Consumers Vote on Certified Pork

Survey shows willingness to pay varies by certification scheme.

Consumers say they will pay more for pork products meeting environmental and antibiotic-use requirements, but not for animal welfare, says a Purdue University survey.

Purdue's Agricultural Innovation and Commercialization Center used U.S. Department of Agriculture funds to poll consumers on whether they would pay more for a certified pork chop in the retail counter, says Ken Foster, Purdue agricultural economist.

The responses represented a broad cross-section of U.S. residents. The survey targeted the primary household shopper; 61% of the respondents were women. The average age, household income and household size in the sample was 53 years, $55,000 and 2.52 members, respectively.

The survey identified three groups of pork consumers (Table 1). The first group, representing 16% of respondents, showed the highest overall willingness to pay more for pork products certified as environmentally friendly and antibiotic-free, but less so for certification of animal well-being, says Foster.

However, this first group, “while having a huge willingness to pay more for certified pork, doesn't eat much pork to start with,” Foster explains.

Interestingly, this small group of consumers indicated they would pay even more if the product was certified for multiple attributes.

The second group of respondents, representing 41% of shoppers, is referred to as the price-conscious group, says Foster. They had the lowest willingness to pay for certification.

The third group, referred to as concerned shoppers, represented 43% of respondents. This group indicated a willingness to pay more for certified pork chops. But they wouldn't pay as much of a premium as the first group, and would opt for the conventional product if the pork price was too high.

Overall, the positive message from the survey results was that more than half of the respondents indicated some willingness to pay more to purchase certified pork products, says Foster.

“The other thing we found interesting was how these people viewed the attributes of these pork products. It was pretty clear that they view the environment and the antibiotics issue as personal risks, whereas, animal welfare doesn't really have the same personal impact,” he notes.

One problem with animal welfare issues, such as sow stalls, is that many consumers may not have a clear understanding of what a sow stall is, so the concern really doesn't register with them, says Foster.

Certification programs carry costs for farmers, packers and retailers, including program fees, increased production costs and shelf space. Producers and packers must segregate batches if there are both conventional and certified live animals in the facility. Farm costs rise due to stricter rules on housing and manure disposal, he says.

Moreover, not all cuts can be certified because many pork products contained mixed ingredients and cannot be kept separate from conventional products during processing.

Foster estimates that if just fresh pork primal cuts were sold at retail, the marginal production costs increase by 80¢/lb. for the environment, $1.60/lb. for animal welfare, 56 to 96 cents/lb. for antibiotics, and from $2.12 to $2.32/lb. for the triple combination.

Pork producers who want to pursue this form of niche marketing must develop a set of protocols that are proprietary in order to maintain identity.

That task has become more challenging as a growing number of large production integrators, such as Cargill and Premium Standard Farms, have entered the marketplace selling specialty pork products under USDA's Process Verified Program, Foster explains.

Table 1. Willingness to Pay More for Certified Pork in U.S. Dollars/lb.
Class/Program Class 1: Attribute conscious Class 2: Price conscious Class 3: Concerned shoppers
ENV $2.582 $0.240 $1.447
WEL 0.242* 0.259 1.814
ANT 2.660 0.194 2.496
E&W 5.705 0.532 3.187
E&A 5.601 0.406 3.592
W&A 4.641 0.427 4.121
EWA 10.464 0.671 5.143
Notes: a * indicates that the value is not statistically different from 0 at the 5% level. ENV, WEL and ANT are the certification schemes for the environment, animal welfare and antibiotics schemes, respectively. E&W, E&A and W&A are the certification schemes for the combinations environment & welfare, environment & antibiotics and welfare & antibiotics, respectively. EWA is the certification scheme for all three programs.

Circovirus Grips Industry

Producers and veterinarians alike are struggling to find ways to manage a tiny, common swine virus, and understand why it is suddenly creating havoc in a growing number of U.S. finishing barns.

Porcine circovirus is no stranger to the pig world. It's been regularly diagnosed in U.S. herds for years. In fact, there are only five or six herds known worldwide that have actually tested negative for the virus.

Iowa State University (ISU) has documented several hundred cases of the virus dating back to the late '90s. But its true impact on production has been questioned in a number of veterinary circles in recent years.

That's certainly no longer the case. Last fall, porcine circovirus-associated disease or PCVAD (formerly known as postweaning multi-systemic wasting syndrome or PMWS), began to inflict heavy losses across the hog belt.

Losses Defy Treatment

“What catches our attention is we are putting interventions in and we are continuing to lose pigs,” says Joe Connor, DVM, Carthage Veterinary Service, Ltd., Carthage, IL, in a talk at World Pork Expo. Producers are going full throttle on management and adding high levels of antibiotics to finisher rations — and still not achieving satisfactory results.

Connor says clients are reporting mortality rates above 35% and morbidity rates greater than 50% in some barns and in repeated groups in a system.

Pigs are most commonly affected at about 4-5 weeks after placement in a finisher, with the biggest impact over a 2- to 4-week period.

“All of a sudden those pigs develop a history of wasting, when they will lose almost half of their body weight,” notes Connor. They also frequently have co-infections, including porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), swine influenza virus (SIV) and Mycoplasmal pneumonia. Enteric infections and diarrhea in the suckling pig have also been seen, and some growing pigs have ileitis-like diarrhea.

The role of PCVAD in reproductive disorders needs further investigation, he says.

