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Articles from 2002 In June

Warm Welcome For Bush at Expo

President George W. Bush addressed an enthusiastic crowd of nearly 4,000 pork producers and allied industry representatives on June 7th, during the 14th Annual World Pork Expo in Des Moines. Bush’s visit marked the first time a U.S. president has attended the annual pork industry event.

Addressing the massive crowd in the tightly secured 4-H Building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds, National Pork Producer Council (NPPC) President David Roper proclaimed: "I am honored to introduce to you a real friend of the American farmer and livestock producer. He has demonstrated his commitment to U.S. agriculture recently by signing a farm bill that will open foreign markets to U.S. pork exports, continue to ensure a safe food supply and (to) help livestock producers address their operations’ environmental needs."

President Bush stepped to the podium, prepared speech in hand, but he referred to his notes sparingly, choosing instead to address the crowd openly and spontaneously.

The President began by expressing his "great pleasure" to be out of Washington, a pleasure matched by the chance to visit agriculture’s heartland. "I’m honored to be with the good folks who supply our country with food – and the good folks who live the values of the farm," he began.

Tax Relief

Bush acknowledged that his visit marked the first anniversary of his signing of the tax relief bill shepherded through the U.S. Senate by Iowa’s Charles Grassley. He used the tax relief package to segue into Congress’ recent action to repeal the death tax. "The United States Congress realized how unfair the death tax is to the people who make a living on the farm. Finally, we repealed the death tax," he said.

But amidst the applause, Bush cautioned that two obstacles remain. First, the repeal isn’t permanent. A "quirk in the law" has the death tax fully repealed in 2010, but then reinstates it in 2011. Secondly, members of the Senate must be convinced to follow the House of Representative’s lead and pass the bill to make the repeal permanent, explained Bush.

"It makes no sense to tax a person’s assets twice," stated the President. "And, it makes no sense to have a tax that drives people off the farm. For the good of American agriculture, let’s make sure that death tax is forever buried, and forever done away with."

An amendment was passed in the House of Representatives to make the repeal permanent. However, 10 days after Bush’s speech, the Gramm/Kyl Amendment in the Senate fell six votes shy of those needed to pass and make the repeal permanent.

Strength in Agriculture

In the heart of the Corn Belt, President Bush grasped the opportunity to build support for an energy bill "that promotes renewable sources of energy such as ethanol and biodiesel." He acknowledged some people’s reaction when he first came to Iowa to ask for an energy bill that included the fuel alternatives: "This guy’s from Texas, he can’t possibly mean what he says about ethanol." But, he assured: "It’s in our national interest to have more forms of energy produced at home so we’re less reliant on foreign sources of energy.

"In order to make sure this economy is strong, we’ve got to make sure that the agricultural sector of our economy is strong." Noting that he was governor of the second-largest agricultural state, he continued: "And, I understand the need to be able to grow more food than we need – for the national security of the country as well.

"I also understand that when there’s oversupply, it’s a problem. And, one of the ways to deal with over supply is to sell our pork to foreign markets. I need the trade promotion authority," he stressed. "It’s time to quit playing politics with trade promotion. It’s time for the House and the Senate to get together – and get a bill on my desk. My promise to you all is this: we’re not going to treat agriculture as some second-class citizen when it comes to international trade agreements.

"I understand the importance of agriculture for our economy; I understand the importance of agriculture for job creation; and, I understand the need to fight for foreign markets so that when we’re good at something, we benefit. And, we’re good at growing hogs and we ought to be selling our hogs all across the world," he stated emphatically.

Farm Bill

Turning next to the farm bill, the President said: "The farm bill I signed recognizes the importance of trade. In fancy Washington talk, it’s what we call WTO (World Trade Organization) compliant. It means we’ve honored our trade agreements when it comes to agriculture.

"But it also recognizes (that) there needs to be a safety net for the American farmer. And, it also recognizes the need to promote conservation in America through the EQIP program (Environmental Quality Incentives Program), for example.

"I signed a good farm bill. It’s good for the American farmer and it’s good for the United States of America," he stressed.

President Bush went on to talk about the need for terrorism insurance so that construction programs can move forward without fear of attack; he discussed the war on terrorism and his proposal to create the Department of Homeland Security, a new cabinet-level position aimed at consolidating essential security functions into a single agency.

The President closed his address by encouraging all Americans to stay strong, yet consider the incredible power that acts of kindness can have in defining the "goodness and decency" of all Americans.

"I know we can rise to the challenge of showing the world that, in the face of incredible evil done to America can come some great good. And it starts right with you. Every act of kindness and compassion, the gathering momentum of millions of acts of kindness and compassion, will show the enemy and the world the true face of the greatest nation on the face of the earth. Thanks for letting me come by," he said in closing.

A full text of President Bush’s address at the 2002 World Pork Expo can be found at: /vs/ceah/cahm .

Sorting for size usually not worth it

Variation in pig weights has a major impact on pig flow and market price received, particularly in wean-to-finish production facilities. Weight variability has wean-to-finish managers routinely overstocking pens at weaning, then sorting off the lightest pigs and remixing them within the first three to five weeks after stocking. This is done in the belief that removing the lightest pigs from a pen and remixing with other lightweight pigs results in better overall performance of the group and, possibly, enhances facility utilization.

