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National Hog Farmer

NOVUS International Signs Agreement With Chr. Hansen

(St. Charles, MO - AgNewsWire) NOVUS International, Inc. and Chr. Hansen, Inc., two leaders in animal health and nutrition, signed an agreement last week at World Pork Expo (WPX). This agreement combines the strengths of both organizations with respect to sales and technical competencies to position BioPlus 2B® to the swine industry in the United States.

BioPlus 2B®, a direct fed microbial (DFM), contains two strains of Bacillus (Bacillus licheniformis and Bacillus subtilis). These Bacillus strains can improve the intestinal microbial balance of swine. Safety studies have proven that BioPlus 2B® strains are totally safe to animals and humans. The data was compiled into more than 5,000 pages to get final approval in the European Union for all swine categories. It makes BioPlus 2B® the most extensively documented microbial for swine.

“This partnership compliments our GEMS nutrition program and gut health management portfolio,” stated Dan Meagher, Vice President, Americas. “NOVUS International is focused on providing producers, nutritionists and veterinarians with ways to optimize pig health and performance.”

BioPlus 2B® is an effective means of helping balance bacterial populations in the intestinal tract to improve performance regardless of life stage. BioPlus 2B® is an effective DFM that increases live weight gain and improves feed conversion efficiency when used in nursery and grow-finish applications. BioPlus 2B® also helps improve overall intestinal health, improved average daily gain (ADG) and decreased mortality.

“The cooperation with NOVUS International immediately broadens our access to the swine market in the United States. We expect strong growth in sales with this cooperation”, explains Dr. Bill Braman, VP Marketing and Sales Animal Health & Nutrition, Chr. Hansen NA.

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About NOVUS International

Novus International, Inc. is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A. and serves customers in more than 80 countries around the world. An industry leader in animal nutrition and health, Novus's products include ALIMET® and MHA® feed supplements, ACTIVATE® nutritional feed acid, ACIDOMIX® preservative premixture, ADVENT® coccidiosis control, MINTREX® organic trace minerals, SANTOQUIN® feed preservative, MERA(TM)MET aquaculture feed additive, AGRADO® feed ingredient and many other specialty ingredients. The ARENUS(TM) brand (www.arenusperformance.com), part of Novus International, Inc., focuses on developing performance products for the equine and companion animal markets. Novus is privately owned by Mitsui & Co. (U.S.A.), Inc. and Nippon Soda Co., Ltd. For more information visit www.novusint.com.

About Chr. Hansen

Chr. Hansen is a global biotechnology company that provides ingredients to the food, dairy, human health and nutrition, and animal health industries. Based on intensive research the company is a leading supplier of cultures, probiotics, enzymes and natural colors, which are applied in foods and beverages, dietary supplements, and agricultural products.

For more information, please visit www.chr-hansen.com

®BioPlus 2B is a trademark of Chr. Hansen AS and is registered in the United States and other countries

®ALIMET is a trademark of Novus International, Inc., and is registered in the United States and other countries.

®MHA is a trademark of Novus International, Inc., and is registered in the United States and other countries.

®ACTIVATE is a trademark of Novus International, Inc., and is registered in the United States and other countries.

®ACIDOMIX is a trademark of Novus Deutschland GmbH and is registered in Germany and other countries.

®ADVENT is a trademark of Viridus Animal Health, LLC, and is registered in the United States and other countries.

®MINTREX is a trademark of Novus International, Inc., and is registered in the United States and other countries.

®SANTOQUIN is a trademark of Novus International, Inc., and is registered in the United States and other countries.

(TM)MERA is a trademark of Novus International, Inc.

®AGRADO is a trademark if Novus International, Inc., and is registered in the United States and other countries.

(TM)ARENUS is a trademark of Novus Nutrition Brands, LLC.

Defining Demand for Pork as Prices Languish

We all know demand is not what it should be, right? But which demand are we talking about? Specifying just where any demand problems may lie is a point upon which even I have not been clear enough lately. In addition, what I am seeing in hog prices is not squaring with information I’m hearing about consumer attitudes and behavior. So I did a little number crunching last week.

First, a bit of background. Hog prices have languished far below last year’s level and levels where virtually everyone expected them to be this summer. But does that mean pork demand is bad? Well, sort of, if you are talking about wholesale demand, which is closely correlated with hog demand since wholesale prices and by-product values are the major determinants of hog bids.

But why is wholesale demand soft? We know exports are very soft given the difficulties we face with pork demand in Mexico and political gamesmanship by Russia and China. But what about domestic demand? It has to have been hurt by all of the “swine flu” talk and sick people and a few related deaths, right? Funny thing, though, the National Pork Board’s tracking surveys have shown that consumers understand that pork is safe and, after an initial setback, responses indicating a willingness to buy pork have bounced back. So is it just exports? I went back to my data files and did a bit of ciphering to see if I could figure out a bit more about what is going on.

Let’s go back to April 24 (wouldn’t we like to do that knowing what we do now?). At that time, Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s Group Lean Hogs futures indicated a normal seasonal rally of a little over $10/cwt carcass (see Figure 1). Let’s call those expected prices since a lot of people were betting real money on them, thus bringing a great deal of collective information and brainpower to the marketplace.

On April 24, there was also an expected level of slaughter. My calculation is represented by the red line in Figure 2. It is based on the year-on-year changes in the inventory of pigs of various weights in the March Hogs and Pigs Reports and some adjustments for lower imports from Canada and historical relationships. On average, my expectations for weekly slaughter since March 1 had been almost perfect relative to actual slaughter but, as you can see, averaging baled me out some weeks when the actual slaughter was either higher or lower than my expectations. Now, everyone’s expectations were not the same as mine but they were probably pretty close since mine were based on the major sources of public data. Let’s add in some “expected weights” and we get “expected supply.”