The Illinois swine veterinarian also reports occasional problems in herds without co-infections. One producer's 1,200-sow, farrow-to-finish herd is PRRS-negative, SIV-negative and mycoplasma-negative. Due solely to PCVAD, he saw a sudden increase in mortality in which he lost about 20% of pigs the first four weeks after moving them into the finisher. Nursery mortality remains normal at 1.4% on an eight-week schedule.

When pigs infected with PCVAD are necropsied, the lungs look like a very typical PRRS infection: heavy, wet, dense and rubbery. Severely affected pigs have “tremendously enlarged lymph nodes,” he says. Hearts often appear enlarged. There can also be liver and or kidney failure.

A small percentage of pigs will appear yellow or jaundiced with severe anemia.

PDNS Can Be Deadly

Another clinical sign diagnosed in 1-10% of PCVAD cases is porcine dermatitis and nephropathy syndrome (PDNS), typified by hemorrhages and discoloration to various parts of the body.

“The interesting thing with PDNS is 80% or more of those pigs end up dying,” remarks Connor. “There is a very, very low recovery rate, but a lot more work needs to be done to determine if PDNS is really part of this syndrome.”

In Europe, best management practices have really been reemphasized to reduce the impact of this syndrome, he says. Focus has been on all-in, all-out pig flow, batch farrowing and intensive cleaning and disinfecting premises. These approaches have taken a tremendous amount of work and discipline.

Still, the results have only been partly successful. Herds that were typically averaging 3% mortality during wean-to-finish production shot up to 12-15% with PCVAD. After intensive management, mortality has settled back down to about 8%.

Connor says Europe has had some success with reducing pen size, whereas, in the United States producers have moved to large pen populations, which may in fact aggravate this syndrome.

The other challenge is ensuring that barns that are pushed to maintain pig flow are properly dried after cleaning and disinfecting, he comments.

First Commercial Vaccine Introduced

Clearly, one of the keys to control of PCVAD will be introduction of vaccine, says Connor.

Fort Dodge Animal Health (FDAH) has received full licensure from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the first vaccine for PCVAD. Suvaxyn PCV2 One Dose is labeled as an inactivated, one-dose vaccine for piglets 4 weeks of age and older to aid in the prevention of Porcine Circovirus Type 2 viremia (the presence of virus in the blood) and control of lymphoid depletion (infection of the lymph nodes) caused by PCV2.

“As an inactivated vaccine, there is no danger of reversion to virulence or potential for it to combine with field strains,” reports Darrell Neuberger, DVM, swine technical manager for FDAH. One dose provides convenience and labor savings, he says. Field trials of more than 1,000 pigs showed no adverse events associated with vaccination.

Work on the vaccine started more than six years ago and was a collaborative effort between Virginia Tech, Iowa State University and FDAH. Studies show the vaccine virus induces protective immunity against Type 2 porcine circovirus, while retaining the non-pathogenic nature of Type 1 porcine circovirus.

Duration of immunity is four months to provide long-term protection through finishing, says Neuberger.

Although the product has not yet been licensed in Canada, swine veterinarians there have petitioned Agriculture Canada for an emergency license of the FDAH vaccine for PCV2.

Fort Dodge Animal Health is gearing up vaccine production to meet the needs for Suvaxyn PCV2 One Dose for both the United States and Canada.

“Certainly it is not a vaccine that is going to be used as a blanket across every pig herd in the United States. But in these herds that are experiencing PCV2 problems, it certainly will be used. We have had tremendous demand for this product,” he says.

Neuberger says FDAH is also working on a combination vaccine that would address problems with porcine circovirus and co-factors.

For more information on FDAH's circovirus vaccine, contact Joe Barban, swine business manager for FDAH, at (800) 477-1365, or log onto www.stopcircovirus.com to learn more about PCVAD. The site is linked to ISU's veterinary diagnostic laboratory Web site so swine practitioners can access information they need relative to submission of samples to ISU, says Barban.

Co-Factors Compound Circovirus Breaks

Iowa State University's Pat Halbur, DVM, reports that out of about 480 cases of porcine circovirus-associated disease (PCVAD), only nine submissions to the veterinary diagnostic laboratory featured circovirus infection alone.

Secondary factors or co-factors commonly add to the severity of circovirus syndrome. Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), Mycoplasmal pneumonia and salmonella create the biggest headaches, says John Kolb, DVM, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. (BIVI).

Less often you will find swine influenza virus, Haemophilus parasuis and Streptococcus suis.

What these co-factors do is add to the levels of porcine circovirus in serum and tissues, he says.

In 70-80% of cases, the pig's immune system seems to be able to deal with the circovirus, states Kolb. But in 10-20% of cases, something triggers continued growth of the virus that destroys the immune system, pigs respond poorly to treatment and often die.

Figure 1 depicts self-reported cases of PCVAD in the United States.

Kolb says BIVI is about halfway through a research project to determine common co-factors. So far PRRS seems to be at the top of the list. He says PRRS virus is probably present in about 90% of cases of circovirus.

For PRRS, the best option is to depopulate the nursery. If that's not possible, he recommends using vaccination to control PRRS and other co-factors. To get out in front of this virus, move vaccination ahead of exposure (early finisher) and vaccinate during the early nursery phase of production at the latest.

