National Hog Farmer is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Articles from 2007 In July

North Carolina Keeps Swine Lagoons

Despite press reports to the contrary, legislation in North Carolina that was passed by the General Assembly does not phase out existing swine lagoons, according to a spokesman for the North Carolina Pork Council (NCPC).

“We worked hard on this bill (Senate Bill 1465) and are pleased with the fact that it clearly states that existing facilities have the right to continue to operate as they are today,” says Deborah Johnson, chief executive office of the NCPC.

“Unless some new technological breakthrough happens, we will have lagoons and sprayfields for the foreseeable future,” she adds.

The Senate bill states, “an animal waste management system that serves a swine farm for which a permit was issued prior to Sept. 1, 2007…may continue to operate under, and shall operate in compliance with, that permit, including any renewal of the permit.”

The Senate bill authorizes holders of permits for lagoons issued prior to Sept. 1, 2007 to construct a replacement lagoon provided it meets all applicable state and federal standards and does not result in an increase in the permitted capacity.

What the new legislation does do is make the decade-old moratorium against new swine lagoons permanent.

“Producers can still build farms using other technologies if they meet the criteria outlined in the bill,” Johnson explains. A cost-sharing grant program also would help the first farms to install new swine waste technologies. Both North Carolina House and Senate budget proposals call for $2 million in annual funding for the grant program.

The measure was unanimously approved in the Senate July 25 and is on its way to Gov. Mike Easley to be signed into law.

The bill also creates a pilot program whereby producers can utilize methane from their treatment systems to produce electricity which can then be sold to utility companies at attractive prices.

According to Johnson there are 2,300 permitted hog farms in North Carolina, all with swine lagoon and sprayfield systems.

Read more news

Export Expectations Adjusted

Export sales in May 2007 continued a disappointing trend. Year-to-date export volume through May was down 4.7% vs. one year ago (see Figure 1). As we've seen all year, the biggest problem for U.S. exporters is Mexico. May shipments there were 24% lower than last year. That is a slight improvement relative to April, but it's still disappointing for our second-largest market in 2006. Year-to-date shipments to Mexico are now 30% below those of January-May 2006.

It still appears that higher tortilla prices are the main driver for lower pork exports, but another factor may be weighing on U.S. shipments. Fiona Boal of Rabo International pointed out to me this week that Rabobank representatives in Mexico report that Mexican producers have been reducing the size of their herds due to higher feed costs. Those reductions have put more product on the Mexican market, driving down prices and reducing the need for U.S. product. This reduction is likely to wane as hog numbers reach more optimal levels and feed costs fall in light of a larger expected U.S. corn crop. Both of those may help exports later this year but will probably not drive shipments to Mexico up on a year-over-year basis by year's end.

Year-to-date shipments through May were also lower to Russia (-26%) and Taiwan (-42%). Japan has purchased 10% more pork this year while 3% more U.S. pork has been shipped to Canada. Both China and Hong Kong (still kept separate in USDA accounts) have purchased 38% more U.S. pork this year.

China has purchased 19.442 thousand metric tons (21,431 tons) as of May 2007. If the rumors are true, China will buy two to three times that much in the near future. That would be a large shot in the arm indeed -- if the United States and China can solve this week's troubles over ractopamine and alleged food safety issues. I find it almost laughable that China would throw such a fit over food safety given the nature of the country's food system. But this spat is as much about melamine (and our negative but true statements about adulterated feed ingredients) as it is about ractopamine.

The good side of the export news is that the value of exports is still higher this year. Just over $1.086 billion of U.S. pork was exported during January-May, a 6.1% increase over a year ago (see Figure 2).

Exports to China Drive Futures Rally
The rumors of significant exports to China and last week's slaughter run that was just barely larger than one year ago helped continue the increase in Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Lean Hogs futures this week. Contracts for October, December, February, June and July all hit contract life highs yesterday, while April and May 2008 are within $1 of their contract life high. The eight futures contracts that cover the next 12 months averaged $73.66 carcass ($55.25 live) at Thursday's close.

The rally of the past two weeks has added $10 to $15 to the value of every hog. The rally shows no technical signs of being over, so there may be more to come, especially if we see some actual shipments to China.

More Acres, More Rain Helps
USDA's increase in harvested acres for corn and rains across the Midwest this week also helped the feed cost situation. As can be seen in Figure 3, the costs of soybean meal and corn to make a 16% crude protein hog diet has fallen by $20-30/ton over the past month. Allowing roughly one-third of a ton of feed for a market hog means that the feed cost reduction has added $7-10/head to producers' bottom lines.

Put the two together and we have seen potential producer margins for the remainder of 2007 and all of 2008 increase by $15-25/head in recent weeks. Those margin increases may persist and be reflected in cash markets next year but, then again, they may not. Look carefully at your potential costs and income given this change in futures prices. It may well pay to lock those margins in on at least a portion of your production for the next 12 months. The rally at least begs you to pay attention!

Click to view graphs.

Steve R. Meyer, Ph.D.
Paragon Economics, Inc.

Pork Center Awarded Educational Grants

The U.S. Department of Agriculture/Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service have awarded three-year grant to develop Swine Schools a $460,000, to the U.S. Pork Center of Excellence (USPCE).

The USPCE requested the funding in response to the declining number of swine science programs available at universities in the United States. Funding available Oct. 1 will be used to develop courses in several different aspects of pork production, pilot testing and evaluating the results.

