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Articles from 2006 In June

More Beans, Less Corn Planted

It's a big day for USDA reports on Friday and the first ones out are rather friendly for livestock feeders -- provided timely rains come in much of the Midwest over the next three to five weeks.
USDA's estimates of planted acreages were released this morning. Corn acres are estimated at 79.366 million acres, about a half-million acres below the pre-report estimates of traders, but 1.345 million acres higher than the USDA estimate in March. This year's total is still 3% lower than one year ago, mainly owing to high fertilizer prices this spring.
The additional 1.345 million acres is important, though. Should yield be equal to the long-term trend, those acres will add nearly 200 million bushels to this year's crop -- about 10% of projected carryout stocks.
The major benefactor of the reduction in corn acres is, of course, soybean acres. USDA's June estimate of 74.93 million acres is below trade estimates of 75.132 mil acres, but is still nearly 2.8 million acres more than one year ago.
The June Grain Stocks report came out about as expected with corn stocks pegged at 4.353 billion bushels (compared to an expected 4.362 billion bushels) and soybean stocks at 990.1 million bushels (compared to and expected 1,012.0 million bushels). Corn stocks are very similar to one year ago at this time, while bean stocks are substantially larger (41%) than one year ago.
<b>Feed Cost Concerns Remain</b>
These reports certainly don't mean we are out of the woods on feed costs. I attended a meeting of pork producers this week where the consensus was "We're okay for now but we need rain soon." That was an almost universal report. This week's rally in Chicago Board of Trade corn futures reflects this continuing concern about crop conditions and rainfall.
As for soybean meal, all of the contracts are now comfortably back within a trading range that dates back to February, and there is $10.10/spread in the futures prices that are on the board through December 2007. Neither of those provide much volatility, and if I had to say what the "normal" price of bean meal is, I would say $180/ ton -- the median of prices on the board as of Friday morning.
<b>Prices Trend Downward</b>
As for hog markets, they appear very "toppy" -- a real technical economist term there, right? Nearby futures have certainly turned to the downside, while the fall contracts are lower. Cash prices early this week are nearly $4 lower than just a week ago and it is practically the first of July. I thought the odds were high of a seasonal top a month ago during Pork Expo, and I'm even more confident of that now. Producers should be looking to get a higher portion of fall and winter supplies priced as cash weakness will likely drag down those deferred contracts.
<b>Hogs & Pigs Report Due Out</b>
And finally -- the Quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report is due out today. The ranges and averages of market analysts pre-report estimates, as compiled by DowJones, appears in Figure 1. These estimates still reflect a very modest growth pace given recent profitability, but also reflect market conditions this spring that were decidedly disappointing.
Analysts still expect larger slaughter hog supplies this fall and that should pressure prices. The interesting thing to note here is that analysts are still very pessimistic about productivity gains. Farrowings and farrowing intentions numbers are either smaller or no larger than the sow herd increase, implying reductions in breeding herd efficiency. I don't think that is happening but we will see. The projected increase in litter size is about "normal" for the past couple of years.
Have a great July 4th holiday and find a copy of the Declaration of Independence to read -- preferably aloud -- before you partake of our bountiful food supply and enjoy the fun of a local Independence Day parade. You'll have a deeper appreciation for everything after you read the marvelous vision of our Founding Fathers.
<a href="" target="_new"><img align="left" valign="top" src="" vspace="0" border="0" hspace="3"></a><br><br> Click to view graph.<br><br>
<font color="red">Steve R. Meyer, Ph.D.<br>
Paragon Economics, Inc.<br>
e-mail: <a href="mailto:[email protected]">[email protected]</a></font>

Marketing Matters and Mixes

The hog market's remarkable summer run continued this week with carcass prices quoted at over $80 on Wednesday and Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Lean Hog Futures reaching contract highs across the board. Both of those markets have backed off a bit, but what a nice problem to have -- high prices!

Short hog supplies continue to be confirmed. Last week's Iowa-Minnesota average hog weight was nearly 2 lb. lower than the prior week and nearly 4 lb. lower than one year ago. That reduction hasn't shown up in the national data, but weights in the Iowa-Minnesota market are far more sensitive because it is a smaller sample and it is the largest hog-deficit region of the country.

When packers scramble in Iowa, they really scramble, and they pull some lighter hogs into the slaughter mix.