In research at Iowa State University, pigs vaccinated against PRRS with BIVI's Ingelvac PRRS ATP, and then experimentally challenged with circovirus five weeks later, were protected against PRRS virus challenge. Even when PRRS vaccine was given at almost the same time as circovirus infection occurred, the PRRS vaccine still afforded some protection and improved gain, says Kolb. Field trials have shown similar results with early vaccination.

To learn more about PCVAD, a research project is being launched by BIVI, modeled after the company's PRRS research awards. BIVI is committing $75,000 annually to fund three selected research programs. The program is open to all swine researchers, veterinarians, academia and others within North America.

“The goal of the PCVAD Research Award Program is to fund collaborative research efforts that we hope will bring the entire industry together and lead to practical, clinically relevant solutions that veterinarians and producers can use to prevent or manage the disease and conditions associated with them,” says Klaas Okkinga, product marketing manager with BIVI.

Research proposals are being accepted until Aug. 15. The first three grants will be awarded at the Leman Swine Conference, Sept. 23-26 in St. Paul, MN.
Joe Vansickle

Mycoplasma Vaccination May Reduce Signs of Porcine Circovirus

Recent research from Iowa State University (ISU) shows that vaccinating for Mycoplasmal pneumonia reduces the severity of porcine circovirus-associated disease (PCVAD) in circovirus and mycoplasma-infected herds.

Vaccinating for mycoplasma has also been shown to be effective in the face of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS).

Co-infections of porcine circovirus type 2 and mycoplasma add to the severity of PCVAD. New research shows that with appropriate use and timing of mycoplasma vaccination with RespiSure (Pfizer Animal Health; www.pfizerah.com), production losses from the two diseases are minimized.

In the study, 296 early-weaned barrows recorded higher body weights and average daily gains, lower lung scores and, in general, had fewer clinical signs of disease than control pigs. The research also signaled that mycoplasma vaccines did not increase levels of circovirus in pigs.

Patrick Halbur, DVM, Tanya Oppriessnig and Eileen Thacker, DVM, all of Iowa State University, performed the protocol development and analysis. Veterinary Resources, Inc., Ames, IA, implemented the study and generated the data. Results were presented at the American Association of Swine Veterinarians annual meeting this year in March in Kansas City, MO.

“Our research showed that vaccinating for mycoplasma reduces the severity of PCVAD in porcine circovirus type 2 and mycoplasma-infected herds,” says Halbur. “We also found that vaccines with either oil- or aqueous-based adjuvants have been shown to improve the clinical picture and performance in co-infected herds. Vaccination against mycoplasma is imperative.”

Correction

On page 61 of the New Product Tour in the May 15, 2006 issue of National Hog Farmer, the listing for Booth 2320-2321 should not have included K & L Technical Service LTD as part of the Super Sorter Scales listing. Their correct telephone number is (515) 310-0007.

Checkoff Decisions Announced at Expo

Advocates of the pork checkoff had more to celebrate than their 20th anniversary.

Just hours into the second day of World Pork Expo in early June, National Pork Board President Danita Rodibaugh stood before reporters with two major announcements.

The first was that the constitutionality challenge of the pork checkoff was being withdrawn. Second, the terms of an agreement to purchase the “Pork — the Other White Meat” trademark/slogan from the National Pork Producers Council had been approved by NPPC delegates.

Checkoff Saga Nears End

National Pork Board CEO Steve Murphy recounted the challenges the pork checkoff and other commodity research and promotion programs had undergone for several years, culminating in the U.S. Supreme Court decision to hear the case challenging the beef mandatory checkoff.

On May 23, 2005, the Supreme Court ruled, in a 6-3 vote, that the mandatory beef checkoff is government speech and therefore does not violate constitutional rights to free speech as protected by the First Amendment. Consequently, the Supreme Court sent the pork checkoff case back to the lower court to take action in accordance with the beef checkoff decision.

“The Supreme Court decided that these research and promotion programs, beef in particular, were government speech, and as such were not protected by the First Amendment,” Murphy explained. “Unfortunately, the pork case also had complaints that dealt with freedom of association, so the pork case was only partially resolved because the freedom of association issue remained open.”

Motion after motion was filed, petitioning the Federal District Court to reopen the record, he said. A dialogue with the plaintiffs, including the Campaign for Family Farms (CFF), was ongoing in recent months. On May 26, the plaintiffs filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit challenging the mandatory pork checkoff program.

“We have been working with the Department of Justice and the USDA to review that motion and just a few moments ago, DOJ recommended that we accept (the motion, to withdraw the complaint) and the USDA supported that recommendation,” Murphy recounted. “We, too, support that recommendation. This complaint has essentially been on the books and in the courts longer than I have been here (with the Pork Board), and we're happy it will be resolved in the very near future.”

The CFF formally announced its intentions in a news release.

“While the plantiffs have filed a motion for dismissal, and while we will not challenge that motion, it still requires a federal court judge to act on that motion,” Murphy noted. “Once that occurs, essentially all the legal challenges against the U.S. pork checkoff will disappear.”

Trademark to Change Hands

On the other checkoff-related matter, Rodibaugh announced that terms of an agreement to purchase the “Pork — the Other White Meat” trademark/slogan had been accepted by NPPC delegates, allowing the organization's board of directors to complete the sale to the National Pork Board.

The National Pork Board will pay NPPC $3 million/year for the next 20 years. “Bringing that back to a net present value, the purchase price is somewhere around $34.5 million (adjusted for inflation),” Murphy explained.