“We have been working hard to find a way to provide for more graduates academically trained in swine science,” says Mike Wehler, a USPCE board member and pork producer from Plain, WI. “We think this is a very good start to find people with capabilities to be managers or allied industry representatives, or to even attend graduate school in the swine sciences.”

College students involved in the Swine Schools project will have the opportunity of enrolling in an intensive swine science course followed by a summer internship at a production facility. The internship will provide learning with credits to be transferred back to their respective institution.

Swine School students will partake in distance learning, laboratory instruction, problem solving and critical thinking.

The steering committee for the Swine School project will be announced in October and will work to set the policy for the project this fall.

“This funding will provide the impetus to develop a much-needed program to counter the disappearance of swine school courses in our university system,” says USPCE Executive Director David Meisinger. “The next step will be to utilize the base knowledge to develop a shorter course for those already working in the pork industry.”

The U.S. Pork Center of Excellence was established in 2005 as a public/private partnership to bring together academic expertise in research, teaching and Extension geared to pork production. USPCE is housed at the National Swine Research and Information Center on the Iowa State University campus in Ames, IA.

Clostridium Difficile: Emerging Disease

This bacterial pathogen strikes piglets at an early age.

Clostridium bacteria are common in the environment, found in soil and water as well as the gut of mammals and birds. Piglets are exposed at a very young age by taking in the bacteria orally.

Clinical signs of infection can vary, but usually affect the pig by 1-7 days of age. Diarrhea begins soon after birth with some pigs dying suddenly. Other pigs exhibit weight loss and unthriftiness, even though they often continue to nurse.

It is not uncommon to have only three or fewer pigs affected in a litter. Often, the producer assumes the cause is a poor-milking sow.

Respiratory signs are attributed to fluid in the chest cavity and toxemia, or the presence of toxic substances in the blood.

Case Study No. 1

A 2,400-sow, breed-to-wean farm reported that piglet diarrhea had been increasing for several weeks. Affected pigs were 2-3 days old. While the number of mortalities was not significant, the appearance of the disease at weaning caused purchasers to reject those pigs.

To determine the cause of the persistent diarrhea, several pigs of various ages and stages of the condition were collected and tissues were submitted to a diagnostic lab.

On postmortem examination, the intestines of the pigs contained yellow fluid and some pigs had full stomachs. The consistent gross lesion was edema of the spiral colon. Lab tests were negative for rotavirus, Transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) virus and Clostridium perfringens. The small intestine yielded a non-hemolytic Enteric colibacillosis. The large intestine revealed there were large numbers of Clostridium difficile with toxins A and B determined by enzyme immunoassay.

Further investigation at the farm revealed there had been several changes in management procedures. Production included several large farrowing groups. The flow did not allow pressure-washed farrowing rooms to dry before farrowing crates were restocked. The farm was also short one staff person in the farrowing area, and consequently, crate scraping was not getting done on a regular basis.

A long-acting cephalosporin drug was being administered as pigs were processed between 1 and 3 days of age. Processing boxes were used.

The farm agreed to change management procedures to try to minimize the diarrhea. Rooms were allowed to dry before sows were loaded in the crates. Crate scraping was reinstituted. Processing was delayed until pigs were 3 days of age. Processing boxes were cleaned and disinfected every day after use.

The amount of visible diarrhea has been very minimal since these practices have been implemented consistently.

Case Study No. 2

A 600-sow, farrow-to-feeder pig operation began experiencing diarrhea in pigs at 7-12 days of age. About 10% of litters (2-3 litters) were affected. Because response to treatment had been poor, and nearly half of the affected piglets had died, several pigs were submitted for diagnostics.

Laboratory results indicated the small intestine was congested and the spiral colon was edematous or swollen. All pigs had stomachs full of milk curd. Tests for rotavirus and TGE were negative and there were no histologic or tissue lesions indicative of coccidiosis. Heavy growth of Clostridium difficile was obtained from the colon.

As a result of this diagnosis, all management procedures at the farm were reviewed. It was discovered that the medication dose given at processing had been calculated incorrectly. The cephalosporin dose was two times higher than needed. It was also discovered that the BMD (bacitracin methylene disalicylate from Alpharma Animal Health) had been removed from the sow feed. That antibiotic was placed back in the lactation feed, producing almost an immediate improvement in control of the diarrhea.


At the time of processing, neonatal pigs are commonly treated with penicillin or cephalosporin for the reduction of infections. Some data suggests that antimicrobials given to very young pigs alters the developing gut flora and allows Clostridium difficile to cause enterocolitis.

Good relationships between producers and their veterinary health advisors are necessary, because open communication can reveal changes that could create an environment for diseases to occur. Close scrutiny of procedures and laboratory examination of affected animals can verify the medical problem.

These case studies show the importance of understanding how management and processing changes can have an immediate impact on the health of the pigs. In these cases, the diarrhea that occurred led to a review of all processes. Simple and cost-effective solutions were accomplished when producer and veterinarian communicated and worked together to solve the problem.

Prices Look Favorable For Most of 2007-2008

Despite production growth and higher feed costs, prices look favorable for the next two years.

Glenn Grimes hopes his profitability predictions for 2007 are as wrong as those he offered at last year's World Pork Expo, when he predicted that hog profits would likely end by the close of 2006.

The University of Missouri agricultural economist was a bit off the mark in last year's outlook talk as the pork industry went on to establish a new record — 35 consecutive months of profits.