The decline in CME Lean Hog futures prices on Wednesday could be a signal that the market is topping. Every contract fell below the 5- and 10-day moving averages that some use to indicate short-term reversals. The contracts for the remainder of 2006, though, closed above the 10-day moving average on Thursday, so that casts some doubt on the validity of the reversal. February and April 2007 remained below the short-run moving averages today. All contracts are still far above the 50-day moving average that is widely used to indicate major trend changes.

The North American Pork Industry Data Table for this week shows positive year-over-year hog and pork prices for the second week in a row after spending all year on the minus side. As I've pointed out before, that is partly due to the fact that prices were in a free-fall at this time last year when belly inventories were dumped. Note the largest year-over-year price change in the data table is bellies at +30.4%. USDA reported the primal belly value at over $1.00/lb. on Thursday.

Producer-Owned Packing Felt
While cutout values have been excellent and have served as the main driver for this hog market, the shift of a large number of hogs from the open market into producer-owned packing plants has been a big driver as well, especially in the critical Iowa-Minnesota area. A phone conversation with my mentor and colleague this week, Professor Glenn Grimes of the University of Missouri, underscored the shifts that are taking place.

Professor Grimes pointed out the shift in recent months of hogs purchased under the various pricing systems tracked by USDA as part of the sort-of-mandatory price reporting system. (Sorry, I couldn't resist that dig at our wonderful legislators!)

Figure 1 shows the percentage of total daily purchases represented by four categories of purchases. Note that I have put all of the contract types into one category.

It is obvious that the mix has been changing since early this year. We all expected the packer-owned share to rise when Triumph Foods began operations in St. Joseph, MO. Pigs shipped by Christensen Farms, Hanor, New Fashion Pork and the other owners of Triumph to the St. Jospeh plant had previously been sold to Tyson, Hormel, Excel and others -- apparently under some type of marketing contract. The same is true of pigs shipped to Meadowbrook Farms in Illinois.

The most interesting line on the graph, though, is the one representing packer-sold hogs. That share has risen from just under 3% in February to 8% in May. That category has been comprised of packer-raised pigs that were in geographic locations not conducive for shipment to the packers' own plants. The lion's share of those pigs was sold by Smithfield's Circle Four operation in Utah to Clougherty Packing in Los Angeles.

But now it also includes hogs sold in Iowa by various production groups that are affiliated with Smithfield, Excel and, most recently, Hormel. Those companies entered consent agreements with the Iowa Attorney General that stated they would take certain actions and abide by certain restrictions in return for the attorney general not pursuing actions under Iowa's packer ownership ban. Those agreements quite rightly caused USDA Market News personnel to say, "If those aren't packer-sold swine, then why does there need to be a consent agreement?" If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck -- well, you know!

So USDA has moved those animals out of the contract categories and placed them in the packer-sold swine category, even though the business arrangements are the same as they have always been. USDA is asking for much more detailed information from packers about the sources of pigs.

These data do not portray some huge structural shift in the pork industry. It is certainly not some big shift in the role of packers. The increase in packer-owned swine reflects the downstream vertical integration move of producers into packing. The shift of hogs to the packer-sold category is probably long-overdue transparency, but still represents no real change in the price discovery process that has been used for the past four years.

Negotiated sales -- the backbone of the price discovery process on a day-in, day-out basis -- still account for about 10% of all hogs purchased.

Click to view graph.

Steve R. Meyer, Ph.D.
Paragon Economics, Inc.
e-mail: [email protected]

What's Driving Wild Market Ride?

One of Will Rogers' most famous quotes concerned the weather in Oklahoma: "If you don't like the weather just wait a minute, it will change."

It appears that the same can be said for the hog market this year. The path of hog prices thus far in 2006 has likely left a few roller coasters envious.

Figure 1 shows the pattern: Up $8 from mid-January to mid-February, down $8 from mid-February to early April, and now up nearly $15 through last week -- and more if you look at this week's daily prices. The weekly average could reach nearly $74.

Yes, you might say, "But that is the negotiated price and it is far more volatile than the total average." Agreed -- but not by much. Figure 2 shows the same weekly data for the total weighted average net price that includes all contracted hogs. Since the major portion of the non-negotiated hogs are priced by a hog or pork market formula, this chart exhibits almost as much variability as does the national average negotiated chart.

No matter how you cut it, this has been a wild ride. So what is driving this thing?

