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Articles from 2005 In June

Respiratory Disease Challenges

Respiratory diseases represent a major challenge due to pig flow, sourcing, transport, numbers of pigs per site, sow herd age and care, and the emergence of PRRS porcine circovirus, and new subtypes of influenza.

Although a standard program for respiratory disease control is not practical or cost-effective, a well-designed program for individual farms is a reasonable goal.

Diagnostic and monitoring tools must change as technology and information advance.

At a recent farm visit, a producer asked why veterinarians do fewer slaughter checks. There are multiple reasons, including less cases of atrophic rhinitis, lack of sensitivity for early Mycoplasmal pneumonia infections, line speeds at packing plants and the development of new serology and diagnostic tools. Serology has replaced them as a more routine tool.

With growing segmentation of production systems, one challenge is coordinating sow herd respiratory programs with the downstream pig flow, especially with a change of ownership. Diagnostics of sow herds is complicated by vaccination and the tendency for bacterial and viral organisms to be subclinical in older animals.

Therefore, nursery problems may occur that require a sow program to help in deterring the problem, as depicted in this first case report.

Case Study No. 1

A 2,400-sow herd sells 1,000 weaners/week to the owner of a nursery in central Indiana. Monitoring serology in October '02, April '03 and January '04 showed no evidence of significant hemagglutination inhibition flu titers for either H1N1 or H3N2. Flu serology will not detect all subtypes.

In August '04, coughing pigs were checked and H1N2 flu was isolated. The sow herd was being vaccinated for flu, but there is no commercial vaccine specifically for H1N2. Some vaccines have shown efficacy against some H1N2 subtypes, however. Clinical signs dissipated and no further changes were made.

In January '05, two pigs on monitoring serology showed low titers to H3N2, not unusual for a vaccinated sow herd. This spring, a low-grade cough became persistent at two weeks postweaning. An occasional pig was observed thumping, but mortality didn't significantly increase. Nasal swabs were collected and flu virus was isolated. Polymerase chain reaction testing identified H3N2 flu. Extra water and injectable antibiotics were used to prevent bacterial problems.

Because problems persisted, the sow herd veterinarian ordered mass-vaccination with a different flu vaccine. Plans were to continue with this vaccine pre-farrowing, emphasizing the vaccine was being administered properly.

As the nursery veterinarian, the quick response by the sow herd was appreciated.

Four lessons learned:

  • In segmented production, develop good communication between purchaser and supplier.

  • Flu in nurseries, especially from vaccinated sow herds, may be very subtle, lacking acute signs typically seen in naïve pigs.

  • Monitoring programs may help predict when flu becomes more active and/or help design finisher respiratory programs.

  • Virus subtyping helps the nursery and sow herd. Sequencing may show relationship of viruses in the herd(s) if conventional vaccine programs are ineffective.

Case Study No. 2

This case involves control of mycoplasma in a 5,000-sow, farrow-to-finish system in four sow herds. Pigs are commingled, weaned to off-site nurseries and later moved to contract finishers.

Because mycoplasma was diagnosed in finishers several years ago, a one-dose mycoplasma vaccination has been used. Initially this helped, but eventually more clinical signs appeared.

Vaccine timing was changed, but coughing in finishers persisted in a high percentage of contract barns at 2-4 weeks post-arrival. A dry, non-productive cough was observed.

Mycoplasma was suspected and pigs were bled at 6, 10, 14, 18 and 22 weeks of age. The 6- and 10-week-old pigs were negative for mycoplasma. Five of 20 pigs were positive at 14 weeks of age and nine of 20 pigs at 18 weeks of age. By 22 weeks, 17 of 20 pigs tested positive for mycoplasma. All samples were negative for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, two different H1N1 flu subtypes and H3N2 flu.

When testing pigs vaccinated with a one-dose product, don't expect all pigs to seroconvert to positive status. If there is field exposure to mycoplasma, seroconversion will occur. This was the diagnosis in this case.

Mycoplasma vaccination was changed to a two-dose regimen at 6 and 8 weeks of age. Some groups were even boostered as they were moved to the finisher.

NPPC Develops Animal ID Map

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has developed an interactive Premises Registration Map so that producers can access their state's Animal Identification and Premises Registration Web site.

“U.S. pork producers can utilize this map to access their state's official system to register their livestock premises,” explains Harry Snelson, DVM, NPPC's director of science and technology.

It's all part of the process of voluntary registration of premises for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) being formulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Snelson says: “Premises registration is still voluntary, but NPPC encourages all producers to take action now, as this is the first step toward implementing the tracking system necessary for insuring the health and safety of U.S. livestock.”

Premises registration is available in 45 states, according to USDA. Over 70,000 premises have been registered through the system coordinated by each state veterinarian.

Producers can link to the Interactive Premises Registration map at

Confinement Workers Polled On Respiratory Health

Agricultural workers are at increased risk for occupational illnesses and injuries, and the pork industry is no exception.

Swine confinement buildings, in particular, expose workers to hazardous gases released as manure decomposes in the storage pits and from dust created primarily from feeding practices. This environment places workers at risk for respiratory exposures and illness.

Despite the protective effects of personal respiratory protection (PRP), many swine confinement workers do not use the devices. The reasons for workers' failure to use protective gear are not well documented, however.

To help fill this void, a study was conducted to identify the variables that influence the frequency of PRP use. The study also examined the relationships of selected demographics and self-reported occupational and respiratory health histories of swine confinement workers to their use of PRP at the worksite. Funding was provided by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

World Pork Expo Polls

Data was collected in the trade show area at the 2003 World Pork Expo in Des Moines, IA. To be included in the study, participants had to be 18 years of age or older, work in a swine confinement facility for at least two hours a day and be able to read and write English. Participation was voluntary.

The sample was composed of 503 swine confinement barn workers from 27 states and three Canadian provinces. Two hundred (40.6%) of the subjects were from Iowa and 52 (10.5%) were from South Dakota, so more than half of the samples were within driving distance of the event.

While the study was conducted during the World Pork Expo, it is important to recognize its limitations:

  • Only workers attending the event and voluntarily participating were polled.

  • All data was self-reported, thereby limited to each participant's interpretation.

  • A new tool was developed for data collection. A questionnaire was used to elicit demographics and occupational and respiratory histories, and frequency of PRP use among swine confinement workers.

In addition, a PRP survey contained a rating scale developed to measure the constructs theorized to influence the frequency of respiratory protection use. Workers were also asked to indicate to what degree specific statements or phrases represented their beliefs about using PRPs when working in swine confinement buildings.

What We Learned

As one would expect, the data revealed that participants varied in age, educational level, stage of production and hours worked per week in swine confinement barns.

The majority of those completing the survey were married, white males and the principle owner or a family member of the principle owner or operator of the swine farm.

Also, the majority of the workers were employed on farms producing over 5,000 pigs annually and staffed with 1-5 additional employees (excluding family members), and reported to have worked over 14 years in swine confinement facilities. These employees reported working over 3 hours/day, more than 20 hours/week and over 6 days/week in swine confinement barns.

Few of the workers reported having received information about the need for PRP or instructions in selecting the appropriate type of protection.

Information received by the workers originated from multiple sources. Over one-fourth reported they had experienced a breathing problem they related to farming, had experienced flu-like symptoms associated with working in swine confinement buildings, and knew someone who became ill from not wearing PRP while working in that setting.