That feat was accomplished in the face of sustained growth in the industry, led by a resurgence in live hog demand that is fed in part by 15 consecutive years of growth in pork exports.

Today hog prices are back in the black after a dip in March, although Grimes foresees some losses in the fall.

The last 12 months of growth in demand is producing live hog prices that he projects will range $48-51/cwt. in the third quarter, $44-47/cwt. for the fourth quarter, and average $46-48/cwt. for the year. That compares with average prices of $46.28 for 2006 and $49.55 for 2005. Grimes offered his thoughts during an outlook forum at the 2007 World Pork Expo in Des Moines.

Projecting further out, the just-turned, 84-year-old economist has forecasted negotiated base carcass hog prices should land in the low-to-mid-$60s/cwt. through 2008, and could reach into the $70s with premiums (see Table 1).

Industry growth continues to climb, with U.S. commercial hog slaughter slated to reach 106.6 million head, 1.8% above 2006, Grimes says, based on the March Hogs and Pigs Report.

Sow slaughter and gilt retention levels are “bouncing around a little bit,” adding some uncertainty to future growth. But he says there is little doubt that sow expansion is continuing in 2007.

Table 1. Iowa-Minnesota Hog Price Forecast*
2006 2007 2008
Qtr. 1 $56.38* $59.90* $59-63
Qtr. 2 $65.27* $66-69 $65-69
Qtr. 3 $68.04* $64-68 $64-68
Qtr. 4 $60.53* $59-63 $59-63
Year $62.54* $62-65 $62-66
*Actual price — prior day purchased

Favoring Industry Growth

A number of factors favor continued growth and profitability:

  • There has been a significant drop in the value of the Canadian dollar. In 1996, a Canadian dollar was worth about $1.60-1.70 in the United States. This year, that conversion rate has fallen back to about $1.12 Canadian vs. U.S. levels, the lowest level since 1992. Grimes says the value of the two respective dollars may reach equality before the year is out.

    Canadian hog production is starting to reflect those currency changes. From 1995 to 2005, 74% of the increase in U.S.-Canadian pig production took place in Canada. The next 10 years should witness a different outcome due in part to the current shift in the U.S.-Canadian exchange rate, he says.

    For January-April 2007, Canadian slaughter hog imports are up 12.8%, and feeder pig imports are up 7.7%. Grimes expects those trends to continue for the rest of the year.

  • Slaughter hog capacity has tightened, but still looks capable of handling supply. Much of the industry's troubles in 1998 can be traced to a lack of adequate daily slaughter capacity (381,000 head). “We are going to kill more hogs in the fourth quarter this year than we did in 1998, but slaughter capacity shouldn't be a problem unless we have more hogs than we expect, lose a plant or have some kind of an accident,” Grimes reports.

    Figure 1 on page 30 shows federally inspected daily hog slaughter capacity for 2007 has dropped to about 411,000 head, compared to around 425,000 head in 2006.

    This year's decline in slaughter capacity is due to the closing of the Bryant Foods plant in West Point, MS, and the loss of one shift at the Morrell plant in Sioux City, IA.

  • The value of U.S. pork exports at $33.60/hog continues to keep hog production profitable. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects growth of 5-6% in 2007. It would be the 16th consecutive year of record growth in pork exports.

But maintaining that growth won't be easy. As Table 2 on page 32 shows, in the first three months of 2007, pork exports grew by just 2.8%. Challenges include Mexico, where sales are off 20.3%. Grimes suggests that the high cost of corn, a staple ingredient in the Mexican diet, is probably mainly to blame.

Japan continues its growth as the top importer of U.S. pork, with South Korea anticipated as the next major growth market (see sidebar on page 32).

Data just out from the U.S. Meat Export Federation paints a mixed picture. January-April pork exports are off 3% and for April alone are down 16%. The positive news is that pork value is up 8% from the same four months in 2006.

Overall, the United States exports 15% of production, imports 5% of production and therefore is a 10% net pork exporter.

Not Favoring Industry Growth

The cost structure of hog production is approximately $7-9/cwt. higher than a year ago, and the challenge the industry faces in the next 3-4 years is how to make that adjustment, Grimes says.

“The livestock industry has got to cut corn use with growth in ethanol demand. The poultry industry cut back some earlier, but the pork industry is still growing and we see no cuts for the rest of the year in hogs,” he says.

Table 2. U.S. Pork Exports, Jan.-Mar. 2007
Change from year ago
Country (000 lb.) Percent
Japan +45,966 +18.8%
Mexico -34,287 -20.3%
Canada +1,509 +2.0%
S. Korea +8,304 +9.4%
Russia -2,668 -6.1%
China & HK +14,824 +34.2%
Taiwan -12,967 -57.7%
TOTAL +21,783 +2.8%

As a result of rising corn costs, the University of Missouri economist predicts the hog industry will shrink out of necessity.

It won't be the smaller producers who feel the pinch the most, he says. Those producing less than 50,000 head/year and raising 75% of their corn needs will have the luxury of making a profit on hogs, corn, or both.

Those producers may decide that life is easier just raising grain and not hogs. But that doesn't mean hog production will necessarily drop. If their barns are fairly new, and are of some size, they have value and probably won't go out of production, Grimes explains.

Corn Price Volatility

The ethanol frenzy is going to produce a lot of volatility in corn prices, according to Robert Wisner, professor of economics, Iowa State University.