First, it appears that hog supplies have grown quite tight, quite quickly. Federally inspected (FI) slaughter levels remained very near expected levels through last week, but FI barrow and gilt weights dropped 2 lb., from 199 to 197 lb., the week of May 27. Data released on Thursday indicated that weights were steady for the week that ended June 2, but look for more reductions as packers have apparently chased pigs hard enough to get lighter hogs shipped.

There is a limit to that behavior, however. Producers will only go so far until they are leaving potential profits on the table. That's when prices will rise at the same time we see slaughter rate fall -- as has happened this week. FI hog slaughter through Thursday was about 3% lower than last year and the cash market has been robust to say the least.

Is this the long-discussed and anticipated PMWS/PCVAD supply hole? It's very possible. Neither I, nor several other veteran market analysts I've talked to, have ever been able to directly track an animal health situation to the slaughter data, but this could be a first. Not only are U.S. numbers down, but we have seen the lowest levels of Canadian market hog imports since late 2003. This is quite likely a function of large death losses in eastern Canada that drove pig crops down significantly last fall and winter.

Second, it looks like slumbering meat demand may be awakening as well. The choice beef cutout value has rallied over $15 since early April and boneless/skinless chicken breasts have risen by 30 cents to the $1.25/lb. area. That increase has also driven USDA's 12-city composite broiler price up about 6.5 cents/lb. -- about 11% just since the end of April.

Part of the increase in chicken prices is attributable to some modest cutbacks in output, but last week's FI beef production was still nearly 8% larger than last year, and there has been no good news on the beef export front.

What to do?
This cash market has carried Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Lean Hogs futures contracts to contract life highs across the board. Summer futures are firmly above $70, October is above $60, and December is at a level that means profits for most producers. This is another good opportunity to price late 2006 production.

The charts show little sign of topping at present, but you should review your financial situation and carefully consider what these prices mean. I'm still expecting pig supplies to be larger this fall, death losses notwithstanding, and large enough to take prices into the red for average producers, especially if corn prices rise.

It is very early to be pricing February and April sales, but those contracts are nearing the highs of February and April contracts in many recent years, so think about pricing a few pigs there as well. Unless this supply situation gets very tight, we are very near the summer highs and, when cash prices fall, it will probably mean the end of the bull market in Lean Hogs futures as well.

Click to view graphs.

Steve R. Meyer, Ph.D.
Paragon Economics, Inc.
e-mail: [email protected]

U.S-Japan Confer Over New Food Safety Standards

A delegation from the United States, including representatives from the pork industry and the U.S. Meat Export Federation, met recently with the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to discuss new standards for veterinary drugs and other chemicals in food products entering the Japanese market.

The May 16-17 meeting was described as “positive and cooperative.” Japanese officials imposed new maximum residue limit standards on May 29.

Paul Sundberg, DVM, National Pork Board vice president of science and technology, notes that Japan imports food products from over 200 countries — and each may have its own production and residue standards.

“The Japanese food safety agency is treating all sources of food products equally. They want to be able to ensure safe products for the Japanese market,” he says.

To do so, Japan has gone to a system that more closely aligns them with Codex standards, a series of international standards for food safety and consumer protection established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization. Japan has now developed a list of 700 products to monitor for chemical residues.

Included on the product list for chemicals used in agriculture are antibiotics, insecticides and anti-parasiticides, explains Sundberg.

Japan will continue its random monitoring and surveillance program for chemicals in meat, including antibiotics.

U.S. pork producers must meet animal health product withdrawal standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Following product label guidelines will satisfy most of the new Japanese guidelines as well. “U.S. products should have no problems satisfying the new guidelines,” Sundberg assures. “The United States is one of the leaders in food safety control processes and enforcement.

“That said, it is in the pork industry's best interest to comply with the new Japanese standards, and some animal health products we use in the United States today will require extended withdrawal periods,” he adds.

That's why it is so critical for pork producers to first check with their packers to determine whether they export pork to Japan, stresses Sundberg. If they do, producers need to sit down with their veterinarian and go over the list of chemicals used in production. Furthermore, he suggests producers log onto the “For Producers” section of to review withdrawal information on antibiotics and form standard operating procedures.

“Japan is a very important market for U.S. pork. The Japanese market represents about 40% of all U.S. pork exports, at a value of $1.07 billion,” he concludes.