Descriptive analyses found that 36.3% of the workers never used, and 21.2% seldom used, personal respiratory protection at the worksite during the preceding year.

A statistical formula was developed to explain the frequency of PRP use. Of the variation in PRP use, 38.9% was explained by the study's variables; 12% of the variance was explained by the combination of the demographic, occupational, and respiratory history variables. An additional 27% of the variation was explained by six of the theoretical constructs — knowledge deficit barriers, external barriers, norms, severity, benefits and personal barriers.

More Awareness Needed

Results of this study can serve as the basis for intervention research studies and also guide the development and dissemination of educational programs designed to promote health improvements for workers in swine confinement facilities.

The study suggests that interventions to increase PRP use should be guided by the variables of benefits, norms, severity and barriers (personal, knowledge deficit, external).

For example, because “benefits” were found to be the strongest predictor of workers' use of PRP, educational programs should focus on the positive respiratory health outcomes of wearing the protection and focus on how PRP protects the lungs.

Because “norms” were found to be a moderately strong predictor of the workers' use of PRP, programs should be designed to use social pressure in an attempt to change the workers' behaviors and incorporate the assistance of the worker's spouse, co-workers or farm owner/operator to help influence PRP use among the workers.

Since “severity” was found to be a significant predictor of PRP use, strategies should be implemented to emphasize the association of using the devices to decrease the physical, financial and emotional impact of a respiratory disorder resulting from working in a confinement unit.

Likewise, interventions to increase use of PRP will increase their likelihood of success if the interventions utilize information gained from this study about “barriers” to PRP use.

Interventions should include educating the workers about how to select, use and care for the PRP devices (removing knowledge deficit barriers), making it easier to purchase PRP and locate the devices at the worksite (eliminating external barriers), and working with manufacturers in an effort to redesign the devices so they will be more comfortable to wear at the worksite (addressing personal barriers).

Call for Comments on ID Plan

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has released a thinking paper and a timeline on the proposed National Animal Identification System (NAIS) and has requested comments.

Both documents are available on USDA's NAIS Web site at and will be published in the Federal Register.

The document proposes that stakeholders identify premises and animals according to NAIS standards by January 2008. Requiring full recording of defined animal movements is proposed by January 2009.

Deadline for comments is July 6. Go to and click on “View Open APHIS Documents.” Or, send an original set of comments along with three copies to Docket No. 05-015-1, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3C71, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.

Disinfectants Effective Against PRRS Virus

Disinfecting livestock transport vehicles is a primary step in stopping porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) virus transmission.

Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome is commonly regarded as the most serious threat to the global swine industry. In the United States alone, losses are estimated between $560 and $760 million/year.

The PRRS virus affects pigs of all ages and causes respiratory disease, infertility, early embryonic death, late-term abortion and a high incidence of stillborn and weak newborn pigs.

Effective control of PRRS starts by limiting transmission of the virus between hog units. Livestock transport vehicles have been proven to be major vectors in the transmission of the virus, making decontamination of vehicles, especially in large establishments, vital to PRRS control.

Recent Disinfectant Tests

Under the direction of PRRS researcher Scott Dee, DVM, the Swine Disease Eradication Center at the University of Minnesota, three DuPont Animal Health Solutions' disinfectants — Virkon S, BioSentry 904 and BioPhene — were tested for effectiveness against PRRS virus in commercial livestock trailers.

The transport vehicles were represented by four, 1:150 scale models of weaned pig trailers which were initially contaminated with PRRS virus MN 30-100.

In the trials, one of the trailers was washed only (without disinfectant) to provide a positive control. Three other trailers were washed, then disinfected with one of the three DuPont disinfectants. All three products were applied with a hydrofoamer and the temperature of the water used was approximately 39° F (4°C) to reflect realistic farming conditions.

Stringent polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, commonly used to measure the PRRS virus at low levels, were then carried out on the four model trailers. Swabs were used to collect samples from the trailers at 0, 30, 60, 90 and 120 minutes post-treatment to confirm the presence or absence of PRRS virus.

Additionally, pigs were challenged with supernatants (clear liquid overlying material deposited by settling) from swabs collected 60 minutes after treatment. The swabs were then tested serologically for presence of PRRS virus to provide a swine bioassay.

In a separate trial, naïve sentinel pigs were housed in the scale model contaminated trailers for two hours, starting 90 minutes after treatment, and monitored serologically to assess levels of infection.

The results in Table 1 show the high level of efficacy of the DuPont disinfectants tested against the PRRS virus.

Importantly, after 90 minutes both Virkon S and BioSentry 904 provided 100% effectiveness in every test in preventing the spread of PRRS virus in livestock transport.

Testing Other Products

In earlier trials at the University of Minnesota, Dee tested the efficacy of Synergize, a disinfectant from Preserve International, also used for control of the PRRS virus in livestock trailers.

Scale-model trailers bedded with wood shavings were “contaminated” with live PRRS virus and treated with a variety of sanitation methods. Treatments included wash only (cold water), formaldehyde fumigation, Synergize disinfectant and the effectiveness of an eight-hour drying time.

Ninety minutes post-treatment, trailer interiors were monitored by PCR for PRRS virus using swabs for virus collection. Sentinel pigs placed in treated trailers were checked for infection. PRRS-naïve pigs exposed to residual wood shavings collected from trailer interiors were also tested for infection (swine bioassay). Table 2 details the results showing that when Synergize was used to disinfect trailers, zero level of infection was recorded.

When Synergize was fogged for 10 minutes into PRRS virus-infected trailers, only one swab of 11 tested positive for PRRS at 30 minutes post-treatment, and zero swabs at 60 minutes post-treatment.

When Synergize was foamed into a PRRS-infected trailer, only two of 14 swabs detected PRRS virus at 30 minutes post-treatment and zero of 14 swabs recorded PRRS virus at 60 minutes post-treatment.

In a cold weather disinfectant trial conducted by Dee, only two of 12 swabs from PRRS-contaminated trailers treated with Synergize tested positive for the presence of the virus at 39 F at 30 minutes post-treatment. At 60 minutes post-treatment, zero of 12 samples had PRRS virus.

In an extreme cold weather test (-4° F), none of the swabs collected from PRRS-treated trailers disinfected with Synergize were positive for PRRS.


To meet the transport needs of hog production systems, disinfectants for elimination of the PRRS virus in livestock trailers must prove efficacious in two hours or less, according to Dee.

During the tests of the disinfectants reviewed, Dee stresses there were differences between the tests, some of the methods used, and products were tested independently of each other.

“The major difference in the two sets of trials was that in the DuPont trial, we used a low-pressure foamer, and in the Synergize trials, results were mostly based on fogging,” he explains. “We've learned that fogging is not the best means of applying a disinfectant because it doesn't get to where you think it needs to go.”

There is a subset of disinfectants that through the use of low-pressure foaming are equally effective at eliminating the PRRS virus in livestock transport, notes Dee. “Those disinfectants are Virkon S, BioSentry 904 and Synergize,” he says.

Dee lists four items of importance when disinfecting livestock transport vehicles:

  • Pick the right product that has been scientifically tested and shown to be effective;

  • Consider the method of application;

  • Review product concentration; and

  • Analyze contact time needed for effective application.

Consult with your swine veterinarian to ensure proper dilution rate, application method and contact time, he adds.

Product irritation and cost are other individual issues to be decided.

Sums up Dee: “One product is not going to do everything, so each person has got to make their own decision on what is best for them.”

