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Articles from 2003 In July

National Pork Board Trims Staff

The National Pork Board is cutting 18 staff positions in response to the prolonged slump in hog prices, which has reduced pork checkoff revenues. The layoffs, from a staff of 96, are effective July 15.

“Many hog producers have been losing money over the last 18 months, which has turned out to be one of the most severe dips in the price cycle ever,” says Steven Murphy, chief executive officer of the National Pork Board. “Producers have had to take a critical look at their own operations, and they expect the same of their checkoff organization.”

The drop in market prices paid producers, together with a 5-cent reduction in the pork checkoff rate approved in 2002, has resulted in a 17.5% drop in the Pork Board's budget in just two years. Last year's budget was about $57 million. The 2004 budget is projected at $47 million.

Technology advances, including new Internet tools, are helping the Pork Board maintain producer programs with fewer full-time staff, says Murphy.

COOL Rule Gets Cool Reception

The mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) provision of the farm bill received a failing grade during two sessions at World Pork Expo (WPX).

The report card on the potential impact of COOL just keeps getting worse. Pork industry leaders say it will likely eat away newfound profits, send exports into a prolonged dive, and could ultimately bankrupt thousands of independent producers.

At a WPX press conference, National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) President Jon Caspers proclaimed: “If mandatory COOL is implemented, it will have a dramatic effect on the competitive position of the U.S. pork industry in world markets, and will end a string of 11 record-setting years for increasing U.S. pork exports around the world.”

Two COOL Scenarios

The impact of COOL on pork trade takes into account two implementation scenarios — full traceback or a certification-with-audit system, says Caspers.

He points out that the law prohibits imposing a mandatory animal identification system, which would be needed to roll out a full traceback program. But it doesn't stop retailers, packers and processors from demanding it of its suppliers.

Agricultural economists Dermot Hayes of Iowa State University and Steve Meyer of Paragon Economics predict that a full traceback system, like the one employed in the European Union, will increase farm production costs by $10.22/head or about 10%.

In this case, every pig born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S. (94.5 million animals in 2002) would be subject to full traceback. Canadian-born pigs bound for the U.S. would be subject to traceback; 5.7 million head were sent south in 2002.

A more likely means of implementing COOL, says Caspers, is through a certification-with-audit system. “Producers would certify to their packer or market what the country of origin of those animals is. Then producers would have to have some documentation or proof of certification.”

A report by the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI), a joint arm of Iowa State University and the University of Missouri, forecasts the impact of COOL on U.S. pork trade using three scenarios (Figure 1).

The first scenario uses a baseline, the second is tied to full traceback and the third is based on certification. The analysis projects that COOL will impact pork exports as early as this year, as Canada prepares for implementation of the rule.

“The 10% higher costs of a full traceback system will cause U.S. pork exports to remain near current levels through 2011, instead of growing by about 30%, assuming no additional costs were imposed on U.S. producers,” states the FAPRI report. U.S. producers would only capture growth in the domestic market. Canada, which will be able to take advantage of higher production costs resulting from COOL, will capture virtually all of the growth in international pork trade.

Under the certification-with-audit plan, U.S. pork exports are forecast to actually decline through 2011, as Canada will find other outlets for its live pigs, and possibly pork products traditionally shipped to the U.S. Short-term, Canadian weaned pigs fed out at home will be worth $16.50/head less, according to the FAPRI study. And prices for all Canadian hogs will be depressed as U.S. packers reject Canadian hogs due to increased segregation and certification costs. Those prices in Canada are expected to rebound as packers move to double-shift slaughter operations and more pigs are finished domestically.

Also, with the certification-with-audit scenario, Canadian production will decline, but not as much as Canadian pork exports to the U.S. Those fresh pork exports will therefore be freed up, and will be diverted into foreign markets, displacing U.S. products.

Observes Caspers: “The implementation of a certification-with-audit system is a lower cost system, but actually the impact on exports will be greater because of the dynamics in the marketplace. How Canada responds to those economics means we will actually see exports drop by over 50% over the rest of the decade into 2011. So COOL is going to have a huge impact.”

Trade Roundtable

COOL dominated discussion at an NPPC-sponsored agricultural trade roundtable at Expo.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) sparred with the panel and audience over his unwavering support of a mandatory COOL program.

“I'm supporting it as I did in the farm bill. I believe the provisions we put in there for farmer certification can work, and it would give our consumers the right to know where their products are coming from,” he observed.

