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Articles from 2005 In July

Successful Employee/Employer Relations in the Pork Industry

Successful Employee/Employer Relations in the Pork Industry

Recorded: July 12, 2005
Available: July 18 through October 18, 2005
Duration: 60 minutes
Presented by: National Hog Farmer
Sponsored by: Pork Checkoff, Pfizer Animal Health

CLICK HERE to listen to this Webcast now

The keys to successful employee/employer relations can often be discovered by taking a close look at where we are as an industry and then developing strategies for continuous improvement. This Webcast takes the necessary first step. It will review data from the fourth Employee/Employer Study—parallel studies have been conducted over a 15-year period—and then feature a panel discussion on real-life strategies that can make the working environment better. Some of the topics to be explored include:

  • What are the trends in employee education levels?
  • How does specialization impact the industry?
  • What is happening to wages?
  • What factors are influencing the pay scale?
  • How has the number of hours worked changed?
  • What role does technology play?
  • How can the work environment be made more appealing?

The Webcast will feature a report of the Employee/Employer survey findings and then offer up responses and real-world practices by noted experts in the field. Moderated by Steve May, National Hog Farmer’s group publisher, the Webcast will include the following participants:
  • Dr. Jim Kliebenstein, Professor of Economics, Iowa State University
  • Sarah Fogelman, Instructor, Southeast Area Extension, Kansas State University
  • Leon Sheets, Owner/President, Ionia Pigs Inc.

Presented by:

Sponsored by:

Denmark's Ban Adds To Pig Health Problems

Danish public health officials have embarked on a plan to reduce the use of growth-promotant antibiotics as a means of improving the health of pigs and people. But so far, the results haven't been positive.

Three U.S. swine veterinarians have observed that Denmark's ban on antibiotic growth promotants has not improved the health and welfare of its citizens — nor its pig population.

The actions could unintentionally lead to greater incidence of human food safety problems.

Trip Objectives

The trio were part of a study team that took a pork checkoff-funded trip to Denmark in early January 2005. James McKean, DVM, Iowa State University (ISU) represented the National Pork Board's Food Safety Committee. Scott Hurd, DVM, ISU, provided epidemiology expertise. Craig Rowles, DVM, owner of Elite Pork Partnership, LLP, Carroll, IA, provided a production/veterinary perspective.

The group had three goals:

  1. To look at the impact of Denmark's ban on antibiotic growth promotants (AGPs) initiated in 2000;

  2. To look at the salmonella reduction program; and

  3. To evaluate Denmark's food safety programs and the public health impacts of the AGP ban and their salmonella effort.

“I think the ramifications of the ban on pig health are demonstrable and well documented,” observes McKean. “They have not been able to find a suitable replacement for antibiotics which would bring their herd health and performance back up to where it was before the ban. In fact, I would safely say that the variation in pigs is greater today in Denmark than it was before the ban.”

Denmark began a voluntary ban on AGPs in 1999 for grow-finish hogs. This effort went well and there were few pig health problems, says McKean.

However, in 2000, three months after officials initiated the AGP ban in the nursery, postweaning diarrhea problems increased, as did outbreaks of ileitis in younger pigs, McKean says.

Treatment costs increased, mortality rates increased 21%, average daily gain and feed conversion rates worsened, and days to market increased 1.6 days, says Craig Rowles.

By their own account, the Danes calculated an increase in cost of production of about $1.40/head. Extrapolating that expense to production in the United States, it would cost $140 million, excluding non-variable costs, explains Rowles.

To cope, the Danes have ramped up management skills and increased weaning age from 21 days to 28 days. Rowles says adding a week to weaning age in his 2,500-sow operation would require 120 additional farrowing crates — a cost of $375,000. “If you depreciate that over 15 years, that's 50¢/pig produced in depreciation expense alone,” he says.

Feed changes the Danes have made include lowering crude protein, adding more complex proteins, such as fish meal, and boosting fiber. Benzoic acid, zinc and copper are the only antibiotic alternatives that have had any impact on pig health and performance, notes Rowles. Benzoic acid has been the most promising of acidifiers to date, adds McKean.

Ileitis, caused by the Lawsonia intracellularis organism, is a big challenge for the Danes today, Rowles adds. Antibiotic use apparently suppressed the expression of ileitis.

“Without nursery antibiotics used as growth promotants, they're seeing severe clinical signs of ileitis three to four weeks into a nursery,” he says.

An ileitis vaccine has not been approved for use in Denmark. “So producers must use products such as Tylan Soluble (Elanco Animal Health) in the water systems at a therapeutic level to keep ileitis under control,” Rowles continues. “They must also work harder at sanitation issues.”