Recently, the NCR-89 Committee on Swine Management tested this sort-and-mix practice in both wean-to-finish and grow-finish production systems. Several universities in the north central region (NCR) participated. Diets were the same at all cooperating universities. Each station had at least two replications of each treatment. Facilities were both full and partial slats. Feeder space and drinkers were standardized.

In each of two experiments, the following treatments were applied:

  • Fifteen pigs/pen from initial weight to slaughter (15S),

  • Twenty pigs/pen from initial weight to three weeks postweaning (wean-to-finish) or the week the population weighed 150 lb. (grow-finish), then reduced to 15 pigs/pen to slaughter (20/15), and

  • Fifteen pigs/pen comprised of the five lightest pigs from each of three 20/15 pens (15M).



In each study, diets were based on the average weight of the whole group rather than individual pen averages. Thus, lightweight pigs did not receive any special diet or other management following remixing, a practice that is typical of many production facilities.



The populations that were sorted and mixed (20/15 and 15M) were compared to those that were never sorted (15S).

Sorting of the lightest pigs was effective in reducing the within-pen weight variation at the time of sorting (Tables 1 and 2), but had minimal effect on reducing within-pen weight variation at Day 158 postweaning for the wean-to-finish trial, or when the first pig in the pen weighed at least 250 lb. for the grow-finish trial.

Figure 1 displays the variation in pig weight of each population on Day 158, when the heaviest pigs in the wean-to-finish facility were removed for slaughter. The sorted and mixed population is represented in both ends of the population weight curve. The unsorted population is not represented in either the two lightest weight groups or the heaviest weight groups (281-290 lb., >300 lb.).

Figure 2 is a similar display of weight variation in each population, when the first pig was removed on the week it weighed at least 250 lb. for the grow-finish trial. This data has more spread since it represents the combined data of pigs at the University of Nebraska, University of Minnesota, University of Illinois and Iowa State University. However, the overall pattern is the same. That is, no pigs in the unsorted population were in the heaviest weight category and fewer landed in the lightest weight categories than did the sorted and mixed pigs. In the grow-finish study, 14% of the pigs in the sorted population weighed less than 191 lb. versus 10% of the unsorted population.

In the grow-finish study, pigs were removed for slaughter on the week they weighed 250 lb. or more. Beginning the week when 50% or more of the pigs had been removed from a pen, the remaining pigs were fed for up to three weeks or until the pen averaged 250 lb. Using this method to market pigs, Figure 3 shows the average days until the pen was empty for pigs at the University of Illinois, University of Minnesota, Iowa State University and Michigan State University.

While the pens that had the pigs removed averaged 108 days to empty, the pens that had the mixed pigs took 125 days. Pens with unsorted pigs took an average 118 days to empty.

In this study, it took seven days longer (125 vs. 118) to empty the last pen of pigs that had the lightweight pigs removed and remixed versus the population where no sorting occurred.

In these studies, removal and mixing of the lightweight pigs did not decrease the variation in population weight, nor did it improve facility utilization as measured by the days to empty pens in the grow-finish trial.

Pig Social Implications

There are several explanations why this common management practice is not effective.

First, when the lightweight pigs were removed and remixed, they had to become acquainted with new penmates, pen social structure and pen location. All of this probably contributed to a period in which feed intake and growth were minimal. When social stability was achieved, variation in the pen increased to that of other pens since some pigs became dominant, others submissive, and some settled somewhere in the middle.

In pens where pigs were removed, similar social disruptions occurred. While the pigs remaining in the pen didn't have to become acquainted with a new pen, the removal of the lightweight pigs most likely removed the lowest social ranking pigs in the group. With their removal, one or more of the remaining pigs acquired the low social rank. This most likely explains why sorting and removal was not effective in changing within-pen variations in weight at slaughter.

It is possible that results may have been different if the lightweight, remixed pigs had been offered a diet formulated to more closely match their nutritional needs versus a diet formulated to the average needs of the population. Results may also differ if the heaviest or middleweight pigs are removed and remixed.

Another common management practice is to sort pigs by weight upon entry into wean-to-finish, nursery and grow-finish facilities. This is done with the belief that pens of pigs begun at uniform weights will have less variation at slaughter weight and may have better daily gain, etc.

When this management practice was first utilized in confinement facilities, it made sense, considering the farrowing/weaning practices common to the industry. When farrowing and weaning were continuous flow, sorting by size also implied sorting by age. Thus, sorting by size was a management tool to minimize the age variation of pigs within a pen. However, in the majority of today's production systems, age variation within a facility is often minimal. It is common to put 1,000 pigs into a finishing facility with no more than three days in age variation.

Recent research has reexamined the practice of sorting by size at the time of barn placement. There are at least five controlled studies that examined the impact of sorting pigs by size (light, medium and heavyweight or light and heavy) at placement versus placing light and heavy pigs in the same pen on performance to slaughter.

In none of the studies did the practice of sorting by weight at arrival improve overall pig performance or facility utilization. In at least two studies, facility utilization was improved when pigs of varying weights were penned together (heavy, medium and light), versus when pigs of similar weight were penned together at placement.

