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Articles from 2010 In May

Clearing the Air Over Ag’s Role in Greenhouse Gases

A free webinar June 11 debunks myths over the role of agriculture in greenhouse gas production.

University of California-Davis associate professor and air quality specialist Frank Mitloehner says public confusion over meat and milk’s role in climate change comes down to two sentences in the executive summary of a 2006 United Nations report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow.”

It says the livestock sector is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalents), a higher share than transport.

Those statements are untrue. But wide distribution has led Americans down the wrong path to solutions. U.S. experts agree cattle and pig production account for about 3% of all greenhouse gas emissions, while transportation creates an estimated 26%, he says.

He will present his views, “Animal Ag’s Role in Greenhouse Gas Production: A Closer Look,” during the webinar which starts at 1:30 p.m. central time. Before or after the webcast, ask questions, post comments, upload photos or share experiences at Click on “discussion” to start.

The webinar is open to anyone wanting to learn more about greenhouse gas emissions, part of eXtension’s Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center monthly webcast series. More information is on the eXtension site:

Pork Demand Data Sends Mixed Messages

Markets are sending some very mixed messages about the state of demand at various levels of the pork value chain. While there are a few good reasons for the differences, our current measurements may be suffering from some well-known data woes as well.

USDA’s retail price data for April indicate that the average price for a pound of retail pork was $2.919. That is 0.2% higher than last year’s $2.914/lb., but when inflation is factored in, the real retail pork price this April is 2% lower than last year.

Lower retail prices are not necessarily bad, except that this reduction happened at the same time that per capita pork disappearance was falling by 3.9% vs. one year ago. Lower price and lower disappearance can mean only one thing – lower demand. My calculations say demand was 5.3% lower this April than it was a year ago.

That number differs a bit from the -7% demand change computed by University of Missouri Agricultural Economist Ron Plain. The most likely reason is that we have made different assumptions about April exports and imports. The actual data will not be available until mid-June. I have simply plugged in March numbers for April, assuming exports were stable from month to month. I suspect Plain handled it differently. Data matters.

These changes at retail are in stark contrast to price and quantity changes at the farm and wholesale levels. April barrow and gilt slaughter was 3.9% lower than one year ago and the April national negotiated net price was 34.7% higher than last year. April commercial pork production was 4% lower than last year, but the average cutout value for April was 43% higher than last year. Both sets of numbers suggest much higher demand at both levels.

Why the discrepancy?
First, farm-level demand explicitly includes the demand for pork by-products. The value of organ meats, ears, cheek meat, tongues, etc. impacts what packers will pay for live hogs, but it has little, if any, impact on the values of muscle meats. And by-product values have been near record high levels (see Figure 1).

Second, exports impact the cutout value and, thus, farm-level prices. While the prices of exported cuts are not included directly in USDA’s cutout computations, those cuts’ movement to other markets reduces supplies in the United States and pushes domestic wholesale values and, consequently, farm-level prices higher. As can be seen by the meat margin line in Figure 1, farm-level prices have been quite closely tied to cutout values since last summer.

Third, all data are not created equal and this is especially true for price data.

There is little doubt in my mind that the best price data we have is the data for hog prices. Everyone must report prices. USDA audits those reports from time to time with the power to fine packers who show a pattern of incorrect reporting. The prices are published on a very timely basis.

Wholesale cut price (and thus the cutout value) reporting isn’t nearly so robust. Voluntary reporting means that only a small fraction of all wholesale cut sales are reported. USDA’s publishing a cutout value every day does not mean that prices of all component cuts are actually reported every day. In fact, prices up to a week old are sometimes used to compute the daily cutout simply because some items are either infrequently traded or infrequently reported.

And then there is the retail data. Most readers are familiar with the issues here – prices for very few actual cuts, few observations, data gathered early in the month, no volume weighting and, consequently, no accounting for the volume impacts of features and sale prices, etc. It now appears that USDA will not resuscitate the scanner-based retail price data project unless Congress tells the Agricultural Marketing Service to do it and appropriates the necessary funding. The former might happen, but the latter is pretty doubtful given federal budget woes.