Scott Hurd drew three observations from the AGP ban in Denmark:

  • Antibiotic treatment levels increased after the ban on growth promoters;

  • Antibiotic use labeled growth promotion is doing more than promoting growth because when Danish producers removed the product, pigs became diseased; and

  • The Danish policy on antibiotics has not improved public health, based on the number of Danes diagnosed with salmonella and campylobacter, and the increasing level of resistance levels in some of those organisms.

“If you look at locally acquired salmonellosis cases, the resistance levels are actually increasing. They are also having problems with more cases of resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which may or may not be related to penicillin usage in animals,” says Hurd. He noted that penicillin use has increased 100% in animal therapy since the growth promotant ban.

Rowles says the most notable comment was made by a large Danish producer who hopes the U.S. will also ban antibiotic use for growth promotion because it would level the playing field.

Antibiotics Attacks Are Off Base

by Joe Vansickle, Senior Editor

A University of Minnesota veterinary researcher says critics of animal antibiotics ignore the value of improved performance at the expense of misguided concerns over animal welfare.

Their allegations couldn't be further from the truth, charges John Deen, DVM, associate professor of Swine Production Systems and director of the university's Swine Center.

“The decisions involved in antibiotic use in animal agriculture have been portrayed as being simplistic and biased.

“Worst of all, antibiotic use has been portrayed as being malicious toward the well-being of pigs. Such charges should be seen as an affront to the integrity of veterinarians and swine producers, and thus demand our attention,” states Deen.

In a White Paper on Antibiotics and Welfare, underwritten by Alpharma Animal Health, Deen proposes a three-step action plan:

  1. Describe in more detail the harmful effects of disease on the welfare of pigs. Pigs are susceptible to a variety of diseases producing a lot of pain and suffering. Producers need a broad range of tools to treat infectious pathogens, not limited by the constraints of therapeutic treatment in containing epidemics.

    “Arguing that antibiotics should be limited to treatment really ignores the main way we use antibiotics for controlling disease (prevention),” he adds. “We have to understand that we are working on a population basis. If you wait until the majority of pigs are sick, you are too late.”

  2. Investigate and describe the positive impact of antibiotics in animal populations. The proper use of antibiotics combined with improved housing and management has led to the virtual eradication of diseases like swine dysentery and greatly reduced problems with pleuritis and Actinobacillus pleuropneumonia.

  3. Identify responses to restrictions on use of subtherapeutic antibiotics. When the routine use of antibiotics is withdrawn, the results include increased levels of disease and compromised pigs, which hampers rather than improves animal welfare, says Deen.

“The focus of animal welfare has been based mostly on whether animals have the ability to turn around,” he says. Simply relying on the therapeutic use of antibiotics can produce more animal welfare problems related to mortality and morbidity.

However, the use of antibiotics can be employed effectively in a variety of animal health strategies. “They are used to treat clinical disease, prevent clinical disease in infected animals, and prevent the transfer of pathogens from infected to non-infected animals,” explains Deen.

NPPC Refutes Livestock Antibiotic Report

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is denying claims of overuse of livestock antibiotics in a new report issued by the New York-based Environmental Defense.

The report, “Resistant Bugs and Antibiotic Drugs: State and County Estimates of Antibiotics in Agricultural Feed and Animal Waste,” claims to be the first study to estimate local use of livestock feed additives.

However, the estimates are based on a flawed 1999 report issued by the Union of Concerned Scientists entitled “Hogging It,” according to NPPC.

The report falsely accuses livestock producers of overusing antibiotics causing drug resistance in humans.

Estimates of antibiotic use reported by Environmental Defense have no scientific impact on human health, counters Harry Snelson, DVM, NPPC's director of Science and Technology.

“This report is not based on sound science and is essentially just an estimate of estimates,” he comments. “Real data — not estimates — from a legitimate source, the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring Systems, continues to show that antibiotics produced for use in livestock have declined for the past four years.

“In addition, there is no scientific or medical proof that resistant bacterial infections that cause the greatest threat to human health have a connection with animals or antimicrobial use in animals,” says Snelson.

“Pork producers remain committed to the production of safe and wholesome products through sound, responsible and accepted practices,” he concludes.

Global Pork Sales Targeted

The Free Trade Agreement negotiated with Central America and the Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR) passed two early tests in mid-June, winning preliminary votes in both the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.

Next may be a vote in the full Congress. With 95% of the world's population living outside the United States, the push is on to increase U.S. pork exports around the globe, says Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns in a noon address at World Pork Expo last month.

“There are huge new markets out there waiting to be tapped,” he says, led by a near-frenzy of efforts to gain congressional approval for CAFTA-DR.

Intensive lobbying by nearly 80 agriculture and industry coalitions may bring the issue to a final vote by Congress after the July recess, says Kirk Ferrell, vice president for Public Policy, National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).

CAFTA-DR nations — including Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua already enjoy virtually tariff-free access to agricultural markets in the United States except for sugar, an industry in strong opposition to passage of the trade legislation.