So we have a set of expected supplies and expected prices. So what changed to make the actual prices (the fuscia line in Figure 1) and new price expectations (the red line in Figure 1) so much different? Demand went in the tank when H1N1 flu hit, right? Maybe not.
Consider the following numbers:

  • Mexico took 3.7% of U.S. commercial pork production in January through March. Last week’s product-weight export data for Mexico showed that shipments were lower in April and at least part of that decline could have been due to H1N1 influenza becoming an issue there even before April 24. So let’s ignore April as tainted data.
  • Russia took 1.3% of U.S. commercial pork production in February and March after starting the year very slowly.
  • China took about 0.7% of U.S. commercial pork production in March after two months of just less than 0.3%. I include China here just for information. I’m not going to count this as a lost market since Hong Kong is still open.
  • Since April 25, federally inspected hog slaughter has been 1.6% larger than my expected levels.
  • I expected carcass weights to run one pound higher this summer vs. one year ago. Since April 25, weights have been roughly two pounds or 1% larger than I had expected.
Added Supply Dampens Prices
Add up the non-China items and we see that the supply of pork to U.S. consumers is 7.6% higher now than I, and very likely many others, expected to be the case at the end of April. That is a lot of extra pork to sell!

Is the difference between actual/expected prices commensurate with this change in supply? Yes, they pretty well are. Using a price flexibility (ie. the percentage change in price for a one percent change in supply) of -2, the change in expected supply would be expected to drive prices 15.2% lower. Comparing actual cash prices through June 5 and June 5 futures prices to the April 24 futures shows that prices fell -9.1% below the expected level the week of May 1 and the decline grew to -14.1% last week. The June 5 futures prices suggest that the impact will be about -20% this week and fall to -17 to -18% through July 10.

Those numbers aren’t precise but economics is not chemistry. They are reasonably close and they suggest that EXPORTS ARE THE BIGGEST PART OF THIS PROBLEM and that DOMESTIC DEMAND IS STILL REASONABLY STRONG. The reason domestic prices are so low (we’ve all heard of $1.50/lb. boneless loins) is that so much product has been placed on the domestic market by a) export reductions and b) higher-than-expected slaughter and weights.

Reduce Slaughter Weights
What can be done? Get weights down as quickly as you can. That’s easier said than done with packers managing pig and product flows carefully but do whatever you can! Eat pork and encourage others to do so! I know you do that regularly but do it more! I’ve told the Pork Board that we need to jump-start pork demand in Mexico. I know they and the U.S. Meat Export Federation are trying but the situation with Mexican consumers is a tough one. And finally, the National Pork Producers Council is doing whatever it can to get Russia and China open – but the rule of international trade law is not highly regarded by the folks on the other side of those talks.



Click to view graphs.

Steve R. Meyer, Ph.D.
Paragon Economics, Inc.
e-mail: steve@paragoneconomics.com

Propping Up Farrowing Rates

There are three main variables that impact the success of a mating/service – the female to be bred (sow/gilt), semen quality, and the capabilities of the person responsible for the insemination.

Farrowing rate is one of the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) used in the Swine Management Services’ (SMS) database. It also has one of the flattest KPI bell curves (Chart 1) in the database. Farms vary from below 70% to 92% farrowing rate for the most current 52 weeks in the database.

Chart 2 shows the wean-to-1st service interval for the last 52 weeks, showing an average of 7.03 days and a range of less than 4 days to 10+ days. As pig weaning age goes up and more lactation feed is fed, there is a trend for weaned sows to cycle sooner.

Chart 3 shows farrowing interval – the days from one farrowing to the next. Farrowing interval is affected by lactation length, wean-to-1st service interval, days to finding open (recycling) females, farrowing rate, and gestation length. This trait varies from 138 days to 154 days, with database average of 145.6 days.

Sow fertility measures are affected by wean-to-1st service interval and percent of sows bred back by Day 7 after weaning. Fertility variables include age and weight at first breeding for gilts, sow parity, type of facility, genetics, season of the year, feed intake before and after weaning, body condition, access to water, supplemental cooling, ventilation, estrous detection and insemination technician capabilities.

Wean-to-1st service interval is a driver for improving farrowing rate and increasing litter size on the subsequent litter. The sooner a weaned female returns to heat, the more fertile she is and the more eggs are shed to improve litter size. The sow’s body condition going into farrowing, her feed intake during lactation, and feed intake after weaning influences how quickly she recovers from the farrowing and lactation process and comes back into heat.

Focus on Feed Intake
Management tips for feeding sows:

  • Sows are individuals. When and how much they eat varies. Some sows prefer to eat at night, while others favor eating during the day. If you watch Parity 1 females, most eat small amounts several times a day vs. older parity sows, which are more inclined to eat several pounds of feed once or twice a day.

  • Feed delivery systems affect feed intake. Many farms are changing how they feed sows. Rather than feeding once or twice, daily, many are hand-feeding several times per day (3-5), installing automated systems that can drop feed several times during a 24-hour period, or installing feeders with feed reservoirs so sows can have access to feed 24 hours a day.

