

  • Reducing preweaning mortality by using assisted farrowing, split suckling and warming boxes.

  • Concentrating on sow productivity and working harder on sow conditioning and retention.

  • Paying attention to sow and gilt backfat. Ultrasound a sample of gilts and sows to help train worker's eyes for condition. Backfat is monitored in 10% of females at breeding, halfway through gestation and at farrowing. “We don't want them too thin, and we're finding backfat is critical.”

  • Ensuring gilts are at least 300 lb., over 210 days of age and on their third heat cycle before breeding. “We've seen impressive results from research showing an older, bigger gilt has a higher born-alive number, and we're beginning to see the results of our efforts with gilt development. Born alive has improved by nearly one pig/litter in the gilts. It may be the most important thing we're doing.”

Updating the War on Disease

At times, it seems that the swine industry is riddled with disease and that certain diseases are nearly insurmountable to treat and control.

Mention swine diseases and the first thing that comes to mind for most producers and swine veterinarians is porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). PRRS has been a very frustrating (and expensive) disease, and it continues to plague our industry in many ways today.

While PRRS has been virtually a constant nemesis, the industry has really made great strides over the last couple of decades in controlling other serious disease pathogens. Hog cholera has been eradicated, and we appear to be on the doorstep of pseudorabies eradication as well. Almost forgotten are diseases like atrophic rhinitis, mastitis-metritis-agalactia and other common maladies.

External parasites such as lice and mange have met their match with the new ivermectins, such as Ivomec and Dectomax. These products and others like them have worked so well that many farms were able to completely eradicate these problems.

In fact, should I come across hog lice these days by chance, it is such a novelty that I usually feel compelled to exclaim: “Wow! Look at this!”

The War on Disease

As the battle with PRRS continues to rage, we need to occasionally look back at some of the strides we have made in our war on swine diseases.

Recently, Robert Desrosiers, DVM, Quebec, Canada, presented the Howard Dunne Memorial Lecture during the 35th annual meeting of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.

Desrosiers' lecture, entitled “Epidemiology, Diagnosis and Control of Swine Diseases,” outlined the progress that has been made, and some of the sweeping changes in our knowledge of swine diseases. Below are some of the highlights from that lecture.

Disease Transmission

First, Desrosiers presented in detail what science has taught us on epidemiology of swine diseases, because as he put it, “to avoid losses associated with significant pathogens, we need to know by what means they find their way into swine barns.”

Desrosiers said that direct, pig-to-pig contact has actually been overrated when it comes to transmission of swine disease, and that the aerosol mode of spread has often been overlooked as the primary cause. To support his argument, Desrosiers cited over 100 scientific papers implicating aerosol as the primary suspect in disease transmission.

At the same time, he doesn't discount other means of transmission of disease (especially PRRS virus) that have been demonstrated recently, such as insects, people and vehicles, and cautions us not to ignore these other indirect means of transmission. In just the last decade, we have come a long way toward understanding how diseases spread.


Next, Desrosiers dealt with the issue of diagnostics. He stated: “Efficient control of health problems starts with knowing what we're dealing with.”

We have been the recipients of huge strides in science with diagnostic testing, which makes our jobs easier and allows us to practice with a much greater degree of certainty when dealing with disease problems. With tests such as Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), molecular genetics such as sequencing of viruses, the vast array of Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) and dozens and dozens of new technologies, we have come to expect the diagnostic laboratory to perform miracles.

Desrosiers reminded us that while these new tests are amazing, and have given us tremendous power to determine the cause of a given disease, none of these tests is perfect, nor should this technology ever replace our God-given skills and common sense. It is often the power of keen observation and the art of practice that ultimately gives us the answers to a difficult problem.

Control and Treatment

Lastly, Desrosiers addressed the issue of control, prevention and treatment of swine disease: “Now that we know what we're dealing with and, hopefully, how it got into the barn, what do we do with it?”

In discussing various control and treatment strategies, he used examples of how new vaccine technology and health technologies such as multi-site production, segregated early weaning and new antibiotics have resulted in significant advances, even with some diseases that looked unbeatable a few years ago. These tools have helped us eliminate a number of swine diseases that once threatened our pigs and our livelihoods. Desrosiers challenged veterinarians to use these tools wisely and judiciously, or risk the loss of access and effectiveness.

Finally, Desrosiers challenged swine veterinarians to continue to meet and exceed expectations, especially those related to “bugs and diseases.”

Pork, Hog Demand Rises

The demand for pork increased 5.3% and the demand for live hogs increased 11.6% during the first quarter of 2004, as compared to a similar period a year ago.