In contrast, U.S. products sold to Central American countries face duties of more than 80%, reports Johanns.

Even so, agricultural exports to those countries were worth $1.8 billion in 2004, and pork exports totaled 12,947 tons valued at more than $20 million, he says. Tariffs for pork products average 47% and the World Trade Organization could permit them to escalate to 60%.

Times Are Changing

Dictators and civil unrest plagued Central America during the early 1980s, recalls Johanns. Today, governments have shifted, democracies are starting to flourish and economies are growing.

That makes the timing appropriate to pass CAFTA. Its approval would mean marked changes for U.S. pork export prospects.

There would be sizeable quotas through which pork could be exported duty-free, says NPPC. These quotas would increase each year until year 15, when all quotas are to be eliminated. A duty on out-of-quota pork will be phased down over time, eliminated at year 15.

Fees for bacon and pork by-products would be eliminated immediately.

Johanns points out that all six Central American countries have also agreed to recognize the U.S. meat inspection system and to accept pork from any USDA-inspected facility.

“This process continues the trade access successes we have had in the past,” says Johanns. Obviously, 2004 was the 14th-straight year of record pork exports and we just want to continue to build on that.”

Boosting U.S. Hog Prices

The approval of CAFTA-DR would continue the positive influence that U.S. pork exports have had on cash hog receipts, says NPPC.

A recent economic analysis performed by Iowa State University (ISU) agricultural economist Dermot Hayes shows that, as a direct result of CAFTA-DR, U.S. pork exports to the region will climb by 20,000 tons annually, adding 36¢/head to hog returns.

The Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD) at ISU has calculated that in 2004, U.S. pork prices were $33.60/head higher than they would have been without pork exports.

Johanns discussed two other concerns being addressed by USDA.

Food safety assurance is critical for trading partners. “USDA's science-based policies are effective, helping to protect the health and well being not only of millions of American consumers, but consumers worldwide,” observes Johanns.

“We see dramatic declines in foodborne illnesses, and it demonstrates that our risk-based approach is working,” he says. Reduction in the growth and spread of pathogens are the main goals of 260 USDA food safety scientists working in 26 locations.

When it comes to food security, “9-11” changed our world forever, notes Johanns.

“We stress to our food and agricultural sector partners that homeland security issues demand our attention. If we fail to recognize that the threat is real, we will pay a very heavy price,” he warns.

USDA is working to educate producers about livestock biosecurity issues, coordinating efforts with laboratories in universities on foodborne illnesses, pre- and post-harvest food security and rapid diagnostic testing.

“We are asking everyone in the farm-to-table chain to consider homeland security a high priority,” says Johanns.

EPA Extends Air Emissions Deadline

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced it has extended the deadline to sign up for the air emissions consent agreement from July 1 to July 29, 2005.

The purpose is to provide more time for livestock producers to make informed decisions about participation, according to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). The announcement will be published in the Federal Register.

This is the second time that EPA has extended the sign-up deadline. The agency has not changed the agreement since it was originally published in the Federal Register on Jan. 31, 2005.

NPPC is urging pork producers to strongly consider signing up. More details are on the NPPC Web site:

The landmark agreement reached between the livestock industry and EPA establishes a nationwide air monitoring study that will define air emission standards for agriculture.

EPA has also posted its response to public comments submitted on the agreement. More than 650 comments were received and have been categorized by a number of common concerns.

Iowa Pork Industry Center (IPIC) Director John Mabry says producers need to learn as much as possible about their obligations and responsibilities should they choose to take part in the agreement.

“We encourage people to read the EPA's public comment response section, and watch the Web cast of the satellite program the IPIC cosponsored with the Iowa Pork Producers Association on this topic in March,” he stresses. The satellite program is at:

NPPC Pushes to Reauthorize Mandatory Price Reporting

In a congressional hearing June 22, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) urged members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry to support a five-year reauthorization of mandatory price reporting to provide an accurate and timely marketing price reporting system. The system expires Sept. 30, 2005.

Profitability May Be Winding Down

Eighteen months of profitability has been therapeutic for a hog industry buffeted by low prices in recent years, but that may all come to an end in 2006.

“We are in one of the longer periods of profitability that we have enjoyed for quite some time in the hog industry. I think we have a 90% probability of getting another 6-7 months on that,” says Glenn Grimes, professor emeritus at the University of Missouri, speaking at Pork Academy, an educational seminar held the day before World Pork Expo in Des Moines.

The agricultural economist says several signs point to a downward spiral in the live hog price cycle, led by softening demand for pork.

While pork production is up less than 1%, to date, “it's pork demand that has us worried,” says Grimes.

Pork cutout values have been dropping all year. Frozen pork stocks at the end of January were 99% of year-earlier levels, compared with 126% above year-ago levels at the end of April.