“According to the purchase agreement, if ever the assessment rate of the U.S. pork checkoff falls below 40 cents (per $100 value), or if ever the U.S. (pork) checkoff assessment, because of structural change, becomes voluntary or has a refund provision, then the purchase will be suspended, the (previous) licensing agreement will be reinstated and both parties will come back to the table and renegotiate a new purchase price based on the economic realities,” he says.

“This is essentially the purchase of a strategic asset by the National Pork Board, and we have a lot of exciting plans for that brand in the future,” Murphy added. “It is our belief that if you invest in building a brand, you better own it. We're planning to put a lot of energy and a lot of investment in this brand over the next 20 years.”

“The final legal agreement still needs to be completed and approved by the USDA, but our hope is to ‘close’ on the purchase by July 1,” explained Rodibaugh. “Then all producers will own the ‘Pork — the Other White Meat’ brand.” The legalities of the transaction were being ironed out at press time.

Iowa Producers Question DNR Evaluation Rule

The Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) is concerned about the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) director evaluation rule approved by the state's Environmental Protection Commission June 19.

The rule gives DNR Director Jeff Vonk more discretion in denying construction permits for livestock barns and requiring modifications of manure management plans.

“Our concern is that pork producers can do everything to meet all of the rules and regulations for growing their operation and the director can still say ‘no,’” says Eldon McAfee, legal counsel for the IPPA.

The DNR promises to follow a limited but specific set of circumstances in choosing to deny a permit or require modifications.

“We hope the director lives up to his statements under which he plans on using his discretion,” says IPPA President Gene Ver Steeg, DVM. “Several of the conditions under which the director can use his discretion are very vague. Vagueness is going to lead to many uncertainties and frustrations.”

The Iowa Legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill in May to block commission action on the rule. IPPA fully supported the measure, but Gov. Thomas Vilsack vetoed the bill. The rule will go to the Legislature's Administrative Rules Committee later this summer for review.

2006 World Pork Expo New Product Tour

The National Hog Farmer New Product Review Panel felt exhibitors at the 2006 World Pork Expo provided practical, affordable solutions to challenges facing pork producers, regardless of size.

“Manufacturers did a good job of using simple, applicable ideas to fill real producer needs,” noted Matt Anderson, a veterinarian with Suidae Health & Production, Algona, IA. Suidae Health & Production focuses on swine health, helps producer clients manage their swine operations and conducts swine research.

Ted Funk, University of Illinois Extension agricultural engineer, added, “You see an increasing sophistication in the technologies available to producers, with products ranging from software to sensor technology. The Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) products were particularly impressive, because there is a range of both products and benefits available.”

Colin Johnson, Iowa State University Extension program specialist, related, “I thought most of the companies did a good job of keeping producer costs in mind. A number of innovations were added onto existing technology. There were a lot of good communication tools available here, too.”

Dave Uttecht, a producer from Alpena, SD, felt there were many good management tools available for pork producers. “There is always room for innovation, and some of the products, such as the feeders we looked at, fill needs and offer good options for producers,” he said. Uttecht raises feeder pigs and market hogs, and raises replacement gilts for Babcock Genetics. He has a master's degree in swine nutrition and serves as vice president of the South Dakota Pork Producer's Council.

The panel looked at several products that offered new ideas and retrofitting options for pork producers. “The products were indicative of the evolution of the swine industry, from RFID technology to group housing and automatic feeding,” Anderson said.

“Most products were scaleable for multiple-sized producers,” Funk stated. “We looked at several products that would not require a large system in order to be affordable.”

Following are some thoughts about the products the panel found “most promising.” Products are not ranked in any particular order.

A.I. Handycope, Kane Enterprises, Inc.

The A.I. Handycope is a high-powered, portable, fixed-focus microscope designed as a fast and reliable pig-side test kit to help producers screen boar semen samples for fertility before artificial insemination.

“We wanted to make an economical, portable tool that would be easy to clean and affordable for smaller producers,” said Kevin Kane, president of Kane Enterprises. The Handycope magnifies an image by 200 times, comparable to a desktop microscope. Fine rotation of the revolving tube aids in sharpening fine focus.

The Handycope runs off a lithium battery that provides around 10 hours of operation, according to Kane. A high-powered LED light guarantees clear and bright images, even in dark working environments or at night. The unit comes with a spare battery.

A polycarbonate slide was specially designed to reduce the effect of temperature on sperm motility. “More accurate results could be achieved compared to using a general glass slide,” Kane explained, “although a general glass slide also can be used.”

Kane said the A.I. Handycope is designed to be a first-step screening tool. “If you have questions about sperm quality, you can take the sample to the next step in your screening process.”

The microscope, which retails for $180, comes with a protective case, six polycarbonate slides, 100 glass slides and four pipettes.

“This is a ‘why-didn't-I-think-of-that’ idea,” Uttecht said. “This technology will allow producers to take a microscope places they wouldn't have been willing to take one before.”

Anderson added, “This is a simple and economical way to make sure we are using viable semen at all sow sites. It is affordable enough to have one at separate sites in order to promote biosecurity, too.”

Johnson liked the unit's portability and the ease of use for employees.

MicroZone Automatic Lamp and Mat Controller, Novonix Corporation: A Herdstar Company

The MicroZone automatic heat lamp and heat mat controller adjusts the power supplied to heat lamps or heat mats based on farrowing room temperature and the age of the piglets.