  • Measuring feed intake (disappearance). To calculate lactation feed intake, total the lactation feed delivered to the farm during a specific period (i.e. 4 weeks; 13 weeks) then divide by the total number of lactation days in the period. Keep in mind, this calculation measures feed disappearance, not necessarily feed intake. It is important to check for feed wastage under the feeders and/or feed removed due to spoilage. It not uncommon for farms to waste 10% of the feed delivered. For a 20-day average lactation length, feed consumption should be 14-16 lb./day.
Feeding sows in lactation is an art. You must treat each sow as an individual. Her daily feed needs and her eating habits must be recognized. We feel it is important that feed be available 24 hours a day during lactation.


Key Performance Indicators

Tables 1 and 2 (below) provide 52-week and 13-week rolling averages for key performance indicators (KPI) of breeding herd performance. These tables reflect the most current quarterly data available and are presented with each column. The KPI’s can be used as general guidelines to measure the productivity of your herd compared to the top 10% and top 25% of farms, the average performance for all farms, and the bottom 25% of farms in the SMS database.

If you have questions or comments about these columns, or if you have a specific performance measurement that you would like to see benchmarked in our database, please address them to: mark.rix@swinems.com or ron.ketchem@swinems.com.



Click to view graphs.

Mark Rix and Ron Ketchem
Swine Management Services LLC

FDA Food Safety Reform Passes Subcommittee

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health passed H.R. 2749, the “Food Safety Enhancement Act.” The bill increases the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authority to regulate food. FDA is given authority to mandate food recalls, subpoena records, conduct on-farm inspections and impose civil penalties. Food facilities would be inspected by FDA based on risk. High-risk facilities would be inspected at least once every six to 18 months and low-risk facilities would be inspected every three to four years. The bill also provides for a study to analyze the incidence of antibiotic resistance as it pertains to the food supply and develop new methods to reduce the transfer of antibiotic resistance to humans.

Committee Deadline for Climate Change Legislation Set — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has set June 19 as the deadline for all committees with jurisdiction to complete action on the climate change legislation (HR 2454). Speaker Pelosi would like for the full House to pass the legislation before the July 4 recess. A key issue for members of the House Agriculture Committee is indirect land use. Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) has been meeting with House leadership to try and resolve this issue. Currently over 30 agricultural and farm organizations have stated their opposition to HR 2454, the Waxman-Markey bill. These include the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Meat Institute, National Chicken Council, National Corn Growers Association and the National Turkey Federation.

USDA Announces Biofuels Directive — USDA announced plans to expedite and increase the production of biofuels in response to President Barack Obama’s May 5 directive. The USDA plans include:

  • Loan guarantees for biorefineries.
  • Assistance for biorefineries replacing fossil fuels. USDA will provide up to $20 million in financial assistance to biorefineries to replace fossil fuels used to produce heat or operate biorefineries with renewable biomass.
  • Encouraging production of next-generation biofuels. USDA will provide $30 million to provide payments to eligible agricultural producers to support and ensure an expanding production of advanced biofuels.
  • Harvesting, storing and transporting assistance. USDA is launching a program that will provide compensation for the collection, harvest, storage and transportation of biomass intended to meet the country’s energy needs. The program will provide financial assistance for delivery of eligible biomass material to conversion facilities that use biomass for heat, power, bio-based products or biofuels.

House Republicans Propose Cutting MAP — As the House of Representatives begins consideration of fiscal year 2010 appropriation bills, House Republican leaders are proposing cuts of more than $23 billion in various programs over the next five years. Included on the list is USDA’s Market Access Program (MAP), which has been used successfully by the agriculture community to promote U.S. agricultural products overseas. MAP was reauthorized in the 2008 farm bill.

FSA County Committee Nominations Open June 15 — USDA announced that farmer and rancher candidate nominations for the local Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committees will begin on June 15 and end on Aug. 3. Producers may nominate themselves or others. Organizations representing minorities and women may also nominate candidates. FSA will mail ballots to eligible voters beginning Nov. 6. Ballots are due at the county office by Dec. 7. Newly elected committee members and alternates take office Jan. 1, 2010.

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

Thousands Make Trip To World Pork Expo

Despite unprecedented challenges in the U.S. pork industry, thousands of pork producers and allied industry exhibitors came together in early June for the National Pork Producers Council’s 21st annual World Pork Expo.

Pork producers are struggling from an extended period of low prices compounded by negative reactions following the April 24 announcement of the H1N1 Flu Outbreak Virus.

The drop in attendance from 2008, estimated at 14,625, was expected, due in part to the H1N1 flu’s impact on international travel.

“With the market conditions, we knew some pork producers would not be able to make the trip this year,” says John Wrigley, World Pork Expo general manager. “But with the addition of the H1N1 virus issue hitting at exactly the time international visitors had to make travel plans, we believe it had a significant impact on international attendance.”

Still, exhibitors indicated pork producers who attended were serious shoppers, looking forward to doing business when profitability changes course.

“Traffic at our booth was down from last year, but the customers who came by were either planning to buy soon or were expecting to make purchases next year,” says Mark Hayden, national sales manager of AP, a division of the GSI Group.”Given the industry challenges, we didn’t have high expectations for traffic, so we were happy to see customers who are looking optimistically toward the future.”

Gate attendance on Friday was nearly double the normal traffic when the final day of the show was held on Saturday, a good indication that the Wednesday through Friday show format was an improvement for both attendees and exhibitors. “We came in on Sunday to get set up,” Hayden says, “so we appreciate being able to be out a day early.”

Positive Breeding Show Support, Sales

With Junior National participation up significantly and some $500,000 in Breed Show sales, the Swine Barn proved a bright spot at World Pork Expo.

Sales this year are up from 2008, a great accomplishment for our industry in light of the challenges we have faced,” says Darrell Anderson, CEO of the National Swine Registry.