Pork demand is credited for higher market prices.

“For 2004, pork prices were 52% higher than you would expect after you made the adjustment for supply,” adds Grimes. About 6% of the price increase was due to less pork imports, 70% to increased pork exports and 20% due to stronger domestic demand for pork, he says.

But food demand hinges on diet fads — and consumers are known to switch allegiances quickly, Grimes reminds.

Heavier slaughter weights are also adding to tonnage concerns. For instance, slaughter weights for the first week of June in Iowa-Minnesota markets averaged 268 lb., 3.2 lb. heavier than last year. Through May, Grimes says U.S. barrow and gilt carcass weights were 2.6 lb. heavier than during the first five months of 2004. “Heavier weights are the reason that year-to-date pork production is up even though year-to-date hog slaughter is down.”

Since March 1, hog slaughter has been up just 0.6% compared to the same period a year ago, half the 1.2% projected by the March pig inventory report. Grimes says a 14% drop in slaughter hog imports from Canada since March 1 account for much of the decline in slaughter from the March prediction.

Through early June, each week of 2005 has seen fewer imports of hogs and pigs than the same week in 2004.

While Canadian imports have declined, the U.S. breeding herd appears to be slowly expanding. Through May, sow slaughter, as a percent of the sow herd, was down 5.7% and gilt slaughter also declined slightly. It appears that the breeding herd has climbed by 1% for the June 1 inventory, he adds.

With growing reports of substantial plans for hog expansion over the next two to three years, it won't be surprising to see the breeding herd increase by 2-3% by the end of 2005, reports Grimes.

Pork Exports

Pork exports have also played a key role in propping up hog prices. That trend has continued in 2005, with first quarter exports rising 20% over a year ago, while pork imports declined 11%.

Pork exports added $13.40 to the value of hogs in 2002, $13.80/hog in 2003 and $18.60/hog in 2004.

There's a very good chance that pork exports will rise for the 15th-consecutive year in 2005, and the Agriculture Department has already projected another increase for 2006.

Price Projections

Live hog prices averaged $52.64/cwt. for the first quarter of 2005 and they're projected just above $50 for the second quarter, $45-48 for the third quarter and $40-43 for the fourth quarter.

The Livestock Marketing Information Center based in Lakewood, CO, predicts that despite another record year of pork production in 2005, hog prices will remain relatively strong. Reasons include: strong increases in U.S. pork exports, quarterly declines in beef production and fairly tight pork packer margins. The center is a cooperative project of 24 state Extension Services working with USDA.

Center officials suggest that softening domestic and export demand for pork, plus larger pork stocks competing with much larger tonnage of beef, and record levels of poultry production, will culminate in significantly lower barrow and gilt prices in 2006.

During 2006, hog slaughter is predicted 2% above 2005 due to slight growth in the U.S. breeding herd, continued improvement in breeding herd efficiency and increased hog imports from Canada, say Center analysts.

As market hog contracts have increased, reports of spot or cash-traded hogs have dropped precipitously. If this trend continues, by 2007 there won't be a spot market, warns Grimes.

One solution is to mandate price reporting of meat. The more likely choice is to enact legislation to require packers to buy a certain percentage of their hogs on the spot market.

Figure 3. Iowa-Minnesota Hog Price Forecasta
2004b 2005 2006
Quarter 1 $58.85 $69.79b $54-58
Quarter 2 $72.88 $66-67 $57-61
Quarter 3 $75.81 $61-65 $53-57
Quarter 4 $72.67 $54-58 $45-49
Year $70.04 $63-65 $52-56
aNegotiated Base Price/Carcass Hundredweight
bActual price — prior day purchased

In Search of the Perfect Pig

Want to start a lively discussion at your county or state fair this summer? Try this — lean confidently on the showring fence, point to your favorite pig in the championship drive and say: “Now there's the perfect pig!”

If even the mildest of hog enthusiasts are within earshot, you'll soon be in a discussion that could last well into the evening.

Pictured here is Symbol III, unveiled at World Pork Expo to portray “an ideal market hog that symbolizes profitability for every segment of the industry.” A brochure declares: “This hog has correctness of structure, production, performance, function, livability, attitude, health, optimum lean yield, and produces the best quality, safest pork that provides the optimum nutrients for human nutrition.” That's quite a job description.

Now, before anyone gets all lathered up about this depiction of an “ideal market hog,” it might help to know that the design and specifications are the collaborative efforts of about 100 pork producers, educators, industry professionals and swine judges.

Additionally, the Pork Checkoff spokespeople noted, the design and specifications incorporate science-based standards and practices adopted in modern-day pork production systems. And, they acknowledged, the shape of the package may not always match Symbol III exactly. It's intended to be “an example” based on current knowledge about pig growth and development.

