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Articles from 2003 In June

Financial Management

Those involved in accounting or financial management of pork operations are invited to attend the 2003 Financial Management Conference on July 21-23, Hilton Head Island, SC, sponsored by the National Pork Board.

Topics include the farm bill, packer contracts, general accounting update, commodity price outlook, animal welfare, analyzing production variances, insurance and credit availability.

Registration is $395, $435 after July 7. Rooms can be reserved at the Hilton Head Marriott at (843) 686-8400.

For more information contact Jami Elliott at the Pork Board at (515) 223-3525 or register by calling 800-456-7675 or logging onto

Mexico Drops Duty Order

The Mexican government has dropped its antidumping duty order on live hogs from the U.S.

National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) President Jon Caspers says the move was long past due and credited the pressure of U.S. government officials for the positive outcome.

But Caspers expressed concern about U.S. pork exports. “Getting the antidumping order on hogs terminated is a positive development, but our biggest concern is with pork,” he says.

“Mexico initiated an antidumping investigation of U.S. pork exports on Jan. 7. Our producers have suffered 18 straight months of losses, and we simply cannot withstand any restriction whatsoever on our pork exports to Mexico. We hope that Mexico will soon terminate the dumping investigation on pork.”

The hog antidumping inquiry began in October 1998. Mexico issued a final ruling on Oct. 20, 1999 that U.S. imports were being dumped at a rate of 15.3 cents per pound (or 48.33% ad valorem), threatening the Mexican hog industry.

That ruling has served as a de facto embargo on U.S. lightweight hog exports preferred by Mexican buyers.

As a hog-deficit country, Mexico could use some heavyweight hogs. Some have been shipped from the U.S. to Mexico. However, Mexico has employed a variety of unfair sanitary/veterinary restrictions to impede those exports, according to NPPC.

Harkin Asks for COOL Review

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take a common sense approach to the country-of-origin labeling (COOL) plan.

“The law does not require such impractical regulations as those proposed and supported by USDA,” says Harkin, ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee. The law allows for reasonable and workable recordkeeping rules.

“Congress never envisioned that USDA would distort the program so as to require such things as third-party verification of country-of-origin certification,” says the Iowa senator.

Harkin questions why USDA has refused so far to consider “other, more workable approaches, such as producer self-certification and relying upon the existing country-of-origin information for covered commodities already required by customs upon entry into the U.S.”

On-Farm Trials Useful or Useless?

Producers are justified in questioning whether a feed additive will perform up to the claims that are made about it. Often product claims are just accepted on faith.

Producers can attempt an on-farm trial to check out the effects of a product against their own genetics and nutrition programs, under their environment, management and herd health status.

Because of limited resources and poor design, many on-farm trials don't qualify as “good science,” however. Instead, time, effort and money are spent generating “junk science.”

For trials to yield valid results, certain criteria must be adhered to.

  • First, limit any factors that may affect the performance of the pigs being tested, other than the product you are testing. These factors would include the starting weight, sex differences, genetics, any facility affect such as stocking density, pen size, feeder design, water availability and environmental differences within the barn.

  • Commit to the integrity of the data and see the trial through from start to finish.

  • Have a “control” group fed an identical ration (less the product, if you are testing supplements).

  • Objectively measure differences in the pigs and the feed (if you want to measure feed efficiency), using an accurate set of scales to collect accurate weight differences.

  • Finally, provide some basis to conclude the results are reputable and valid in determining if there are truly statistical differences between the tested feed and a control feed.

Case Study

A producer wanted to know if a growth enhancer was delivering the promised return on investment. He has a 1,600-head finishing barn split in the middle (800 pigs per side) by a load-out room. The two halves of the barn are nearly identical. Both rooms have the same pen design, feeders and drinkers, and are served with identical but separate bulk feed bins.

Rooms are filled sequentially, a week apart, as pigs flow from his 2,000-sow farm. The ratio of barrows to gilts is about equal so accurate counts are not usually made. The producer weighs the pigs as a group only.

He does not have time or labor to weigh each pig or pen separately, or to weigh the feed that goes into each feeder separately.