The grand champion and top-selling boar was a Duroc consigned by Malcolm Farms of Indiana. It brought $60,000 and was purchased by Hi Point Genetics, Guyer Cattle, JP Enterprises and Newnum, Chrisman, IL.

Next year’s World Pork Expo is slated for June 9-11, 2010 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, IA.

Setting Pigs Up to Succeed

Farms with a strong focus on setting pigs up to succeed can earn dividends, both in more pigs produced and more quality pigs finished.

To reach that success, it takes engaged employees who have been trained in the proper concepts and who understand what it takes to carry them out in a consistent fashion, says Sarah Probst Miller, DVM, Carthage (IL) Veterinary Service (CVS), who maintains a veterinary consulting office at Neoga, IL.

“I see a lot of farms where employees might be going through the motions, but unless they are engaged and understand what they are doing and can multitask,” working in the demanding farrowing rooms may not be the right place for them.

CVS promotes a “critical care” program that encompasses the importance of both sow and pig care in its Training Toolboxes software programs used to guide and educate farrowing room managers, according to Miller.

Three goals are pursued: getting pigs off to the best start, reducing mortalities and ultimately reducing variation, she says.

Goal One: Preventing Fallouts

Research has shown that getting pigs off to the best start begins with reducing the number of fallouts by placing the right number of pigs on the sow. “We want to practice minimal, but smart movement of pigs after they are born. This task is best initiated before the sows even farrow.

“So one thing we want employees to do, even as they load sows into the farrowing crate, is to count the number of functional teats on the sow and write that number on the sow card,” Miller explains.

During the critical first 24 hours of life, sows and pigs must be closely scrutinized. The number of pigs farrowed must be compared to the number of functional teats a sow has. “We want to utilize each functional teat — without implementing an undue amount of pig movement,” she cautions. “Doing this right prevents fallouts.”

Fallouts are small pigs that vary in size and will likely remain behind in growth their entire lives.

“If these pigs are in the group that makes it to market, they are hitting the lower end of the matrix and are not providing full value,” she explains. “We would predict that these pigs would be more likely to have health problems, perhaps because they didn't get enough colostrum or possibly (experienced) iron leakback or because they didn't have a functional teat,” she adds.

“Making sure pigs have functional teats needs to happen at the right time. If you add a pig to a litter too far past farrowing, a teat may or may not be stimulated to produce milk. If we move a pig too soon, it could be possible that you've moved a pig that didn't receive that all-important colostrum,” Miller emphasizes. “This could be a death sentence.”

Baby pigs naturally select a teat based on their size — the big, dominant piglets typically secure the up-front positions and smaller pigs are often destined to get the back teats. That aligns with the natural order of milk flow — front teats usually provide the most milk and rear teats typically supply the least.

“This lineup is okay and this natural variation in pig size is okay, too, as long as pigs have functional teats. Often a sow may have extra functional teats or not enough functional teats and this is where our opportunity to prevent fallouts lies,” Miller says.

Occupying all those functional teats must be done within 24-48 hours of farrowing in order to keep teats functioning at optimal levels, she adds. If not nursed within 24-48 hours, a teat will start to shut down.

Miller says one farm study showed that getting the right amount of pigs on the sows in the first 24 hours, based on functional teat count, along with proper pig care, reduced the amount of fallout pigs at weaning from 15% to 4-5%.

Goal Two: Warming/Drying, Colostrum

Before pigs can be moved to a new sow to nurse, several key events must take place, Miller points out.

First, it is beneficial for pigs to be warmed and dried immediately after birth, using a towel or double heat lamps. “When the baby pig is born, its temperature is going to be the same as the sow's, around 103-104°F. If we allow that pig to dry itself off, there will be a lot of evaporative cooling, and the temperature of the pig can drop drastically down to 96-98°F. That sounds warm, but it will cause that pig to shiver and shake — a high-energy activity,” she says.

Next Page: Goal Three: Runt Pig Litters

Previous Page: Goal One: Preventing Fallouts

Another warming strategy commonly recommended by CVS is to place an 18-gal. plastic tub underneath the heat lamp, which is referred to as a “survivability box.” Place up to an inch of feed in the bottom so the surface is not slippery. “Pop a pig in the box and in no more than five minutes, the pig is nice and dry, pink and ready to nurse the sow,” Miller says. Usually 1-3 pigs are placed in the box at a time.

A common scenario for just-farrowed litters would be a sow with 10 pigs but 13 functional teats that could accommodate three more pigs. Miller reminds that prior to moving any pigs to other sows, the piglets must absorb their first colostrum. “To set pigs up to accept the challenge of movement, we need to get colostrum in their belly,” she says.

Reducing variation in litters by ensuring consumption of colostrum can be highly successful through use of a management technique called split suckling. This technique can reduce the number of pigs under 8 lb. at weaning by 50%, according to research done by Tara Donovan, DVM, in 2001.

To fulfill split suckling, after a litter of pigs is farrowed, take the first born or biggest 4-5 piglets off the front teats and place them in the survival box, leaving the smaller half of the litter to nurse without competition. Leave these smaller pigs on the sow for about 30-60 minutes or until their bellies appear full of colostrum, Miller instructs.

“Often when they are full, the pigs go to sleep, just like we do after Thanksgiving dinner. This is a good sign they've had enough. Do not leave pigs in the box away from the sow for more than 1½-2 hours. This is too long without a meal for these young pigs,” she warns.

Miller says research shows the biggest pigs consume adequate colostrum within eight hours, whereas it can take up to 24 hours of nursing before the smallest pigs have achieved proper levels.