Some may argue that modern-day pork producers shouldn't get bogged down with visual attributes, that shape and eye appeal have little to do with efficient pork production.

I beg to differ because fewer and fewer of our “pig people” have a visual image of what a good pig looks like.

As our 2005 survey of the U.S. pork production workforce shows, only about half of the employees were raised around pigs. Before being hired, many had not seen a litter of pigs born and watched them grow to market weight. They've not seen pigs develop structural problems that make their knees buckle over or their rear legs slide underneath them. They don't have a “model” of what a good pig looks like in their minds, nor do they know the terminology, which would enable them to seek out solutions. Most have probably never been to a competitive hog show.

Hog shows! What good are they?

Again, I believe they serve a purpose when managed to reflect “real-life” production. Whether the youth show at World Pork Expo does that, I can't say because I didn't make it over to the junior barn. However, I do know that over 300 boys and girls from 23 states came to Des Moines with a passion for their pig projects. Most were undoubtedly standing at ringside as the champion was named. Each turned and walked away with a picture of that hog in their mind — a picture they will use to set a new goal or to compare to their barrow or gilt prospects back home. Whether the champion reflects real-life production is the judge's responsibility.

Like those youngsters, many new employees struggle to understand why some pigs walk freely on slotted floors while penmates struggle to get to the feeder, why some pigs get sick while others stay healthy.

Symbol III, with the list of production, carcass and meat quality characteristics, serves as a good reference.

An added benefit of youth pig projects is they often provide young boys and girls with the only contact they will ever have with livestock production for food. As they mature, take jobs, start a family, they will have a practical perspective on raising animals as a meat protein source. How do you put a value on that?

Does everyone agree that Symbol III is the perfect hog? I doubt it.

Will all hogs meeting the specifications look like this illustration? Probably not, but striving to attain the production, carcass and meat quality traits will lead you and your employees toward greater understanding and, hopefully, profitability. Ultimately, it will help you produce a quality product that consumers prefer, and that's something you can bank on.

Symbol III — Job Specifications

Production characteristics:

  • Live weight feed efficiency of 2.4 (2.4);*
  • Fat-free lean gain efficiency of 5.9 (5.8);
  • Fat-free lean gain of 0.95 lb./day;
  • Marketed at 156 days of age (164);
  • Market weight, 270 lb.;
  • Reared on a corn-soy equivalent diet from 60 lb.;
  • Free of all internal and external parasites;
  • Immune to, or free of, all economically important swine diseases;
  • Free of the stress gene (Halothane 1843 mutation) and all other genetic mutations that have detrimental effect on pork quality;
  • Result of a systematic crossbreeding system emphasizing a maternal dam line and a terminal sire selected for growth, efficiency and superior muscle quality;
  • From a maternal line weaning more than 25 pigs/year after multiple parities;
  • Free of all abscesses, injection site blemishes, arthritis, bruises and carcass trim;
  • Structurally correct and sound with proper angulations and cushion of the feet and legs and a phenotype design perfectly matched to the production environment;
  • Produced with Environmental Assurance;
  • Produced under Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) and Trucker Quality Assurance (TQA) guidelines;
  • Produced in an operation that has been Swine Welfare Assurance Program (SWAP) assessed;
  • Produced in a system that ensures the opportunity for stakeholder profitability, from producer to retailer, while providing a cost-competitive retail price in all domestic and export markets;
  • Produced from genetic lines that have utilized genomic technology to support maximum improvements in genetic profitability and efficiency;

Carcass characteristics:

  • Hot carcass weight of 205 lb.;
  • Loin muscle area of 6.5 sq. in. (7.1 sq. in.);
  • Belly thickness of 1.0 in.;
  • 10th-rib backfat of 0.7 in. (0.6 in.);
  • Fat-free lean index of 53.0 (54.7);

Meat quality characteristics:

  • Muscle color score of 4.0, (scale of 1.0 to 6.0), described as “dark reddish pink” in the fresh pork color standards.
  • 24-hour pH of 5.9;
  • Maximum drip loss of 2.5%;
  • Intramuscular fat level of 3%;
  • Free of within-muscle color variation;
  • Free of coarse muscle texture;
  • Free of ecchymosis (blood splash);
  • Provides an optimum balance of nutrients important for human nutrition and health;
  • Provides a safe, wholesome product free of all violative residues and produced and processed in a system that ensures elimination of all foodborne pathogens.

*All numbers in parentheses represent specifications for gilts as they correspond to barrow specifications.

Swine Conference Scheduled

The 15th Annual Swine Conference of the Carthage (IL) Veterinary Service, Ltd., is Aug. 30 at Western Illinois University, Macomb, IL.