Don't Sort

As a result of this data, the recommendation is to not sort pigs by size upon placement into a grow-finish facility, nursery or wean-to-finish facility. The exception to this recommendation is when it is possible to use management tools to treat a group of sorted pigs in a special manner. For nurseries and wean-to-finish facilities, this means that it remains accepted practice to pen the very lightweight pigs together, assuming they will remain on a starter diet sequence one to five days longer than the rest of the pigs in the facility.

For grow-finish facilities where the nutrition, temperature and other management decisions are made on the basis of the barn average, sorting by size is not recommended.

Both the sorting-and-mixing results and the sorting-by-size-at-placement results suggest that the idea of “peas-in-a-pod” pig flow from production facilities will not be a common occurrence, at least in the near future.

In confinement facilities with small pens (15 to 30 pigs/pen), the social interactions and other causes result in a natural variation in pig performance. Until more is known about effective methods to modify the pigs' social interactions with penmates, advances to decrease variation in healthy pigs will occur slowly.

Table 1. Effect of Sorting and Removal on Wean-to-Finish Pig Performance
  20/15 15M 15S
Weaning wt., lb. 10.6 10.6
Day 21 - presort wt., lb.a 19.8 20.9
Day 21 - postsort wt., lb.b 21.3 15.4 20.9
Day 158 postweaning wt., lb.a 257.2 243.1 253.2
Coefficient of Variation (pig weight with pen), %
Day 21 - presort 19.5 17
Day 21 - postsortb 13.7 11.3 17
Day 158 postweaning 7.6 7.9 6.9
J. Anim. Sci. 2002. 80:1166-117
aTreatment effect, P<.05
b20/15+15M vs 15S, P<.01



Table 2. Effect of Sorting and Removal on Finishing Pig Performance
  20/15 15M 15S
Placement wt., lb. 57.6 57.6
Presort and removal wt., lb. 160.4 155.8
Postsort and removal wt., lb.a 163 135.5 155.8
Coefficient of Variation (pig weight with pen), %
Placement 13.4 13.3
Presort and removal 10.2 11.4
Postsort and removalb 9.2 8.6 11.4
First pig removedb 8.2 8.7 10.2
J. Anim. Sci. 2002. 80:1166-117
aTreatment effect, P<.01
b20/15+15M vs 15S, P<.05



Nebraska Lagoons Cleared

Most Nebraska livestock lagoons don't pollute groundwater, according to a two-year study by the University of Nebraska.

Researchers reviewed 26 swine, dairy and beef cattle lagoons at 13 sites in central and eastern Nebraska. Researchers tested nearby groundwater to assess the potential of the lagoons to threaten groundwater quality. Twelve of the 13 sites were in use and 10 of the 12 active sites sampled got a clean bill of health, says Roy Spalding, director of the university's water sciences laboratory. About 85% of Nebraskans drink groundwater.

Nebraska's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources sampled each of the lagoons and adjacent groundwater four times during the spring and fall from 1999-2001. High concentrations of chloride and ammonia point to groundwater contamination from livestock lagoons, says Spalding.

Groundwater beneath two of the sampled lagoons contained higher levels of ammonia and nitrate. They were both in areas prone to pollution because groundwater is less than 35 ft. below the surface and the soils are easily permeable, he observes.

Farm Bill Funding

The new 2002 farm bill supports two key animal health programs and trade development.

Spending for the Market Access Program has been boosted to $200 million/year from the previous $90 million/year. Funds were also increased for the Foreign Market Development Program. Both programs boost pork exports.

Authorization was granted to continue support for the Pseudorabies Eradication Program.

Passage of the Animal Health Protection Act will upgrade the ability of the U.S. government to respond to an animal health emergency.

See page 10 for an analysis of the farm bill.

Producer Wins Right To Expand

It took three years for Tony and Anita Knapke to get a 1,960-head finishing barn built.

The Greenville, OH, couple first made plans to expand the contract feeder pig finishing portion of their hog operation in the fall of 1998. Then they got an alarming telephone call. A reporter wanted to know how it felt to be named the defendant in a $10-million lawsuit.

Three Neighbors Sue

The lawsuit for an injunction against construction was filed in Darke County, OH, District Court by three of the Knapkes' neighbors. It claimed expansion would be a nuisance and “create substantial adverse impact on the health, welfare and safety of the community.”

Those three neighbors have an interesting connection, points out Knapke. The lead plaintiff is a realtor (who settled out of court prior to the award of damages). The second owns a construction company that was the building contractor for the farm in the mid-70s. The third lived and worked on the farm, raising hogs under contract, as it was going through bankruptcy in the early to mid-80s. This neighbor also farmed land for both the first and second neighbors.

The three plaintiffs expressed concern that the proposed expansion would reduce future property values.

Knapke acquired the farm in 1987. Besides the contract finishing business he started, the farm includes a 180-sow, farrow-to-finish operation. He stresses there were never any environmental complaints prior to the lawsuit.

Court Ruling

In December 2000, Judge William Millard found evidence lacking to prove a nuisance case and denied the plaintiffs' request for an injunction.

Construction of a two-room, double-wide finisher was completed in the fall of 2001.

In March 2002, the judge awarded the Knapkes damages in the amount of $144,500 for lost production income and attorneys fees. The plaintiffs have appealed the damages ruling, says Leisa Boley Hellwarth, Knapke's attorney.