Adequate consumption of colostrum is critical to pig survival. Because colostrum is packed with valuable antibody proteins, it is important that all pigs in a litter have time to consume and absorb enough colostrum.

It's important that the proper person be designated “midwife” to follow farrowing sows and ensure all pigs have enough colostrum prior to doing some subtle movement to put the right number of pigs on sows according to functional teats.

“I believe in doing some early fostering, but I don't call it crossfostering, because I think that term is associated with continuous fostering, and we want this process to be smart, small and really focused on getting pigs to functional teats with minimal movement,” Miller emphasizes.

In contrast, continuous crossfostering (by creating one-for-one pig switches throughout lactation) is an example of too much intervention that reduces variation, reduces the total amount of pork out the door and creates a uniform group of smaller pigs.

Goal Three: Runt Pig Litters

There is one group of pigs that should be selected to make a runt pig litter — the very smallest pigs in the room. Pull those pigs off sows and place them on a Parity 2 or 3 sow that has smaller teats that are aligned better to raise those pigs, Miller says.

Gilts shouldn't be used to nurse runt pigs because these runts don't nurse hard enough, and gilts have a higher risk of shutting down milk production on their first litter, she warns. It's better to select a second- or third-parity sow with small teats to serve as a nurse sow.

“One thing we do with runt litters is put more pigs on that sow than we would normally. By putting 15-16 pigs on that sow, we can truly maximize her functional teats. We do expect more of these pigs to die due to weakness or underdevelopment. But one thing that helps is to provide supplemental milk to help these pigs out the first two days. Often if runt pigs have a chance to drink some milk in a pan, they then have enough energy to latch on and nurse better.

“I've seen some caregivers who are just phenomenal at raising these small pigs, and when done correctly, you have a hard time telling those pigs from the rest of the weaned group,” Miller attests.

But keep a close eye on sows raising these runt litters because they are more likely to get mastitis if they don't get nursed out every day. Also, be sure to check all sows in the farrowing room for early signs of this milking malady. If sows' eyes look glassy, or they are lying on their belly in the stall and their teats are hot, it's time to treat the infection and the pain the sow is experiencing,” Miller says.

Pig Processing

“Research disagrees on the best time to process pigs, but I typically recommend that Day 0 or Day 1 be a time that pigs are left undisturbed.

“When we do process, there are things that occur that have the potential to create disease, which can increase variation if we are not careful,” Miller cautions. Disinfect tools between litter treatments. Change needles frequently.

Giving iron shots is one of the most important newborn pig treatments. Studies show piglets need at least 200 mg. of iron in the first three days of life. “You skip giving a pig iron and you have created a pig that is going to be smaller throughout the rest of its life,” she declares.

To prevent iron leakback, which could cause the pig to be iron deficient, try this technique: stretch the pig's neck a little, give the iron shot in the neck and release the neck as you pull the needle out. “When you release the skin, the hole in the skin and the hole in the muscle from the iron shot don't quite line up, creating a cap over the hole where the iron went in, thus holding the iron in,” Miller says.

Use a sharp blade for castration. To repair scrotal ruptures, consider a nonsurgical taping method that has a very high rate of success. The method was featured in National Hog Farmer (“Less Invasive Rupture Repair,” Jan. 15, 2006, pages 20, 21).

Whether it is spotting a pig with iron leakback or a pale pig, intervention must be timely. “We need to look at every litter, every day, and if there is a pig that needs to be treated, treat it and treat it appropriately,” she says.

Farm Fallout Problems

One of the biggest problems is that farm staff wait to pull fallouts until 10-12 days of age, not giving them much opportunity to recover.

At 3-7 days of age, find and pull these pigs and place them on a nurse sow, and they should have a good chance of recovery. Miller says a good technique is to move a good-milking, weaned sow back to an empty farrowing crate to become a nurse sow.

She adds: “We know that our gilts do better on their subsequent litter if they are nursed longer, so this is one area where we may actually use gilts as nurse sows.

“We like bumping the sows down (back into farrowing) better than bumping litters up (weaning pigs early), because bumping litters out can create variation in your finisher barn because those pigs didn't get to nurse as long as other litters,” Miller notes. Every day pigs are weaned later than Day 14 up to Day 22 is worth 89 cents to $1.50/pig in additional profit, she adds.

Next Page: Pig Processing

Previous Page: Goal Three: Runt Pig Litters

Pig Processing

“Research disagrees on the best time to process pigs, but I typically recommend that Day 0 or Day 1 be a time that pigs are left undisturbed.

“When we do process, there are things that occur that have the potential to create disease, which can increase variation if we are not careful,” Miller cautions. Disinfect tools between litter treatments. Change needles frequently.

Giving iron shots is one of the most important newborn pig treatments. Studies show piglets need at least 200 mg. of iron in the first three days of life. “You skip giving a pig iron and you have created a pig that is going to be smaller throughout the rest of its life,” she declares.

To prevent iron leakback, which could cause the pig to be iron deficient, try this technique: stretch the pig's neck a little, give the iron shot in the neck and release the neck as you pull the needle out. “When you release the skin, the hole in the skin and the hole in the muscle from the iron shot don't quite line up, creating a cap over the hole where the iron went in, thus holding the iron in,” Miller says.

Use a sharp blade for castration. To repair scrotal ruptures, consider a nonsurgical taping method that has a very high rate of success. The method was featured in National Hog Farmer (“Less Invasive Rupture Repair,” Jan. 15, 2006, pages 20, 21).