As piglets get older and have less need for supplemental heat, the temperature control can be lowered in specific increments. “Producers can set the system up to drop the temperature by one-half degree each day, for example,” explained Robert Baarsch, HerdStar president. “The result is modulating zone heat based on the age of the pig and room temperature.”

Baarsch said because the temperature under the heat lamps or on the heat mats is adjusted to maintain a comfortable microenvironment for the piglets, they will lay in the creep area away from the sow. This reduces their risk of being laid on or injured, and can reduce prewean mortalities in some operations.

Power modulators automatically regulate the power from 0 to 100%. A readout on the controller unit allows producers to instantly check the amount of power supplied to heaters, the measured room temperature, percent power savings and the temperature control band settings. Overload protection shuts the unit off and re-starts it, if necessary. Power is slowly restored after an outage to reduce peak demand on the power utility or on a backup generator. The control is protected against transient voltage spikes, thermal overload and short circuits in heating devices.

One MicroZone Controller unit can manage up to 12 power modulators. Each modulator operates one 20-amp circuit, which is equal to 1,920 watts of heat lamps or mats. The controller unit costs $129. It would cost around $719 to install the units in a four-circuit room, with each circuit handling approximately 12 crates, explained Baarsch.

Uttecht asked where the ideal location would be for mounting the controllers, and wondered if the units could withstand power washing.

“Producers like to have the controllers mounted in the hallway so they can easily monitor each room,” explained Mark Jaeger, Novonix president. “The units are enclosed in corrosion- and water-resistant housings and can be low-pressure washed.”

Because the MicroZone system adjusts the temperature automatically, producers can save the time and labor previously spent manually adjusting heat lamp height. Anderson asked what heat lamp height is recommended with the system. Baarsch said lamps with a 150-watt bulb should be positioned between 18-20 in. from the floor.

Uttecht acknowledged that sometimes heat lamps don't get adjusted at the optimal time. Johnson agreed, noting the importance of paying close attention to sow and piglet temperature when working to prevent health problems. “Being able to adjust the heat lamps throughout the room would help reduce the possibility of mis-management,” he said.

As Anderson noted, “This looks like a simple, yet innovative way to fill a real need in the industry. It should benefit sows, piglets, employees and the bottom line. It seems to combine productivity with economic enhancement.”

Because heat lamps and heat mats use around 40% of the power, reducing the power between birth and weaning can result in significant savings per site, and in many cases the savings will pay for the units in one year, Jaeger noted. “Power companies in some states recognize this as an energy-saving device and offer rebates with it,” he said. He urged interested customers to talk to their power companies to see if they can get rebates in their area.

Funk noted that increased bulb life, which would result from using the system, could be an additional cost advantage to producers.

The MicroZone Controllers come with a one-year warranty.

Clear Advantage Water Purification System, Aerotech

The Clear Advantage water purification system from Aerotech purifies and disinfects any water source, including wells, ponds or rivers. Because it is an ozone purification system, the Clear Advantage system is chemical free.

As Aerotech's Norm Wettstein explained to the panel, the system utilizes a custom-sized tank, injection assembly generator and self-backwashing filters, configured for the level of contaminates in each operation's water supply. The system is matched to peak flow rate.

The ozone generator utilizes ultraviolet light, which turns incoming oxygen molecules into ozone molecules. The water is forced through a venture tube, drawing ozonated water into the flow. By a patented process, the ozonated water is fed through the bottom of a contact tank. As the water rises, it mixes thoroughly with the down-flowing, untreated water. The ozone gas destroys organisms such as bacteria, protozoa, mold, fungi and viruses. In addition, iron, manganese, hydrogen sulfide and other contaminants are oxidized by the system. The harmful contaminants that are precipitated out of the solution form clumps, which are easily filtered out. The system, which is regulated by a flow switch, only runs when water is being used. The system automatically shuts off when usage stops.

The system continues to run for five minutes after the end of the flow in order to fully disinfect the last water into the contact tank. Automatically-timed backwash cleans the filter media as often as needed. No chemicals are necessary for the process, Wettstein said.

The panel asked if different water supplies require additional filters or treatments. Wettstein explained pond water runs through an additional pre-filter, while well water goes directly to treatment and then to post filters.

Producers need to have a dedicated area of at least 10 ft. × 10 ft. to house the necessary tanks and equipment for the system.

The price of the Clear Advantage system depends upon the quality of water and flow rate at each specific operation. Because each system is designed specifically for that site, full treatment of the water supply is guaranteed, and there is no concern that equipment being purchased is not required.

“Producers need to know whether or not they have a water problem before deciding to use this system. It could take care of bacterial problems, which would be an advantage,” noted Funk.

Anderson said if producers have access to rural water, this system might not be necessary. However, for farms with water quality issues, the Clear Advantage system has the potential to increase water intake during crucial phases of production.

“This system could improve the efficacy of oral vaccines and medications, and help prolong the life of medicators and the water system,” Johnson added. “You would need a large enough farm to make it pay for itself. Nursery sites might be the best application.”

Because the system is new to the swine industry, the panel wondered what long-term maintenance and upkeep issues may develop.

Agro-Jet, Medical International Technologies

The AGRO-JET is a low-pressure, needle-free, jet injector from Medical International Technologies, Inc. (MIT).