Table 1. Disinfectants Tested Against PRRS Virus
Virkon® S BioSentry 904 BioPhene Positive Control
PCR Testing of Swabs Positive Positive Positive Positive
0 minutes 20/20 20/20 20/20 20/20
30 minutes 20/20 20/20 20/20 20/20
60 minutes 8/20 12/20 11/20 20/20
90 minutes 0/20 0/20 0/20 20/20
120 minutes 0/20 0/20 2/20 Suspect 18/20
Swine bioassay 0/4 0/4 1/4 4/4
Trailer Infection 0/4 0/4 0/4 3/4
Table 2. Results in Trailers Sampled 90 Minutes Post-Treatment
Treatment PCR-Positive Swabs Sentinel Pigs Infected Swine Bioassay*
Wash only 20/20 2/4 2/4
Formaldehyde fumigation 20/20 2/4 2/2
Synergize 0/19 0/4 0/2
Eight-hour drying 0/20 0/4 0/2
*Sampling reflects positive PRRS virus swabs collected for each method of cleanup or exposure of pigs to the trailer environment.

Young Pig Test Shows Safety of GMO Corn

Southern Illinois University (SIU) research supports growing sentiment that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are safe for human consumption and for the environment.

Federal data indicates 34% of the country's corn crop consisted of GMOs in 2002.

In weaned pigs fed corn containing GMO DNA, nearly no “transgenic” particles were detected in any organs.

In the trial, eight pens of eight weaned pigs were fed a commercial, pre-starter pellet diet for 13 days. One pig/pen served as control.

The 56 pigs remaining were switched to a corn-soy diet for seven days, then eight to nine days of a 57.97% GMO corn diet (Table 1). SIU developed the corn variety.

For those pigs sacrificed, transgenic DNA from the GMO corn was detected in 71.43% of the stomachs and 1.79% of the small intestines. But GMO particles were not detected in the large intestine, plasma, liver or muscle samples. Transgenic DNA wasn't found in control pigs.

Stomach and ileal (area around the small intestine) contents were also analyzed using real-time polymerase chain reaction without further evidence of a “foreign” gene in digestive or bodily contents of the pigs.

SIU scientists say the data suggests the GMO corn began degradation in the stomach and was degraded beyond detection by the large intestine.

This study reinforces earlier work in which 90-lb. grower pigs were fed GMO corn and no remnants of GMOs were detected.

The SIU study is part of an overall look at GMOs as a component of swine diets to look at every aspect of a single animal from meat to digestive areas and at different ages.

Researchers: J.M. Beagle, G.A. Apgar, K.L. Jones, D. Lightfoot and M. Iqbal, Southern Illinois University; K.E. Griswold, Pennsylvania State University; J.S. Radcliffe, Purdue University; and X. Qiu, University of Florid. Contact Apgar by phone (618) 453-1765; or e-mail

Table 1. Composition of Diets, Percentages, As-fed Basisa
Ingredients, % Conventional Transition Diet GMO-Positive Treatment Diet
GMO-Negative corn 60.737 -
GMO-Positive corn - 57.970
Soybean meal 29.638 38.860
Fat 0.491 -
phosphate 0.953 1.520
carbonate 0.783 -
Limestone - 0.840
Lysine 0.127 -
Methionine 0.050 0.050
Fishmeal 1.750 -
Whey 5.000 -
Vitamin mix 0.250 0.060
mineral mix 0.222 0.500
Chromic oxide
premix - 0.200
aDiets were formulated to meet or exceed NRC requirements for weanling pigs with the exception of vitamins in the gdhA+ diet, as explained in materials and methods (NRC, 1998).

Industry Survey Tracks Employment Trends

National Hog Farmer teamed up with the National Pork Board, economists at Iowa State University and the University of Minnesota, and Pfizer Animal Health to update employment information in the production segment of the pork industry.

This fourth survey in a 15-year span, funded by Pork Checkoff, USDA's Economic Research Service, Iowa State University and Pfizer Animal Health, captures unprecedented employment data on U.S. pork producers and the employees working in their production systems.

The goal of the 2005 survey, conducted in late 2004, was to supplement our growing knowledge about the workforce in the U.S. pork production industry. The new results are compared to the benchmark surveys conducted in 1990, 1995 and 2000.

The 2005 results provide an opportunity to identify significant trends and help employers and employees understand their competitive standing in the U.S. pork industry's jobs corps. Although employer and employee responses in previous surveys generally coincided, the new survey again found a few discrepancies.

Key information gleaned from the survey responses includes average salaries (reported by region and job title), employee benefits, levels of education and experience, employee management and job satisfaction trends. Additionally, the survey tracks ages, types of operations and production levels of owners/employers, as well as the operations employees represent.

Survey Recipients

Using the three previous benchmark surveys as a basis, separate, four-page questionnaires were developed and sent to pork producers and employees across the United States. Select questions in both surveys overlapped so that responses could be compared in key areas.

The National Hog Farmer qualified mailing list provided a select sample of producers/owners. A random sample of producers with an annual production of 3,000 head or more, or verified with 100 sows or more, were surveyed. This sample was used because researchers felt this group was most likely to have one or more employees. All employees on the National Hog Farmer list were sent the survey.

Responses were tabulated to identify averages and differences, nationally and by regions. The states within each region are footnoted in Table 1. Not everyone answered every question, so the number of respondents may vary slightly with each question.

As Table 1 shows, survey response by producers and employees was again highest in the Midwest in 2005. Response levels from each region were comparable to past surveys.

The percentage of employee respondents was greater in the Midwest and Northeast regions in 2005 compared to 2000, and down slightly in the Southwest and West regions.

Comparatively, the number of producer respondents held relatively steady, by region, in 2005.


The average age of producers and employees continues to edge upward (Table 2). For producers, average age increased 8.2 years since '90, or one year for every 1.8 calendar years. The average age of employees increased 9.1 years since the first survey, or one year for every 1.6 calendar years.

In 1990, 17.9% of producers were 30 years old or younger. By 2005, there were 14% fewer producers in that age bracket, registering in at just 3.9%.

In the current survey, just under 20% of producers were 40 years old or younger, slightly more than the percentage of 30 years or younger group in 1990 (17.9%). This represents a dramatic shift during the 15-year period covered by the current and previous surveys.

The shift in the number of producers 41 years of age or older is noticeable and marks a significant trend, which is also reflected in the employee report.

At the upper end of the age brackets, 15.7% were 56 or older in 1990. That figure grew to 17.6% in 1995, 19.5% in 2000, and now represents about one-third of the producers (31.1%).

A look at the middle-age group (41-50) offers some reason for optimism, however, because these producers will likely be the active drivers of the industry for the next 10 years. In 1990, these producers represented 22.6% of respondents; today, they represent 33.7%.

One reason average age of producers has increased is some farmers are staying in the labor force longer. Additionally, there is a lack of young producers entering the industry.

There is also evidence of increased attrition by middle-aged producers. To understand this, we can follow a cohort's share of all producers over time.

For example, in Table 2 the producer cohort age group 25-30 in 1990 would be the 36-40 age group in 2000 and the 41-45 age group in 2005. That cohort represented 13.5% of the producers in 1990, 18.6% of the producers in 2000, and 14.1% of producers in 2005.