Whether it is spotting a pig with iron leakback or a pale pig, intervention must be timely. “We need to look at every litter, every day, and if there is a pig that needs to be treated, treat it and treat it appropriately,” she says.

Farm Fallout Problems

One of the biggest problems is that farm staff wait to pull fallouts until 10-12 days of age, not giving them much opportunity to recover.

At 3-7 days of age, find and pull these pigs and place them on a nurse sow, and they should have a good chance of recovery. Miller says a good technique is to move a good-milking, weaned sow back to an empty farrowing crate to become a nurse sow.

She adds: “We know that our gilts do better on their subsequent litter if they are nursed longer, so this is one area where we may actually use gilts as nurse sows.

“We like bumping the sows down (back into farrowing) better than bumping litters up (weaning pigs early), because bumping litters out can create variation in your finisher barn because those pigs didn't get to nurse as long as other litters,” Miller notes. Every day pigs are weaned later than Day 14 up to Day 22 is worth 89 cents to $1.50/pig in additional profit, she adds.

Show Pig Group Sets Guidelines

The Show Pig Working Group has developed a set of biosecurity guidelines to follow for this summer's exhibition season in light of the H1N1 Influenza A Virus outbreak.

That group includes the National Association of Swine Records, swine Extension leaders and the National Pork Producers Council.

A meeting of representatives facilitated by the National Pork Board resulted in a list of recommendations designed to manage risk at swine show events, says Lisa Becton, DVM, director of Swine Health Information & Research for the Pork Board.

The group received input on a draft of risk management options from the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state veterinarians, influenza researchers, state swine Extension specialists and the Pork Checkoff's Animal Science, Swine Health and Public Health/Producer Safety committees.

Becton says the group has also approached the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians and several state veterinarians to assist in the development of a plan to identify and respond to influenza-like illness in pigs and/or exhibitors at swine shows.

The recommendations emphasize practicing good biosecurity measures to reduce the chance of tracking diseases back to the farm or exposing the public to potentially zoonotic diseases.

The suggested measures include encouraging terminal shows, increasing awareness of animals exhibiting clinical signs of disease, isolating animals returning to the farm following the show, discouraging public contact with the animals, increasing sanitation (such as hand-washing stations) and promoting public education.

For more information on the list of biosecurity measures, contact Becton at the Pork Board by phone (515) 223-2791 or e-mail lbecton@pork.org.

Goal: Producing More Quality Pigs

As the pork industry strives to increase productivity in the form of more total pigs born, more attention must be focused on saving more quality pigs, emphasizes Tom Gillespie, DVM, Rensselaer (IN) Swine Services.

But as liveborn pig numbers increase, stillborn rates tend to follow, as do other pig loss issues that add to preweaning mortality rates, he says.

“It should be the goal of a high-producing farm to raise 85% of the total number of pigs born to weaning,” he stresses. “A farm's goal should be to strive for a combined loss of no more than 15%, which includes preweaning mortality, stillborns and mummies.”

Top Production Brings Challenges

More producers are striving and achieving 13-14 total liveborn pig/litter averages. But along with those double-digit farrowing numbers come double-digit pig preweaning losses.

While not easy, Gillespie demonstrates in Figure 1 how a select group of producers representing 8,000 sows managed to take total pigs born per litter from 11.5 to over 13 across a 15-year period. At the same time, average preweaning mortality was kept at or below a very respectable 7%, and just 5% for 2007 and 2008.

Gillespie says it's common to see stillbirth rates climb when liveborn numbers increase. For this group, the opposite proved true; the stillbirth rate shrunk significantly over the years.

And in a database of 65,000 sows owned by producers who represent the bulk of his clients (Table 1), total pigs born/litter averaged 12.5, with the best at 14.3. Preweaning mortality was 11.1% for the median ranking in the group and just 4.5% for the best producers.

This group, which ranged from very large farms to very small, is indicative of the advances that have been made in reproductive performance — 23.7 pigs/sow/year (p/s/y) for the average based on 86.1% farrowing rate to 29.1 p/s/y for the best herds with 94.5% farrowing rate.

Farm Attitude

Gillespie says when modern genetics and health are running on all cylinders, there are two major contributors to successful pig development — farm attitude (employee engagement) and detailed pig management.

“Farm attitude is something that runs from top to bottom in an operation. With team attitude, it can be amazing how well facilities are kept and top performance can be achieved,” he says.

In these types of operations, a mindset has been established that every job is important, from the owner to the person doing the power washing. And it fosters a high level of employee satisfaction and morale that is driven by farm leaders.

Sow Management

Detailed management starts with getting the pigs out alive.

Studying the gestation length of a 2,600-sow farm in his practice, Gillespie converted the farm from a program of not inducing sows to one in which sows were induced at 114-115 days of gestation (Figure 2). “I said I only wanted to induce sows on Day 114 and that's what they did. They were averaging 115.5 days at farrowing, and we dropped that just a hair under 115, and we didn't change that sow farm's vigor. That farm is now running about 8-8.5% preweaning mortality,” he says.

Watch sow card records to document key events that occurred during the farrowing process to look for warning signs, he continues. “If the sow has had stillborns or long gestation periods (117 days) in the past, then farm staff wants to make sure that she is induced and that somebody is present during the farrowing process.”

Don't scrimp on lactation sow feed. If feeders are licked clean, that probably means sows need to be fed more. “What we forget is that it is the pigs that will drive milk production, which drives sow appetite,” he reminds.