But what does it matter as long as you are getting $80-plus/cwt., carcass, for your hogs? In the long run, domestic consumer demand is the most critical factor for your prosperity. While exports are great, we still sell nearly 80% of our muscle meat products here at home. While we can tolerate some short-term uncertainty about domestic demand, we must get a clear picture over time, and that picture must reflect at least stability and, quite preferably, growth if we are to thrive in the years to come.

Memorial Day Observance
Due to our altered publication schedule to accommodate Memorial Day on Monday, our usual North American Pork Industry Data and Production and Price Summary tables could not be updated this week. They will return in the June 7 newsletter.

We wish all of our U.S. readers an enjoyable and safe Memorial Day and we send belated Victoria Day/National Patriot’s Day greetings to our Canadian readers.

If you can possibly make it happen, please take the time to attend a Memorial Day observance. My family has been doing this for several years, and it always reminds me of how much we have to be thankful for and the ultimate price paid by so many. The melancholy strains of Taps always leave me inspired and grateful. I think you will feel the same.

Click to view graph.

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

Coughing Pigs? Check for Parasites

Consider the case where a high percentage of 40-lb. pigs placed in a facility 10 days ago are now coughing, gaunt, thumping and overall feed intake is decreased. Serum samples and nasal swabs from five affected pigs are submitted to the diagnostic laboratory to rule out swine influenza virus (SIV) and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) virus. The polymerase chain reaction test detects PRRS virus in serum, but SIV testing of nasal swabs turned out negative.

The purchaser of these pigs now has something (and perhaps someone) to blame, right? But does detection of PRRS tell the whole story? Be aware that PRRS virus acting alone does not cause pigs to cough.

To further the diagnosis, the veterinarian representing the pig source requested a complete necropsy and diagnostic workup. The gross necropsy findings 14 days after purchase confirmed the presence of numerous white spots on the liver, as well as multifocal hemorrhages and craniovental gray firmness (mycoplasma-like lesions) in the lung (Figure 1). A diagnosis of roundworm migration (liver-lung ascarid larval migration) is confirmed as the primary insult. PRRS virus is not identified as the cause of the clinical signs observed.

Four things to know about roundworms:

1. The roundworm larva (liver-lung) migration occurs from 5-21 days after exposure to eggs that are present within a feces-contaminated environment. The clinical signs (cough, gaunt) start about a week to 10 days after exposure. In this case, the exposure to roundworm eggs occurred at the buyer’s premises. Clinical signs are generally worse in pigs that are naïve to previous infection.

2. A “fecal examination” for roundworm eggs (ova) will not diagnose this condition. The feces will be negative for eggs for at least 7-8 weeks after exposure, since it takes that long for adult worms to mature and produce ova. The worms will not be visible in the intestine until at least six weeks after infection. Do not rely on fecal flotation to diagnose disease, but use this test method for surveillance. Necropsy is the only way to diagnose the active stages of liver-lung roundworm migration.

3. Roundworm larva migration can mimic other common diseases, including Mycoplasmal pneumonia and SIV. Roundworm migration has been shown to increase the severity of mycoplasma. Fibrosis of liver – white, hard liver – can compromise performance throughout the grow-finish phase and can be a cause for condemnations at slaughter.

4. Monitoring worm burdens is accomplished by timely, routine necropsies and fecal examination of market hogs. Strategic deworming programs control this disease quite effectively. Whipworms
Next to roundworms, whipworms are the second most common worm likely to be encountered in a swine operation. When affected, pigs do not grow well and may have soft feces with mucus or even flecks of blood. The most severe symptoms are seen 1-6 weeks after exposure. A fecal examination will not diagnose this problem until at least eight weeks after exposure. Necropsy and thorough examination are the only means of ruling out disease due to this parasite.

Coccidiosis is the most common parasitic disease in swine, caused by Isospora. This protozoan causes diarrhea in pigs from 4 days to 3 weeks of age. Diagnosis relies on necropsy and microscopic examination of small intestine from acutely affected pigs. The eggs (oocysts) build up in farrowing crates by fecal contamination from previous litters. The eggs become more rapidly infective in warm, moist environments, particularly during warm, humid weather (Figure 2). There is no approved treatment, so prevention is the key to control. Thorough cleaning of all surfaces in farrowing rooms after every litter is removed is the best defense against this disease.