There will also be a lot of challenges in transporting, drying and handling 16-17% more corn in the estimated 90-million-acre 2007 corn crop.

Corn futures to December place corn prices in the $3.75 to $4/bu. range, he says. And Wisner says corn futures all the way to 2010 are suggesting corn prices will be in that $4 category.

Pushing corn prices is a growing demand for ethanol and a building boom of plants to produce the alternative fuel from corn.

In Iowa alone, there are 30 corn processing plants, including those producing ethanol, representing 53% of Iowa's corn crop last year.

There will be 71 plants in Iowa if all the ethanol plants planned are built. The total capacity would represent 2.9 million bu. of corn, and 142% of Iowa's 2006 corn crop, says Wisner.

In the future, more land may be added or switched to corn production to meet ethanol needs and still provide livestock feed.

But only half of the 7 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program has potential for crop rotations that include corn production, he says.

Higher Corn Yields Predicted

Weather patterns projected throughout summer appear to favor higher corn yields for the 2007 crop, says Elwynn Taylor, Iowa State University professor and climatologist.

“The most likely (50-50 chance) U.S. corn yield for 2007 is 154 bu./acre, as estimated according to conditions as of June 1,” he says. “The chance of a record-high yield (above 163 bu./acre) is 30%, and the chance of drought (below 133 bu./acre) is 20%.”

Reports indicate that the late May corn crop exceeds conditions of the last few years with above-average subsoil moisture in much of the Corn Belt and reduced chance of widespread drought.

Improved genetics and management have resulted in consistent improvement in corn yields, which averaged 150 bu./acre for the 2006 crop, Taylor says.

Weather is obviously the most uncontrollable risk. Weather data indicates that widespread drought occurs every 19 years in the Corn Belt. The last major drought in the Corn Belt was in 1988, suggesting that 2007 would be the next year of major drought.

However, weather patterns indicate that will probably not be the case during this growing season, Taylor observes.

In fact, growing-degree days (GDD) measured at Des Moines, IA, exceeded the norm during May, similar to conditions throughout most of the Corn Belt. Above normal GDD in May and June, followed by below normal GDD in July and August, often results in record-high yields, Taylor says.

Wisner projected a modestly lower U.S. average yield of 150.5 bu./acre, based on the following three factors:

  • Substantially later plantings than in the last three years;

  • A large increase in low-yielding regions; and

  • A corn yield decrease for corn following corn.

At his most likely yield, Wisner forecasts downside risk in harvest-time December corn futures to around $3.25/bu. He adds that corn prices are likely to be quite volatile until after pollination.

Export Growth May Hinge on New FTAs

With 2007 possibly turning out to be the year that breaks the record of growth in pork exports, several free trade agreements (FTAs) being explored could prove to be pivotal in starting another round of growth, says Glenn Grimes, professor emeritus and agricultural economist at the University of Missouri.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has urged Congress to support FTAs with South Korea, Columbia, Peru and Panama, which could eliminate current tariffs and barriers to trade in those countries.

In letters to Congress, NPPC explained that pork exports generated 82,500 jobs in the U.S. pork industry alone.

Overall, the U.S. pork industry supports an estimated 550,000 domestic jobs generating more than $97.4 million annually in U.S. economic activity and contributing $34.5 billion to the U.S. gross national product.

Pork exports raise the prices producers receive for their hogs. The FTAs with South Korea, Columbia, Peru and Panama will raise those prices by $10, $1.63, $0.83 and $0.20/head, respectively.

“Pork exports have contributed greatly to the profitability of U.S. pork producers in recent years,” says NPPC President Jill Appell, a pork producer from Altona, IL. “NPPC urges Congress to support these trade agreements and thereby improve the financial livelihood of pork producers throughout the nation.”

Protect Your Livelihood

Summer events offer perfect opportunity to bend an ear, twist an arm.

By the time you read this, you'll have fond memories of 4th of July picnics, parades, free candy tossed from passing floats, watermelon, lemonade, homemade ice cream and apple pie.

These summer celebrations often offer an opportunity to bend the ear or twist an arm of your senators and congressmen about some things that impact you and your livelihood:

  • Corn prices and ethanol production;

  • Country-of-origin-labeling;

  • Global warming and carbon credits;

  • The growing debate over how our cornucopia of food and fiber should be divvied up — for food, feed or fuel;

  • Immigration policies and their impact on your workers and those who process your hogs.

These and other challenges should be top of mind as a new farm bill is being drafted.

Normally, I'm not terribly motivated by politics — or politicians — but I see U.S. agriculture entering a totally new era, one that will have a long-lasting impact on the pork industry's competitiveness in the global marketplace.


Undoubtedly, hard choices will have to be made.

One tradeoff I think should be easy to make is to set aside the poorly conceived, very expensive, government entangled, mandatory country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) mandate set to go into effect in less than 14 months.

It's likely the COOL zealots will zero in on melamine-contaminated pet foods, toothpaste tainted with ingredients used to make antifreeze and seafood laced with banned antibiotics to lobby for funding.

The common denominator in this argument is China — a country that is learning many new lessons about international marketing and diplomacy.

But before anyone signs the “we-deserve-to-know-where-our-food-comes-from” pact, consider this on your next trip to Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Famous Footwear or other favorite shopping destinations. How often do you check the origin of a product? Do you check all products or just those in the news?