“There are no needles involved,” explained Karim Menassa, MIT president and CEO. “The pressure pierces the skin, and the injected medication disperses in a mist or spray as it enters the dermal, subcutaneous or intramuscular tissue.”

Around 160 psi would deliver a 2cc injection, for example, such as iron for baby pigs. An intramuscular injection for a sow would use around 250 psi, Menassa said.

Uttecht asked how the unit is adjusted to deliver enough pressure for a subcutaneous vs. an intramuscular injection.

The pressure is delivered via a 5-lb. canister of liquid carbon dioxide, Menassa explained. The canister is carried in a special backpack that comes with the unit. Users can set the necessary vaccine pressure by using a regulator on the carbon dioxide tank. “A 5-lb. canister of carbon dioxide can deliver around 800 injections of 2.5 cc,” Menassa said.

The AGRO-JET can inject from 0.1 up to 2.5 ccs in 0.1-cc increments. A different unit is available for injections up to 5 cc.

Funk asked if the injector has to be powered by carbon dioxide, or if compressed air could be used. Menassa said the AGRO-JET swine injector model is designed to be used with carbon dioxide, or an air compressor that could deliver up to 300 psi.

Stainless steel and plastic construction adds durability and allows the unit to be sterilized. The unit comes with a one-year warranty with no limit on the number of injections that can be performed during that year. A fee-based loan program is available in case producers need to send their unit in for repair.

Menassa said impact damage could cause problems if the unit is dropped repeatedly.

The panel quizzed Menassa about safety concerns, and Funk wondered how long a producer would have to hold the AGRO-JET against an animal in order to complete the injection process. Menassa said the injection is completed in a fraction of a second. The operator controls the distribution by squeezing a trigger, which helps keep the operator safe.

Anderson asked if research had shown any problems with muscle scarring when using this method. Menassa said there is no muscle scarring, and injections can be made on the ham or neck.

The AGRO-JET costs between $2,500 to $2,800 and comes with one canister of liquid carbon dioxide, the backpack and two vaccine orifices.

INTAK Ad-Lib Lactation Feeding System, Automated Production Systems (AP)

The INTAK Ad-Lib Lactation Feeding System from Automated Production Systems (AP) was designed to provide an economical and efficient way to upgrade the feeding systems in new and existing farrowing buildings.

“Our goal was to have a simple and cost-effective way to convert a typical farrowing crate feeder to an ad lib, or on-demand, lactation feeding system,” said AP's Tom Stuthman.

The INTAK system is designed to make fresh feed available to the sow 24 hours/day, thereby increasing feed intake while keeping feed fresh and decreasing waste. The system's dispenser is designed to provide reliable feed flow and delivers a regulated amount of feed with each actuation. An indexed adjustment system, which changes the opening of the feeder in increments of 1/10 in., provides uniform control of feed dispensed.

Uttecht asked if the system is adjustable to a daily amount of feed for each sow. Stuthman said the INTAK feed dispensers can be used to limit-feed sows, gradually ramping them up to full feed.

The dispensers can be adapted to most farrowing crates and can be retrofitted to existing stainless steel feeders.

Uttecht asked about the cost to retrofit each feeder. Stuthman said most farrowing crates could be upgraded to the INTAK dispenser with a feed-holding hopper for around $90.

Dispensers can be hand-filled using an optional 15-lb. hopper, or can be filled automatically with a chain-disk fill system to save labor, Stuthman added.

Funk asked if a water nipple can be included within the feeder. An optional, high-flow water valve in the stainless steel feeder can improve both water and feed intake while substantially decreasing water waste, Stuthman noted.

Anderson wondered how the feeders stand up to the rigors of mature sows. Stuthman said the dispenser is constructed of durable, injection-molded plastic, and was specially designed with features to endure abuse by large sows.

Automatic Gestation System, Schick Enterprises

Schick Enterprises developed a large-pen Automatic Gestation System (AGS) that uses RFID tags, which enables the system to manage, process and feed animals in seconds.

The large-pen design accommodates up to 150 sows. “We wanted a product that could offer quick through put,” explained Paul Schick, president of Schick Enterprises.

Sows pass through a stainless steel, electronic sorting station called the Interrogator. As sows pass through the Interrogator, their RFID tag is read. Sows are automatically sorted by the Interrogator into two pens for access to feed. Thin animals can be given access to feeding stations where additional feed is available. If a sow has lost her tag, or the tag is unreadable, the system automatically spray-marks her as she passes through the Interrogator and notifies the producer of the event.

The system features a user-friendly, browser-based computer interface, which makes it easy for users to monitor the system off-site. As each sow passes through the Interrogator for the first time, her RFID tag number is recorded so managers can create logical sow groups without having to enter tag numbers manually.

The system can be programmed to paint multiple groups of sows for pregnancy testing or vaccinations, for example, by selecting the desired groups and creating tasks to paint them. The system also sends an alert when an animal has not passed through the station within a 24-hour period.

“The large-pen design accommodates many sows, yet provides ample space, allowing every sow to remain active and mobile so they can find their comfort zone,” Schick explained. “Our system uses trickle feeding stations, which allow all sows to eat at the same time, virtually eliminating sow aggression while also keeping the dominant sows from overeating.” Water is provided in the loafing area.

Panel members wondered whether two sows could enter the Interrogator at one time and if animals could get stuck. Schick said there is really only room for one animal to go through at a time. “The saloon-style gates are designed so the animal can push through once the gate has been released, to decrease the chances of getting stuck,” he added.