Summertime Tips for Laboratory Submission
Accurate diagnosis of most diseases relies on necropsy and postmortem examination. After a cold winter, please be cognizant of how quickly animal samples decompose in hot weather. In the summer, necropsies should be viewed as “emergencies.” When planning a submission to a diagnostic laboratory, consider these tips:
1. Collect samples only from live or freshly dead animals.
2. Keep all specimens cold by collecting immediately onto ice.
3. Fresh tissues should not be larger than tennis balls to assure rapid chilling.
4. Intersperse fresh tissues and ice packs in the shipping container.
5. Do not “hide” swabs and serum within packing materials.
6. Double-bag specimens to prevent leakage; carriers will not deliver leaky packages (Figure 3).
7. Use insulated shipping containers, lined with a large bag (Figure 4). Pack specimens and ice packs inside the liner bag to avoid leaking and water (ice pack sweat) damage to box.
8. Bag all paperwork/submission forms and use waterproof markers/pens.
9. Use extra ice packs when shipping specimens.
Click to view graphs and photos.

Kent Schwartz, DVM
Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Anticompetitive Business Practices

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack indicated that in June, USDA will be publishing proposed regulations concerning business practices in the meat and poultry industries. Indications are the proposed rule will provide a more precise definition of what constitutes an anticompetitive business practice. This proposed rule was authorized in the livestock title of the 2008 farm bill. The bill requires USDA to promulgate regulations concerning:

• Whether an undue or unreasonable preference or advantage has occurred in violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act;

• Whether a live poultry dealer has provided reasonable notice to poultry growers of any suspension of the delivery of birds under a poultry growing arrangement;

• When a requirement of additional capital investments over the life of a poultry growing arrangement or swine production contract constitutes a violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act; and

• If a live poultry dealer or swine contractor has provided a reasonable period of time for a poultry grower or a swine production contract grower to remedy a breach of contract that could lead to termination of the poultry growing agreement or swine production contract.
This proposal will be closely watched by producers and industry.

National Rural Summit Agenda — USDA announced details for the National Rural Summit to be held June 3 in Hillsboro, MO. The summit will continue the conversation about ways to rebuild and revitalize rural America with producers and community and agricultural leaders. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, and USDA’s subcabinet officials will participate. The summit will include six breakout sessions, entitled:
1) Building Critical Infrastructure for a 21st Century Rural Economy;
2) Expanding Opportunities for Rural Businesses;
3) Renewable Energy and Biofuels;
4) Farm Competiveness and Productivity;
5) Forest Restoration, Rural Recreation and Private Land Conservation; and
6) Regional Food Systems and Nutrition.
Poultry Competition Workshop — The Department of Justice and USDA completed its second competition workshop in Normal, AL, which focused on poultry. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “All players in the poultry industry deserve an honest chance at success, and that requires a fair, viable and competitive marketplace. Today's conversation helped bring a better understanding of the issues impacting growers on a daily basis and provided an opportunity to openly discuss some of the ideas that have been raised to address these concerns." A number of producers who spoke at the meeting discussed retaliation, required upgrades to buildings, lack of transparency in grower performance rankings, and the need for greater enforcement authority for Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA). The next workshop, to be held in June in Wisconsin, will focus on the dairy industry.

Chicken Industry Thriving— The U.S. chicken industry is a “competitive and thriving sector” that benefits chicken farmers, poultry companies and consumers, according to a study by FarmEcon LLC. The study notes: “Intense competition among chicken companies leads to product innovation and lower prices for consumers. The vertically integrated structure of the industry has given it an advantage compared to its competitors and allowed it to respond quickly to changing consumer demand.” The study was commissioned by the National Chicken Council (NCC) and released prior to the Department of Justice-USDA Competition Workshop on poultry.

Mobile Slaughter Units — USDA announced it has created a compliance guide, “The Mobile Slaughter Use Compliance Guide,” for owners and managers of a new or existing red meat or poultry mobile slaughter unit who want their establishment to come under federal inspection and continue operations in accordance with Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regulations. Mobile slaughter unit operators are subject to the same regulatory requirements that apply to a fixed (brick and mortar) facility. The guide includes the procedures necessary to receive a federal grant of inspection, unique concerns that may arise with mobile slaughter units, and links to regulatory requirements and resources. The purpose is to help small producers find processing in their local areas.

P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, D.C.