Parasuis Persists In Production

Haemophilus parasuis or HPS is a bacterial disease that can cause death or chronic lameness, and is often referred to as a “high-health disease.”

Many conventional herds have reduced the level of other bacterial organisms via modern management practices, and in doing so, have elevated the potential for HPS to become increasingly prevalent.

Case Study No. 1

A client purchased weaner pigs and discontinued buying feeder pigs. The change was sparked by the need to increase the number of pigs on feed. The opportunity to purchase the weekly production of weaner pigs from a new, 1,200-sow, breed-to-wean unit had significant appeal.

Pigs were placed weekly into wean-to-finish (W-F) facilities at 17-22 days of age. The new sow herd was sourced with gilts naïve for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) and positive for Mycoplasmal pneumonia.

The first 1,000-head W-F barn filled with pigs in February got off to a good start, but developed a mild cough during week two. On Day 12, the client called to report three pigs died overnight. The producer adjusted the ventilation settings. Three days later I received a call that one good pig died and three more the next morning.

I arrived at the W-F barn to find a mild, widespread cough in the pigs, moderate swelling to the hock joints and many lethargic pigs. Two pigs were euthanized for tissue collection. I told the producer that either Streptococcus suis or HPS was the cause of this outbreak. Treatment plan included individual injections to the visibly sick pigs and water medication for the next five days.

Tissue results from the diagnostic lab isolated an HPS organism from the brain, lung and joint of the first pig and the lung and brain of the second pig.

We started pigs on water medication the second week after filling the barn and implemented aggressive individual pig treatments.

Case Study No. 2

A 2,400-sow unit recently doubled in size. The producer signed a new contract that required him to change genetics. The current sow population was PRRS-naïve and mycoplasma-positive. Production was 22.6 pigs sold/mated female/year with very few health challenges.

The incoming gilts were purchased from a user group recommended by the company buying the pigs. The gilts were isolated in an off-site barn 3.5 miles from the sow unit. New gilts were vaccinated in isolation. Cull sows were introduced 4-5 weeks after the gilts arrived. Gilts entered the sow unit eight weeks after arrival.

The producer called to say three gilts had died.

Walking through the isolation barn, the owner found gilts lethargic with 10-15% of the 300 gilts showing signs of respiratory distress. Water consumption had dropped 20%.

The owner and barn caretaker performed necropsies. All three gilts were found to have fluid in the thoracic cavity with a white film covering the outer surface of the lungs. The stomachs contained feed and the intestinal tract appeared to be normal.

I diagnosed an acute respiratory outbreak and advised the producer to inject all 300 gilts with an antibiotic. When I toured the isolation barn the next afternoon, no more gilts had died, but the group was still slightly depressed and 5-6 were heard coughing. Lung samples preserved by the producer were sent to the diagnostic lab for testing.

During my walkthrough of the isolation barn, the owner said problems started when the cull sows arrived. We concluded they must have been carrying a strain of HPS pathogenic for the gilts.

I recommended all incoming gilts receive two doses of HPS vaccine on weeks one and three after arrival to immunize the gilts and avoid another outbreak in the isolation barn. More importantly, the ultimate goal was to avoid an HPS break in the gilts after entry to the sow unit.

The diagnostic lab confirmed HPS on two of the three lung samples submitted. The vaccination program on the incoming gilts has worked well. The plan is to continue using the vaccine until all of the original sows are replaced with the new source. Then the producer will attempt to drop the HPS vaccine.


HPS is becoming more prevalent, often compounded by stress that creates the opportunity for disease expression.

Clinical signs vary depending upon the presence of other pathogens. Mixing multiple sources of pigs can occasionally cause difficulties. High-health animals are generally at more risk.

Consult your veterinarian to discuss a plan for HPS.

Antibiotics Remain a Top Herd Health Aid

Despite the use of conscientious health and biosecurity practices across the pork industry, pigs still get sick. That is why U.S. pork producers will continue to rely on antibiotics as a critical part of their herd health programs.

What may change, however, is the extent to which antibiotics are used and how they fit into herd health plans, according to swine health experts addressing the recent Pork Industry Conference on Antibiotic Use in Animal Agriculture, sponsored by the University of Illinois Department of Animal Sciences and the National Pork Board.

Pressure on Antibiotics

For years, the pork industry has felt increasing pressure from special interest and activist groups to reduce or even eliminate antibiotic use as a production practice. As negative media reports stir consumer interest, organizations and groups lobby Congress for legislation that restricts antibiotics in agriculture. The outcome of this hotly debated scientific and ethical issue could profoundly affect the pork industry.