“It's good news for pork producers that the demand for hogs at the live level grew nearly 12%,” says Glenn Grimes, an agricultural economist with the University of Missouri. “The demand for live hogs is what determines producers' direct profit or losses.”

Grimes says the boost in pork demand is largely due to increases in exports. The National Pork Board is working with the U.S. Meat Export Federation to promote pork.

The Pork Board is also using checkoff dollars to increase pork demand in the U.S., including a new campaign to promote pork as a protein solution for people on low-carbohydrate diets.

2004 World Pork Expo Preview

The 16th annual World Pork Expo promises to be greater than ever with new events, the best and the brightest of the worldwide pork industry and fun for everyone. It's hosted by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).

The three-day event, held at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, is designed to bring pork producers together with allied industries and suppliers to learn about new products that will benefit their operations. National Hog Farmer is expanding its New Product Tour to allow pork producers to vote on their favorites at company booths in The Business District. Some 500 exhibitors will have products on display at the show. The show will feature educational events and seminars, contests, family fun and the popular golf tournament, World Pork Open.

“There's something for everybody at World Pork Expo,” says Keith Berry, president of NPPC. “Along with the world-class pork industry trade show and educational seminars for producers, we'll be hosting the purebred breed association shows and sales, as well as the new World Pork Expo Junior Classic Barrow Show and the new World Pork Expo Farm Toy Collector Show and Sale, featuring a limited edition World Pork Expo commemorative toy tractor,” he adds.

Another addition to the lineup is the first annual World Pork Open Sporting Clay Shooting Tournament Championship. For families, NPPC has added performances by Valentine's Performing Pigs on the Bill Riley Stage. In the cattle barn, the PigCasso art show will be held, as well as the ever-popular pig races and more.

Again this year, the nation's top barbecuers will line the streets of the fairgrounds, grilling for the chance to win $20,000 in prizes. An outdoor track will blaze with live pig races.

Highlights of the educational seminars include four discussions on optimizing reproductive efficiency, and three related sessions on understanding swine influenza virus. Another educational session features two timely talks on the role of antibiotics in food animal production. A separate session explores judicious use of antimicrobials. Two talks cover management and control of the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus.

Admission to World Pork Expo is $8/day at the gate or $5 in advance. Producers can request up to two free admission tickets for World Pork Expo by calling the Pork Checkoff Service Center at 800-456-7675 or sending an e-mail including their producer ID and their mailing address, to by May 28.

WPX Events and Times

These events and more can be accessed at

Trade Show

Th/Fri. 8 am - 5 pm
Sat. 8 am - noon
Location: Varied Industries Building, Cattle Barn, Outdoors (southwest of Varied Industries Building)

At the world's largest pork-specific trade show, a wide array of pork industry products and services will be offered by more than 500 exhibitors.

The Business District

Location: Cattle Barn

National Hog Farmer and other participating industry partners will feature business areas with professional representatives on hand to answer producer questions.

Pork Product Showcase

Location: Cattle Barn

Visitors will want to stop by to learn more about programs funded by the pork checkoff, sample free food and register for prizes. The pork checkoff is sponsoring free pork for breakfast in the Swine Barn and lunch in the Pork Hospitality Tent.

Educational Seminars

Location: Cattle Barn Sales Arena

Free educational seminars will be presented by some of the nation's leading experts. Topics and times follow:

Thursday, June 10

Optimizing Reproductive Efficiency

10 - 10:30 am: Replacement Gilt Management in a Production System
Dr. Billy Flowers, North Carolina State University

10:30 - 11 am: Utilizing Animal Synchronization in Batch Farrowing in a Production System
Dr. Brad Thacker, Intervet Technical Services

11 - 11:30 am: Economic Modeling — What Really Pays
Dr. Joe Connor, Carthage Veterinary Service, Carthage, IL

11:30 am - Noon: Questions & Answers

Understanding Swine Influenza

1 - 1:30 pm: What are Diagnostic Labs Seeing Today and Trends
Dr. Marie Gramer, University of Minnesota

1:30 - 2 pm: Management of Swine Influenza in a Production System
Dr. Spencer Wayne, Murphy-Browns North Carolina, Warsaw, NC

2 - 2:30 pm: Practical Swine Influenza Vaccine Vaccinology
Dr. Brad Thacker, Intervet Technical Services

2:30 - 3 pm: Questions & Answers

The Facts About Antibiotics and What They Mean to Your Business

3:30 - 4 pm: Global Perspective on Antibiotic Use in Food Animal Production
To be determined