Breeding and gestating sows need to consume about 3-4 gal. of water a day. “I don't believe sows will drink an adequate amount of water unless we force them to,” Gillespie asserts. At one sow farm studied over three years, sows consumed an average 4-4.5 gal. of water a day. Today sows are averaging 5-5.5 gal. of water a day. To elevate water consumption, the farm installed bowl drinkers. The bowl is filled with some water and feed is then dropped into the bowl, which sinks to the bottom of the bowl. Sows have to consume a certain amount of water to get to the feed, so the system promotes water consumption.

Some farms add water on top of feed in farrowing to promote increased water consumption, and that has improved performance and milking ability and reduced health problems, he says.

Next Page: Pig Management

Previous Page: Top Production Brings Challenges

Pig Management

Pay attention to details to spot chilled pigs. “The number-one enemy in the farrowing house is chilling. People automatically think about that pig that is huddled and is obviously chilled. But all newborn pigs are coming out of a 100°F environment into a 70°F environment that is cold for them, and they have to quickly adjust to it before they can get colostrum,” he states.

Hot boxes and tubs can greatly assist those struggling newborns. Drying powders play a vital role in reducing the affects of chilling. “I had a farrowing house manager tell me the other day that she likes to put pigs in the hot box right away and lets them stay there until they wake up — so to speak. She gives them time in the boxes to dry off and by the time she takes them out to nurse, they are ready to go — and are not flopping around under the sow and getting laid on,” Gillespie notes.

The Indiana veterinarian used to promote the use of bump weaning/fostering before the advent of milk replacers, etc. Litters were equalized and the use of nurse sows for small pigs was maximized. It was a lot of work but there were a lot of farms doing it, he recalls.

Gillespie observes: “We were weaning very uniform pigs and we met our goal. But we didn't realize the negatives. One day I was on this farm walking through farrowing when I noticed all of the litters that had been bumped. I calculated by Day 10 that over 50% of the litters had been disrupted — and suddenly realized this can't all be good.”

Gillespie says a study patterned after some work in Denmark identified the problems — putting new litters on all those sows reduced sow appetite and their ability to milk.

Bump weaning is still practiced to a limited degree, but he is finding that larger pigs are being weaned without using this management tool.

Another farrowing tip is marking pigs that look like they are starting to fade. These pigs can be closely watched and treated before they become fallbacks.

Milk replacer systems can play a role in helping save pigs. “There are places for these milk systems, or you can build more farrowing crates, extend weaning age, and let the sows do the nursing,” he says.

Saving small pigs was the subject of another trial Gillespie conducted. Fifty piglets from one farm were raised normally, using nurse sows to boost performance. The piglets — weighing 1 lb. 13 oz. to 2 lb. 4 oz. — were raised and 76% of them survived. They weighed 9-12 lb. when they were weaned at 20 days of age.

“We answered the first question, and that was whether we could take these pigs and make them into almost average pigs, and we did that,” he says. In a second, similar study, compromised pigs were raised and weaned at 12 lb. vs. 13 lb. for the normal litters.

“Three years or so ago, we wouldn't have even tolerated those little pigs, but we didn't have the amount of those types of pigs that we are seeing now,” Gillespie says.

He clarifies that the pigs that can be saved are of normal appearance, just small in size, similar to human preemies that are born prematurely and turn out to be very normal people.

Additional Factors

The ability to create more full-value pigs is also due, in part, to the trend to later weaning, which Gillespie believes will end up averaging 23-24 days of age.

By moving to later weaning, those current average 3-lb. or heavier birthweight pigs with a 13- to 14-lb. weaning weight will suddenly become nearly 16 lb., meaning that change could translate into fewer days to market.

The genesis for this article was a presentation by Gillespie at the March annual meeting of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians in Dallas, TX.

Table 1. Rensselaer Swine Services Benchmarking Database
Database of 65,000 sows

Average female inventory Farrowing rate Total born Pre-weaning mortality Average pigs weaned/litter Pigs weaned/sow/year Weaning to 1st service interval, days Litters/mated female/year Sow mortality Replacement rate
Median 1,144 86.1% 12.5 11.1% 10.0 23.7 6.5 2.46 5.9% 50.6%
Best weighted
94.5% 14.3 4.5% 12.6 29.1 4.1 2.60 0.2% 28.2%
Average by average female inventory

Electronic Sow Feeding System Offers Flexibility

Big Dutchman introduces its newly developed ESF (electronic sow feeder) system, the Callmatic2-505 controller, designed to make independent ESF station management possible. At the same time, all connected ESF stations can be centrally monitored and visualized in real time at a central personal computer (PC). Adjustments can be made at the central PC in the office or at any controller of any ESF station. With the new 505 controller, the farm manager can control a virtually unlimited number of ESF stations and retrieve data on all stations from any controller, should one station or controller malfunction. The station controller is equipped with a clearly arranged display and user-friendly keypad to access all vital data. The controller can be installed in the aisle for ESF station management from outside the animal area. For more information, call (616) 582-4094, e-mail Beate Ulrich at bulrich@bigdutchmanusa.com or log onto www.bigdutchmanusa.com.

Insecticide Spray Bottle

QuickBayt Spot Spray from Bayer HealthCare, LLC, Animal Health Division, now comes in a smaller, more convenient 24-oz. spray bottle. QuickBayt Spot Spray, named a top 10 new product at the 2009 World Ag Expo, was launched in June 2007 in a 1-lb. container. The refillable, 24-oz. bottle contains 3 oz. of the powerful active ingredient imidacloprid in a dry powder that mixes easily with water for equal distribution. The spray provides indoor and outdoor control of house flies where granular bait cannot reach. One application of QuickBayt Spot Spray kills in less than 60 seconds and controls house flies for up to two weeks outdoors and six weeks indoors. Spray directly onto surfaces where house flies tend to rest. One bottle treats 188 sq. ft. Replacement powder is available in a 1-lb. pack that treats 1,000 sq. ft. For more information, call (800) 422-9874 or visit www.QuickBayt.com.