Exploring the change in the size of producer cohorts further suggests a potentially disturbing trend, however. In 1990, the cohort group aged 36-40 represented 16.6% of respondents. In 2005, this cohort group would be 51-55 years old and represent only 15.5%, which is a 7% decline from 1990.

Similar trends are seen for cohorts aged 46-50 and 51-55 in 1990. On a positive note, the cohort group aged 41-45 in 1990 actually recovered in 2005 after experiencing a sharp 11% decline between 1990 and 2000.

These results suggest that the industry lost experienced middle-age producers between 1990 and 2005. Without this loss, the increase in the percentage of vital middle-age producers between 1990 and 2005 would have been even greater.

As noted in the outset, the average age of producers increased from 41.9 in 1990, to 46 years old in 2000, and to 50.1 years in 2005.

A similar trend is seen in employees, with the average age increasing from 33.2 to 42.3 years of age during the 15 years of compiled data — an increase of 9.1 years. This increase is due to an increase in the percentage of employees older than 45, most notably from 2000 to 2005, when average age increased from 35.7 to 42.3 years. Meanwhile, the number of employees between the ages of 31 and 50 increased from 48.3% to 56.4%. Those over 65 also increased from less than 1% to 5.6%.

And, it's apparent, fewer young workers are moving into the industry. Between 1990 and 2005, the number of employees younger than 30 years of age dropped from 45.2% to 18.7%.

Historically, the majority of employees enter the pork industry between the ages of 25 and 35. However, the share of 25-35 year olds has declined from 50.4% in 1990 to 25.6% in 2005.

Retention of employees is also a problem. The cohort group aged 25-30 (26.7%) in 1990 was 36-40 (17.8%) in 2000, and 41-45 (14.8%) in 2005. This represents a decline of more than 44.5% during the 15-year period.

The relative change in the employee cohort group aged 36-40 in 1990 was even more dramatic. While they represented 14.8% of respondents in 1990, by the time they fell in the 46-50 range in 2000, they only represented 5.8% of respondents — a 61.5% decline. By 2005, this group, now 50-55 years old, had rebounded to represent 9.8% of employees.

These results suggest that the industry had difficulties attracting and retaining younger employees during the 1990s and early 2000s.

Industries gain strength from hiring, retaining and developing young employees. While the cohort trends show the industry lost fewer young employees between 1995 and 2000, that did not happen in the 2000s. The decline in the size of cohorts aged 25-40 is a concern.


In 1990, a high school diploma represented the largest group when producers and employees were asked for their highest level of education completed (Table 3). Although a high school diploma remained as the largest category for producers in three of the four years surveyed (the exception being 2000), a four-year college degree has been the most frequent response of employees since 1995.

The trend toward higher education is well established in both categories. In 2005, 64% of producers and 67% of employees indicated they had some education beyond high school.

The percentage of producers with more than a four-year college degree vacillated slightly over the last 15 years, ranging from 4.3% up to 6.5%. The biggest increase in educational groups for producers was in the vocational and two-year college degree areas, accounting for nearly 20% in 2005.

There are two striking trends with employee education levels between 2000 and 2005. There was a dramatic increase in the number of employees without a high school diploma, jumping from 3.7% up to 9.3%. The number with a high school diploma declined from 31.8% to 23.9% during the period.

At the other end of the spectrum, the percent of employees with a master's degree or higher increased from 3.4% to 14.2% of the employees. It should be pointed out, however, the doctor of veterinary medicine option was not offered in the 2000 survey.

About one-third of employees had a four-year college degree in 2000. That number fell to about one-fourth of employees in 2005.

Serving as a benchmark, it is interesting to note that in 2003 the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 9.9% of the civilian workforce had not completed high school, while 30% had obtained a high school diploma, 21.2% had achieved a four-year college degree, and 11.3% had attained an advanced degree. These results suggest the production segment of the U.S. pork industry has a favorable educational foundation, which is positive news because a more educated workforce is generally a more productive and better-paid workforce.

Both producers and employees in the Southeast and West consistently report having completed more education than their counterparts in the Midwest and Northeast. While this gap in educational attainment narrowed for employees between 1990 and 2000, this trend was reversed between 2000 and 2005. For producers, the gap in 2005 is wider than in 1990 and 1995, but narrower than in 2000.

Production Specialization

There is a definite realignment of the production systems in the pork industry. Table 4 documents the specialization that is occurring, documented in part by a 39.4 percentage point drop in producers with farrow-to-finish operations, between 1990 and 2005. Farrow-to-finish operations have now dipped to less than half of the operations.

Likewise, feeder pig finishing and contract finishing increased dramatically between 1990 and 1995, accounting for a 13.3 percentage point increase for the two categories, while contract finishing took another 7.3 percentage point bump between 1995 and 2000. The two categories remained relatively stable between 2000 and 2005.

Almost one in 10 (9.5%) producers selected the new category, wean-to-finish operators, added in 2005. Feeder pig finishing operators grew from 1% of the respondents in 1990 to 9.2% in 2005.

Farrow-to-feeder pig operations have slipped from 10.8% in 1990 to 7.3% in the current survey. Some of the farrowing capacity apparently is being absorbed in contract farrowing/nursery units, as shown by the growth between 1995 and 2000.

Table 5 shows a continuing trend toward specialization and increased herd size. The percentage of employees working in units producing less than 3,000 head accounted for 47.4% of the workforce in 1990. By 1995, that block of employees was nearly cut in half to only 24.1%. Today, just 14.2% of the employees work in operations producing less than 3,000 animals annually.

In contrast, the percentage of employees working in operations producing 25,000 hogs or more annually has doubled, jumping from 25.7% in 1995 to 52.3% in 2005. The proportion of employees working in operations with 25,000 or more hogs in 2005 exceeds the proportion that worked in operations of 10,000 head or more in 1995.

Almost one in three (29.8%) employees worked in an operation that produced 100,000 or more pigs annually. This is greater than the percentage that worked in operations with 10,000 or more pigs produced in 1990.

The growth is also dramatic on the producers' side where in 2005, 34.8% of the producers report raising 10,000 head or more. The incremental increase from 8.7% in 1990 to 12.5% in 1995 and to 30.7% in 2000 reinforce the trend.

The percent raising 25,000 or more hogs annually increased from 3.4% in 1995 to 15.7% in 2005. The 100,000 or more category, selected by 4.4% of survey respondents, was added in 2005.

In managerial economics a concept called “survivor analysis” allows you to identify the size of operation that offers a unit-cost advantage. Finding the size of an operation that has increased its share of production over time identifies those sizes with a unit-cost advantage. The dramatic shift in the relative share of production for operations producing more than 5,000 hogs annually between 1990 and 2005 suggests these operations enjoy a unit-cost advantage over smaller operations. Between 2000 and 2005, the percentage of producers between 5,000 and 9,999 pigs appears to have stabilized.

When analyzing the difference between employee and producer survey responses based on annual production, it is important to realize that the employee survey is naturally weighted toward larger operations because larger operations hire more labor. It is also important to remember that each producer/employer response may reflect information on multiple employees. Producer responses tend to provide a more accurate picture of the trends in operation size.

In addition, while Table 5 portrays some general industry trends toward larger production systems, it is important to note that incremental options offered in the survey were changed in the 1995 and again in the 2005 surveys to more specifically reflect current production size categories.


Pork production continues to be a male-dominated industry, although women have increased their presence, particularly on the producer side.