The producer surmises that if he runs an antimicrobial growth promoter (AGP) in the west end of the barn and none (control) in the east end, he should know if his investment in the product is paying off.

In the trial, control pigs developed diarrhea about a month after placement. This has happened before, and an antimicrobial was added to the drinking water. He also injected several of the worst pigs with an antimicrobial.

About half way through the test, the pigs began coughing. After consulting with the herd veterinarian, it was decided to use a therapeutic level of a feed antimicrobial on both ends of the barn. The coughing subsided, and after a week of feed medication for the respiratory problem, the feed trial was resumed.

When the pigs finally reached market weight, the producer was careful to keep each side separate so that the kill sheets would reflect the weight and carcass data for each half of the building. He also allowed the feed bins to empty just as the last pig was marketed on both sides.

The pigs in the treatment group outperformed the pigs in the control group by 0.02 lb. average daily gain and on feed efficiency by 0.04 lb. of feed per pound of gain.

The producer concluded there was an advantage to the treatment. Was he right?


This producer's on-farm trial is an example of “junk science” because of its flawed design.

Statistics help us sort out real differences in results from “noise” or normal variation in the trial. How much normal variation there is between groups must be known before we can draw sound conclusions from the real differences created by the item tested.

This trial design lacked detail to be called good science. The producer needed to track enough groups of pigs to establish “normal” variation. In statistical terms, standard deviation and estimated effect of the item tested are needed for determining if the number of repetitions are adequate to ensure that the differences observed were statistically significant. Sometimes, up to 16 replications are needed to establish significance.

In short, do not let “junk science” cloud your decision making. Seek out sound advice about proper trial design, and then elicit input from someone who understands statistics before you waste resources on “junk science.”

Honor Bestowed on PIC

The University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) has awarded the Distinguished Research Partner Award to PIC USA, a Sygen company.

The award honors the world's largest swine genetic firm for over a decade of funding and support of swine research projects.

PIC worked with the university's diagnostic laboratory three years ago to establish a fellowship that funds graduate studies and a residence in swine diagnostic pathology.

Back to the Soil

Every day, a gigantic, rotating steel cylinder situated between two huge Colorado hog farms turns thousands of pounds of mortalities into compost.

It's an outside service Alliance Farms, Yuma, CO, has been using about six months. Operation's support manager Ron Swehla estimates an annual savings of $56,000.

Composting carcasses eliminates a 120-mile round trip to the rendering plant, the two-plus hours of labor for the driver, and, it spares the public the disturbing sight of seeing deads going down the highway, says Swehla.

Mortalities from Alliance Farms and Central Plains Farms, a Smithfield subsidiary, are hauled to a biosecure site owned by Ace Composting, which grinds them up with a mixture of crop residues and cattle manure and adds the material to the revolving drum.

The end product looks and smells like silage, notes Roc Rutledge, who manages Ace Composting, the family owned business with his father, Don, and brother, Brett. A modified, vertical feed grinder with a 100-hp motor handles everything from afterbirth to full-size sows.

Farrow-to-finish mortalities from Central Plains, and losses from Alliance Farms, a sow-to-feeder pig operation farrowing 20,000-plus head annually, are delivered between noon and 1 p.m. to Ace's automatic scales. Trucks from each farm have a separate entrance secured by electronic gate and separate scales. A computer printout gives Roc the pounds delivered and from that he builds a ration-like mixture for the grinder.

Ace charges the farms pennies per pound, just like a renderer, without the long-distance hauling expense. Mortalities average 16,000 lb. a day.

The composter is a 10 × 60 ft. open tube built on a downward slope. Every day about 30,000 lb. of material is added and 30,000 lb. is removed. The cylinder rotates a complete turn every 15 minutes and maintains an internal temperature of 130 to 145° F.

It takes about three days for the organic matter to work its way to the far end of the tube, explains Rutledge. When the cylinder revolves, material tumbles out through large, opened doors onto a conveyor, which dumps the compost into a concrete pit. Here, the remains “cook” another 15 days at 140 to 150° F. At the end of that stage, Rutledge spreads the composted material in windrows to dry before adding it to a large pile.

The entire process takes 63 days. The end product is 6 to 7% organic matter and the Rutledge's spread it on their sandy fields.