Rep. Phil Latham (R-IA) responded that he has asked 100 producers on both sides of the issue whether COOL is going to put one more dime in producers' pockets.

“I have not heard one comment to that effect, and to me that is the fundamental question,” he asserted. He says it is time to take a step back and consider ways to maintain a voluntary program.

Implementation of a mandatory program will decimate profit margins for many of our producer customers, said Greg Gates, director of swine marketing, Sioux Nation Marketing. Sioux Nation facilitates the purchase of about one million segregated early weaned pigs annually fed out by independent producers in six Midwest states; 90% of those pigs are under packer contracts. Sixty percent of pigs are purchased in the U.S. and 40% are from Canada. Death loss on U.S. pigs is 6%, with 3% on Canadian pigs, he said.


NPPC President Caspers believes mandatory COOL must be overturned in this session of Congress. A late-June hearing was held in the House of Representatives to start that process.

“I think once Congress has evaluated all of the facts, they will see that COOL is quite devastating to a number of industries,” he says.”

Producers Echo Concerns Over COOL

A group of pork producers and NPPC board members echoed concerns over the impact of COOL at a WPX news conference.

Joy Philippi of Bruning, NE, admitted that when COOL was first proposed, many Nebraska producers, including herself, favored it. But once it became evident that extra costs would be attached, they all changed their minds.

“We cannot afford to have any extra costs put in our production system right now,” she declared. “We are just to the point now that we are starting to see some profits, and those profits are going back into equity that we have lost over the past few years.”

Nebraska producers also don't want the extra burden of identification and recordkeeping, which may be required under COOL, she said.

Steve Schmeichel of Hurley, SD, said that in the north central part of the U.S. where he lives, there is naturally a lot of concern over the growing influx of Canadian hog imports. “At first, we felt this was a way to keep Canadian pigs from coming down.”

But, he added, South Dakota producers soon changed their tune when they learned of the injustices in COOL. Poultry is excluded, even though the rule is supposed to encompass all protein products. Foodservice is also excluded, even though 55% of consumer's meals are purchased at foodservice establishments.

Jim Quackenbush of Chokio, MN, related his involvement in a company called Minnesota Certified Pork, comprised of a small group of producers who briefly sold niche pork products to retail stores in the Twin Cities.

“We spent about two years developing our business plan, incorporated an auditing system, and calculated the increased production cost in our system at 10%. The costs of our products at retail also increased to cover the added segregation costs. But none of this money came back to the farmer. We never recovered any of our added costs,” he said.

Similarly, COOL has the capability of adding to producer costs without any returns on the profit side, said Quackenbush.

New PRRS Initiative Launched

During a World Pork Expo news conference, the National Pork Board announced a new initiative aimed squarely at taming the unrelenting porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) virus.

Dave Culbertson, a pork producer from Geneseo, IL, said the Pork Board's Swine Health Committee has long recognized the significance of PRRS to the U.S. pork industry, having allocated over $2 million in checkoff funds for research since 1990.

“In spite of nearly 15 years of dedicated effort toward developing tools and management strategies for managing this disease, U.S. producers still list PRRS as the number one, most economically significant disease in their operations,” Culbertson noted. “Preliminary data from ongoing studies suggests that PRRS is costing the U.S. swine industry $600 million per year.

“The Swine Health Committee has been working over the last several months to develop a comprehensive and coordinated national strategy that will result in the creation of predictable methods and tools for control, and possible elimination, of the PRRS virus from U.S. swine farms,” he added.

Solving the PRRS Puzzle

“We're starting to gain some knowledge and tools (for controlling this disease) as we move forward,” noted Beth Lautner, DVM and vice president of science and technology at the Pork Board. “But, at the same time, we can't institute those tools into herds and predictably know that we really have this disease under control.

“There was a sense that the pork checkoff really needed to bring people together in an effort to really solve the PRRS puzzle,” she declared.

Eric Neumann, DVM and the Pork Board's director of swine health and information, added: “After dealing clinically with this disease in the field for better than 15 years, we're still being frustrated by the same kinds of problems we had five, 10 or 15 years ago.”

He explained several reasons PRRS is so tough to control:

  • The PRRS virus is a positive-stranded RNA virus, highly prone to mutation. These persistent mutations create strains with unique antigenic profiles that can result in poor cross-protective immunity. This makes vaccine development particularly challenging. Adding to the complexity of the challenge, a herd may have more than one strain of the virus or a new strain may be inadvertently introduced.