In 1990, 5.6% of employees and 4.9% of producers were women. In 1995, the percentage of female employees increased to 8.1%, while the number of female producers decreased to 3.9%. In 2000, 11.7% of employees and 5.4% of producers were women. By 2005, the percentage of female producers had climbed to 6.7%, while the percentage of female employees was unchanged.


In 2005, the average number of years an employee has spent with a hog operation increased to 9 years after declining from 8.9 in 1990 to 6.5 in 2000. Overall, employee tenure increased a modest 1.1% over the past 15 years.

In comparison, based on 2004 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, the median tenure for all workers in the United States age 25 and over was 4.9 years. Over the 13-year period from 1991 to 2004, employee tenure for U.S. workers over 25 reported by the BLS declined by 2%.

The average number of operations an employee has worked for decreased from 2.5 in 2000 to 2.3 in 2005. Additionally, the percentage of employees who have worked in more than two operations decreased from 37.9% in 2000 to 32.7% in 2005. This signals the reversal of a decade-old trend of increased employee turnover.

The increase in employee average tenure is positive news for the industry because it reduces labor search and training costs. This positive trend runs counter to trends in the U.S. labor market as a whole, and that suggests employees in the pork industry were not hit as hard by the recent recessionary downturn in the labor market. It also signals that wage rates are becoming more competitive.

Hog Farm Raised

As the number of families actively engaged in production agriculture slips each year, the pool of farm-raised laborers is naturally dwindling. The trend holds true for the pork industry.

In 1990, 59.4% of employees reported they were raised on a hog farm. This number slipped to 50.9% in 1995, 48.3% in 2000, and then rebounded slightly in 2005 to 50.2%. Clearly, half of the pork production workforce had no hog-raising experience prior to starting employment in the industry.

Authors: Terrance Hurley, associate professor of applied economics, University of Minnesota; James Kliebenstein and Peter Orazem, professors of economics, Iowa State University; Dale Miller, editor, National Hog Farmer.

Table 1: Distribution of Survey Responses by Geographic Region
Producer Employee
Region 2005 2000 1995 1990 2005 2000 1995 1990
Midwesta 78.2% 81.2% 80.9% 78.4% 70.2% 68.9% 67.3% 72.8%
Northeastb 6.9% 5% 5.5% 5.1% 6.3% 4.8% 4.8% 5.4%
Southeastc 7.9% 8.2% 7.2% 8.2% 9.7% 11.3% 15.9% 11.6%
Westd 7% 5.6% 6.4% 8.3% 13.8% 15% 11.9% 10.2%
aIncludes: IA, IL, IN, MN, MO, ND, NE, OH, SD and WI.
bIncludes: CT, DC, DE, MA, MD, ME, MI, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI and VT.
cIncludes: AL, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA and WV.
dIncludes: AK, AR, AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, KS, MT, NM, NV, OK, OR, TX, UT, WA and WY.
Table 2: Respondent's Age
Producer Employee
Age 2005 2000 1995 1990 2005 2000 1995 1990
16 - 24 0.7% 0.9% 2.3% 4.4% 7.9% 13.3% 17.9% 18.5%
25 - 30 3.2% 5.8% 6.8% 13.5% 10.8% 20.9% 21.2% 26.7%
31 - 35 7.1% 10.1% 14.4% 18% 14.8% 20.2% 19.4% 23.7%
36 - 40 8.8% 18.2% 18.6% 16.6% 15.1% 17.8% 17.3% 14.8%
41 - 45 14.1% 18% 17.3% 13% 14.8% 14.3% 11.4% 7%
46 - 50 19.6% 16.1% 13.5% 9.6% 11.7% 5.8% 5.3% 2.8%
51 - 55 15.5% 11.5% 9.6% 9.2% 9.8% 3.1% 2.9% 2.8%
56 - 60 13.1% 10.1% 7.4% 7.1% 6.8% 2.6% 2.6% 1.5%
61 - 65 9.2% 3.2% 5.6% 4.7% 2.7% 1.4% 1.1% 1.1%
Over 65 8.8% 6.2% 4.6% 3.9% 5.6% 0.6% 0.9% 1.1%
Average 50.1% 46% 44.3% 41.9% 42.3% 35.7% 34.8% 33.2%
Table 3: Respondent's Level of Education
Producer Employee
Highest Level of Achievement 2005 2000 1995 1990 2005 2000 1995 1990
No High School Diploma 4.2% 4.1% 3.9% 4.8% 9.3% 3.7% 5.4% 5.9%
High School Diploma 31.4% 30.6% 32.9% 37.6% 23.9% 31.8% 27.3% 33.7%
Vocational Degree 12.5% 8.7% 12.2% 8.8% 12.4% 11.3% 13.3% 11.2%
Two-Year College Degree 7.2% 4.8% 6.8% 6.2% 6.7% 8.2% 10.1% 10.8%
Four-Year College-No Degree 9.6% 8.1% 11.1% 10.9% 5.5% 7.1% 7.6% 8.9%
Four-Year College Degree 28.7% 35.7% 26.6% 24.1% 25.7% 32.5% 29% 23.3%
Master's Degree or Equivalent 3.9% 4.6% 3.6% 4.1% 5.2% 2% 4.1% 3.8%
Ph.D. Degree or Equivalent 1% 1.9% 0.7% 1.2% 2% 1.4% 0.8% 1.2%
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine 0.9% NA NA NA 7% NA NA NA
Other 0.7% 1.6% 2.2% 2.3% 2.3% 2% 2.4% 1.2%
Table 4: Type of Operation
Producer Employee
Operation Type 2005 2000 1995 1990 2005 2000 1995 1990
Farrow to Finish 43.7% 51.6% 66.9% 83.1% 44.2% 40.8% 60.4% 61.4%
Farrow to Feeder Pig 7.3% 6.1% 8.5% 10.8% 14.1% 17.5% 13.2% 13%
Feeder Pig Finisher 9.2% 10.2% 9.1% 1% 3.2% 4.8% 4% 6.4%
Farrow to Feeder/Contract Finisher 2% 0.7% 1.9% 1.3% 3.7% 4.5% 3.9% 2%
Contract Farrow to Finisha 0.3% 0.6% 0.7% NA 0.2% 0.8% 1% 2.1%
Contract Farrow/Nurserya 3.3% 4.6% 2.3% NA 2.6% 4.7% 1.9% 6.4%
Contract Finisher 12.2% 12.7% 5.4% 0.2% 3.8% 5.7% 2.5% 1.9%
Seedstock Supplier 1.7% 2.7% 3.9% 2.9% 3.4% 5.1% 7.5% NA
Wean to Finish 9.5% NA NA NA 3.8% NA NA NA
Multiple Typesb 3.9% 5.5% NA NA 4.8% 4.6% NA NA
Otherc 6.9% 5.2% 1.3% 0.6% 16.2% 11.4% 5.5% 6.9%
Note: NA means this response was not offered.
aWas not offered on the 1990 survey, but many employees reported it as “other.”
bAll surveys asked respondents to make only one choice — the choice that best described the operation. In 2000 and 2005, respondents reporting multiple types were specifically noted.
cFarrow-to-wean operations were the most common other type of operation specified in 2005.
Table 5: Pigs Produced in the Survey Year
Producer Employee
Annual Hog Production 2005 2000 1995 1990 2005 2000 1995 1990
Less than 1,000 8.3% 3.9% 5.3% 5.6% 7.1% 2.1% 6.7% 18.6%
1,000 - 1,999 10.5% 14.1% 22.6% 31.6% 3.6% 2.7% 9% 17.3%
2,000 - 2,999 12.4% 14.7% 25.3% 25.4% 3.5% 6.4% 8.4% 11.5%
3,000 - 4,999 14.1% 16.2% 18% 15.7% 4.8% 6.5% 10.6% 12.1%
5,000 - 9,999 19.8% 20.3% 16.3% 13% 9.4% 10.8% 15.8% 18.3%
10,000 or more* 34.8% 30.7% 12.5% 8.7% 71.5% 71.5% 49.5% 22.2%
10,000 - 14,999 10.9% 9.8% 5.5% NA 9.9% 13.4% 12.8% NA
15,000 - 24,999 8.2% 8.4% 3.6% NA 9.3% 10.9% 11% NA
25,000 or more* 15.7% 12.5% 3.4% NA 52.3% 47.2% 25.7% NA
25,000 - 49,999 7.4% NA NA NA 12.9% NA NA NA
50,000 - 99,999 3.9% NA NA NA 9.6% NA NA NA
100,000 or more 4.4% NA NA NA 29.8% NA NA NA
Note: NA means this response was not offered.
*Incremental breaks were added in the 1995 and 2005 surveys; these lines reflect the composite of the lines that follow.