Prevention, Control of PRRS Highlighted at World Pork Expo

A panel of experts led by American Association of Swine Veterinarians President Paul Ruen, DVM, Fairmont (MN) Vet Clinic, will address “Managing to Eliminate PRRS on the Farm,” at the 2010 World Pork Expo.

Ruen and the expert panel will discuss how to maintain a sustainable and healthy herd by providing information and symptoms on porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). Implementing a biosecurity plan, the effects of the disease, preventative measures, treatment options and area control projects for PRRS will also be covered.

PRRS is a very contagious virus that spreads quickly pig to pig, via contaminated transportation equipment and facilities, workers’ hands and clothing and fomites. It has also been shown to travel airborne for at least two miles.

The virus is a financial burden to breed-to-wean and wean-to-finish operations. “A PRRS outbreak can cause high abortion and fatality rates,” says Ruen. “Many live litters have poor survival rates and weakened immune systems, which can cause significant setbacks in breeding and production outputs.”

Most growing and adult hogs will recover from the virus, but since the virus mutates frequently, herds that have already been infected are not immune to other PRRS strains or secondary diseases, Ruen explains.

PRRS has been around since the late 1980s, and swine veterinarians have learned a lot about control and elimination. “It’s difficult to purge the disease in regions where pig density is high, but it’s not impossible. We have made great strides through research and experimentation, and now that knowledge is being put into action,” Ruen notes.

A biosecurity plan is the best way to protect your herd and keep PRRS and other diseases off your farm. “A well-constructed biosecurity plan requires that all animal care workers implement good hygiene on the farm to include proper cleaning, disinfecting and drying of trailers, facilities and production equipment,” Ruen says.

The 2010 World Pork Expo will be held June 9-11 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, IA. The PRRS seminar will take place from 9:45 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on June 10 in the Marketing Information Center located on the upper level of the Varied Industries Building.

Learn more at

National Hog Farmer


MILFORD, Indiana, U.S.A. — Greg Sebald, Sebald Enterprises has been named an independent sales representative for the PigTek Pig Equipment Group, according to Chris Long, Sales Manager for the company. Sebald will be working with pig industry integrators, builders and PigTek distributors to promote the PigTek Group’s Chore-Time®, Laake®, Porcon® and Mannebeck™ products in Iowa and Minnesota region of the United States.

Sebald brings 32 years of experience in agricultural product sales, manufacturing, engineering and technical service to his association with PigTek. He will be working with PigTek in applying his expertise in the areas of group sow housing, wet and dry feed systems, climate-controlled pig housing and specialty areas such as air cleaning and electronic controls.

He is a native of Minnesota and attended the University of Minnesota.

PigTek Pig Equipment Group is a part of the CTB, Inc. family of companies. Based in Milford, Indiana (U.S.A.), CTB, Inc. is a leading global designer, manufacturer and marketer of systems and solutions for the pig, poultry, egg production, and grain industries. Its products and services are “Helping to Feed a Hungry World®” through improved efficiency in the care of poultry and livestock as well as in grain storage, handling, conditioning and drying. Founded in 1952, CTB has been dedicated to “Leadership Through Innovation®” throughout its history. The company operates from multiple locations in various countries around the world and serves its customers through a worldwide network of independent dealers and distributors. CTB’s web address is

PigTek Pig Equipment Group, 410 North Higbee Street, P.O. Box 2000, Milford, Indiana, 46542-2000; Telephone: 574-658-4101; Fax: 574-658-5325; E-Mail: Internet: or

EPA Reaches Settlement To Regulate Farms

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will collect information about farms to determine if more should be regulated as part of a settlement with environmental groups concerned about water pollution.

The EPA settlement was reached Tuesday with the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Waterkeeper Alliance.

Those groups filed a federal court appeal in 2009, claiming the EPA provided certain farms too much discretion regarding discharging waste into waterways.

The settlement forces EPA to review farms that don’t have discharge permits and determine if they should be regulated.

EPA said it would propose a rule to collect information from farms and take final action on the proposed rule within two years. It will seek public comment as part of that process.

Under the settlement, EPA would collect more information on confined animal feeding operations or CAFOs including the number of animals raised, manure produced, how it is handled and whether it is used as fertilizer or shipped to another location.

CAFOs include 2,500 swine weighing more than 55 lb. or 10,000 swine weighing less than 55 lb.