4 - 4:30 pm: Measuring the Real Value of Antibiotics
To be determined

4:30 - 5 pm: Questions & Answers

Friday, June 11

Optimizing Reproductive Efficiency

10 - 10:30 am: Measuring Variation and Opportunity Costs
Dr. John Deen, University of Minnesota

10:30 - 11 am: Enteric Diseases Impacting Finisher Variation
To be determined

11 - 11:30 am: Respiratory Diseases Impacting Finisher Variation
Dr. Paul Yeske, Swine Vet Center, St. Peter, MN

11:30 - noon: Questions & Answers

Judicious Use of Antimicrobials

1 - 1:30 pm: Learning the Ins and Outs of the Animal Medical Drug Use Clarification Act of 1994 (AMDUCA)
To be determined

1:30 - 2 pm: The Latest in the Pork Quality Assurance Program
Dr. Erik Risa, National Pork Board

2 - 2:30 pm: Antibiotic Selection Principles
To be determined

2:30 - 3 pm: Questions & Answers

PRRS Management and Control: New Developments, New Hope

3:30 - 4 pm: Techniques for Reducing the Financial Impact of PRRS Outbreaks
Dr. Tom Wetzell, South Central Veterinary Associates, Wells, MN

4 - 4:30 pm: New Information of PRRS Virus Transmission and Biosecurity
Dr. Scott Dee, University of Minnesota

4:30 - 5 pm: Questions and Answers

Contests and Competitions

Breed Shows and Sales

Location: Swine Barn

Breed associations will conduct seven breed shows and sales. The breed shows consist of live evaluation and feature tested or performance classes. For more information, visit

Friday, June 11

Ring A

7:30 am: Yorkshire Show
Followed by Landrace Show
Followed by Duroc Show
Followed by Hampshire Show

Ring B

9 am: Spotted Show
Followed by Chester White Show
Followed by Berkshire Show

Saturday, June 12

Ring A

9 am: Yorkshire Sale
Followed by Landrace Sale
Followed by Duroc Sale
Followed by Hampshire Sale

Ring B

10 am: Spotted Sale
Followed by Chester White Sale
Followed by Poland China Gilt Sale
Followed by Berkshire Sale

World Pork Expo Junior Classic

10 am: Market Swine Show Begins
Market Gilts with Four Weight Divisions Market Barrows with Four Weight Divisions
8 pm: Selection of Grand Champion Market Hogs

16th Annual Pig Casso Art Show

This annual event will be held during trade show hours in the Cattle Barn.

Fun, Fun, Fun

World Pork Open Sporting Clay Shooting Tournament Championship

Th., 5 pm.
Location: New Pioneer Gun Club, Waukee, Iowa

This event features a five-person team shootout. Sign up as a team or individually. Visit for signup information.

9th Annual World Pork Open

Fri., 8:30 am, Registration
Location: Briarwood Golf Course, Ankeny, Iowa

A World Pork Expo favorite!
Reservations are being accepted for the first 144 golfers. Cost is a $100 contribution per golfer. Sign up as a foursome or register individually. Register online at

Music Fest Musical Entertainment

Sat., Noon - 6 pm.

From homegrown Des Moines music to the British Invasion to the patriotism of American country music, this year's Music Fest has it all. Local artist Tony Valdez will kick off Music Fest, followed by the Broadway Beatles — a world-class Beatles tribute band — and headliner country singer David Ball, whose touching single, “Riding with Private Malone,” rose twice through the charts. Music Fest is included in the regular admission to World Pork Expo.

The Great Pork BarbeQlossal

The nation's best barbecuers will compete for $20,000 in cash and prizes and national competition points in this 17th annual World Pork Expo tradition. More than 80 teams are expected to bring their custom-made grills and sauces to compete in the categories of whole hog, shoulder, loin and ribs. The overall grand prize winner receives $3,000 and a smoker donated by Kingfisher Kookers.

Pig Races

Location: Cattle barn

There will be six live pig races on Thursday and Friday and five pig races on Saturday, hoofing around a sawdust track at blazing speed. It's fun for the entire family to enjoy the pageantry of the pig races.

Valentine's Performing Pigs

Location: Riley Stage

Catch the antics of these energetic hams as they play golf and football, skateboard, “ham dunk,” play catch with the audience and spell words. Featuring “Nellie,” the world's smartest pig. There will be four shows both Thursday and Friday, plus one show Saturday morning.

Cruisin' with the Hogs

Sat. 9 am.