product news

Decks for Disadvantaged Pigs

Rescue Decks from S&R Resources, LLC are designed to save the most challenged piglets in farrowing rooms. Rescue Decks target two distinct problem areas that all producers experience — small birth weight and starve-out piglets. Placing these piglets in the Rescue Decks can dramatically improve survivability and growth rate to allow them to fit with their contemporary group. The Rescue Deck is designed for installation between two farrowing crates. Two Ascend Liquid Feeders are included, which can help reduce milk replacer waste. Other key features include plastic-coated wire flooring, a temperature regulator and a sliding lid.
(Circle Reply Card No. 101)

Veterinary Manual

Merck & Co., Inc. and Merial Limited announce the publication of the Ninth Edition of The Merck Veterinary Manual. Now in its 50th issue, the comprehensive reference edition addresses diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases in companion, food and exotic animals. The collaborative work of more than 350 contributors, the Ninth Edition features 35 new chapters, 30 new tables and more than 400 new pages. The new manual costs $45 and is available at leading bookstores, by calling 877-762-2974 or by logging onto

Benchmarking Service

Now producers can compare their herds with PigChamp pork industry benchmarks. Beginning with 2004 year-end data, PigChamp is sending customized personal benchmarking reports to customers who send in their data. This allows PigChamp users to compare their herd performance to industry standards, thereby helping them identify potential areas of improvement. Besides the immediate benefit to PigChamp customers, the national benchmarking comparisons will provide industry influencers with a bird's eye view of key production indicators, helping them track pork production trends. PigChamp will continue their format each quarter, spotlighting different variables each time and providing analysis of a selected variable by John Deen, DVM, a well-known swine researcher at the University of Minnesota.
(Circle Reply Card No. 102)

Nutrient Management System

Nutrient Management System (NMS) from Ag-Chem application equipment, a division of AGCO Corporation, helps crop producers avoid high input costs, while better utilizing nutrients from area confinement livestock operations. The system offers precise application of liquid manure nutrients to the specifications of soil/crop needs. Co-op customers will appreciate cost savings and as-applied maps that show exactly what is applied and where. NMS toolbars inject and incorporate the manure at spacings as narrow as 7½ in. to reduce odor during application, maximize nitrogen stabilization in the soil and uniform crop uptake for even crop development.
(Circle Reply Card No. 103)

Barrel Adapter

The Barrel Adapter is the newest accessory from the Dosmatic product line. The adaptor is compact and will fit any standard drum up to 55 gal. Set up and removal is quick and easy, requiring only common hand tools. It is a universal adapter that can be easily moved from barrel to barrel, if necessary, thereby eliminating the need to transport the drum from location to location. Included is an extra long suction hose that will reach the bottom of a 55 gal. barrel. There is no need for electricity, allowing for mobilization of the adapter and unit to any location with a water source.
(Circle Reply Card No. 104)

RFID Software

PigSmart is the new swine breeding herd management software program from the Destron Fearing Division of Digital Angel Corporation. The software utilizes the Destron Fearing e.Tag and D-Tech Bluetooth Wireless reader to provide a radio frequency electronic identification system. PigSmart enables swine producers to benefit from the process of frictionless, paperless data capture, storage and analysis on a close to real-time basis.
(Circle Reply Card No. 105)

Injector Check Valve

Chemilizer Products, Inc. has updated its Viton Check Valve — a key component on all injectors. Following rigorous field tests, the new valve is documented to last five times longer than its predecessor and is now a standard component in all Chemilizer injector units purchased with a chlorine/medication chemical pump. Because Chemilizer injectors work as a diaphragm-driven water motor, time consuming prefiltration is not required. Additionally, use of a diaphragm eliminates need of a piston, which can scar or corrode, causing loss of accuracy and eventual motor failure.
(Circle Reply Card No. 106)

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

Sow Housing Systems Compared

The University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center (SROC) at Waseca has evaluated three years of sow records to compare performance of individual gestation stalls and group housing with electronic feeding stations.

Electronic feeding stations allow for individual control of feed intake within a group pen system housing 50-60 sows/pen.

Sow culling rate was higher in stalls, while mortality rates were greater in group pens. More females were removed for feet and leg problems when housed in group pens vs. stalls.

“We have noticed that group-housed sows are easier to move and show less fear of people than crated sows,” states Roger Walker, animal scientist at SROC and co-investigator. “They have better body condition overall, but since they are allowed to interact with each other in the pens, they may also express aggression toward each other.”

Subsequent research also examined farrowing performance over a nine-month period. Sows gestated in group pens with electronic sow feeders were heavier at weaning, and had larger litter birth and weaning weights, compared to sows gestated in stalls.

Though group pens are seen as being more welfare-friendly, the larger number culled for locomotor problems points to a welfare issue that must be addressed, he notes.

Employees, Employers Search for the Right Fit

Finding, hiring and retaining the best employees are a high priority of all pork producer owners and managers.

In an effort to identify trends in locating job prospects and potential employees in finding job opportunities, our four surveys from 1990 to 2005 tracked various search methods.

Informal job search networks are a dominant search strategy for employers and job candidates (Table 21).

Word-of-mouth remains the leading means of finding jobs and candidates to fill them. In 1995, nearly two-thirds of employees used this method of finding a job, and that means has held 10 years later. Although not as prevalent with producers, word-of-mouth remained the leading method of finding job applicants at 47.2%.

Newspapers and family referrals are the next most common strategy used by producers. While employees also relied heavily on newspapers, they used magazines slightly more often than family referrals in 2000 and 2005. It is interesting to note that job seekers used magazines more extensively, a trend that has held since 1995.

Employees are more likely to use professional and college placement services than producers. Alternatively, with the exception of 1995, producers have relied on vocational placement services more than employees.

In 2005, producers used vocational placement services more often than they used professional and college placement services. The reverse was true for employees. The increased importance of vocational placement services for producers reflects a 10-year trend. Alternatively, the use of professional placement services has been somewhat cyclical — relatively high in 1990 and 2000, but relatively low in 1995 and 2005.

The Internet has become popular with employees, with more than 20% using that resource in 2005. However, producers did not favor the Internet, as only 3.4% used it to locate job applicants.