I recently read an Associated Press article published in The State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL), written by Dirk Lammers, who recounted a shopping excursion in the nation's heartland — Sioux Falls, SD. Lammers was in search of a new pair of sneakers for his son. The big box stores, shoe stores and department stores had several brand names — all made in China. A few New Balance shoes were marked “Made in the USA of imported materials.”

Truth be known, your choices of many (maybe most) food- and fiber-based products are a composite of ingredients — foods, fibers, flavorings and preservatives — originating from several different countries.

Even if COOL were enacted, would the average consumer choose a product made exclusively in the USA? How many of your favorite products would be left to choose?

Would you give up chocolate, for example? How about fresh fruits and vegetables in the dead of winter?

If the “only-in-the-USA” trend caught on, a marketplace that has moved manufacturing and packaging to all points of the globe would be hamstrung.

Let It Go

It's time to scrap COOL once and for all. The average price-conscious consumer is usually drawn to the best deal regardless of its origin anyway.

Instead, let's allocate those COOL program dollars where they will do some good — in the regulatory arms of the USDA and the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) responsible for the oversight of products entering the U.S. market.

No one's willing to compromise on food safety. Although we enjoy the safest food supply in the world, labeling it as originating in the USA doesn't automatically make it safer.

The 2002 Farm Bill mandated COOL for fish and seafood, beef, lamb, pork, fruits, vegetables and peanuts. Why isn't poultry on the list? Why is one commodity required to abide by the requirement while the next is absolved of the obligation?

There is a plethora of products and ingredients — originating here and abroad — that should be inspected more closely. The U.S. Food Safety & Inspection Service could use some staffing up. FDA regulators only test a very small fraction of the products entering the United States. Yet, the COOL commandos remain focused on a label that is likely to go unnoticed within months — if they are noticed at all.

The next congressional break — their “summer recess” — comes in August. Study the issues that affect your livelihood. Learn more about the issues likely to find their way into the next farm bill. Tell your elected representatives how their votes impact your daily lives and your ability to provide food and fiber to the world.

2007 World Pork Expo New Product Tour

2007 World Pork Expo New Product Tour

The National Hog Farmer New Product Review Panel felt exhibitors at the 2007 World Pork Expo had added some good features to existing products, in addition to coming up with practical ways to address challenges producers may face in the future.

“We saw some new twists and improvements in existing products, in addition to taking a look at some timely products offered for the pork industry to address changes that may be coming about,” stated Jeff Feder, a veterinarian with Swine Vet Center, P.A., St. Peter, MN. Swine Vet Center focuses on swine health in addition to helping producer clients manage their swine operations, and conducts pork production research.

Jay Harmon, Iowa State University Extension agricultural engineer added, “Many companies are introducing products which address timely industry issues, such as changes in sow housing or improvements in facility management. These ranged from very simple, to relatively complex, but these should prove helpful to many producers.”

Marcia Shannon, University of Missouri Extension swine nutrition specialist, related, “Companies offered some good ideas to help producers to be more efficient.”

Dave Uttecht, a 4,700-sow, farrow-to-finish and farrow-to-feeder pig producer from Alpena, SD, noted, “We looked at products that would benefit everyone from very small to very large producers and for both independent producers and integrators. World Pork Expo has something for everybody, which is why it is such a good show to attend.”

The panel looked at new products that had been introduced to the industry within the last year. Following are more details about the products the panel found “most promising.” Products are not ranked in any particular order.

New Product Tour Review Panel
Click on a product below to read it's review













I-BOX (Page 4)








Big Dutchman's Callmatic 2 is a transponder feeding system for group-housed sows. An infrared sensor at the entrance door identifies that an animal is at the gate. An antenna located inside the trough flap reads the animal's electronic eartag. The trough opens only if the sow inside the station is entitled to receive feed.

The feeder is programmed to drop approximately ¼-lb. of feed and a shot of water every 60-70 seconds, with the amount based on the individual animal, explained Stan Skaro, president of S&S Ag Technologies, Inc., a Big Dutchman distributor. Sows can be fed all at once or they can return to the station multiple times until they receive their full allotment.

Skaro recommended a maximum of 55 to 60 animals per feeding station. The station is available for liquid or dry feeding and is all computer-controlled.

Jeff Feder, DVM, asked how long the system has been in use. Skaro noted the system is new to the United States, but the Callmatic 2 system has been in use for some time in Germany.

Dave Uttecht asked what type of electronic tags are necessary. Skaro said all ISO tags would work with the system. Jay Harmon wondered how close the tags need to be to the reader in order to register. Skaro explained the tags could be read at a distance of 6-7 in.

Harmon also asked about the power requirements to run the system and what type of protections were in place in the event of power failure or lighting strikes. Skaro explained the feeding stations are powered by 24-volt, direct current (DC) through the control circuits. “Computer surge protection and UPS systems are used to minimize power problems,” Skaro stated. “Most sow units have backup generators to supply emergency power.”

Marcia Shannon asked about the key maintenance points for the Callmatic 2 system. “Normal cleanup and system checks take care of the majority of problems,” Skaro said. “The most common problem isn't the station, but in the bridging of feed from the bin delivery system to the station.”

The Callmatic 2 system is available with a variety of options, such as hand-held tag readers and hand-held computer systems.

Prices vary depending upon the options that are included. The basic price of the system is around $14,000 for the first system and about $7,000 for additional feeding stations.

The first system comes with a computer capable of controlling up to 32 electronic sow-feeding stations. One computer is capable of maintaining a database for up to 5,000 sows.

Learn more at

Call 616-582-4099.