Iowa Farm Bureau Foundation's (IFBF) Cruisin' with the Hogs is a motorcycle ride starting at the ADESA Auto Auction in Grimes, IA, and finishing at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The 60-mile ride costs $20 through May 21 and $25 through event day. A skullcap and lunch are provided. Sponsors are IFBF, Zylstra Harley-Davidson of Ames, IA, Cookies Barbeque Sauce and World Pork Expo. To participate, contact Deb Yount Woods at IFBF, 515-225-5418 or sign up online,

World Pork Expo Farm Toy Show

Location: John Deere Ag Building

Presented by the National Farm Toy Museum, Dyersville, IA, this first annual toy show will feature more than 100 tables of exhibitors selling and displaying farm toys and memorabilia. Check out the skilled craftsmanship of the farm toy layouts on display and talk one-on-one with designers. A special-edition, World Pork Expo toy tractor will be on sale during the show or online. For serious collectors, a very limited supply of serial-numbered tractors are available through NPPC. For more information, visit

Blueprint For Success

The management team at The Maschhoffs, Inc. believes that information technology will drive future production in their 51,000-sow system and keep them competitive.

Ken Maschhoff, chief executive officer at The Maschhoffs, Inc. and his management team know they aren't unique in the pork industry with their own feedmills, boar studs, gilt development farms and trucking business.

And they honestly feel that their solid production numbers, for example, 24 pigs/sow/year and an average daily gain of 1.65 from farrow to finish in 2003, are probably only average figures among the two dozen or so largest pork production companies in the industry.

But Ken and his team have designed a blueprint for success built on managing costs, continuing to drive production throughput and investing in information technology. That message comes through in the new company logo: “The Maschhoffs: progressive farming — family style.”

Production Power

The Maschhoffs rank in the top five of family owned, independent pork production enterprises in the U.S., producing a million hogs a year, marketed mostly at Excel of Beardstown, IL, and at Excel's Ottumwa, IA, plant.

They've achieved that ranking through some strong growth spurts and wise investments. In 1998, Ken and brother Dave owned an 8,000-sow operation and worked with a few contract growers in the area. Today, the two brothers and their expanded team of two dozen professional staff oversee a vast operation from their new headquarters complex near Carlyle, IL.

That operation consists of about 51,000 sows, evenly divided into two big pods in western and south central Illinois. A team of contract growers, or “production partners”, as Julie Maschhoff, director of public relations, insists they be called, has grown to about 125 members scattered throughout Illinois and parts of Iowa, Indiana and Kentucky.

As of 2002, well over half of the sow farms were company-owned, says Ken, with the rest contracted. A new, 10,000-sow pod was built in 2002, the last bit of planned construction. Additional growth will be through acquisitions.

In 2003, The Maschhoffs purchased about 45,000 finishing spaces from Heartland Pork Enterprises of Alden, IA (See separate story in this issue), and about 23,000 finishing spaces from Triple Edge Pork, Chandlerville, IL.

“This year, to make ourselves more efficient, we have been converting all those purchased, conventional finishing spaces to wean-to-finish (W-F), which will make our finishing system nearly 100% W-F,” explains Ken.

Unique Production Network

Virtually the company's entire production partner network raises pigs in double-wide W-F barns patterned after the Maschhoff's design.

The basic design is a 2,400-head building consisting of two attached, 1,200-head units under one roof, but operating totally independent with separate ventilation controllers, separate pits and load-out chutes. A solid concrete wall divides the 80-ft. wide, 240-ft. long buildings. The latest and largest W-F barn is a 100 × 300-ft. structure built to hold 7,600 head of pigs and maximize the heating and ventilation components, says Ken.

Producers interested in joining the production partner network are closely screened and encouraged to contact any production partner in the system to ask about the production contracts. (See sidebar, page 38, on the experiences of two Illinois growers.)

The Maschhoffs require growers to have a 10-year manure easement with neighbors.

“In a sense, this process is like setting up a franchise where our management company provides the technology; our production companies provide the inputs, including the animals; and yet the day-to-day operation is still dependent on the good sense and the work ethic that each farmer brings to the table. That has made it successful for us,” says Julie.

There are many other ways that growers benefit within the network, says Ken. “We have always had our own construction company within our system. So when we go out and contract with producers for these cookie-cutter buildings, we know exactly what they cost. We've gone to the construction companies and told them this is how much you can build them for, and given them the specifications for, and every piece of equipment down to the feeders and the rubber mats for the little pigs. And, in turn, they are given all of the business for building these units. This effectively drives down the price of the building, yet still allows the builder to make his profit margin since he is buying all the inputs on a volume discount basis.”