Hellwarth is a dairy farmer and attorney who represents farmers throughout Ohio from her office near Celina, OH. She can be reached at (419) 586-1072 or [email protected].

Producer Relief

Tony Knapke says the ruling “was about like winning the Super Bowl of agriculture.” He credits Cooper Farms of Ft. Recovery, OH, his hog contractor, for footing the legal bills.

Neil Diller, Cooper Farms general manager, says it was time to take a stand against lawsuits based on scare tactics. He hopes this ruling “sends a message to people that they better have a concrete basis for suing producers.”

Also supporting Knapke were the Ohio Pork Producers Council, Ohio Farm Bureau and Ohio Livestock Coalition.

Leveraging Checkoff Dollars

The dollar-for-dollar example represents the funds that retail marketing partners and packers/processors contributed to match your checkoff investment in the National Pork Board's retail promotions last year.

The six-to-one ratio is an estimate of the $2.8 million the National Pork Board invested in public relations, generating nearly $17 million in what they call “earned media.”

Perhaps the most misunderstood area of National Pork Board funding is entered in the “promotions” column of the organization's ledger. These funds are vital to maintaining and growing per capita consumption of pork, asserts Dallas Hockman, vice president of demand enhancement programs.

The marching orders for Hockman's division are straightforward — improve the acceptability of pork by consumers, and increase the availability of pork at retail and foodservice outlets, domestically and worldwide.

With $25 to $27 million annually targeted for Demand Enhancement/Trade initiatives, roughly two-thirds of the Pork Board's total annual budget, the dollars are divvied up in three key areas:

  1. Consumer Communications — approximately $8 million slotted for advertising (radio, print, TV, outdoor, etc.) and $2.8 million for public relations activities with consumers and food and health professionals, handled through the Pork Information Bureau (PIB);

  2. Retail and Foodservice Marketing — $8.7 million total, with $5.2 million in retail and $3.5 million in foodservice promotions;

  3. Foreign Market Development — Approximately $5 million for communications, promotions, research and all fixed costs.

“Demand Enhancement is broken down into two primary categories — those that affect consumers' perceptions about pork (consumer communications, public relations, consumer advertising/research) and those we refer to as ‘go-to-market’ (retail and foodservice marketing),” explains Hockman.

Retail Marketing

The opportunity to leverage checkoff dollars is very effective through retail marketing efforts, says Hockman. “Retail is our front-line defense. When we need to move volume of product, that's where we go.”

Major pork promotions often have multiple partners, so it's often difficult to pin down the exact contribution of each, and they may not be equal. Each partner is invited to participate because they bring a vital component to the overall promotion.

For example, a recent grilling promotion with a metropolitan supermarket included a brand name pork supplier, a barbecue sauce and a brand name wine, each kicking in $5,000. In that case, the $5,000 checkoff investment was leveraged into a $20,000-pork promotion.

Building Platforms

A key strategy for demand enhancement promotions is the building of what Hockman calls “platforms” such as “Bacon Makes It Better,” “Sausage Sizzles” and the popular “Other Tailgate Party.” Specific promotions target specific times of the year.

“Retail promotions allow us to effectively leverage our dollars, mainly because that's also the area where we serve as a catalyst for a promotion,” he says.

“The ‘Bacon Makes It Better’ platform was launched in April because April is National Tomato Month. It's also a time when bacon consumption is lower,” he continues.

Logical partners included a sandwich spread, a cheese manufacturer and a lettuce supplier for BLT sandwiches. The legislative checkoff Act & Order does not allow the Pork Board to approach a specific packer, so the retailer selects the bacon supplier to partner with.

“Our goal is to give the retailer a reason to feature pork,” says Hockman. “We create the idea and offer signage, meat case and display case materials and radio spots to drive consumers to the retail promotion.” Total cost might run $15,000. With a goal to leverage checkoff dollars as much as possible, the Pork Board would put in $5,000 and look for co-marketing partners to match or exceed their contribution. The platform serves as the catalyst.

Hockman estimates the investment in a major platform launch is $100,000, impacted by whether it is regional or national. Costs include creative input and design of the theme and packaging, plus the dissemination of materials to retailers.

“Development costs are front-end loaded,” he explains. “But, we want to own these marketing platforms so no one can take them and use them for promoting chicken or beef or something else. They are trademarked pieces.

“I want producers to feel good about the time and effort that goes into these platforms. That way we don't have to incur new development costs (each year),” he says. The cost of successive promotions is then limited to duplication of materials.

Success is measured in “incremental volume” of pork sold. Retailers track sales for specific time periods — usually the featured week vs. the same week the previous year.

A 2001 year-end summary shows $2.5 million was spent on 202 account-specific pork promotion programs with targeted retailers. The National Pork Board allocated $1.33 million that was matched by $1.25 million in co-marketing partners and packer/processor contributions. “We are getting matched nearly dollar for dollar,” Hockman points out.

“The $2.5 million represents the actual cost of the promotions advertising, in-store materials, consumer incentives, etc.,” he explains. “The rest of the $5.2 million (budgeted for retail and foodservice marketing) is made up of fixed costs, research tracking, category management, creative design, agency fees, industry meetings, training programs, initial development costs of platforms, etc.”