Swehla is more than pleased with the arrangement. Alliance Farms was considering building its own composting site as an alternative to rendering, a business he feels is becoming obsolete in Colorado. But the licensing requirements and cost of the carbon source were prohibitive.

Alliance gained prior experience with composting two years ago through a pilot project with the Governor's Office of Energy. Wood chips from forest restoration were blended with placentas and baby pig mortalities to make an environmentally safe fertilizer. The project was mentioned in the Sept. 15 issue of National Hog Farmer, which featured Alliance Farms' units #102 and #103 as 2002 Environmental Stewards award winners.

“Once it was finished, we knew composting was the way to go,” Swehla recalls. “Taking material back to the soil for crop production makes the whole circle work. The nutrients go right back to the land.”

Rutledge figures the $350,000 commercial composter will pay for itself in 10 years, but not without a few gray hairs. “Everything we have is test material and there have been mechanical failures. We've had problems with the grinder, conveyors and the composter. It's a new venture for us, too, and it's a learning process. We've never handled compost before in this volume.”

No Silver Bullets to Replace Antibiotics

There are no silver bullets in the arsenal of growth promotion and herd health products being tested as possible alternatives for antibiotics.

Rather, should antibiotic use be curbed or eliminated, it is more likely that pork producers will rely on a combination of technologies and physiologically active feed ingredients to maintain pig health and performance, says Jim Pettigrew, swine nutritionist at the University of Illinois.

“As we reduce our use of these powerful tools, we must consider potential changes in diets and management that may become needed, or become more important, when we use less antibiotics,” Pettigrew told swine veterinarians attending their annual conference earlier this year.

Pettigrew focused his comments on physiologically active feed ingredients that may replace antibiotics, or possibly be used with lower levels of antibiotics.

But, before proceeding, he stressed, “An appropriate response to reduced use of antibiotics is much broader than feed ingredients, and includes such things as production systems (pig flow, all-in, all-out management), biosecurity, sanitation, vaccination and disease eradication.” He suggested that restricting antibiotic use may make disease eradication or an emphasis on genetic disease resistance more attractive alternatives.

Pettigrew says we must be clear about why we use antibiotics, which he compartmentalizes into three distinct areas — growth promotion, prophylaxis (to preserve health and prevent spread of disease), and therapeusis (treatment of disease).

“It appears to me that in practice the distinction between growth promotion and prophylaxis is often unclear. Eliminating growth promotants is a much lesser challenge than eliminating antibiotics altogether,” he continues. “I believe it is in the best interest of the livestock industry to clarify that distinction. There is data that suggests that we solve most of the resistance problems if we eliminate antibiotics as growth promotants in finishing.”

The Illinois nutritionist remains a strong advocate of the prophylactic use of antibiotics in pork production. “One of the ways we will protect prophylactic use is to use them responsibly,” he says. “I think it will be easy to convince people that we should treat sick animals with antibiotics. We may need to document a specific disease threat on each farm to justify our choice of antibiotic regimen. But in my view, I think it will be very, very difficult to convince people we should use antibiotics to make pigs grow faster.”

Alternatives to Antibiotics

Pettigrew says the term “alternatives” to antibiotics may be misinterpreted. “It may suggest low-inclusion, non-antibiotic feed ingredients that do what antibiotics do. I doubt that such ‘silver bullets’ exist,” he states. “However, I am optimistic that certain physiologically active feed ingredients may be useful in modifying the gut environment in such a way that they improve growth performance and/or resistance to enteric diseases. We are in the early stages of a major (research) thrust on alternatives to antibiotics.”

The focus of the research is aimed at improving animal performance and, perhaps, their overall health. “We may do that, to some extent, by altering the microbial populations in the digestive tract,” Pettigrew says, adding: “We now believe that part of the effects of antibiotics, part of the growth promotion and disease prevention, has to do with microbial populations in the digestive tract.”

There are many related questions that could shed light on the mode of action of antibiotics and their alternatives. “They are likely to be more useful in the nursery phase than in the finishing phase because of the greater challenge of keeping young pigs healthy,” he says.