The Maschhoff's 10 field representatives train new growers, help with barn fills and deal with problems that often may impact a number of barns simultaneously. Field staff provide constant feedback on production activities, stresses Ken.

Production contracts are 10 years for new facilities, with shorter terms for existing facilities.

Research Farm

Last year, The Maschhoffs retrofitted existing barns to start a $2-million research farm near Carlyle, IL, a major investment in information technology, says Bradley Wolter, director of production technology and supervisor of the research farm.

The goal is to collect research data in an environment that closely mirrors the other W-F units in the grower system. The two, 100-ft.-wide by 300-ft.-long structures at the site each hold 3,600 hogs.

This provides for an ideal on-farm research setting, says Wolter, yet it is still very much a commercial farm that pays for itself. The farm features 120 individual research pens controlled by a computerized feed delivery system “that allows us to capture how much feed is delivered to any one pen each day, so we can measure feed intake of a given pen of pigs,” he notes. The computer instructs the mixer-weigher to formulate up to 16 different diets to be fed on any particular day. The mixer has a load cell that reports back to the computer each batch of feed that is sent to the feeders.

The barn is equipped with a pen scale to weigh pigs collectively, and another scale to weigh finishing hogs individually. The farm also features a wet lab for collecting blood and other tissues.

The first test of the barn proved the benefits of adding up to 10% fat to the diet. A second test, completed in early April, weighed pigs at weaning and again at finishing to look at the level of within-pen variation in growth.

By performing realistic on-farm production research, the system can capture those nickels and dimes that fall through the cracks in many operations, but can add up to dollars/pig in a large production system, says Ken.

The results of the last production turn in the research center have already reaped benefits, states Wolter. “We have been able to generate a new set of benchmarks, applicable to our system, that allows our production partners to measure their farms' performance.”

Cost-Cutting Steps

Wolter is also in charge of nutritional programs. To keep feed costs in check, up to 10% distiller's dried grains with solubles is currently being used as a substitute for corn and soybean meal in the diet; meat and bone meal was used to replace some soybean meal before supplies dried up.

All contract and company-owned finishing farms are all-in, all-out (AIAO) by site, split-sex-fed and follow a 12-step, phase feeding program.

Two big mills, one at Carlyle and the second at Pittsfield, IL, service 75 to 80% of the nutritional needs of the system and are critical to driving costs by substituting protein sources, but also altering micro-ingredients as needed, says Ken. The computerized mills formulate and deliver feed weekly to contract W-F sites. In other areas, private mills supply feed for growers.

Buying corn and soybean meal is an Achilles Heel, because nearby river and rail terminals boost grain prices, notes Wolter. Plus, company mills aren't set up to produce large enough quantities of pelleted feed, limiting ingredient options.

Contract growers present another challenge. “I believe there is a huge training component to managing costs, particularly when you think of larger systems,” says Wolter. “There is a disconnect with contract growers because feed costs are not something they are concerned with. We discussed this with our field representatives and even they didn't realize that feed costs are up 24%!”

To control rising feed costs, growers must:

  • Check feeder settings daily;

  • Monitor feed budgets to make sure that the right feed was delivered and that the more expensive diets don't get fed too long;

  • Check that feed micron size is not too large. When this happens, pigs eat a lot more feed but convert feed much less efficiently; and

  • Ensure that when pigs go to market, feeders are left empty.


Hogs enter W-F units at about 17 days of age. Slaughter weights have been dropped 4-5 lb. to the mid-270s to improve efficiency, says Steve Quick, director of production operations.

Load-outs are also being adjusted, because packers want less weight variation and fewer ultra-heavy hogs within groups, he says. Barns are now being topped out to take out the biggest 10%, then one cut is usually made before the barn is dumped, he says.

Health Challenges

James Lowe, DVM, director of health and production technology and sow operations, reports that the Maschhoff system has endured some health challenges the past few years, but is on the rebound — and the future is bright because about 75% of the sow herd system is negative or naïve for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). He admits much of that has to do with the low hog density of the two major sow pods in Illinois. Contract production sites are widely segregated, reducing PRRS spread.

Swine influenza virus swept through many of Maschhoffs' production units this past year. Lowe has just now identified a non-classical H1N1 strain that appears to be the culprit. But instead of starting a vaccination program, he is collaborating in a diagnostic and epidemiological research project with the University of Minnesota and a pharmaceutical firm to establish the best approach to handling SIV.

Lowe says that Mycoplasmal pneumonia is a chronic disease within the Maschhoff system. Control measures are being implemented to improve growth and feed conversions.