Total pork tonnage moved through those checkoff-supported programs was 183.2 million lb. Of that, 70.2 million lb. was incremental volume, or 38.3% more pork sold.

Foodservice Allocations

Foodservice promotions are more visible but much more difficult to track. Sales measures are not standardized and foodservice providers do not like to share their data because it's an extremely competitive market. Unlike retail, there is no scanner data or USDA tracking.

Taco Bell's recent chalupa promotion serves as a good example. To begin with, Taco Bell doesn't want anyone to know when they will introduce a new menu item. “We worked hard to get them to incorporate a pork item,” says Hockman. “In this case, the ‘Bacon Makes It Better’ campaign fit their product.”

Taco Bell spent roughly $14 million on advertising the new chalupa, plus another million dollars on in-store merchandising. The Pork Board provided research and invested approximately $30,000 in the promotion. Projected sales volume growth is about 600,000 lb. — an all-new growth in bacon sales.

In 2001, the Pork Board foodservice department allocated roughly $750,000 on an estimated 120 promotional programs — 53% spent with commercial foodservice chains (such as McDonalds and Taco Bell); 28% allocated to non-commercial foodservice entities (hotels, schools); and about 17% supported distributors (i.e., Schwan's, SYSCO).

Pork Information Bureau

The return on investment of the $2.8 million budgeted for the Pork Information Bureau is measured in earned media and partnerships with influencer groups.

Much of the budget is spent on developing new recipes, Web sites, work with dieticians, photography, press kits and the costs of getting stories about pork printed. A clipping service tracks print exposure that serves to estimate earned media. Their $2.8 million investment in 2001 generated $16,776,081 worth of comparable space in the print media alone.

“This is a message that oftentimes is lost on pork producers,” says Hockman. “Although retail and foodservice promotions are important, it is also very important to affect consumer attitudes through media and influencers such as doctors, dieticians, food editors, chefs and other professionals.”

“When a cookbook author or a syndicated food writer knows us and can call us for ideas, the only cost to the checkoff is staff time and some materials costs,” states Ceci Snyder, director of nutrition communications. “I know $16 million is a big number, but you can't buy that kind of coverage and higher level of consumer acceptance.”

Defending Category Marketing

Hockman is quick to point out that if checkoff dollars were not available, these cost-sharing initiatives would vanish. “This budget wouldn't exist, and most of the promotional dollars and our ability to communicate the positive message about pork would just go away. You would migrate to specific branding. There's nothing wrong with branded product marketing, but it only promotes the brand — it doesn't raise the stature of the whole category. We're creating opportunities for all players.

“What got consumers feeling better about pork?” he asks. “It wasn't all one brand. It didn't just happen through the gratitude of retailers. It was a combined effort of producers doing a better job of producing a quality product, but it was also getting our story told in the marketplace.”

Building Air Cleaner

University of Illinois researchers have found a new way to clean the air inside a hog building using an aerodynamic system that creates a cyclone effect.

The idea of creating a cyclone isn't new, but previous efforts weren't very efficient, explains Yuanhui Zhang, associate professor of agricultural engineering. He invented a “uniflow deduster” that cleans 90% of the dust from the air, 50% of the ammonia and 30% of the odor.

Typically, cyclone activity can't throw out small particles. However, the uniflow deduster separates small particles from the air because of its aerodynamic design, says Zhang. His design reduces turbulence inside the cyclone, enabling the deduster to work with very small particles (3 microns), at a large airflow rate.

The deduster works by using a fan to draw air through a duct. The tube is lined with vanes designed to create a cyclone effect. The swirling motion pushes particles to the walls of the duct where they become attached to water misted into the chamber. Once a day, the particles are automatically flushed away.

Big Picture View Aids Pig Flow

While the pork industry shifts toward preventative health practices and proactive management, veterinarians are still often called to “put out fires.”

That fire may not seem related to improving overall production flow and performance, but in reality, our efforts should lead to solving the challenge and improving performance throughout the system.

In the following case studies, I'll focus on improving overall production flow and performance through strategic medications and/or vaccination protocols.

Case Study No. 1

We investigated sudden death loss of 4- to 5-month-old finishing pigs and poor performance from 150 lb. to market weight, including reduced daily gain and lower sold weights. The 150-sow, farrow-to-finish farm was single-site with all-in, all-out (AIAO) management of nursery and finishing. Death loss was 3% in the nursery, 2-3% in the finisher.

Necropsies revealed sudden deaths were attributable to hemorrhagic bowel syndrome (HBS). Serology revealed pigs were negative for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), ileitis and swine influenza virus (SIV), but positive for Mycoplasmal pneumonia at 4-5 months of age.

Steps to improve flow, performance:

  1. Mycoplasma vaccination is delayed until pigs are 6-8 weeks old.

  2. Feed antibiotics effective against mycoplasma are being given in the nursery, and pulse-dosed through the finisher at weeks 1, 5 and 10. We believe this will help reduce HBS.

  3. Paylean is added at 4.5 grams/ton to the final finisher phase rations to improve daily gain and bring up the lowest percentage of pigs.

The goal of this program is to improve mycoplasma control and ultimately improve finisher performance and profits.

Case Study No. 2

A client purchasing 400-500 weaner pigs every 6-7 weeks reported over 40% sick pigs in finishing and 10-12% death loss in finishing. The owner has had difficulty maintaining single-source weaner pigs and in the past four years has used five sources.