  • The PRRS virus elicits a rather complicated and unique immune response. This has hindered vaccine development, management and elimination strategies.

  • Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that the virus can move between farms despite rigorous biosecurity and production practices. Greater understanding about aerosol transmission and biological and physical vectors is needed.

  • Finally, having relatively few tools available to manage and control the disease compounds the problem.

Goals for the New Initiative

Following several months of collaboration with producers, veterinarians, universities, researchers, companies and state and federal government agencies, the Swine Health Committee developed a strategy matrix with 13 key objectives. At the conference, Neumann reviewed each briefly:

  1. Cooperative vaccine development: With limited vaccine options currently available, the committee emphasizes the need for more work and resources aimed at vaccine development. “If we use other diseases in the swine industry as a model, notably pseudorabies (PRV) and classical swine fever, the vaccines were an important part of managing and controlling those diseases,” Neumann noted.

  2. Understanding the persistently infected pig: “The PRRS virus is notable for its ability to develop long-term, persistent infections that complicate control and elimination programs,” he said. Those mechanisms must be understood so that testing strategies can be developed to identify persistently infected pigs.

  3. Creation of PRRS virus typing systems: With the virus' remarkable ability to mutate into new strains, a system for categorizing the new strains into similar “families” will facilitate vaccine development and regional PRRS elimination programs. “Because it mutates very readily, what infects a herd one day can mutate and infect the herd down the road, or reinfect the same herd simply because we lose the immunologic protection from the original virus,” he explained. “Epidemiologically, it looks like there is value in being able to classify these viruses into smaller groups so we can target vaccine development or regional vaccination programs.”

  4. Immune therapy development: Antiviral compounds and immune therapy have proven to be useful in controlling some other diseases; however, their application to PRRS has not been fully investigated. These products directly impact the virus rather than working through the immune system.

  5. National epidemiological investigations and risk factor analysis: “We've got herds that break with this disease, and despite our best efforts, we have a lot of difficulty in understanding where the infection came from. There's a strong, immediate need to understand the factors that put a farm at risk, across production types and geography, and on a large-scale basis,” Neumann explained.

  6. Creation of regional PRRS elimination demonstration projects: “We know we can eliminate this virus from a farm, but at this point, we don't know how to eliminate the virus from a region. We need to develop projects to learn how to do that,” he said.

  7. Quantifying the cost of PRRS to the U.S. pork industry: A thorough assessment of the cost of the disease will provide justification for the financial commitment necessary to complete the objectives outlined in the national PRRS initiative, Neumann stressed. “We really don't know what this disease is costing the industry as a whole,” he said, noting the $600 million is based on an early look at the data.

  8. PRRS virus genomic sequencing and creation of a national database: An enormous amount of diagnostic information about PRRS outbreaks and characteristics of the specific virus strains already exist. Unfortunately, the data has not been collected and stored in a manner that allows researchers to effectively analyze it. A national database would catalog old strains and new outbreaks for more effective analysis.

  9. Understanding the mechanisms of between-farm viral transmission: “We need to do more viral transmission research and understand what the mechanisms are so we can put mitigation strategies in place,” Neumann said.

  10. Engagement with the work of international PRRS researchers: “PRRS research is conducted around the world, and we need to make sure we have the due diligence to understand the application of the research on the U.S. pork industry,” he stressed.

  11. Collaboration with researchers of related (non-swine) viruses: Viruses that are related to PRRS exist in other species. It is important to track the global research to see if it might have application to the pig virus.

  12. Publication and distribution of 2003 PRRS compendiums: The first comprehensive review of scientific literature on PRRS, published in 1998, has been updated. The complete edition, primarily for use by veterinarians and researchers, is available for $30. An abridged version, providing practical information for pork producer use, is available for $10. A searchable CD containing both versions is available for $20. To order copies, call 800-456-PORK or visit

  13. Development of a real-time PRRS information/education system: A real-time system for disseminating new information to producers and veterinarians will be developed.

Time and Money

A detailed plan of work will be developed to prioritize the list of objectives and focus on long-range (10-15 years) research programs, Neumann explained.

In addition to checkoff funds, financial support will be sought through the USDA Agricultural Research Service, Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Veterinary Services and competitive grant programs.