Healthy Edge Pig Starter is designed for older weaned pigs weighing12-15 lb. Land O'Lakes Purina Feed Swine Research developed the soft-moist pig starter to help support immunocompetence and maximize pig performance after weaning. Healthy Edge Pig Starter has a unique, soft granule form that focuses on optimum palatability for early acceptance.

Healthy Edge Pig Starter is sold in 40-lb. bags for around $25/bag. The product is not available in bulk. Jay Harmon asked about the expected shelf life and Suzanne Petersen, Land O'Lakes Purina Feed Brand marketing manager, said the shelf life is greater than five months for unopened bags, but once the bag is opened, it should be used within 3-4 days.

Jeff Feder, DVM, wondered if the product could be fed to younger pigs weighing less than 12 lb. “We don't recommend Healthy Edge Pig Starter for pigs weighing less than 12 lb. because their nutritional requirements are greater than those provided from Healthy Edge,” Petersen explained. Marcia Shannon inquired about the moisture content of the feed. Petersen replied the moisture content is proprietary information.

Learn more at and

Call 651-765-5522.



PheroBoar is designed for use as a boar substitute for detecting estrus in sows and gilts. The product can be used to determine the best timing for mating without the use of a boar, to supplement a heat check boar and fine-tune inseminations, or to sexually stimulate gilts and sows during heat for natural service, according to Andrew Lis, president and CEO of Pherotech International.

PheroBoar is all natural and water-based. “Just apply two sprays into a gilt's or sow's nostrils and in 10 seconds she will be locked up and relaxed and ready for artificial insemination (AI),” explained Pherotech's Eduardo Ovies. “You don't have to drag around a boar. The product can also be used for heat checking.” PheroBoar is non-pressurized, non-flammable and does not have an alcohol base.

Marcia Shannon asked how far away a producer should hold the dispenser from the pig's nostrils. Ovies recommended a 2-in. to 4-in. distance while spraying. “By spraying the individual, you are not impacting the other sows and gilts in the room like you would with a boar,” Shannon noted.

One $8 bottle treats around 50 females at two sprays per animal.

PheroMate is a pheromone spray that helps train new boars and increases vocalization and attentiveness of older boars. “Spray the boar two to three minutes before taking him to the collection area,” said Eduardo Ovies, Pherotech International. “You can also spray the (artificial) dummy sow.” Research at the University of Mexico shows it can help increase the volume of semen produced, Ovies said. PheroMate is all natural, non-pressurized and water-based.

Dave Uttecht asked where to purchase the product. Ovies said there are several U.S. distributors, or the product can be purchased directly from Pherotech.

One $9 bottle treats about 50 boars at four sprays per animal (two sprays on the boar and two on the semen collection dummy).

Learn more at

Call 877-487-4872.



The Nesting Box gives each sow a self-contained, polyethylene farrowing unit that replaces the farrowing crate. Each 5½ × 9-ft. Nesting Box is thermostatically controlled, has a creep area, multiple-position anti-crush rods and anti-crush boards. The Nesting Box has a solid top that can be lifted on or off, depending on the season. The units can be moved with a front-end loader. Sows can come and go from the unit while pigs are kept inside.

“This method utilizes the sow's natural instincts,” explained Chad Maxwell, managing director, Natural Farrowing System, LLC. Individual Nesting Box units can be connected to form grids or pods. The Nesting Box concept allows producers to farrow year-round in an unheated barn or hoop structure. Likewise, Maxwell says the Nesting Boxes reduce the atmospheric heating needs of a traditional farrowing house by 54%, and, depending on weaning dates, can double as a nursery. Nesting Boxes are sold in groups of six to 24.

Jay Harmon asked if there was enough air exchange in the boxes to avoid condensation. “The Nesting Boxes stay dry and we have not experienced any moisture buildup problems,” Maxwell answered.

The panel had some safety concerns related to processing pigs in the nesting boxes.

Maxwell said the Nesting Boxes are a good option for all sizes of producers who are interested in targeting niche markets without using farrowing crates.

“We can design Natural Farrowing Systems using the Nesting Boxes that can be scaled from 1,000 head of market hogs/year to 1,000 head of feeder pigs/week, meeting both niche and commodity production needs,” he explained.

Maxwell noted that he has received inquiries from large commercial producers interested in the niche markets, to show-pig producers, to insurance companies looking for a way to house pigs in the event of a disaster.

Marcia Shannon liked the convenience of being able to move the unit with a front-end loader. “You could power wash the panels quickly, too,” she noted.

The panel agreed the Nesting Boxes seemed like a cost-effective way for producers to get started in pork production.

A set of six Nesting Boxes sells for $1,390/unit, or a total cost of $8,340, while the 24-unit set sells for $1,178/box for a total of $28,260. All sets come complete with all necessary equipment, including thermostatic control elements and electric control panels.

Learn more by calling 866-391-7670 or



The Wash Hand II is a second-generation barn washer built to answer the challenges of modern pressure washing needs. The unit features new dual tip spray heads and an improved guide system.

A simple and flexible design allows the machine to do a tremendous amount of work. The Wash Hand II is designed to wash one side of an alley at a time and sprays about 10 ft. It can be set to spray ceilings, walls or floors.

“The strengths of this product are for use in the farrowing barn and nursery,” explained Jerome Mack, president of Swine Robotics, Inc. The Wash Hand II is a simplified version of the Wash Hand barn washer. Mack estimated it takes a person about 30 minutes to finish power washing a room after the Wash Hand II has completed its cycle. It is powered by a marine battery that will last approximately 30 hours between charges.