Bin, Feed Monitoring Software

HerdStar, LLC, has released the newest version of its Bintrac.com bin monitoring and feed tracking program. Bintrac VMI version 2.0 now tracks and reports feed events occurring in feed bins in near real time. Using Bintrac's new Event Monitoring and Notification Service, a barn manager can receive text messages at 6, 12 and 18 hours during an out-of-feed event to correct the problem before it impacts production. Bintrac VMI automatically monitors and provides up to three e-mail or text message notifications for a variety of feed events. “I have been able to see and correct several feed-out events on my sites since I started using Bintrac VMI version 2.0. If I am not in the office or it's a weekend, Bintrac continues to keep me posted on these events by text-messaging it right to my phone. It only takes one or two feed-out events prevented before Bintrac VMI pays for itself,” reports Becky Dohlman, vice president of operations, Next Generation Pork, LeRoy, MN. Other features track hourly feed levels and usage over 15 to 105 days on a single graph that can be printed or downloaded. Contact HerdStar at (877) 246-8722, info@herdstar.com or go to www.herdstar.com.

Farm Generators

Blue Star Power Systems introduces a new line of Cummins-driven, diesel-powered generator sets with 15kW-60kW. Blue Star will continue to offer all existing diesel and gaseous products ranging from 25kW to 2MW. The new products offer new technology in engine control, improved fuel economy and added flexibility for a hog operation. For more information, call (507) 726-2508, e-mail agsales@bluestarpowersystems.com or go to www.bluestarpowersystems.com.

Send product submissions to Dale Miller, Editor (952) 851-4661; dpmiller@nationalhogfarmer.com

H1N1 Influenza Virus Recap Misses the Mark in the End

Adjoining the photo of an unmistakable pig snout poking through a gate were these words: “Fear & The Flu: The New Age of Pandemics.”

The cover story, “The Path of a Pandemic was written by Laurie Garrett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author with an impressive bibliography of articles and books on global health and emerging diseases.

Garrett documented the evolution and spread of the H1N1 virus, explaining the mutations at the cellular level and the birth of the new strain. Clearly, she had done her homework, tracking the first known case of H1N1 influenza to a Wisconsin teenager, describing it as “a mosaic of a wild-bird form of flu, a human type and a strain found in pigs … an influenza virus unlike any previously seen.”

The article held my attention to the closing paragraphs when Garrett hopped on the anti-meat soapbox and proclaimed: “A wiser set of pig-related actions would turn to the strange ecology we have created to feed meat to our massive human population. It is a strange world wherein billions of animals are concentrated into tiny spaces, breeding stock is flown to production sites all over the world and poorly paid migrant workers are exposed to infected animals. And it's going to get much worse, as the world's once poor populations of India and China enter the middle class.”

Ironically, in a previous paragraph, she rightly noted: “Some governments are banning pork products from the Americas, as if it were possible to get the flu from eating a cooked sausage. It is not.”

The implication, then, is that the more intensive livestock production required to meet the growing demand of a more affluent global population will increase the likelihood that viruses will mutate and increase the risk of a viral-based pandemic.

Garrett closed noting: “This is the ecology that, in the cases of pigs and chickens, is breeding influenza. It is an ecology that promotes viral evolution. And if we don't do something about it, this ecology will one day spawn a severe pandemic that will dwarf that of 1918.”

Now wait a minute.

I hastily dialed up Jerry Torrison at the Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Lab to get his reading. He acknowledged that Garrett “raises some points that bear consideration,” but “the pyramid logic of her piece doesn't hold up in the end.”

For starters, it's a huge jump — if not a contradiction — to equate a teenage boy's exposure to a housebound chicken and a few pigs in a small Wisconsin slaughterhouse to modern-day confinement rearing of meat animals setting us up for the next great influenza pandemic.

The current “triple reassortment influenza that has viral pieces from pig, bird and human flu strains doesn't surprise me,” Torrison says, but, of course, there was no intensive livestock production in 1918, when the influenza virus jumped from birds to people, and then to pigs.

What We Know

To be fair, Torrison affirms that the concentration of animals — whether four-legged or two — increases the risk of shared health issues, including the risk of developing pathogens that are passed from one species to another.

For the most part — pigs infect pigs, chickens infect chickens and people infect people.

“We have been able to concentrate high densities of humans in tight places, such as New York City, with proper sanitation, public hygiene and health care,” Torrison observes.

Why then do some people ridicule livestock producers when they have developed comprehensive biosecurity and health programs, prudent use of vaccines and antibiotics, and thoughtful production practices?

“We test and quarantine breeding stock moving internationally, but not people. Intensive agriculture has become the scapegoat for a natural phenomenon that clearly predates it. Isn't it odd that the same American consumers who carry hand sanitizers to restaurants are being told that pigs and chickens raised in the mud are categorically healthier than those raised indoors?” he asks.

Keep Telling Your Story

Realistically, the health of the global swine herd is at an all-time high. Additionally, the pork industry has invested heavily in identifying and sequencing thousands of influenza viruses from around the world. Coincidentally, this knowledge is being used by the Centers for Disease Control to help sort through the viral culprits that cause an influenza outbreak such as the wily H1N1 virus.

Where does that leave us? At the front line — defending our industry, our stringent production practices, and the safety of the pork we provide to an increasingly affluent global community.