Uttecht inquired about training sows and asked how many sows should be added at one time during the training phase. Schick recommended adding sows in groups of 10 or more, so aggressive behavior isn't focused on a small fraction of the population. He said little to no training is required.

The system does not interface with any major recordkeeping systems at this time, but Schick said that may be an option in the future.

The Automatic Gestation System sells for just under $10,000, which includes the Interrogator, the building blueprints and a one-year warranty. One unit is designed to accommodate 150 head.

Cargill Animal Nutrition, Cargill Incorporated

Cargill uses a new process to formulate diets using unique nutrients. This approach leads to more precise nutrient supplies and pig comfort for a pork production system.

“We use nutrients such as net energy for young pigs, heat of digestion for growing hogs and/or an ideal carbohydrate balance to formulate diets,” explained Cargill's Derek Wulf. He says this approach challenges traditional ways of how nutrition impacts hogs' energy metabolism. “The result is the right feed for the right pigs at the right time.”

Cargill developed a patented technology that quantifies the difference between the animal's metabolizeable energy and its net energy, as measured in heat increment differences in the animal's skin temperature. This is especially important during heat stress periods, as it creates a way to keep hogs cool from the inside out, which leads to more consistent growth and greater production efficiency.

As part of the process, producers routinely sample, assay and update their ingredient's nutrient matrix. This allows a precise understanding of net energy, ideal carbohydrate balance and others to be used — especially when ingredient prices increase. The panel viewed the close attention to the nutritional value of ingredients as a positive aspect of the program.

The price of the process depends upon the specific services a producer is looking for. “The process is used to support a consulting relationship with producers and what they require. Our focus is on nutrients,” he explained.

Farnam LTS Tag Recorder, Farnam Companies, Inc.

The Farnam LTS Tag Recorder is a Palm-based, rugged RFID reader and data accumulator, which is built into the reader. A lithium battery allows the unit to operate for many hours on a single charge.

Retrieving data from the reader is easy using the software (included). Once uploaded, data is easily modified using Microsoft Excel or most any other management program, according to Jerry Hall, Farnam's North Central regional manager.

Funk wondered if other tasks, besides animal identification, could be performed using the Palm.

“Yes, you can put everything into this unit that you can put onto a regular Palm, such as a daily planner, for example,” Hall explained.

When Uttecht and Johnson asked how close the operator has to be to an animal, Hall said the reader must be within 4 in. of the RFID tag to read it. If two animals are standing side by side, the reader registers the closest tag. Once the tag number appears on the viewing screen, it remains so additional information can be entered and edited.

The Farnam LTS Tag Recorder comes with a carrying pouch that fits on the operator's belt. The unit costs around $2,300, including the support software.

InSite Monitor Glasses, E. I. Medical Imaging

The InSite Monitor Glasses from E.I. Medical Imaging offers a hands-free, fully adjustable monitor for use in situations when it would be difficult to read an ultrasound scanner screen, or to help improve scanning speed, accuracy and user comfort. The glasses are designed to work with the Bantam Real-Time Ultrasound Scanner.

Users can adjust the glasses for eye width, brightness, contrast and focus. Velcro straps help hold the glasses in place.

“The glasses offer digital monitor quality,” explained Mia Rossini, E.I. Medical Imaging Sales and Marketing. Brightness and contrast control can be set within the glasses. Once a user has adjusted brightness and contrast, the settings remain until they're reset, even if the glasses are taken off.

The glasses can be adjusted to work with eyeglasses, and come with removable glare shields that help properly space the monitor from a user's eyeglasses, as well as eliminate any side glare from lighting.

Funk asked if more than one set of glasses can be plugged into the same ultrasound unit. “The ultrasound unit can simultaneously run two sets of glasses with both users seeing the same image. This helps to accommodate training,” Rossini said.

“The glasses are an example of adapting technology to improve user-friendliness,” Johnson said. He recalled in the past using duct tape to fasten ultrasound glasses to his head to help provide a shield against bright conditions.

“I liked the clarity of the glasses, and the graphics looked really good,” Anderson stated. “But they do limit motion somewhat.”

The InSite Monitor Glasses sell for $850.

PigChamp RFID Instant Data System, PigChamp

Producers and managers can quickly and accurately identify animals for data collection and then upload the data into their PigChamp recordkeeping software systems with the new PigChamp RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) Instant Data System. A rugged, hand-held computer reads special RFID ear tags, allowing production information to be entered.

“Many people are collecting data by hand now, with pen and paper,” explained PigChamp's Molly Toot, noting tags are often difficult to read and office personnel often have difficulty interpreting the data. “If the data is misread, the information is inaccurate. This system helps producers collect accurate information and real-time data. Producers can get reports in a timely manner, which can help lower operating costs.”

The new system uses readily available RFID tags from companies such as Allflex and Destron. Tags are read by a handheld reader. Producers are encouraged to use both visual and RFID tags, so if an animal loses its RFID transponder, the visual identification number can be typed into the system to record the animal's information. The reader attaches to a hand-held data unit.

The handheld computer allows users to easily record and validate required daily activities. In addition to reading tags and allowing for paperless data entry, the unit can be used to retrieve an animal's current or historical information while still in the barn.

The handheld reader features a carrying strap and a neck strap.