“Health management is a dynamic, resource-constrained and technologically challenged enterprise,” says David Reeves, DVM, associate professor in the Food Animal Health and Management Program at the University of Georgia. “The industry needs a broad array of antibiotics to manage health. Further, we need to be able to treat large numbers of pigs through the feed and water.”

The industry has made significant advances in health management; however, disease still happens. Restrictive laws and regulations could have significant production and welfare consequences.

“The zero antibiotic option is not viable,” Reeves says. “There is simply a lack of effective technology that can replace antibiotics. There are many instances where we can improve the use of antibiotics, but there will always be a need. By the same token, however, indiscriminate use of antibiotics is not acceptable in today's climate.”

Challenges and Limitations

A major shortfall contributing to the need for antibiotics in health management is the lack of understanding about the complexity of disease pathogenesis and the epidemiology of disease, Reeves says. Emerging pathogens complicate the issue further.

Symptoms and the impact of disease can vary among pigs, and even more so across herds. It can be extremely difficult to ascertain if variations are caused by subtle changes in management practices, or if they can be attributed to variation within a particular pathogen.

Another shortfall is the lack of cost analysis attributable to various diseases. Although there are cost analyses for some of the major diseases, such as pseudorabies and foot-and-mouth disease, the industry hasn't done a good job of determining the costs of common chronic diseases or in terms of animal pain and suffering, says Reeves.

“From an industry perspective, we need to get a handle on what is happening, not just with disease that manifests as epidemics, but also with diseases that tend to be endemic within farms,” he asserts. “Some of these result in chronic and sustained morbidity and mortality. We need better economic analyses for making decisions, not only on individual farms, but also as an industry.”

Although the United States has one of the world's healthiest pig populations, there are instances where vaccines don't work.

Therefore, pharmaceuticals are critical in most current farm environments, says Rodney (Butch) Baker, DVM, clinical associate professor of swine health and production medicine at North Carolina State University. Mortality syndromes have been pervasive in the industry since the late 1980s when porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) emerged, he says.

Vaccination programs often fall short of expectations, particularly the swine influenza, Haemophilus parasuis and PRRS vaccines. The mycoplasma vaccines have historically been very effective, but due to PRRS and porcine circovirus-associated disease (PCVAD), Mycoplasmal pneumonia and other co-infections often cause pigs to become sick.

Keeping a lid on health care costs becomes a major concern when reducing or eliminating antibiotics from a production system. Producers spend an additional 5-20% over conventional practices to produce no-antibiotic or low-antibiotics pigs, he says. Most of the extra costs are in added vaccines, poorer feed efficiency and nursery-finisher mortality.

Vaccine use in herds producing antibiotic-free pigs usually costs an additional $2-3/pig above the standard vaccine program, Baker says.

Trends in Antibiotic Use

In recent years, producers have begun changing management practices, partly to prepare for possible government restrictions. The current trend is towards veterinarian-prescribed antibiotic use. In other words, focused therapeutic treatments vs. broad-spectrum, preventive use. Baker says, in his experience, there is a significant decrease in subtherapeutic use across the industry.

Other increasingly important practices used to prevent and manage disease include dedicated replacement sourcing, parity segregation, and weaning pigs at later ages — as late as 24 days. It is difficult to prevent disease in pigs weaned at 17 or 18 days without some reliance on antibiotics, he says.

Dedicated replacement sourcing refers to a single breeding stock supplier dedicated solely to supplying a customer at a single site. It can be an internal (company-owned) multiplier, which supplies gilts to a single breeding herd site, for example. This arrangement is becoming more common, particularly in larger production systems, Baker notes.

Swine veterinarians are also adopting a new way of thinking about antibiotic use. Baker says that disease is most often managed with diagnosis, precision therapy and reevaluation efforts. Therapeutic-level medications are used in place of routine preventive group treatments. In larger systems, veterinarians have been using postmortems and other diagnostic tools more aggressively to accurately identify diseases, and then implement interventions targeted to treat a specific disease occurrence.

It's Up to You

Ultimately, producers have the responsibility for using antibiotics prudently. Reducing or eliminating antibiotics can be costly for producers who will likely reap no direct benefits, unless they choose to market their products as organic or antibiotic-free.