The nursery is run AIAO and is 400 yards from the finisher complex. Nursery performance has always been acceptable, with death loss under 2%. The finisher is challenged, operating continuous flow and may house 3-4 groups of pigs.

A cross-sectional survey of tissues and serum from the farm revealed multiple pathogens affecting the pigs: PRRS, mycoplasma, ileitis, salmonella, Pasteurella multocida, HBS and most recently, circovirus. Control measures include:

  1. Oral vaccination for salmonella and ileitis in the nursery.

  2. On arrival, pigs are vaccinated with a PRRS modified-live vaccine to deal with the multiple pig sources.

  3. Mycoplasma vaccine is used at 6-7 weeks of age.

  4. Pulse-dosing prescription antibiotics in the water for the first three weeks in the nursery has helped control Hemolytic E.coli and strep.

  5. Finisher feed protocols include pulse-dosing products to control ileitis and mycoplasma.

  6. Paylean is used to increase average daily gain and reduce the percentage of tail-enders.

Even using strategically placed vaccinations and feed antibiotics, it can be difficult to achieve good performance with so many pathogens challenging the pigs. The goal is to buy single-source pigs, depopulate the site, have 2-4 weeks of downtime and start over with healthier pigs.

Case Study No. 3

A 350-sow, farrow-to-finish, single-site operation reported poor-milking sows and poor piglet quality, over 12% mortality in the nursery and over 10% death loss in the finisher.

Diagnostics revealed active PRRS virus infection in sows and nursery. This was complicated by a toxigenic F-18 E. coli and Haemophilus parasuis infection in nursery pigs. Finisher performance was challenged by mycoplasma and ileitis.

Efforts to solve problems:

  1. Immediate PRRS vaccination of sow herd and piglets;

  2. Mycoplasma vaccination in the nursery;

  3. Pulse-dose water medications for Hemolytic E.coli and Haemophilus parasuis in the nursery;

  4. Feed antibiotics in the nursery to control mycoplasma;

  5. Pulse-dose feed medications in the finisher for mycoplasma and ileitis, and

  6. Pulse-dose water medications in the finisher for other bacteria.

Once we stabilize the PRRS infection, there will be greater opportunities to “whittle away” at the other pathogens.


Especially during times of financial pressure, make sure to focus on the “big picture,” perform the necessary diagnostics and formulate a complete program to help improve your production flow and bottom line.

Audits Identify Biosecurity Leaks

Boar studs need to refine isolation and acclimation (I/A) programs. They also need to focus on controlling people traffic and handling cull boars and dead animals.

That's the view of Darwin Reicks, DVM, Swine Vet Center (SVC), St. Peter, MN, who consults and audits about 12 area boar studs. All of the negative studs in his practice have stayed PRRS-free.

Meanwhile, 10-12 other Midwest boar studs were diagnosed with PRRS this winter, according to veterinary sources, raising a flurry of questions about biosecurity.

Following are biosecurity and management practices to guard against PRRS that Reicks has developed from several years of auditing.

Biosecurity Lapses

One of the biggest biosecurity lapses Reicks has turned up is poor control of people traffic. “It used to be very common on a lot of farms and boar studs to exit and reenter the buildings without showering back in,” he says. Now, anyone that steps outside of the facility for any reason must shower back in.

By far the most common reason for violating this biosecurity rule was to check on feed bins. “That is a big problem because we have to assume that the yard and premise are contaminated with PRRS,” he says.

Field observations support his contention that PRRS spreads like TGE (Transmissible gastroenteritis), rather than by aerosol. “PRRS appears to spread best in frozen, wet material and during months when there is less daylight and sunshine,” Reicks says.

Some producers thought they could get by without showering if they wore plastic boots. But they are a huge safety hazard when conditions are icy, so the practice is often eliminated altogether.

The answer is to assign someone to check feed bins first thing in the morning prior to entry and the last thing as they leave the facility at night, he says.

Handling Culls, Deads

The Pork Storks I boar stud near New Ulm, MN, uses a portable chute that connects to the livestock trailer for loading out cull boars, Reicks explains. The trailer itself is not allowed to touch the building and the persons inside must not cross the threshold of the load-out door.

A second door at load-out, called a doghouse, serves as a barrier to prevent cull boars from being able to turn back and reenter the boar stud. Any PRRS-negative farm should have a covered chute or some kind of area that prevents an animal from reentering a building, he stresses.

The trailer that hauls cull stock must be cleaned and disinfected in a certified truck wash and most importantly, dried, before it is allowed to enter the boar stud premise. Reicks suggests dedicating a trailer specifically to a single boar stud.

For staff safety, trailers used at Pork Storks, a PIC-affiliated boar stud, have been modified to pen and transport boars individually.

A precise procedure is followed for removal of dead animals at boar studs, Reicks says. Boars are taken to the exit door where someone on the outside touches only the animal, hooking it up and pulling it outside. A tractor owned by the stud takes dead boars to an off-site location for pickup. The tractor is cleaned and disinfected before returning to the stud.

Isolation Issue

Typically, boar stud I/A facilities are off-site, relates Reicks. Common practice is to transport the acclimated boars onto the stud site and place them directly into the main stud. This procedure poses a potential weak link. Boars could be contaminated in transit when they are moved from the trailer to the stud barn.