Headlining the program are:

  • Roy Schultz, DVM, Avoca, IA, will review the cost of production of the big four — Brazil, Canada, China and the United States;

  • University of Missouri agricultural economist Glenn Grimes will comment on the 2006 hog market;

  • Scott Dee, DVM, University of Minnesota, will outline cutting-edge information on porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome; and

  • Bruce Weber, head varsity coach of the University of Illinois' basketball team, will be a keynote speaker.

Also, Joe Connor, DVM, Carthage Veterinary Service, will talk on unique pig-raising ideas from around the world.

For registration and other information, contact the clinic by phone (217) 357-2811 or fax (217) 357-6665. Details are also posted on the clinic's Web site,

Smithfield Draws Mixed Reviews in Poland

Nearly five years after purchasing a majority stake in the Polish meat packing conglomerate, Animex, Smithfield Foods remains a lightning rod for criticism from Polish pork producers and industry officials.

Smithfield Foods' initial strategic investment of $51.2 million (US$) in 1999 grew to over $250 million with additional investments, share purchases, inter-company loans and guarantees of Animex's bank loans. Smithfield has rightfully gained Animex's strong, diverse product line and market presence plus ready access to the European market.

Animex was established in 1951 as state-owned trading monopoly, controlling all meat trade in and out of Poland. “Animex was in the picture no matter what company was exporting,” explains Morten Jensen, Animex president.

“It was only after 1989, after Poland was liberated, that Animex decided to buy meat processing plants and get involved in production. That's the story no one knows,” Jensen continues. “Animex quickly became a big company that didn't have the know-how to run a meat business.”

Animex needed to find an investor that had enough capital to turn the company around. “Animex was losing a substantial amount of money and required a company, with cash in hand, a certain philosophy and a long-term strategy to really be interested in taking over this company,” says Jensen. “If this didn't happen, Animex wouldn't be here. We would have been bankrupt.”

Mid-Size in Europe

Smithfield kept the world-renowned Animex name — best known in the U.S. for Krakus brand ham. On the surface the company remained the same, but it now operates according to Smithfield's management policies and focus on profits. Even after the acquisition of Morlinary, sales are projected at $600 million annually, a mid-sized company by European standards.

Shortly after the ink dried, the Washington-based Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), a grassroots group dedicated to saving whales, sea turtles and elephants, added Polish pigs to its list of at-risk animals.

AWI was somewhat successful in thwarting Smithfield's efforts to implement its methods. The Ministry of Agriculture turned down Smithfield's application to build new farms. But, the company was able to circumvent the ban by buying existing facilities under the Prima farms name.

“Smithfield tried to take over the market by modernizing and building new farms,” says Wojciech Wojtyra, director of the Department of Food Safety and Veterinary Affairs at the Polish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. “This was perceived as a threat to the environment and to Polish producers.”

As a result, a thorough audit of all big farms was conducted in the first quarter of 2003. “Inspections were carried out on three levels: veterinary, environmental protection and building code inspections. Most infractions were environmentally-related and have been corrected,” adds Wojtyra.

The ministry has since set up an ongoing inspection program. “In general, one can say the ministry is not in favor of very large farms because of their negative impact on the environment and their competitive advantage over local farmers. This is in accordance with the European Union (EU) balanced development concept.”

Jerzy Bloszyk, the vice president of the Wielkopolska region, Poland's largest hog-producing region, credits Smithfield for providing a much-needed spark for the pork industry. The region, roughly the size of Maryland, has more hogs (five million) than it has inhabitants (three million). At least 30% of Poland's hogs come from the Wielkopolska. Not surprisingly, it became Robert Kennedy's target for protests against “factory farming practices.”

Not Everyone's a Fan

The mayor of Siedlec, Adam Cukier doesn't hide his dislike of Smithfield. “They are trying to come in under assumed names. They look for farmers who have financial problems and offer to finance their operation but if they go bankrupt, they take over their farm,” he says.

Piotr Koszela, a farmer in a neighboring village, signed a producer's contract with Animex. The decision didn't sit well with local farmers. “They blocked access to his farm,” says Cukier. “The siege lasted two months until Koszela agreed to buy the feed and equipment he needed from local merchants and let a local veterinarian certify he was raising Polish-bred piglets.”

Koszela has 350 weaners — the maximum number of animals allowed under new environmental regulations. His new barn could house at least 2,100 pigs.

New environmental laws designed to curb hog concentration allow no more than 1.5 breeding animals per hectare (2.47 acres) of land. It also has strictly-enforced regulations on manure storage and disposal. Locals fear the battle to restrict large farms isn't over.

Stanislaw Szafinski, a veterinarian who tends to small piggeries in and around the village of Sarbia, some 50 miles from Poznan in western Poland, fears Smithfield's presence.

“They bought slaughterhouses and soon they will be dictating prices,” says Szafinski. “Smithfield supplies piglets, feed, antibiotics, growth promoters and veterinary services. Producers who work with Smithfield have no say in their operation, and losses of more than 3% are taken out of their wages.”