Keys to the system's low-disease load are AIAO pig flows in production sites and tight biosecurity. Separate trailers are designated for weaned pigs and market hogs and are cleaned, disinfected and dried between groups.

Pig flows are commingled from sow farms to fill production partners' barns, says Lowe. However, if a group of pigs appear to be sick, they are uncoupled from the rest of the group, even if it means a production site will take longer to fill. Keeping the majority of the pigs healthy is still the most cost-effective management, he says.

“We've tried to develop a system that is capable of maintaining long-term health and uses the best science to make our animal health decisions. Our policy is do the diagnostics and understand the epidemiology of disease transmission so we know where, and where not, to intervene in the system,” Lowe asserts.

The Maschhoffs is a closed-herd system, only bringing in boars to the boar stud, producing replacement females internally. Utilizing a closed herd to increase the level of biosecurity, plus good site selection, equals the foundation for successful, long-term health management, he notes.

Achieving more production out of those females is the key to maximizing pounds of pork out the door, and profitability, notes Lowe.

One increasingly popular way to do that is by boosting weaning age, he says. Half the sow farms in the system now wean pigs at 17 days of age, which is moved up about two days.

Lowe says there's no value in reducing sow numbers to increase weaning age, because that reduces throughput. The answer is adding farrowing crates. The Maschhoff system is gradually adding crates to convert all production to the later weaning age.

Pork Challenges

The Maschhoffs get a lot of calls about becoming a production partner. There is currently a waiting list, but Ken says they are not adding growers now. “Expansion in Illinois has become particularly unattractive. Besides dealing with strict environmental regulations and siting requirements, we are currently fighting a legislative proposal that would place a 6.25% sales tax on all feed, seed, chemical and fertilizer inputs. If enacted into law, it would raise our cost of production in Illinois by nearly 4%, making buildings less valuable here.”

Production Partners Pleased

Two Illinois growers agree that The Maschhoffs' contract production program has provided the extra financial support needed to balance their diversified farming operations.

Larry Hasheider farms 1,700 acres with three brothers on a hog/dairy/beef operation near Okawville, IL.

Larry and Wayne Hasheider manage the hog operation, which began in 1968. In 1999, the pair built two, 2,400-head and two, 3,000-head, double-wide wean-to-finish (W-F) barns to raise pigs for The Maschhoffs.

Larry says The Maschhoffs were right on track going the W-F route. Pigs arrive healthy and finish efficiently. Larry and Wayne built their units to last well beyond the 10-year contracts and to provide a better working environment. They used a premium-grade concrete mix for the flooring, and Kemlite white panel boards for the walls instead of plywood.

And they installed five large, 60 ft. wide by 20-ft. deep pens with gates on one side of the barns to ease shipping over the 3-ft.-wide center alleys. Pigs are moved in large groups of approximately 100 through the series of pens, out of the buildings and onto trucks without walking up an incline (except for double-decker trailers).

The large pens and lack of inclined surfaces keep stress low for hogs and workers, remarks Larry. One group of 6,000 head loaded out without a single dead hog on the trucks.

The manure easements have also proven to be a positive factor in the contract. Larry and Wayne apply hog manure using a dragline hose injection system to an adjacent neighbor's 40-acre plot. He tests the manure before and after application for nutrient levels. He figures the arrangement nets both the Hasheiders and their neighbor about $40/acre.

Brothers Chad, Craig and Darrin Rattermann of Bartelso, IL, have found the nutrient value of the hog manure to be an unexpected benefit to their W-F contract. The brothers farm about 1,000 acres.

Their family was one of The Maschhoffs' early W-F contract producers back in 1997, with a single 80×240-ft., double-wide barn. A second 80×240-ft., double-wide barn was added in 1998. A third, 100-ft.×300-ft., double-wide barn was built last fall and features the big-pen design to reduce load-out stress.

Chad reports the W-F pigs they receive are amazingly healthy, with 5% or less in deads and culls.

The W-F contract has nicely complemented their grain farm income and enabled the young brothers to stay on the farm, despite the untimely death of their father in 1999 at age 48.

“We luckily sold our own 100-sow, farrow-to-finish operation a few years before the '98 crash. There would have been no way that we could have gotten back into hogs without this contract agreement,” he stresses.

Public Relations Effort Launched

When The Mashhoffs hosted an open house for their shiny new 20,000-sq.-ft. office complex last fall, they had no idea that the turnout would be such a ringing success: Nearly 2,000 people attended the public and media sessions.