Asked whether PRRS can be eradicated, Neumann stated: “Clearly, yes it can. We know producers and veterinarians have eliminated it from farms. The means and methods for expanding that through the industry is the question.”

Why is PRRS so tough to eradicate? “PRRS is simply a different virus than PRV,” Neumann continued. “PRV is a good example of a virus for which we had a very effective vaccine and which could be differentiated from natural infections. There is only a single strain of (PRV) virus, so there wasn't concern about variation between farms.” PRRS, unfortunately, doesn't fit that model. “We don't have a vaccine that is differentiable from live infections, and PRRS virus mutates readily,” he added.

“As we discover new information and find answers to these tough questions, our goal is to be able to develop tools for producers to either control the disease in a manageable, predictable way, or provide opportunities to eliminate it,” Lautner explained.

Mexican Market Could Soar

The termination of the Mexican antidumping duty order on U.S. lightweight hog exports could boost the total value of hog exports overall to an average of $100 million per year, says Dermot Hayes, Iowa State ag economist.

“Opening the market in Mexico is a big win for U.S. pork producers,” says National Pork Producers Council President Jon Caspers, Swaledale, IA. “Most of these lightweights sell at a significant discount in the U.S., but in Mexico we can sell them at a premium.”

In the late 1990s, the U.S. began to ship lightweight hogs to Mexico. Mexico responded by filing an antidumping case. “Since late 1999, large antidumping duties have shut U.S. producers out of this market,” says Caspers.

With the duty gone, Hayes estimates shipments of “600,000 head of lightweight hogs within six months to Mexico, eventually increasing to 1 million head once the market has fully adjusted.”

The total value to U.S. producers from those expanded sales of lightweight hogs to Mexico is put at $16/lightweight hog exported, or an additional $16 million.

Breeding Herd Drives Market Optimism

Following 20 months of negative returns, pork production has finally turned profitable — and it's expected to stay in the black, for the most part, through 2005.

If U.S. pork producers can resist expanding the breeding herd until near the end of 2004, they will enjoy 12 to 18 months of profitable production, says University of Missouri agricultural economist Glenn Grimes.

“With the punishment that we've had, we think there is a good possibility that producers will keep productivity growth at less than 1% to make this happen,” he says.

Points for Profits

The breeding herd is down about 3%, competing meat supplies are all down and cheap grain prices are on the horizon, Grimes reported at a price outlook talk during World Pork Expo, Des Moines, IA.

The breeding herd reduction has already translated into reduced pork supplies, down about 3% the last few months, and projected to remain down 2% for summer and fall, adds Chris Hurt, Purdue University agricultural economist.

Two factors weighed in to help prevent a fourth quarter 2002 disaster similar to the one seen in 1998. Shackle space was not as tight as expected, and producers definitely pulled marketings forward, explains Grimes.

“Packers continued to improve their productivity. Even after plant closings at Marshall, MO, and Dubuque, IA, hog slaughter capacity in 2002 was nearly 400,000 head per day under federal inspection. In fact, in recent years, there were 64 days with more than 390,000 head slaughtered under federal inspection. In the last half of 2002, there were 34 days with slaughter above 390,000,” he says.

Shackle space should continue to be adequate for the next year or more as long as a major packing plant or two doesn't close, stresses Grimes.

Pork demand dipped in the first four months of 2003, but should rebound and finish the year strong, says Grimes.

That rebound will boost hog prices, fueled by the Canadian cow that tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Alberta, says Hurt.

The largest impact of that BSE case will be the reduced beef supply coming from Canada, a result of the U.S. ban. Last year, Canada supplied 8% of all beef consumed in the U.S.

“The reduction of this amount of beef supply seems to be the dominating impact, as live U.S. cattle prices have topped $80/live hundredweight in June for the first time ever,” Hurt observes. “Pork demand will be enhanced as consumers respond to the record high retail beef prices with some substitution of pork.”

The pork trade picture with Canada should also weigh in to help keep U.S. hog prices healthy.

Canada's estimated pig crop for the second quarter of 2003 rose slightly, but combined farrowing intentions for the U.S. and Canada were down just over 2% in the second quarter from a year earlier, says Grimes.