Johnson asked how close the reader needs to be to the tag in order to obtain an accurate reading. Jayne Jackson, PigChamp product manager, said the reader needs to be within 6 in. of the tag. Metal in barns can cause some interference, but the reader can be placed between the headgate bars and still get an accurate reading, she said.

Anderson asked about the durability of the unit. Jackson said tests have shown it can be dropped on concrete from up to 6 ft. and still function normally. The reader is also water-resistant, cleanable and covered by a one-year warranty. The reader is powered by a NiCad battery with an expected 8 to 15-hour life between charges. The unit comes with a back-up battery.

Software in an on-site computer allows the handheld units to talk to one another. Producers can use a single docking station to download data to the computer while charging. Both single and four-unit docking stations are available.

“Many customers start with two units, one for the breeding side of the operation, and one for the farrowing unit,” Jackson related.

A single docking station system starts as low as $2,790 and includes a single docking station, one handheld unit, a 1-MG and 4-MB flash card, handheld and computer software, all batteries, hand strap, carrying case and RFID reader.

Multiple docking station systems start at about $5,300 and include multiple docking stations, two handheld units, 1-MG and 4-MB flash cards, handheld and computer software, all batteries, handstrap, carrying case and RFID reader for both handheld units. All prices include technical support.

AASV Receives Tool to Fight PRRS

The American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) has accepted ownership of the Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. (BIVI) PRRS risk assessment tool.

A BIVI team led by Dale Polson, DVM, senior manager of technical resources, developed the survey and benchmarking tool that evaluates risk factors associated with virus introduction and circulation on hog farms.

In accepting the gift, AASV President-Elect Daryl Olsen, DVM, explains that while the industry has enjoyed success in eliminating the PRRS virus from individual herds, production flows and even local areas, reinfection of those herds has presented a real challenge.

“By working through the PRRS risk assessment questionnaire with the producer, veterinarians can identify potential facility, management and animal factors that may increase the likelihood of virus introduction or the severity of disease,” he adds.

However, the risk factors identified in the risk assessment tool are not limited to the PRRS virus. Many of the lessons covered in the questionnaire can be applied to other disease introductions and reduce the severity of common domestic and newly emerging diseases as well.

Poultry Pines, Pork Bounces Back

Figure 1 is a reprint of last week's price forecast table. The numbers in that one table were based on an incorrect document from Mizzou. Professors Glenn Grimes and Ron Plain provided the correct numbers after last week's <i>North American Preview</i> had been sent. The Missouri forecasters are still more pessimistic about this year's third quarter, but are much closer to other forecasters for the remaining three quarters of the outlook.
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Note also that I have added a column that contains rough quarterly averages for Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Lean Hogs futures prices as of July 11. Those futures prices are most comparable with the national net weighted average price that I forecast. The premiums included in the net price usually offset the basis for Iowa-Minnesota markets. The July 11 futures prices were near or above the top of my price forecast range through next summer.
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<b>Chicken Slippage</b>
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No one, and no company, is bulletproof. That statement came home to roost for two large chicken companies this week. Tyson announced the elimination of over 400 employee positions this week, while Pilgrim's Pride announced it would close operations at a Virginia processing plant every other Friday for the remainder of the year.
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The Associated Press quoted Pilgrim Pride's VP of communications Gary Rhodes as saying, "Poultry in the United States has had a hard time this year. There's been very weak demand in the export market because of fears of avian flu."
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All of those negative numbers in the "versus year ago" column of our Competing Meats Production and Price Summary bear that out. While breast meat prices have actually improved, legs and wings are still down significantly, dragging whole-bird prices down with them. Chicken companies finally responded to lower prices by dropping egg sets below year-ago levels in April and production below year-ago levels in June.
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<b>Pork's Strength</b>
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Those reductions correspond with the timing of what appears to be an improvement in pork and hog demand. Both are still lower than one year ago, but they made some significant improvement in May. June's market suggests that demand has kept strengthening.
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Higher hog prices and strong packer margins are almost always positive signs for pork demand. You know about hog prices over the past six weeks. Figure 2 shows what has happened to packer margins, which are very strong for this time of year. The past six weeks have all been above the long-term average for packer gross margin. The week that ended July 1 was also above the long-term average by $7.39 or 58%.
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This can only happen when product values are excellent. Since slaughter levels have been only slightly lower than expected, I conclude that pork demand has been stronger. Let's hope it stays that way.
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The recent strength of margins has improved an already good year for pork packers. Not only have this year's weekly margins been generally higher than one year ago and about normal relative to the long-term average, but they have also been much less variable than last year.
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The second half of 2004 and the first half of 2005 saw pork packer margins ride a roller coaster that was indeed wild. Packers would push up product prices and/or push down hog prices enough to get margins to acceptable levels, then bid those margins away in pursuit of hog supplies. When margins got painfully low, packers would start the process all over.
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They have shown much more restraint this year and kept margins far more steady -- good for the bottom line, as well as the stress.
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<a href="http://nationalhogfarmer.com/images/0714mkt.doc" target="_new"><img align="left" valign="top" src="http://images.industryclick.com/files/17/graphlogo.jpg" vspace="0" border="0" hspace="3"></a><br><br> Click to view graph.<br><br>
<font color="red">Steve R. Meyer, Ph.D.<br>
Paragon Economics, Inc.<br>
e-mail: <a href="mailto:steve@paragoneconomics.com">steve@paragoneconomics.com</a></font>