The two-story brick building just outside Carlyle, IL, serves as company headquarters. But it also serves as a place for the family-owned hog enterprise to tout their public relations image, says Julie Maschhoff, director of public relations.

One lobby wall is adorned with a pictorial timeline depicting print media coverage of their family's achievements in pork production through the years.

Current achievements are showcased in a 15-minute film presentation available on CD, produced by an Illinois public relations firm. “It touches on the importance of keeping agriculture in rural communities, and the positive impact our particular farm has in the surrounding community, as well as in the state of Illinois,” says Julie.

The film is shown in the office's 140-seat conference center, which hosts a variety of agricultural and community groups, state leaders and employees and contract growers.

A few key points include:

  • The Maschhoffs produce 4.5 million tons of pork a week.

  • Over 500 people work directly or indirectly in the company.

  • Over 1,500 people depend on The Maschhoffs for their primary source of income.

A 10-page pamphlet highlights company growth, positive economic benefits on rural communities and positive environmental impact of the Maschhoff operation.

The Maschhoffs also publish a quarterly company newsletter and have just started publishing a quarterly employee newsletter.

“All of these things have been developed in the last year to help us back up our story,” explains Julie.

The company also recently launched its own Web site,

product news

AI Device

The KeepHer, a slip-on style artificial insemination device, is new from D & D Klocke. It is lightweight, multifunctional and easy to use. The device features flexible PVC to keep constant pressure on the flank. This also helps keep the sow in a locked position. The KeepHer can help to identify when the sow is in heat, and also keeps proper semen flow available to the sow. Heavy-duty strapping is used to hold bottles or crochette bags.
(Circle Reply Card No. 101)

Non-Frozen Ileitis Vaccine

Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. has introduced a non-frozen form of its one-dose, oral Enterisol Ileitis vaccine. The non-frozen vaccine provides the same long-lasting, uniform immunity to subclinical and clinical ileitis as the original, frozen form of Enterisol Ileitis, and can be stored in a regular refrigerator. The vaccine can be administered to pigs as early as 3 weeks of age. The new form is also licensed for administration via oral drench.
(Circle Reply Card No. 102)

In-line Fence Water Cup

The hog water cup from Thorp Equipment, Inc. is designed to fit most standard horizontal gating and can be used for wean-to-finish pigs. It installs easily by twisting and sliding into position and then bolts into place. A single unit waters two pens with one hook-up, saving producers the cost of two separate cups. The all-stainless steel vacuum valve provides a constant, fresh water level for pigs.
(Circle Reply Card No. 103)

Livestock Cooling Controller

Edstrom Industries, Inc. announces a new livestock cooling controller. The C-440S is the latest version of the popular 24-volt controllers. It operates up to four solenoid valves in sequence and adds several new features including multiple temperature sensor monitoring and Smart Mode operation. The new Smart Mode technology automatically adjusts cycle times, based on the current temperature, to keep ahead of heat stress conditions. As it becomes hotter, livestock are cooled more frequently.
(Circle Reply Card No. 104)

New e-VENT Controls

The Agri-Aide e-VENT from Osborne Industries, Inc. replaces the CV5 Controller. The controller has three, variable-speed stages and up to eight relay (on/off) stages. Flexible programming allows ventilation system consultants to integrate circulation fans with many combinations of exhaust fans, air conditioners and heaters, using only one e-VENT control. The e-VENT control delivers several useful new functions, including automatic proportional ramping of fan speed to respond to set point temperature changes; a simple, two-knob data entry function; and a testing mode in which the performance of each ventilation stage can be individually checked. Safety features include a high/low temperature alarm and a special “lock-out” feature to prevent unauthorized changes of the control settings.
(Circle Reply Card No. 105)

Combination Vaccine

All the protection needed to prevent Mycoplasmal pneumonia and erysipelas is now available in one product: RespiSure/ER Bac Plus from Pfizer Animal Health. Containing the same antigens as RespiSure and ER Bac Plus, the new vaccine protects pigs all the way to market. The ER Bac Plus component provides 20 weeks of protection while RespiSure provides lasting efficacy up to 5½ months after vaccination. RespiSure/ER Bac Plus is safe for pregnant sows and gilts and for pigs 3 weeks of age and older. Effective vaccination requires two, 2-ml doses administered approximately three weeks apart, with breeding animals vaccinated every six months with a single booster dose.
(Circle Reply Card No. 106)

Medication Dispenser

The SelectDoser is a medication, vaccine and nutrient-dispensing system from Genesis Instruments. A peristaltic pump prevents under- and over-dosing. Unique, proprietary software allows swine producers to program 13 preset dispensing ratios of 1:20 up to 1:6,000, eliminating the need for pre-mixing most solutions. The company can also custom-program specified rations before shipping. Side-by-side pumps allow producers to control water pH and quality while injecting medication. Each SelectDoser comes with four different tubes to accommodate various dispensing rations.
(Circle Reply Card No. 107)

Send product news submissions to Dale Miller, Editor (952) 851-4661;

Packers Announce Expansion Plans

Pork packers in the U.S. and Canada have announced plant sales and expansion plans that will extend North American packing and processing capacity.