At the University of Guelph Veterinary College, Scott McEwen, DVM, has been asking producers for years to measure their antibiotic use as part of various research projects. Although producers seem willing to assist, few fully comply since it is not a high priority, nor do they derive an economic benefit. Getting producers to change how they manage antibiotics is a hard sell.

“It is asking a lot for producers to absorb the cost of this in order that someone else might benefit,” McEwen says. “So we have to find other ways to encourage and reward producers for making these kinds of sacrifices on behalf of the public.”

Rodent Control 101

A little knowledge can improve control of house mice, Norway and roof rats.

There's no debate that rodent control can be a major problem in and around swine operations. Disease transmission, feed loss, animal stress and property damage can run up a significant tab.

Effective rodent control requires an investment of time and money. A little knowledge can go a long way toward reducing overall rodent-related costs, explains Ted Bruesch, national technical support manager at Liphatech, Inc.

“It is important to understand the pests' behavior, then use that knowledge to select the most effective tools to control them,” he says.

Rodent Control is a Process

Rodent control is a process, not a program. Because rodents are a never-ending threat, your control efforts must also be ongoing.

Achieving “zero mice” may be impractical, even impossible, for several reasons:

  • Rodents are very prolific creatures. A single female house mouse may produce up to 56 offspring annually.

  • New rodents are constantly drawn to swine production facilities as a source of food and warmth.

  • Rodents are excellent climbers and can squeeze through tiny openings or create their own. Therefore, sealing a building to exclude rodents is a difficult prospect, at best.

  • Rodents are nocturnal and most of their activity goes unseen.

Too often, pork producers implement a rodent control program when an infestation becomes serious, then end it when the crisis has passed.

This approach often results in significant rodent-related losses before the infestation is brought under control. It also requires a larger investment in time and money to knock down large rodent populations.

Know Your Rodenticides

Rodenticides have proven to be the most cost-effective method of rodent control. Two groups of rodenticides are commonly used in swine production facilities: acute toxicants and anticoagulants. A better understanding of each will lead to a cost-effective approach, Bruesch explains.

Acute toxicants — These rodenticides include active ingredients such as zinc phosphide, cholecalciferol and bromethalin. If a lethal dose is ingested, they can kill quickly. However, the high concentrations of these active ingredients tend to make them taste bad. If another feed source is available, rodents may not eat enough bait to be lethal.

Rodents exposed to these materials exhibit distressful symptoms of poisoning, such as paralysis and convulsions. If less than a lethal dose is ingested, the rodent will associate the bait with its discomfort and avoid it in the future. This is commonly referred to as “bait shyness.” It is also important to note that young rodents take clues from their mother about which feed sources are safe to eat.

Anticoagulants — This group of rodenticides comes in two formulations — single-feed and multiple-feed. Anticoagulants inhibit blood clotting, causing rodents to die from internal bleeding. The process produces no signs that the rodent is in distress or pain.

Single-feed anticoagulants contain active ingredients at much lower concentrations than the acute materials, so bait acceptance is improved. These anticoagulants are effective within several days, which is still relatively fast, but not so fast that it triggers bait shyness.

Multiple-feed anticoagulants may take a week or more to be effective.

Use the Right Mix

Both acute and anticoagulant rodenticides have their place in a rodent control process. Using the right mix is the most practical and economical approach.

Acute toxicants are best suited for a quick knockdown of an infestation. The best time to implement this intensive treatment is when the building is empty. Eliminating as many competing feed sources as possible will enhance bait acceptance.

“Don't rely on acute toxicants too long, in order to prevent bait-shy survivors and their offspring from reestablishing the infestation,” Bruesch warns.

When the intensive baiting is complete and the building is restocked, rotate to a palatable anticoagulant rodenticide, such as difethialone or bromadiolone. Rotate the use of these two different-tasting materials to kill survivors that choose not to feed on one bait or the other.

The key to knocking down a rodent population and keeping it down is through the rotation strategy.

Controlling Costs

A little math can help keep rodent control costs down.

A common misperception is that the least expensive pail of rodenticide is the most cost-effective, but there are several factors to consider.

First, consider the “cost per placement.” For example: Product A costs $54.64/pail and Product B costs $64.95/pail. The 18-lb. pail of Product A contains 288 blocks of bait or placements, which equals 19 cents/placement. Product B's 20-lb. pail contains 454 blocks of bait, roughly 14 cents/placement.