The panel liked the simplified version of the machine. “Lots of times, power washing is the job nobody wants,” Dave Uttecht noted.

The Wash Hand II sells for $6,995.

Learn more at

Call 877-202-9927.



First Pulse D is a refined colostrum nutritional supplement designed to improve the viability and livability of small and fall-behind piglets, explained Russell Fent, swine technical nutritionist with Ralco Nutrition, Inc.

“We wanted to be able to provide a product that would target pigs that really need a boost,” he explained. “If you can positively trigger the pig's desire to eat, then you dramatically increase the chances of that pig surviving and catching up with its littermates.”

First Pulse D provides a rich source of unique, bioactive peptides and nucleotides and contains oregano oil extract and refined vegetable oil. The product naturally helps stabilize the piglet immune system, restores piglet appetites and provides an immediate energy source.

Dave Uttecht asked about recommended age at treatment. Fent recommended focusing on the bottom one or two pigs in every litter within 24 hours after birth and any fall-back pigs in the farrowing house.

Jeff Feder, DVM, asked about dosing specifics. Fent said the product is typically given orally as one, 2-cc dose. Marcia Shannon learned from Jeff Knott, nutritionist with Ralco Nutrition, Inc., that the cost per dose of First Pulse D runs around 25¢/dose. The product does not require refrigeration.

Feder inquired about research trials, and Fent explained that previous data showed great benefit for the bottom 20% of pigs in the farrowing house. Additional experiments are underway.

“The benefit of this product is the way it is administered,” Shannon said. “I thought it was economical if it can help save pigs and get them back into production with the others.” Uttecht agreed, saying, “It seems to be easy to use as compared to some of the paste products. I am anxious to see the data from the current studies.”

Learn more at

Call 800-533-5306.



The I-Box from Automated Production Systems is a complete data management tool that can provide real-time information on feed inventory, feed consumption, water usage, animal weight, environmental conditions and even live, in-barn surveillance.

Current data and up to two years of historical data can be viewed or downloaded in report or graph form, from any computer equipped with an Internet connection and standard Internet Explorer software.

Multiple users can be looking at various types of information at one time because I-Box is actually an Internet server, explained Jeff Schoening, Automated Production Systems district sales manager. Different access levels can be set to allow specific information to be available to select users.

The I-Box's data flagging function gives the user the ability to set parameters on any function being monitored by the system. The user can receive notification by email, pager, or text messaging when any value is detected outside of the desired range. The system can also be set up to provide daily or weekly email reports.

Schoening said the I-Box works best with high-speed Internet connections, but can also be used with dial-up.

The panel agreed that the data collected could be a good tool for catching trends that may signal problems, such as a disease outbreak. They also pointed out that it is crucial to have a person in the operation who understands and monitors the data.

“This system does a good job of bringing water, feed and ventilation all together,” noted Jay Harmon. Jeff Feder, DVM, agreed, saying, “It is nice to be able to bring the data together and graph it so you can take a good look at the information.”

The cost is approximately $200-300/month, depending on the level of service.

Learn more at

Call 217-226-4449.



Ingelvac CircoFLEX provides producers with a one-time dose option for treating the early and late forms of porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2).

“The single-dose vaccination is labeled for healthy pigs as young as 3 weeks of age, with duration of immunity of at least four months,” explained Erin Johnson, DVM, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica swine professional services. Ingelvac CircoFLEX provides advantages including less pig handling and stress, a 21-day withdrawal period and improved food safety and pork quality assurance benefits, according to Johnson.

Dave Uttecht asked if producers should vaccinate prior to weaning or just after weaning. Johnson recommended following label instructions for vaccinating pigs at 3 weeks of age or older. She added that Ingelvac CircoFLEX is available in 50-dose, 100-dose and 250-dose bottles.

Learn more at

Call 800-325-9167.



The Water Ease Tip-To-Clean waterer helps reduce water waste while providing an easy-to-clean watering option for wean-to-finish pigs. The adjustable water pipe and automatic fill valve keep the trough of the waterer filled to the level set by the producer.

“There is no way for the waterer to overflow, so there is no water waste to speak of,” explained John O'Mara, president of the A.J. O'Mara Group. “The large trough allows several pigs to drink simultaneously. Instead of having separate nipples, you only have one valve to deal with.”

Each drinking space will accommodate approximately 12 pigs on a side, according to O'Mara. When used in a fenceline, the 4-ft. Model WEA48T waterer is designed to efficiently supply water to 200 pigs from nursery to finish. The waterer may be situated for use on one side only, or can be set up for pigs to approach it from two sides. Several different size options are available.

The design of the Tip-To-Clean waterer makes it easy to install and to manage. A spring-loaded release makes the product very simple to keep clean by tipping the trough over.

The panel liked the ease with which the Water Ease Tip-To-Clean waterer could be cleaned. “If you are medicating, you know you've got the waterer cleaned out (when it's tipped),” Marcia Shannon noted.

Dave Uttecht liked the savings resulting from preventing water wastage and less maintenance. “Comparing the cost of this waterer to a nipple waterer, and looking at maintenance, the bigger the pen, the more economical this waterer becomes,” he said.

“In wean-to-finish barns it can be a challenge to get pigs started on water, and this seems like it could be a good way to get pigs to drink,” Jeff Feder stated. “It is simple, but it seems like a good idea.”