Given those contingencies, Pettigrew offers a preview of physiologically active feed ingredients and their potential:

  • Milk products: “When we first started moving away from simple corn-soy diets, adding complexity to pig starter diets, the first thing we added was dried whey and we continue to use large quantities of it,” he notes.

    Whey provides lactose and proteins. Lactose is a dietary energy source that is easily utilized by young pigs, but Pettigrew points out that it also appears to be a pre-biotic — a dietary ingredient that stimulates the growth of certain bacteria in the digestive tract. “It appears to stimulate the growth of Lactobacilli and other bacteria that are sometimes considered beneficial in the gut,” he explains. “And, we normally use whey proteins, which of course contain immunoglobulins (antibodies). I think lactose may be unusually important in starter diets.”

  • Spray-dried plasma: Sometimes described as “the magic ingredient,” spray-dried plasma is widely used in diets immediately after weaning. “The specific modes of action of plasma are not known, although some evidence suggests that it affects the immune system,” Pettigrew says. “A meta-analysis (many experiments thrown together), showed that the inclusion of spray-dried animal plasma increased the growth rate by an astounding 27%, on average. Few technologies in animal production are so powerful.”

    He offers this caveat, however: “We only use it for a short time; we can't continue to get that benefit forever, so that's one of the things that limit the ability to substitute for antibiotics.”

  • Zinc oxide and copper sulfate: Widely used in early nursery diets for controlling diarrhea and for growth promotion, these products could be restricted or eliminated because of environmental concerns.

  • Diet acidifiers: Some studies have shown that acids are less beneficial in diets with milk products (lactose). “There has emerged a concept that lactose is converted to lactic acid in the stomach, and therefore mimics the effects of acids,” he explains. Although not well understood, Pettigrew and others are investigating the concept. “I do think that the acids are very promising,” he adds.

  • Egg immunoglobulins: Hens can be immunized against specific swine pathogens and the immunoglobulins (antibodies) from their eggs serve as a feed additive that provides passive immunity to specific diseases. “We have some evidence that these products improve animal performance,” Pettigrew observes. “Although the evidence at this point is somewhat limited, I think it's an exciting idea.” (See related story on page 18).

  • Mannan oligosaccharide (MOS): “This product derived from yeast cell walls produces a small but clear increase in growth rate in weaned pigs,” explains Pettigrew, citing his study which recorded a 4.5% growth rate advantage. Although the mode of action is unclear, some speculate that MOS prevents a pathogen from binding to the gut wall and/or affects the immune system in some way.

  • Probiotics (direct-fed microbials): These products are fed in an attempt to multiply specific bacteria in the gut. Although the products have been available for decades, response to their use tends to be sporadic. “Maybe we need to learn how to manage them a little better,” he adds.

  • Fructo-oligosaccharide: Inulin, a long chain of fructose molecules, can be broken down to smaller oligosaccharides, the preferred substrates for certain intestinal bacteria often considered to be desirable. This pre-biotic is considered to be beneficial to gut microbial populations and may improve performance.

  • Herbs, spices, botanicals and essential oils: The various functions attributed to these products in animal diets include enhancing palatability and therefore feed intake, altering microbial populations in the digestive tract, and serving as antioxidants in the tissues. Although the amount of research surrounding these products is expanding, their benefits have yet to be substantiated.

product news

Pregnancy Scanner

The MS Easy Scan from Schippers is the first veterinarian scanner especially developed for intensive use. The casing is made of very durable, shockproof aluminum, and is water resistant and therefore easy to clean. The built-in LCD display (6-in. diameter) and the 5.0 MHZ probe offer an excellent image quality so that a reliable pregnancy diagnosis can be established at a very early stage. The scanner is lightweight and very compact.
(Circle Reply Card No. 101)

PRRS Vaccine

Ingelvac PRRS ATP is a new vaccine manufactured by Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica for 3- to 18-week-old pigs to aid in the reduction of disease associated with the atypical, respiratory form of the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) virus. A 120-day duration of immunity extends protection throughout the finishing period. The modified-live virus vaccine has demonstrated protection against the PRRS virus in animals challenged with newer, more highly virulent strains. A single, 2 ml. dose is approved for administration intramuscularly into healthy, susceptible swine in PRRS virus-positive herds only. It is not to be used in adult breeding animals or in pregnant sows.
(Circle Reply Card No. 102)