In this example, Product B actually represents nearly a 25% cost-per-placement savings.

Additionally, the toxicity of an anticoagulant will impact the effectiveness of a rodenticide and, therefore, the cost/dead rodent.

Remember the Basics

A few fundamental principles will help reduce the cost of rodent control:

  • Understand the rodent. Mice behave differently than rats. Roof rats behave differently than Norway rats. A program cannot be successful unless control methods match rodent behavior.

  • Select the right bait formulation. Block types are best for mice. Avoid using pellets for mice; they hoard them, wasting bait and creating risk. Loose pellets or meal-type baits are excellent for Norway rats because they can be spooned directly into their burrows in the soil. Blocks are great for roof rats because they can easily be secured up high where these rodents live and travel. Make sure the product label allows the application you are considering.

  • Placement is important. Generally, place bait as close to the rodents' nest as possible, but certainly between the nest and feed source. Improperly placed baits waste time and money.

  • Use enough rodenticide. The number one cause of rodent control failures is offering too little material. There must be enough available to allow every rodent to feed on it and ingest a lethal dose.

  • Manage the risks. All rodenticides have risks that must be managed. Properly contain rodenticides with tamper-resistant bait stations in all areas accessible to children and non-target animals.


The New Product Tour in the May 15, 2006 issue of National Hog Farmer should have listed a Dubuque, IA, business as DDI, not Double Dragon Industries. The contact person is Sarah Merrick, and her correct e-mail address is [email protected].

Swine Training Programs

Conventional and alternative breeding and gestation management are the subject of two swine training programs in late July and early August in Minnesota.

Breeding and gestation management will be July 27 and 28 at the University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center at Waseca, MN. Alternative breeding and gestation management will be July 31 and Aug. 1 at the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center at Morris, MN.

Registration deadline is July 17. Cost is $110 for the two-day intensive programs. For more details, contact University of Minnesota Swine Extension educator Mark Whitney at (507) 389-5541 or Minnesota Pork Board education director Trudy Wastweet at (800) 537-7675.

Hip Injection Saves Fingers

Giving inoculations to sows in farrowing crates or gestation stalls has just become a lot safer.

The Canadian Pork Council's Canadian Quality Assurance (CQA) program has just approved the use of a new hip injection technique, developed by Darcy Pauls and Claude Mason, DVM, both with Puratone Corporation in Niverville, Manitoba.

At one time, ham injections were the industry standard, but over time producers switched to the neck to avoid damaging or discoloring the ham. While neck injections work well for slaughter animals, they can be very difficult to administer to sows in gestation stalls.

“One day, we sat back and asked, ‘Is there a better way to give these injections?’” says Pauls, Puratone general manager. “They administer hip injections to cattle; why aren't we thinking about this for pigs?”

Employee Safety

The biggest advantage to hip injections is employee safety, since it allows the barn worker to passively slip in behind the sow. The animal remains calmer, making it safer for the sow and the handler.

“It is much easier on fingers and hands,” Pauls says. “If you are a six-ft.-tall individual, perhaps it's not all that difficult for you to lean over a stall (front) and try to inject an animal in the neck when she's backing up. We all come in different statures. For some, the job can be difficult when the animal backs up and moves her head. If you're in an awkward position you could wrench an arm.”

Hip injections are much simpler to administer because the animals' hips are exposed, almost at working bench level, Pauls says. “This makes the job easier and lets you do a better job.”

Pauls also believes using the hip site solves stockmanship problems. Neck injections can jeopardize the relationship between the stockperson and the animal. He feels the herd becomes calmer and reacts better with barn workers when they don't associate them with aggressive behavior like pricking them with a needle.

“A hip injection is not a ham injection,” reminds Pauls. “The hip is up above, on the top of the animal. The injection is not into the ham, which is a valued cut of meat. Also, I want to be clear we are talking about using it on our breeding stock animals (only); this is not the way we're treating market animals.

“We use the hip site only for low-dose vaccines of 2 ml. or less; if we need to treat an animal with penicillin or something that requires larger doses, we use the neck,” he adds.

Injections are given in an area between the front of the hipbone and the hip joint, about 2 in. off the spine (see photo/diagram). It's a clean area that's less prone to abscess, and still allows true intramuscular deposit of the product. Products are inserted perpendicular to the skin surface using 1½-in., 18-gauge needles.