Reicks suggests adding an on-site isolation unit under the same roof as the stud, so those new boars don't have to go outside just prior to entering the main stud. If a separate isolation unit is built on-site, he recommends a covered, connecting hallway to the main stud.

Reicks declares: “We think the most important part of I/A is to have animals in a separate area where they can stay under the same roof before they go into the main stud. We see a lot of people having off-site isolation, but not having on-site isolation. The on-site isolation is a lot more important.”

Other People Traffic

Ordinary traffic to the site is severely restricted, explains Reicks. Visitors and producers are prohibited.

Deliveries are diverted to an employee's home or designated business before they are brought into the stud.

The semen delivery driver must wear clean clothes and plastic boots and have the delivery vehicle completely washed before driving onto the stud premises, he points out. The driver carries an identification card that is validated at an automatic drive-up checkpoint.

Garbage pickup is well away from the main building and done first thing Monday morning. The propane delivery driver uses a long hose so his truck doesn't enter the main premise. Feed bins are positioned inside the perimeter fence. The only outside vehicle allowed within the inner fence is the one that picks up dead animals, he says.

Employees can't live on a hog farm or live with someone who works on a hog farm. If they visit a hog farm, they must have three days downtime before returning to the boar stud.

Showers and bathrooms are locked. Any necessary guests, including Reicks, must sign the logbook to document their visit.

Exterior Stud Biosecurity

Pork Storks I, also managed by SVC, was designed to provide heightened biosecurity. Built in 1996, the stud holds 400 boars. The site is completely enclosed by an electrified, high-tensile wire fence. An inner chain-link fence topped by barbed wire surrounds all access points 12 ft. from the building. The facility and main gates are locked when employees have left for the night.

Interior Stud Biosecurity

Pork Storks I boar stud manager Wayne Nienhaus says the whole stud gets washed down every other week to clean crevices, corners and spilled feed that harbor bugs and mice. Boar collection areas, including collection dummies, are washed every day. Once a week the dummies are pulled out, washed and disinfected.

Reicks reviews the main stud area. Each stud should have its own tools needed for repairs to avoid a repairman bringing in contaminated tools.

Water is cultured regularly for bacteria, he says.

For manure disposal, studs are urged to own the equipment that goes directly into the pit. Haulers are urged not to pump out manure from a hog facility before pumping out pits at a boar stud.

Lab Audits

Reicks regularly audits boar stud labs for acceptable semen morphology and motility, equipment calibration, semen concentration, semen extending techniques and proper semen cooling before shipping.

Pork Storks I and II (Rushmore, MN) and Fairmont Artificial Breeders (FAB) boar stud at Fairmont, MN, are the only ISO-9000 certified boar studs in the U.S. This certification requires that a third-party auditor must review semen production and processing practices annually.

Contingency Plans

Those studs and Pipestone (MN) System's boar stud have a unique arrangement. If one closes due to a disease outbreak or other emergency, the other studs agree to provide backup until they resume operations. Pork Storks I filled the void for FAB when the stud was down three months after a PRRS outbreak last winter (see sidebar).

Testing Upgraded

Every boar at Pork Storks must test negative for pseudorabies, brucellosis, leptospirosis, swine influenza virus, parvovirus, erysipelas and PRRS prior to stud entry. Boars are retested monthly.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing of semen for PRRS has done a good job. But using the mail service takes 2-3 days to get results, meaning most producers will have used the semen before test results are known.

In a new venture dubbed the “Minnesota Standard,” southern Minnesota boar studs are pooling resources to speed up PCR testing, Reicks explains. Semen samples dropped off early at SVC or Fairmont Veterinary Clinic are being driven by courier to the Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in St. Paul. The lab has geared up to test the samples the same day to have results by the next morning.

Lab veterinarian Kurt Rossow says for samples that arrive by 1 p.m., the goal is to have the results faxed to the clinics by 7 a.m. the next day. The Minnesota lab is also expanding its diagnostic capabilities to process semen samples six days a week.

The expedited process means studs could hold semen one day and be assured that shipments are PRRS-free, explains Reicks. If the sample turns up positive, the shipment isn't sent.

Producers should take three steps to protect their herds from PRRS, according to SVC staff. Producers should hold semen on-farm one day until test results are back, check the health status and monitoring of their semen supplier and develop a contingency plan in case their supply of semen is interrupted.

Boar Stud Survey

The PRRS (porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome) Committee of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians has sent out two questionnaires for a boar stud case study. Responses will be used to help identify risk factors to drive changes in boar stud procedures and processes.

The responses will be analyzed and a report prepared by Robert Morrison, DVM, University of Minnesota. Committee chair Joe Connor, DVM, Carthage, IL, expects the results of the survey will be presented during the Leman Swine Conference, Sept. 14-17, St. Paul, MN.
Joe Vansickle

Boar Stud Bounces Back

Fairmont Artificial Breeders (FAB) is back at full strength selling semen after breaking with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) in January, reports manager Doug Faber.

The virus was discovered through routine, weekly polymerase chain reaction (PCR) semen testing, Faber says. The positive result was in a pooled semen sample of three boars. The boars in the stud near Fairmont, MN, showed no clinical signs of disease.