Fogging Pad

The enhanced fogger pad from Glacier-Cor is designed to provide a cooler, drier, cleaner environment for livestock. The pad has three vertical stiffeners per 12 in. of width to help resist bowing. Wider glue lines increase the pad's strength and durability and improve the lifetime of the pad. Each pad is 12 in. wide for easy handling and installation.
(Circle Reply Card No. 103)

Boar Line

Seghers Newsham Genetics is offering a new line of lean, terminal sires selected for superior growth performance, feed efficiency and carcass lean. The SuperSire line features three terminal boars — the SuperSire UL (ultra lean), SuperSire XL (extremely lean) and SuperSire XM (exceptional meat). The company says that all three have excellent meat quality characteristics and are free of the stress gene and Napole gene. The line is also PRRS naïve and Mycoplasmal pneumonia naïve.
(Circle Reply Card No. 104)

Fly Bait

QuickBayt is the new fly bait for housefly control from Bayer Corporation. The ready-to-use, dry scatter bait is said to work within 60 seconds or less. QuickBayt is the first fly control product to have imidacloprid, an ingredient that controls hard-to-kill flies resistant to organophosphates and carbamates. It also contains a unique combination of two fly attractants. Ingredients in QuickBayt are readily available to flies because the red, sugar-based granule has a porous surface that allows them to be released over time.
(Circle Reply Card No. 105)

Handheld Data System

PigChamp, Inc. has introduced an innovative, handheld, production data collection system. The trademarked, handheld IDS is a combination of a very rugged PSION Workabout computer and a powerful PigChamp software program. Workers can now record data in the barns and immediately download the information into their data systems. The handheld IDS validates the entries and reduces errors, plus saves time by eliminating the second manual data entry into the computer, resulting in quicker turnaround time of vital production management information, says the company.
(Circle Reply Card No. 106)

Phytase Feed Enzyme

Danisco Animal Nutrition has launched a new phytase feed enzyme, Phyzyme XP, following approval by FDA. The enzyme, a novel, microbial phytase produced in yeast, is available as both a liquid (Phyzyme XP 5000L) and dry granulate (Phyzyme XP 5000G). The liquid product is recommended for use in all pelleted feeds, applied post-pelleting.
(Circle Reply Card No. 107)

Welding Respirator

Welders can enjoy a positive atmosphere of filtered air within their welding helmets with the new Speedglas with Adflo, powered air-purifying respirator. The system is always used with a high-efficiency particle filter that can be stacked onto an optional Adflo cartridge filter for additional protection against organic, sulfur dioxide, chlorine and hydrogen chloride fume vapors. The user can selectively replace the high efficiency particle filter or the Adflo cartridge, as needed. An all-in-one design eliminates external batteries and battery cables. “Smart” electronics provide a nominal, minimum airflow of 6+ cfm at all times, regardless of battery charge or particle loading of the filter. Audible and LED alarms signal low airflow and low battery charge.
(Circle Reply Card No. 108)

Air Quality Rules Void

Strict new air quality standards proposed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) were nullified in early May by the Iowa Legislature.

The rare move followed an outcry from agriculture, business, city and industry interests. The legislators struck down a proposal to impose standards of 150 parts per billion (ppb) and 15 ppb of hydrogen sulfide at any off-site location.

Tim Bierman, chair of the Iowa Pork Producers Association's Public Policy Committee, says the DNR plan was not supported by sufficient scientific evidence. The plan was purportedly based on a joint report by Iowa State University and the University of Iowa.

That report recommended ammonia levels of 500 ppb at the property line and 150 ppb at a residence or public use area. Furthermore, the guideline for hydrogen sulfide was 70 ppb at the property line and 15 ppb at a residence or public use area.

Instead of following those recommendations, DNR used the lowest available numbers and applied them at the closest possible distance from the manure handling operations on the farm, says Bierman. That same approach would be used to test by municipal lagoons and waste treatment systems.

The rule also “puts the cart before the horse,” stresses Bierman. Senate File 2293 intended that the air quality rule be adopted only after a field study to determine if air pollutants from animal feeding operations are “present at a separated location at levels commonly known to cause a material and verifiable adverse health effect.”