Maple Leaf Foods of Toronto, Canada has closed the $378-million deal it struck in September to buy Schneider Corp. of Kitchener, Canada from Smithfield Foods, Inc. of Smithfield, VA.

“This is long awaited and very exciting news for our two companies,” said Michael H. McCain, Maple Leaf's president and chief executive officer.

“It is a transformational event, creating a world-class, globally competitive food company, with more than 23,000 employees and $6 billion in sales, operating across North America and around the world,” McCain said.

It's the second time Maple Leaf has made a run at buying Schneiders. The first attempt in 1998 was spurned by the Schneider family, which held about three-quarters of the voting shares and decided to sell to Smithfield instead. Smithfield took Schneider Corp. private in November 2000.

Since that deal, Schneiders sold its hog slaughtering and pork processing plants in Winnipeg to Maple Leaf and bought Mitchell Gourmet Foods of Saskatoon, which is Saskatchewan province's biggest hog-slaughtering and pork-processing company. It also bought Cold Spring Farms Ltd., one of Ontario's largest corporate turkey and hog farms.

Maple Leaf's hog production, which is conducted mainly through its Manitoba-based Elite Swine business, might be merged with the hog production business of Cold Spring Farms. Maple Leaf also owns Shur Gain Feeds, Landmark Feeds of Manitoba and Rothsay Concentrates, the nation's largest rendering business.

Hormel Food Plans Processing Plant

Hormel Foods Corp. and partner Quality Pork Processors (QPP) Inc. plan to erect a 50,000-sq.-ft., pork-processing facility in Albert Lea, MN.

QPP President Kelly Wadding says the boning and packaging facility, estimated to cost $5-6 million, will employ 100 workers to start and will ramp up to 200 in the next two years.

Austin, MN-based Hormel Foods will build and own the plant on 11 acres in Albert Lea's Northaire Industrial Park. QPP will process pork products at the facility exclusively for Hormel Foods.

Albert Lea, a city of 18,000 people in southern Minnesota, has been looking for a replacement for its Farmland pork packing plant that was destroyed by fire three years ago. Albert Lea bid on a 130,000-sq.-ft. packing plant for Triumph Foods (formerly known as Premium Pork Allied Producers), which went to St. Joseph, MO.

Triumph Foods' Plant Construction Underway

Construction for the $140-million, producer-owned plant in St. Joseph, MO, began in early 2004. The 630,000-sq. ft. facility will literally be built on top of the old Monfort plant, with concrete from the old structure ground up and used as landfill. The plant is scheduled to begin operating in the summer or fall of 2005, says Rick Hoffman, chief executive officer of Triumph Foods. The plant will start with 400-500 employees and expand to about 1,000 within two years, in hog slaughtering, processing and administrative positions.

Christensen Farms, one of the producer-owners of the project, recently bought the major assets of Heartland Pork Enterprises of Alden, IA, to become the fourth-largest pork producer in the U.S. with about 144,000 sows. Included in the purchase were 50,000 sows in Heartland's hog operation, a multi-million-dollar feedmill built in the late 1990s, an agricultural construction division and a genetics company.

Cooler Space Added

Indiana Packers Corp., (IPC) Delphi, IN, a 13-year-old company owned by Mitsubishi Corp., is planning a $70-million expansion that will add 269 jobs over the next two years to its 1,400-employee workforce.

IPC is adding 160,000 sq. ft. to expand its meat cooler and production capacity. The company produces more than 700 million pounds of pork products per year with annual sales around $400 million. IPC supplies fresh and processed pork to domestic and international markets under the Indiana Kitchens brand.

Tyson Revamps Plant

Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc. has initiated a multi-million-dollar project involving mechanical and procedural changes at its Storm Lake, IA, pork plant. These changes will result in a slight increase in the number of hogs handled each day, moving production capacity to more than 15,000 hogs per day and increasing processing volume.

Besides changes in the existing layout of the plant, the work will also include a two-story, 14,000-sq.-ft. addition for product cooler space and box storage. Work is to be completed in October.