In the past, employees have used a broader search strategy than producers as they sought job opportunities. The trend continued in 2005.

A more detailed look at the survey responses offers six additional points:

  • Producers with larger operations use all search strategies more often than those with smaller operations.

  • With the exception of family referrals, more educated producers and employees tend to use all search strategies more often.

  • Producers in the West use word-of-mouth, family referrals, and the Internet more often than producers in other regions.

  • Producers in the Southeast rely less on newspapers than producers in other regions.

  • Employees in the Southeast and West rely less on newspapers than employees in other regions.

  • Employees in the Southeast rely more on word-of-mouth, while employees in the West rely on this strategy less than employees in other regions.

A producer's success at generating job applicants rebounded from 2000, but was still less than the high in 1995 (Table 22).

However, the number of qualified applicants reported in 2005 held steady with the 2000 survey, as did the weeks required to fill the last full-time openings. The 2.8-week average needed to find an employee in 2005 is still a vast improvement over the 4.4-week average reported a decade ago.

Also on a positive note, producers reported they were able to fill their last part-time opening quicker than in the past.

Relating alternative search strategies to the number of job applications a producer received, and the weeks required to fill a full-time position, provides several interesting insights:

  • First, producers who used the newspaper to search for new employees received more applications and more qualified applications, on average, which helps explain the popularity of the strategy.

  • Producers who used college placement services also generated more than the average number of qualified applicants, while decreasing the proportion of unqualified applicants.

  • Word-of-mouth improved the average number of qualified applicants, while decreasing the number of unqualified applicants. However, it also increased the average weeks needed to fill an opening.

New Technology

Pork production is a biologically constrained process. Animals must be bred, followed by a fixed gestation period, farrowing, weaning, growing, and finishing.

In some applications, technology can speed or improve the biological process. Artificial insemination (AI), for example, can take advantage of superior genetics. Early weaning may reduce the amount of time between farrowing and rebreeding. Split-sex and phase feeding can target nutritional programs and improve feed efficiency. All-in, all-out (AIAO) and multi-site production can help curb the spread of disease and reduce death loss.

Each of these technologies improves efficiency by either speeding up the production cycle, lowering input costs and/or reducing losses. In addition, streamlined organization and management can help allocate resources more efficiently.

Table 23 reviews the levels of production technology adoption. At first glance, the spread between producers and employees using AI seems particularly wide, however, it is important to remember that the employees surveyed tended to work in larger operations. Obviously, the use of AI technology has gained favor in both camps since 1995. Similarly, segregated early weaning has increased substantially in the past 10 years.

On the other hand, support of split-sex and phase feeding appears to be waning.

New to the 2005 survey, producers and employees were asked whether they have adopted two relatively new technologies — auto-sorting and parity-based management. Survey results for auto-sorting were similar, over 5% for both groups, while 10.8% of producers and a surprising 26.1% of employees reported using parity-based management. The practice segregates gilts and sows based on parity. Benefits of the practice include better conception rates, better nutrition and lower culling rates.

Computers can also facilitate formal employee management practices such as the provision of employee handbooks, written job descriptions, work plans and formal evaluation procedures. As Table 23 illustrates, computer delivery of personnel management information is more likely in larger operations, as reflected in the 79% reported by employees.

The adoption of personal computers (PC) by producers slipped a little in the last five years, while employee use leveled off (Table 24).

Producers were more likely to use their PCs for financial recordkeeping. Employees reported their personal computers were generally used for keeping production records.

Indeed, over the last decade, the number of employees working for operations that use PCs for production recordkeeping increased by 10.4 percentage points. Employee training on PCs increased by 27.5 percentage points during this time.

More-educated producers and employees and those on larger operations were significantly more likely to report the use of a PC. Older producers and particularly those in the Southeast were the least likely to use PCs.

The adoption of a new technology follows a predictable pattern. Initially, the adoption rate is slow, as only the most entrepreneurial firms are willing to explore the technology's potential. As the benefits of a new technology become clear, the adoption rate accelerates.

Eventually, adoption plateaus because firms that find the technology beneficial use it, and those that do not find it beneficial don't.

Most of the technologies tracked in the surveys over the past decade have moved into the final stages of the technology adoption cycle.

A more in-depth analysis of the survey's technology adoption data helped reveal important characteristics of the types of operations using different technologies.

As one would anticipate, larger operations are using more technology. With the exception of AI, the technology adoption increased with annual hog output. Operations with more employees are more likely to be using AI, multi-site production, parity-based management and formal management practices.

Older producers are less likely to use AI and phase feeding. Alternatively, more educated producers are more likely to use phase feeding, parity-based management and formal management practices.

Regionally, phase feeding is most popular in the Midwest. Split-sex feeding, multi-site production, segregated early weaning, and AIAO are not used as often, on average, by southeastern operations. Formal management practices are used more in the West.

Some technological advances require few if any special skills to implement. For example, multiple-site production requires little if any additional skill on the part of labor. But, alternatively, personal computer use or introducing AI requires special training.

If new technologies require employees to have special skills, then they may command higher compensation for acquiring or being blessed with these special skills.

Pay Commensurate With Talents

Using statistical comparisons, it is possible to calculate how much more an employee earns by being able to work with new technologies. When making these statistical comparisons, the only difference between the two employees is the difference in the technologies adopted by their employers.

Table 25 shows these statistical comparisons for the earnings of employees working in an operation with or without a specific technology.

For example, an employee working for an operation that uses AI earned 7.4% more, on average, in 1995 than an identical worker on a farm that did not use AI. By 2005, the wage premium associated with AI use rose to 22.2%. This result suggests that operations that use AI require special skills that are more valuable to producers.

In contrast, wage differentials associated with split-sex feeding and multi-site production are very small and even negative in some instances.

For example, the analysis suggests an employee on a farm using multi-site production earned only a 0.5% wage premium in 1995, and actually earned 1.5% less in 2005 when compared to an identical worker in a single-site operation. Apparently, employees need few, if any, special skills in order to work for operations that use multiple sites, split-sex feeding, auto-sorting, or parity-based management.

Artificial insemination, phase feeding, AIAO production, formal management and PC use all seem to require special employee skills. To attract and retain those skills, employers have to pay a wage premium.

Notice that wage premiums paid for PC skills declined between 1995 and 2005, which indicates these skills are becoming commonplace in the labor force.

Part-Time Employment

The average number of part-time employees fell by nearly a third between 2000 and 2005, while the proportion of operations using part-time help increased slightly during the period (Table 26).

The hours of weekly work expected from these employees has continued the 15-year trend downward.

Alternatively, the going wage for part-time labor has continued to trend upward, with more than half the producers now offering wages in excess of $8 an hour. The proportion of operations offering part-time wages in excess of $10 an hour also has more than doubled from 6.6% to 15.5% between 2000 and 2005.

Labor as a Resource

Pork producers face the ongoing challenge of matching labor needs with the available labor supply. As employee skills become more specialized, the pool of qualified workers becomes scarce.

Quality training programs and attractive compensation packages can motivate workers to acquire needed skills, stay with the farm once trained, and remain motivated to work to improve farm output and profitability.

Employees in smaller operations may require more general skills because their responsibilities are likely to be more diverse from day to day. Employees in larger operations will likely have more specialized skills and a more narrow set of responsibilities.