NPPC’s Michael Formica, chief environmental counsel, criticized the deal because farmers were not consulted.

He says the settlement conflicts with a number of court rulings, and if implemented, would lead to larger livestock operations as farmers expand to offset the costs of manure management systems the EPA could require.

Formica notes the pork industry has taken steps over the last 15 years to control manure runoff, while beef and poultry operations don’t have the same procedures in place.

National Hog Farmer

E.I. Medical Imaging Releases A New BLOG website

LOVELAND, Colorado, May 25, 2010- E.I. Medical Imaging, a worldwide leader in portable ultrasound systems for veterinary use announced today the launch of a new blog website The purpose of the blog is to share ultrasound research, information, tips, etc and to be a resource in the animal ultrasound community.

"Blogging is really picking up speed and gaining popularity" says Marketing Director, Mia Varra. "It is one of the more useful tools on the web that lets people share comments, events and knowledge and most importantly interact with each other. We've created an E.I. Medical Imaging blog so that we can start to share all of the amazing information about veterinary ultrasound that is happening everyday! Our goal is to make this blog a resource for the animal health ultrasound professionals across the globe." says Varra. She went on to explained that any individual can “subscribe” to the blog site and get automated emails when new information is posted.

About E.I. Medical Imaging

E.I. Medical Imaging was founded in 1984 based on the singular vision of developing state-of-the-art, portable, durable ultrasound systems to serve veterinarians and livestock producers world-wide. Over the company’s 26-year history, E.I. Medical Imaging products have evolved with the needs of the market. We are proud to be the only manufacturer of portable ultrasound systems engineered and developed in the United States specifically for the animal industry. If you have questions, feel free to contact E.I. Medical Imaging at

Ohio Pork Condemns Dairy Welfare Abuse

The animal rights group Mercy for Animals has released a video of footage apparently taken at Conklin Dairy Farms in Marysville, OH, depicting animal abuse.

The Ohio Pork Producers Council (OPPC) supports the Ohio Dairy Producers Association and countless other agriculture groups in condemning this illegal and intolerable behavior.

“We are greatly disappointed by the actions of these farm employees and the poor image it portrays on livestock care in the state,” OPPC officials stated in a news release. “There are so many farms and families throughout Ohio that work hard each and every day to provide the best possible care for their livestock and produce safe, wholesome and affordable food for consumers.”

The OPPC release reminded producers to “review animal care standards with your employees and make sure your farm has Pork Quality Assurance Plus site status certification as just another reinforcement of your willingness to be proactive.” Producers are urged to contact the OPPC office for more information (

“Please take this situation and use it as an opportunity to evaluate the practices on your farm, and other farms in your community to see how you can make improvements and continue to maintain top quality care of your livestock,” the release urged.

Pork Quality Recertification Sessions Planned for June

People who became certified as Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) Plus advisors in 2007, need to complete a recertification training and testing session in 2010. Under the National Pork Board’s PQA Plus program, recertification is required every three years.

The Iowa Pork Industry Center (IPIC) at Iowa State University (ISU) has scheduled four recertification sessions in early June.

Session dates, times and locations include:

  • June 2 from 8:30 a.m. to noon, Ames, Iowa State University campus, Kildee Hall, Ensminger Room.
  • June 2 from 1 to 4:30 p.m., Ames, Iowa State University campus, Kildee Hall, Ensminger Room.
  • June 3 from 1 to 4:30 p.m., Sheldon, Northwest Iowa Community College, Building C, Room C349.
  • June 4 from 1 to 4:30 p.m., Ainsworth, Marr Park.

IPIC Associate Director James McKean, DVM, says there are still spots open but it is wise not to delay signing up.

“There are less than 10 vacancies in both of the Ames sessions, and just a few more in the Sheldon and Ainsworth locations,” he says. “We continue to get registration calls daily, and when the 30-person limit is reached at a site, no one else will be allowed to attend there.”

All sessions are taught by ISU animal science and veterinary medicine faculty members who are certified PQA Plus trainers. People must register and pay the $50 fee prior to attendance at a session. The preregistration form is available online at It also is available by fax by calling Jane Runneals at IPIC at (515) 294-4103.

PQA Plus was developed by the Pork Industry Animal Care Coalition to be a continuous improvement program. For more information on PQA Plus, contact the National Pork Board at (800) 456-7675 or go to