“That was what shocked us the most,” he says. “We thought with these boars being naïve, never being exposed to the virus, that when they were exposed, they would at least go off feed and we'd probably see some pretty sick animals.”

After the positive PRRS test, the stud was immediately shut down and their 75 producer clients notified. Further testing confirmed several boars were infected.

After boars were allowed to complete the shedding process, the seven-member FAB producer board took decisive action. A sample of every batch of semen shipped is now being tested every day to ensure that customers get clean semen, stresses Faber. This will be done indefinitely.

They also decided not to depopulate. FAB depopulated and repopulated a year ago. No one wanted to repeat the $500,000 process this soon, he says. With no clues as to where the PRRS virus came from, nor guarantees that it won't strike again, the risk of another break is too great, explains Faber.

Instead, all boars were vaccinated with an autogenous killed virus PRRS vaccine. All boars have tested negative for PRRS since that time, says Faber. Shipments to customers include a report from the university verifying health status of the semen.

Faber says biosecurity has been tight at FAB. But since the mysterious break, all protocols are being reviewed and tightened. A biosecurity audit is planned.

“We are scared of this disease. But we are not going to let it prevent us from leading the industry as a semen supplier,” he stresses.
Joe Vansickle

Preparations Can Offset Summer Heat Stress

Taking preventive steps now can go a long way to ensuring that sow and boar performance survives the steamy months ahead.

“I think the big issue is being ready for it, and managing your operation to reduce its effects,” says Todd See, North Carolina State University (NCSU) swine extension specialist.

Improved Production

The single best measure of financial loss caused by seasonal infertility is measured in the fewer pigs available for sale, says See.

North Carolina producers typically report a 5% reduction in farrowing rates caused by heat stress. “Our studies this past year show that when producers kept the animals cool and comfortable and reduced the heat stress, they saw improvements of 5 to 8% in farrowing rates and litter size compared to summertime breedings from the previous year,” he continues.

Adjusting improvements in performance for a 30% lower heat index this past year, compared to the previous year in North Carolina, See calculates that lessening the seasonal decrease in productivity has saved the state's pork producers a whopping $942,592.

The following list of tips to help producers deal with seasonal infertility was developed by See, NCSU swine specialist Billy Flowers and former NCSU reproductive specialist Kevin Rozeboom. More detailed information on the program can be accessed on their Web site, in the Pig Pen section under reproduction.


Minimum total confinement summer ventilation rates for sow and litter, gestating sow and breeding sow or boar are 500, 180 and 300 cfms/head, respectively. These rates may be doubled in the southern U.S. in summer.

Inspect ventilation systems carefully. Even new systems need occasional adjustments to operate as designed. Fresh air must enter the building at speeds of 600-1,000 ft./min. in order to circulate well and prevent cold air drafts from falling on animals. Fresh air inlets require seasonal adjustments.

Provide and maintain supplemental cooling systems to all totally enclosed sow and boar production units. Cool cells do a good job of cooling the air inside a facility, says See. But when the heat index (combination of temperature and humidity) nears the danger level (see Figure 1), a supplemental cooling system for the animal should be activated. See prefers a dripper or sprinkling system that cools the animal's skin by direct application and evaporation. Pigs are more sensitive to the heat index than humans because they do not sweat.

Evaporative cooling systems and circulatory fans should be considered for naturally ventilated gestation and breeding facilities.

Production Scheduling

Producers typically bring in extra gilts for breeding to combat production shortfalls caused by seasonal infertility, observes See. “But remember, if you bring in extra gilts and you don't allow extra space, you may end up crowding gilts and causing more heat stress.”

Heat stress can also lower sperm production and semen quality in boars. If that happens, they may have reduced fertility for six weeks. That's more serious than if a sow gets heat stressed and doesn't cycle, he points out.

Feed, Water Systems

Maintaining sow feed intake in summer is the most critical management step to reducing the impact of heat stress on seasonal infertility, according to the NCSU animal scientists.

Most producers who switch from feeding twice a day to three times a day experience a 10 to 15% boost in sow feed intake. Just remember, when you increase feeding frequency, decrease the amount fed each time.

The NCSU specialists say the reason this strategy works is due to the normal increase in body temperature that occurs after a sow eats a meal. The concept is — if a sow consumes smaller meals, her body temperature will not increase as much because there is less feed to digest.

Keep feed fresh. Some reports indicate liquid diets can boost sow feed intake as much as 15%. A drawback is that wet feed quickly becomes moldy. The same is true of adding large amounts of fat to the ration. If done, add small amounts of fat to the diet and check regularly for spoilage. Sows will not eat spoiled feed.

Drinkers need to be checked for adequate flow rates. An increase in temperature from 60° F to 85° F or more will cause pigs to drink 50% more water, notes See. Check troughs to ensure fresh water is being supplied.

Embryo Mortality

Most of this loss occurs in the first two to three weeks postbreeding. To avoid increased embryo mortality, the NCSU team advises:

  • Avoid breedings in late estrus;

  • Reduce stress by mixing females only at weaning. Never mix or move females during the first 35 days after breeding;

  • Refrain from moving females in gestation to different locations; and

  • Avoid changing feeding levels within the first 30 days after breeding. Provide a level plane of nutrition during and after breeding.