So far Szafinski has lost only one client to Smithfield. In jest, he says he uses psychotherapy when doing his rounds. “I want my clients to survive and stay positive — that means I'll stay in business.”

“You have to be realistic,” says Jensen. “Family farms are a tradition in Europe, but the large farm industries can deliver what people are asking for. They want traceability after having suffered BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), foot-and-mouth (disease) and the Asian flu. There has to be control. Less than 10% of our pigs come from our own sow farms; the remaining 90% are supplied either from the 1,500 farmers we have under contract or the free market.

“There are 78 large pig farms, above 5,000 animals, in Poland. Twenty-one of these are owned by foreign capital. We supply some farmers with good cross-genetic piglets, feed, financing and so on,” Jensen continues. “We help farmers to build their business and make sure we have the right raw materials that consumers will want to eat. Animex's attitude is if the farmer doesn't make a profit and isn't able to supply good pigs, nobody wins.”

“Smithfield had a great impact on Poland's hog industry,” observes Professor Stanislaw Zieba. “They invested millions of dollars and have a huge working capital. The main concern with Smithfield was that they would want to process imported meat in their plants and leave Polish farmers without a place to sell their production. Now they depend on Polish raw materials and have a Polish management team. They are very active in exporting from Poland, which is very positive for the polish meat business.”

Poles Passionate About Pork

Poles love their processed meats and they certainly are not ready to settle for just a few varieties of sausages. Supermarket meat counters proudly display hundreds of varieties of sausages and cured pork products. The demand for the huge diversity of processed products with slight variations will likely slow industrialization.

The lean meat average of these products is around 50%, approximately 8% lower than older European Union (EU) countries. But since fat is an essential component of processed meat, the focus is understandably on yield. Fresh pork is available, but certainly not in the same gargantuan proportions.

“Pork is Poland's favorite meat,” says Wojciech Wojtyra, director of the Department of Food Safety and Veterinary Affairs at the Polish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. “Poles consume between 90 and 94.6 lb./person each year and forecasts expect this figure to grow to 103.4 lb./person/year. The median EU consumption is 98.6 lb. Current Polish prices are just 85-90% of average EU prices, representing a 20% increase since May 1.”

“Eight-hundred-thousand of the country's two million farms are hog farms,” says Professor Stanislaw Zieba. “Twenty-four million hogs are slaughtered each year in the country's 3,000 slaughterhouses. Forty percent of all hogs are slaughtered in large facilities, while the rest are still slaughtered by butchers or small facilities which also process meats.”
Suzanne Deutsch

Farmers Now the EU's Biggest Supporters

Pro-European Union (EU) groups vowed integration would solve post-Cold War economic problems, while opponents painted the EU as a monster, another communist totalitarian regime that would engulf Poland. The prospect divided Poles, too.

Approximately one-third of all EU farmers live in Poland. And, most contentious issues of the EU accession were linked to agricultural policies.

“Farmers feared they would lose out in the accession,” says Wojciech Wojtyra, director of the Department of Food Safety and Veterinary Affairs at the Polish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. “Now, as common market rules are beginning to apply, and we have access to structural funds and direct payments, farmers have become the biggest supporters of the EU.”

“The free market and the freedom of economic activity caused a revolution in post-communist Poland,” says Professor Stanislaw Zieba, secretary of the Polish Meat Association. “Joining the European Union, however, is more of an evolution, a natural, economic and social process, which will allow farms to expand and production to grow.”

“Poland's market potential is huge,” adds Zieba. “The country has 18 million hogs and produces 2.5 million tonnes (1 metric ton equals 1.1 tons) of meat per year. We are well-positioned, the problem is with our structure.”

“Poland has two million farms, including some under 1 hectare (2.47 acres) which are not viable,” says Miroslaw Drygas, vice president of the Agency for Restructuring and Modernization of Agriculture (ARIMR). “There is also a big surplus workforce. There are approximately 2.5 million unemployed workers in the ag sector. Our main focus has been to create new jobs for people living in rural areas.”

Funding Programs

The Special Accession Program for Agriculture and Rural Development (SAPARD) was launched in 2002 to help the 10 new countries who joined the EU in 2004 — Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia — to adapt their agricultural sectors and rural areas and implement the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) legislation.

Applications trickled in at first. Farmers were suspicious and believed the funds were just another empty promise. “Polish people compared SAPARD to a Yeti, a creature similar to Bigfoot that is rumored to live in mountainous regions of Nepal, Tibet and Siberia. Everybody talks about them but no one has ever seen them,” chuckles Drygas. “There has been a big change in mentality now that people realize they can get real money from this program; 390 million Euros (US $508 million) were spent to modernize farms, processing plants, to buy equipment and farming implements to date, and the remaining 65% of SAPARD's 1.135 billion Euro program will reach well into 2006.”