Iowa law dictates that state outdoor air quality standards cannot be enforced until Dec. 1, 2004, and after the field study is completed, he says.

Analyzing Sow Attrition

A mortality study involving 30,000 sows from four related systems had a familiar ring — retention rates of parity one and parity two females were too low.

The unacceptable rate of attrition due to involuntary culling was alarming to Jose Piva, technical service director for PIC. Piva's first step in resolving the longevity problem was to identify things the four farms had in common:

  • Pressure to meet a breeding targets;

  • A limited supply of gilts for replacements due to limited multiplication base;

  • Genetic make-up of the sows and health status regarding porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) and Mycoplasmal pneumonia;

  • Parity distribution (2.9 average);

  • Feed ingredients and management, which included intensive restrictions 4-5 days prior to and 3-4 days after farrowing;

  • Type of crate, feeder, water supply and flooring at farrowing, and

  • Most sows died around farrowing.

Table 1. Reasons for Sow Attrition
Parity 0 Parity 1
Physical/legs/confirmation Ileitis/ulcers Physical/legs Ulcers
Parity 2-6 Parity 7 and up
Physical/legs Vaginal discharge Heart failure/heat stress Physical

Table 2. Target Sow Retention Rate vs. Reality
Parity Target, % Reality, %
P1 100 100
P1-P2 84 72
P2-P3 75 63
P3-P4 66 51
P4-P5 56 42
P5-P6 47 33
P6-P7 35 24

Table 3. Target Gilt Retention Rate vs. Reality
%, (Target/Reality) Target Reality
Born Alive 12.0 pigs 12.0 pigs
Wean 88/88 10.6 10.6
Removal/cull 84/87 10.1 10.4
Nursery/grower 80/81 9.6 9.7
Selection 56/77 6.7a 9.2b
Actually farrow 50/65 6.0 (11% Fallout) 7.8 (15% Fallout)
a(70% Selection rate) b(95% Selection rate)

Pre-treatment Observations

Before deciding on a plan, Piva listed some of the pre-treatment observations collected during the study:

  • Euthanized sows made up over 40% of total deaths;

  • Mortality was higher in summer;

  • Over 60% of the deaths occurred from farrowing to the next potential service;

  • Sows after six parities had a much higher mortality/euthanasia rate than younger sows;

  • Warm water, nipples with high pressure and poor water flow, poor quality flooring, pelleted feed and low particle size seemed to have a negative impact on longevity;

  • Sows with poor legs and low backfat reserve (less than ½ in.) were more likely to die;

  • Building usage pressure, continuous movement of sows and mixing without controlling size of groups predisposed sows to die;

  • High sow mortality had a negative effect on employee morale, and

  • The estimated financial impact of each percentage point of sow mortality was 28¢/slaughter pig.

“Structural soundness was a major cause of culling,” according to Piva, but other reasons for fallout included a lack of daily husbandry. Primary reasons for culling by parity are listed in Table 1.

Addressing the Problems

Once problem areas were identified, Piva implemented the following action plan:

  • Increase gilt replacement pool to remove older parity sows and sows with obvious physical problems or low performance;

  • Improve selection criteria;

  • Implement a favorable gilt developer program that considers age, backfat, number of cycles and weight prior to breeding. Provide more space for gilts;

  • Do not breed sows with more than seven parities;

  • Become more generous with the amount of feed offered to each sow prior to and after farrowing, with the aim to reduce constipation and ulcers. Increase feed particle size to 700-800 microns;

  • Be more proactive in identifying and treating sows correctly. Provide early individual care and immunization;

  • Pay attention to sow comfort, especially farrowing room temperature. Temperature affects cull rate — at 74-76° F., sows won't eat, constipation and ulcers become a problem.

  • Review the current maternal boar inventory for better feet and leg standards. Genetic makeup is a huge variable.

Within a year of applying the changes, mortality levels were reduced, Piva reports. Although they have not reached their target of less than 8% in all of their sow farms, the mortality trend is favorable. Some farms noticed a decrease in mortality levels as early as four to five months after making changes, he says.