Exchange rates favor Canada supplying less than last year's 6% of live hogs slaughtered in the U.S., notes Hurt. “The U.S. dollar has dropped in value relative to the Canadian dollar by 13% this year. The strengthening Canadian dollar provides less incentive to ship hogs to the U.S. for finishing and processing. However, it will take more time for this impact to develop, as most of these hogs enter the U.S. on coordinated finishing contracts,” he adds.

On the pork export side, the U.S. may see increased sales to Japan and South Korea as a result of those countries' ban on beef from Canada, says Hurt.

Price Predictions

All signs point to somewhat profitable times ahead. Grimes predicts some modest profits for 2003 (Table 1). The futures market is suggesting there is a chance that live hogs may average $40/cwt., base price, for the year. High prices for the year may occur in August, a rarity, notes Grimes.

For 2004-2005, Grimes estimates base live hog prices should average $43/cwt. (Table 2). For the best producers, this will convert into $20/head profits. For the poorest producers, this will mean breakeven returns, he points out.

Purdue's Hurt is more optimistic than Grimes about hog returns for the remainder of 2003. He predicts live hog prices will average in the low- to mid-$40s this summer, before falling back to the very high $30s to low $40s for the fall.

“If this does occur, the year would show a modest positive margin for many hog producers,” he says.

Challenges Ahead

Despite the positive turn in the hog cycle, Grimes says the hog industry still faces stiff challenges in the next few years. “We believe the odds are high that productivity growth will be above demand growth and the industry will struggle to keep production in line with demand.”

Table 1. Iowa-Minnesota Live Hog Price Forecast (negotiated base price per live cwt.)
Quarter 2002 2003
First $37.58 $34.18
Second $34.04 $37-40
Third $32.55 $38-41
Fourth $29.90 $36-39
Year $33.52 $37-39

Table 2. Hog Slaughter and Price Forecasts
Year Commercial Slaughter (million head) Iowa Live Price ($/cwt.)
2000 97.97 $42.83
2001 97.96 $43.88
2002 100.26 $33.52
2003 98.82 $38.00
2004 97.70 $43.00
2005 98 $43.00

A Checklist on Weak Heats

About nine months ago, British pork producers began to see a steady surge of sow infertility problems. A new “infertility syndrome” was suspected.

The possibility is being investigated on a national scale, but it is too early to speculate on several complicated possible causes.

Although we have been warned not to jump to conclusions, some of the individual and combined causes being suggested include:

  • Fish meal, which was rarely added to diets, now used due to concerns over post-BSE “animal” protein;

  • More gilts being home-bred after foot-and-mouth disease movement restrictions;

  • Over-familiarity and carelessness with artificial insemination, erratic semen deliveries and semen handling and storage problems; and

  • Some easing up on parvovirus vaccinations due to low profits.

I have noticed, among other problems, far more cases of weak heats over this past year. Whether this is part of our overall fertility fall-away, no one here knows. But, for those American producers whose herds suffer from this annoying disorder, I'll offer my thoughts.

I define “weak heat” as a sow's partial reluctance to stand for a boar. This reluctance is not as prevalent in gilts.

These sows and gilts display normal signs of estrus but then are reluctant to accept service. The stockperson withdraws the boar, assuming she is not fully ready, and unfortunately misses the service window.

Weak Heat Causes in Gilts

  1. Hot weather/overcrowding, bullying and anxiety.

  2. If all the gilts show weak heats, check their condition, especially if they:

  • Are too fat for their age;

  • Show low-level signs of illness (veterinarian check);

  • Need adjustments to acclimatization program (veterinarian check);

  • Are being flushed according to latest techniques.

  • The latest ideas on stimulating a firm, demonstrable heat in lean, fast-growing gilts moved to the breeding pool weighing under 210 lb. include:

  • Feed well on a good grower diet for the first 12 days after arrival (covers first heat);

  • From 13 days until 4½ weeks after arrival, lower the plane of nutrition to slow them down — unless the gilts are cold or overcrowded (covers the second “true” heat);

  • From then until about six weeks after arrival, feed generously (covers the third-service heat).

Tips for Gilts

  1. Don't raise gilt replacements close to boars; use a 6-8 gilt pool (10-12 maximum) with ample get-away space.

  2. Excitement and competition stimulate estrus. Stress hinders it.

  3. Put a smelly, friendly boar in with a group of “weak heaters” with ample space and supervise at all times.

  4. Move weak-heaters to a previously occupied boar pen.

  5. Check lighting. Use 300 lux for 16-18 hours and 25 lux for 6-8 hours; light should shine directly into eyes, not from above or behind. Some say this is not proven, but my experience suggests it works.