In addition, nearly 102 million Euros ($133 million) in support payments started to flow to farmers in December 2004. Retirement incentives are being offered to farmers aged 55 and up, until 2006. The initial phase of the program will be able to support 60,000 to 70,000 farmers until they reach age 65, after which they will automatically be covered by Poland's national retirement program. Farmers who own more than 1 hectare of land are admissible and monthly payments range from $325 to $800, depending on how many hectares of land, up to 23 (56.8 acres), they are willing to sell. The goal is to restructure Polish agriculture and increase the national average size of Polish farms to at least 8 hectares (19.768 acres) of land.

Disease Outbreaks

As the borders opened, Poles have had to deal with yet another phenomenon. Massive numbers of feeder pigs are imported for finishing, taking advantage of Poland's feed prices, lowest in the EU, and significant slaughter returns. These imports have also introduced diseases such as adenomatosis, Mycoplasmal pneumonia, porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) and atrophic rhinitis, explains Stanislaw Szafinski, DVM, of Sarbia, Poland. The cost of vaccination and medication can reach $5/head. Production costs are estimated at $0.55/lb.
Suzanne Deutsch

Summer Show Pig Problems

Each summer our office receives questions about show pig challenges from parents of 4-H or FFA members, agricultural instructors or feed providers.

While show pig production doesn't represent a large part of our industry, it certainly represents big business, as noted by the growth of show pig sales and high-dollar boars sold at state fairs, the World Pork Expo and shows throughout the Midwest.

Since today's youth are the future of the swine industry, it behooves us to take these issues seriously, provide sound advice, wisdom and mentoring.

Case Study No. 1

We were called to examine a 250-lb. barrow which had an extremely swollen hock joint and was putting very little weight on that leg. The barrow was still eating, but when palpated, the joint was red and warm to the touch.

Typically, the county fair was only 10 days away and pigs were to be slaughtered after the fair. Our diagnosis was that the joint was hot, red and swollen due to an infection. We had the youth inject the antibiotic ceftiofur and an anti-inflammatory agent. Both products had a withdrawal time of less than 10 days, and thus we felt comfortable with their administration.

These pigs were housed on concrete. We suggested the owners move them into a grassy lot and hose down the joint twice daily with cold water.

Fortunately, this barrow responded well to therapy and was able to be shown at the county fair with a minimal amount of swelling and no noticeable lameness.

Case Study No. 2

We were called to investigate the sudden death of one pig and moderate diarrhea in several other show pigs within the same group.

This family had purchased show pigs from several farms and grouped them together in one large dirt lot. The pigs had been vaccinated for Mycoplasmal pneumonia and atrophic rhinitis.

Necropsy revealed signs consistent with acute ileitis. Other findings during the investigation also revealed roundworm and whipworm infestations. Multiple therapies were implemented for this group of pigs, including injectable tylosin and water-soluble tylosin for ileitis.

Fenbendazole was applied in the feed for roundworm and whipworm control. Feed-grade medications were used later for ileitis control.

We thoroughly discussed the risk of mixing multiple sources of pigs, and the importance of proper deworming procedures. Product withdrawal times were discussed. On follow-up, the pigs responded well and were in good shape by fair time.

Case Study No. 3

A 4-H youth had recently purchased show pigs from another client. These pigs had been reared indoors and were moved to facilities with steel huts and dirt/pasture lots.

Pigs were on the new farm for a week when the student called to complain they were having “seizures.” The pigs would walk normally for several steps, and then fall to the ground as if they had pinched a nerve in their backs.

With several recent warm, sunny days, a diagnosis of sunburn was made over the phone. We had the owner inject a prescription anti-inflammatory product for pain, and apply Aloe Vera gel to the backs of the pigs. We also recommended more shade for the lots, and the use of water medications to help prevent secondary staphlococcus infections. Pigs were very young and had plenty of recovery time prior to the show season.

Case Study No. 4

We were called to investigate sudden death of a pig two weeks before the county fair. The owner reported this had been the largest, fastest-growing pig within the group. The week prior had been extremely hot, and the youth had been watering down the pigs daily to keep them cool. While doing so, they also watered down the feed, hoping to improve feed intake.

Necropsy revealed signs consistent with Hemorrhagic Bowel Syndrome (HBS). While we felt this was probably an isolated event, we recommended using both water medications and feed-grade antibiotics. While not sure of the relationship of gruel feeding to HBS, we also suggested feeding dry feed only.

In this case, we advised the youth to retain pigs after the show until proper drug withdrawal times were met, then market them.


Show pig season can be a great learning experience and fun family project. It can also be painful when one of our kids has a sick pig or loses a pig they've been working with. Call your veterinarian when questions arise. Remember there are no stupid questions. Quick and early intervention is always our best hope for success. Continue to work with and mentor the youth in your community.