Effective employee management skills and fostering employee satisfaction are important to the competitive position of any swine production facility. While we may think employee management is an issue for larger operations, it is important to remember that good employee management is not size related.

Moreover, as the swine industry continues to adopt new technologies, employees must be flexible and accepting of these innovations. These changes also create a need for ongoing training for both producers and employees.

The pork industry appears to have a solid employee base. Employee tenure is on the rise after a decade-old decline. More employees believe they are competitively compensated and being well trained for advancement or to own their own operation.

But, there are some warning signs, too. Fewer employees hope to make a lifelong career in the pork industry and more feel advancement with their current employer is limited.

There continues to be a sharp decline in the number of young people entering the industry workforce and the number of young employees that plan to stay with the industry as a career.

The 2005 labor market can be considered soft relative to the labor markets the industry faced in 2000. Even with a relatively soft labor market, pork industry employees enjoyed strong wage growth, while other industries witnessed negligible growth.

Work environment in pork production facilities had a large impact on job satisfaction. Employees who rated the working environment in hog facilities as excellent were much more likely to report they were very satisfied with the job.

Improving the working environment in production facilities can improve pig production performance, dramatically improve employee satisfaction levels and improve the ability to retain the best employees. As the working environment improves, everybody wins.

Table 21: Methods Used to Locate Job Applicants by Producers and Job Openings by Employees
Producer Employee
Method 2005 2000 1995 1990 2005 2000 1995 1990
College or Vocational Placement Service 13.5% 14.7% 12.8% 20.8% 24.7% 25.0% 27.6% 29.5%
College Placement Service 7.8% 9.6% 8.3% NA 20.7% 21.6% 23.4% NA
Vocational Placement Service 9.5% 9.1% 7.7% NA 9.4% 8.4% 9.6% NA
Professional Placement Service 6.5% 9.8% 6.3% 10.4% 15.8% 22.0% 17.3% 19.2%
Magazine or Newspaper* 27.1% 27.3% 21.5% 27.7% 52.7% 57.4% 47.7% 40.7%
Magazine 7.7% 6.2% 4.8% NA 29.6% 29.0% 24.8% NA
Newspaper 25.4% 26.0% 20.6% NA 45.1% 50.2% 41.9% NA
Word of Mouth 47.2% 47.3% 44.6% NA 61.0% 68.2% 63.7% NA
Family 25.2% 24.3% 21.3% NA 27.7% 27.0% 28.2% NA
Internet 3.4% NA NA NA 21.4% NA NA NA
Other 5.4% 4.9% 5.5% NA 5.8% 7.1% 7.7% NA
Note: NA means this response was not offered.
*To get the composite for newspaper and magazine percentage in the 1995, 2000, and 2005 surveys, the “an/or” condition was used. Therefore, if the respondent checked the newspaper box or magazine box they were counted once for newspaper/magazine. With the “or” condition, the newspaper and magazine composite for these years will not equal the sum of the individual percentages for newspaper and magazine because some respondents checked both the newspaper box and the magazine box in the 1995, 2000, and 2005 surveys.
Table 22: Average Success of Producer's Search for New Employees
Application/Open Position 2005 2000 1995 1990
Applications Received 4.0 3.2 5.1 2.8
Qualified Applications Received 1.3 1.3 1.7 0.8
Weeks Needed to Fill Last Full-Time Opening 2.8 2.7 4.4 1.7
Weeks Needed to Fill Last Part-Time Opening 1.5 2.1 2.8 3.0
Table 23: Technology Use
Producers Employees
2005 2000 1995 2005 2000 1995
Production Technology
Artificial Insemination 47.1% 48.2% 30.7% 76.7% 76.4% 56.2%
Split-Sex Feeding 36.6% 46.0% 40.7% 39.3% 46.5% 47.5%
Phase Feeding 52.5% 59.3% 55.1% 49.8% 50.9% 55.2%
Multi-Site Production 32.1% 34.6% 28.4% 45.9% 47.0% 38.7%
Segregated Early Weaning 30.2% 32.5% 12.2% 31.8% 28.8% 14.7%
All-In/All-Out 66.7% 68.1% 58.5% 60.6% 64.7% 67.3%
Auto-Sorting 5.4% NA NA 5.9% NA NA
Parity-Based Management 10.8% NA NA 26.1% NA NA
Management Technology
Formal Management Practicesa 57.0% 56.9% 59.4% 79.0% 72.4% 65.6%
Note: NA means this response was not offered.
aFormal management practices reflect employer's use of employee handbooks, job descriptions, written work plans and formal evaluation procedures.
Table 24: Personal Computer Use
Producers Employees
2005 2000 1995 1990 2005 2000 1995 1990
Use Personal Computer 62.2% 69.4% 57.3% 40.8% 74.5% 74.0% 69.9% 46.2%
Use for Production Recordkeeping 51.9% 60.2% 50.2% NA 77.8% 71.8% 67.4% NA
Use for Financial Recordkeeping 68.1% 73.1% 61.9% NA 68.3% 68.4% 66.1% NA
Trained to Use NA 59.1% 48.1% 35.3% 72.3% 51.4% 45.8% 34.0%
Note: NA means this response was not offered.
Table 25: Differences in Wages by Selected Differences in Technology Use
Difference in Wages
Difference in Technology Use 2005 2000 1995
Artificial Insemination vs. No Artificial Insemination 22.2% 11.9% 7.4%
Split-Sex Feeding vs. No Split-Sex Feeding -2.9% 0.2% 1.3%
Phase Feeding vs. No Phase Feeding 11.3% 5.6% 7.6%
Multi-Site Production vs. No Multi-Site Production -1.5% -0.9% 0.5%
Segregated Early Weaning vs. No Segregated Early Weaning 0.2% 5.7% 2.4%
All-In/All-Out Production vs. No All-In/All-Out Production 9.7% 6.1% 7.0%
Auto-Sorting vs. No Auto-Sorting -4.8% NA NA
Parity-Based Management vs. No Parity-Based Management -10.0% NA NA
Formal Management vs. No Formal Management 5.1% 7.5% 14.7%
Personal Computer Use vs. No Personal Computer Use 2.3% 4.2% 5.5%
Note: NA means this response was not offered.
Table 26: Part-Time Labor
2005 2000 1995 1990
Expected Part-Time Hours/Week
10 or less 43.3% 35.0% 32.0% 34.0%
10-15 15.5% 18.0% 18.8% 17.3%
15-20 19.4% 21.2% 21.3% 20.2%
20-25 12.7% 13.1% 15.2% 16.0%
25-30 6.4% 7.5% 6.8% 5.4%
30 or more 2.7% 5.2% 5.8% 7.1%
Part-Time Hourly Wages
$3-4 1.2% 2.2% 2.8% 13.3%
$4-5 2.2% 1.9% 15.1% 40.3%
$5-6 6.2% 19.0% 35.5% 34.5%
$6-7 16.4% 27.2% 27.4% 8.1%
$7-8 18.9% 23.1% 12.6% 2.6%
More than $8 55.1% 26.5% 6.6% 1.2%
$8-9 17.6% 9.8% 3.0% NA
$9-10 22.0% 10.1% 1.6% NA
More than $10 15.5% 6.6% 2.0% NA
Producers Reporting Use of Part-Time Employees 45.1% 44.5% 44.5% 47.4%
Part-Time Employees (Average Number) 2.1% 3.4% 1.6% 1.6%
Note: NA means this response was not offered.