Weak Heat Causes in Sows

  1. The “nose-dive” in lactation is a common cause. See “anti-nose-dive” checklist in my new textbook: “Pig Production Problems” available from Iowa State University Press at 800-862-6657 or visit: Cost: $109.99 +$6 shipping/handling, plus applicable sales tax.

  2. Uterine infection after farrowing (veterinarian check).

  3. Hot conditions in farrowing house.

  4. Cold or harsh conditions in breeding barn.

  5. Molds (mycotoxins); over-red, swollen vulvas but a poor heat.

  6. Check lighting (see “Tips for Gilts” above).

  7. A submissive sow forced next to a “bully” sow.

  8. Boar preference: the sow may show weak heats next to a boar she doesn't fancy.

  9. Lameness, hurt back, sunburn, scratches or sores.

  10. Nutrition is rarely involved these days, except when flushing. Diets should be adequately supplemented with vitamin E (organic at 0.3 ppm), fats, choline, biotin and riboflavin.

Tips for Sows

  1. Weak-heaters with a history should be moved past a boar every day after weaning. Identify and record.

  2. First-litter weak-heaters can be housed together in a surplus boar pen of the breeding barn.

  3. Very early weaned sows (10-14 days) often lead to later heats (1-2 days); and weaker heats that are 12-18 hours shorter. I would never wean less than 17 days and prefer 28-30 days.

  4. Provide a succession of visible, smelly boars — a 36-in. space excites more than touching.

  5. In all-vegetable protein diets, try 250 g. of the best white fish meal and 50 g. of dried skim milk powder, once a day for 2-3 days. If it works, draw your nutritionist's attention to it.

The Return of Pleuropneumonia

Actinobacillus Pleuropneumonia (APP) is a swine disease that has plagued producers for many years. It hits a group of pigs suddenly, and the death loss can climb quickly.

APP is especially costly to feeder pig finishers who lose a large number of pigs, virtually eliminating any profit.

This situation has led to a lot of pressure within the industry to produce APP-free animals. Breeding stock companies have done an excellent job of freeing their multiplier herds of this disease. There are very few replacement gilts sold today that are APP positive. However, there are still plenty of APP-positive herds producing pigs.

The frustrating thing about APP is pigs can look perfectly normal one day and be dead the next. APP-positive pigs can also be finished without showing any signs of disease. There appears to be a stress factor that triggers the onset of this disease and high death loss.

APP-positive pigs have little market value. Last fall and early winter, when there was a plentiful supply of feeder pigs, and feeder pig and weaned pig prices were low, APP-positive weaned pigs were selling for $5 or less. This encouraged purchase of these pigs for finishing to make a profit in a down market. In some cases these “opportunity pigs” were successful and in others they were not.

Case Study No. 1

The first farm is a 2,400-sow, wean-to-finish barn filled with 4,800 segregated early weaned pigs from an APP-positive farm. Double loading the wean-to-finish barns is a common practice to better utilize space and accommodate pig flow.

The pigs were of good quality and averaged 12 lb. They arrived on a cold December day. The barn was not adequately prepared with zone heat, and some pigs were chilled.

Three weeks after arrival, death loss increased. Postmortems and laboratory diagnostics indicated pigs were dying from APP. All pigs were injected with ceftiofur, and tilmicosin was added to the feed at 272 g./ton for 21 days. Tilmicosin works best as a disease preventive; however, it can be difficult to know when pigs will break with APP.

Death loss continued for a few days after the outbreak, with 6% succumbing by the fourth week. The rest of the pigs recovered and did well until the barn inventory was reduced to 2,400 head, seven weeks after the pigs arrived.

Two weeks later, the barn broke again with APP and death loss quickly climbed to 18%. The pigs were injected with ceftiofur and death loss stopped.

The high death loss, high medication cost and low hog market made it difficult for these pigs to be profitable. Double stocking and the lack of a uniform, comfortable area for the pigs contributed to stress and the onset of APP.

Case Study No. 2

Three thousand APP-positive weaned pigs were purchased and placed in four different nurseries. The nurseries were all mechanically ventilated with excellent management and environmental control. Managers understood the controlled environment and recognized when the barns needed adjustment to improve air quality and pig comfort.

The pigs were started on oral tetracycline in the water and a preventive level of tilmicosin at 181 g./ton for three weeks. The treatment was repeated three weeks later.

The pigs closed out of the nursery at just under 3% death loss. These pigs were vaccinated for APP seven days before leaving the nursery, and performed well in the finishing barns.

Tilmicosin was used in the finishing feed at 181 g./ton for two more three-week periods to prevent clinical signs of APP. These pigs went into well-managed finishing units, where death loss topped out at 4%.

This case is an example of how APP-positive pigs can perform well when placed in a good environment, with proper management and use of preventive pulse medications.


Producers can profit from APP-positive pigs with proper management, antibiotic treatment and reduction of environmental stressors.

Production costs will be higher due to increased antibiotic expense. But performance may more than justify the added expense. Tips to successfully raise APP-positive pigs:

  • Manage the environment to reduce stress.

  • Use tilmicosin in the feed for a preventive protocol in accordance to your veterinarian's recommendations.

  • Consider strategic use of immunizations to effectively reduce the incidence and severity of APP pigs in certain situations.

  • Quickly identify and respond to an APP outbreak to stop death loss quickly and keep losses low.

Raising APP-positive pigs can be risky. It's crucial to work closely with your veterinarian to develop and implement effective control and treatment protocols to shift the odds to your side when finishing these types of pigs.

McDonald's Sets New Welfare Policy

Hamburger giant McDonald's Corp. has announced a new global policy for its suppliers using antibiotics in food animals.

The new policy prohibits direct suppliers from using growth promoters in food animals after 2004. McDonald's global poultry supply comes from direct-relationship suppliers who control the use of antibiotics in production, and who have facilities specifically dedicated to producing products directly for McDonald's. McDonald's beef and pork suppliers are considered indirect suppliers.

Elanco Animal Health was one of the key stakeholders asked to help develop the policy to advance public health, food safety, animal health and animal welfare.

“We recognize the importance of food companies having policies to assure their customers, the consumer, that antibiotics are used appropriately in food animal production,” states Patrick James, Elanco president. “Elanco's antibiotic knowledge provides scientific and practical insight into the judicious and sustainable use of antibiotics in food animals.”

The Coalition for Animal Health says that, like McDonald's, it is committed to sustainable-use policies governing the use of antibiotics to keep animals healthy, and to science-based regulatory programs.

New Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance will require that all antibiotics undergo a risk assessment to determine the potential for increasing antibiotic resistance.

However, the McDonald's policy asks suppliers not to use products despite approval by FDA.

“We caution about actions not grounded in science,” the coalition states. “Europe, as the result of a non-science-based policy, has removed the use of antibiotics as growth promoters, and as a result, many European countries have documented a dramatic increase in animal disease and the use of antibiotics to treat that disease. As Europe is discovering, non-science-based policies often have unintended consequences.”

McDonald's policy is not based on science, but is a marketing policy, says Paul Sundberg, DVM, assistant vice president, Veterinary Issues, National Pork Board.

That policy undermines government authority and credibility in making approved animal health products available to producers, which “could have long-term effects on the health of the animal and consumer confidence in food safety,” he stresses.

Environmental Pact Inked

Environmental Management Solutions (EMS) has signed a five-year memorandum of understanding with the Agriculture Department's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

The pact calls for EMS to train and certify technical service providers (TSP) who will help producers adopt sound environmental solutions.

EMS is the first private firm to partner with NRCS in educating trainers to aid producers in developing Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMP), conservation plans and nutrient management plans.

EMS will also assist NRCS with contracting for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) cost-share funding. All work must meet federal standards and specifications.

The EMS consists of 350 trained, certified environmental assessors and CNMP planners in 33 states. For more information, log on to

A list of 700 certified TSPs are posted on a national, web-based registry called TechReg at:

Chile Pact Fuels Trade Hopes

The June 6 signing of the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will be beneficial to U.S. pork producers. But it may spur approval of other FTAs providing even greater benefits.

The first agreement between the U.S. and a South American country was expected to be ratified by Congress in June, says the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

It removes key trade barriers restricting U.S. meat exports to Chile. Pork tariffs will be removed entirely.

“The Chilean FTA is more significant to U.S. meat exporters as a potential precursor to the passage of a Central American Free Trade Agreement, which could provide an even greater market opportunity for U.S. beef, pork and lamb exports,” observes USMEF's Richard Fritz.