The WEA48T Model has a retail price of $708.

Learn more at

Call 402-687-2078.

Dykhuis Farms Grows Responsibly

As a Michigan operation expands, it implements an environmentally balanced nutrient management plan to address groundwater concerns and increase nutrient utilization by crops.

Dykhuis Farms, Inc. recently completed an expansion program to a 20,000-sow, farrow-to-finish operation in Holland, MI. Along with that accelerated growth the last few years (since 2003), came the need for intense planning to help develop the appropriate nutrient management plan.

For that job, Dykhuis Farms turned to Brandon Hill, a nutrient management consultant who recently became the farm's finishing production manager.

“An environmentally sound nutrient management plan, for now and for the future, is essential for an operation of this size,” Hill explains.

The farm's expansion and nutrient management plan was presented at an Environmental Information Center session sponsored by Engineered Storage Products Company, manufacturers of Slurrystore systems, during World Pork Expo.

Hill says the first goal was to eliminate winter spreading and promote a more environmentally sound manure application timeframe. By moving to more spring applications, nitrogen leaching and groundwater concerns could be addressed, and crop uptake of nutrients could be increased.

Hill also looked into longer manure storage time and more spreading flexibility to help reduce chances of surface water impairment. Located fairly close to several major recreational waterways, the farm was also concerned about adopting covered storage technology to control hog odors and containing manure in a structure that met Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) Management 313 specifications for greater than six months.

“We felt Slurrystore systems would be a good fit for the large volume of wastewater from the sows,” Hill says. “Plus, with a Slurrystore, we had no problems with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit requiring six months of reliable storage. We wanted more flexibility and odor control, and to apply manure when we wanted to, not when we had to.

“When you construct a lagoon, you have to meet certain requirements. Those regulations continually change. Standards and requirements for lagoons often need to be updated because of groundwater concerns. With a Slurrystore, we feel we're ahead of the game,” he points out.

Applying for EQIP Funding

In 2004, Dykhuis Farms, during the process of expanding the hog operation from 8,400 to 20,000 sows, put their nutrient management plan into action. Hill helped owner Bob Dykhuis apply for EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentive Program) federal funding to help finance the extra manure storage.

EQIP cost-share funding was received for all eight Slurrystores requested.

Hill emphasizes that the systems helped expedite the funding process. “We were able to send an engineered drawing to the NRCS engineers for approval. The same design was used for each site and it met specifications. Because we went with a Slurrystore, the process required minimal subsurface soil investigations and site selection requirements.”

The Slurrystore systems were also viewed as more environmentally acceptable by regulators, providing increased security over lagoons, he says.

Enhanced Nutrient Value

Dykhuis Farms now has timed manure applications in the spring and fall. Slurrystores are pumped once or twice a year.

“Manure now can be spread in a cost-effective, timely manner,” Hill adds. “The variable cost of application went from $0.01 down to $0.002/gal.”

Manure is applied using a dragline system. In the past, manure was trucked to the fields from the barns. By eliminating this practice, there has been reduced soil compaction and inorganic nitrogen use, and increased utilization of manure nitrogen by crops.

“Dykhuis Farms has significantly decreased the amount of commercial nitrogen purchased because we get more manure out quicker in the spring,” Hill says. “When we had to pump year 'round, we lost nitrogen value due to improper timing of manure applications. We saw more nitrogen losses through the soil via denitrification. Now with increased spring and late fall manure applications, we can take full nitrogen credits for our manure.”

Sow Housing Forum Draws Crowd

The Sow Housing Forum drew a standing-room-only crowd as members of the pork industry from around the world met to discuss options and management solutions for sow housing on June 6 at the Downtown Marriott Hotel in Des Moines, IA.

The forum drew 243 attendees, including representatives from Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the Netherlands.

The forum provided pork producers with the opportunity to learn more about sow housing options in gestation including individual vs. group housing of sows.

The event was sponsored by National Hog Farmer, the Pork Checkoff, Chore-Time Hog Production Systems, Hubbard and the U.S. Pork Center of Excellence.

Addressing Industry Questions

The forum attempted to address various questions related to the current industry debate on sow housing.

“There are a lot of questions in the industry about which direction we are headed and how far we need to go,” said Dale Miller, editor of National Hog Farmer, in an opening address to the crowd. “What technologies are available to help us with this transition, if in fact it is a trend that is going to continue? A lot of questions remain.”

Attempting to answer these questions were 14 speakers who addressed topics ranging from feeding to management, to labor and animal well-being. Many questions followed the various talks.

“I think that well-managed operations can make any system work, whether it is a grouped or stall-housed gestation system,” said Ken Stalder, professor of animal science at Iowa State University, who spoke on sow longevity.

Janeen Salak-Johnson, associate professor of animal science at the University of Illinois, warned producers not to be too quick to abandon individual sow stalls, during her talk on the reality of sow stalls.

“People think that it is as simple as improving welfare of a sow by removing her from an individual enclosure and putting her into a group pen,” she said. “It really isn't that simple, because there are sows that truly prefer to be in that individual stall.”

The Sow Housing Forum can be listened to in its entirety at Proceedings and PowerPoint presentations are also included.

The Aug. 15, 2007 issue of National Hog Farmer will also provide a report on several talks presented at the conference.

PQA Plus Launched

New quality assurance/animal well-being certification program rolled out for producers of all sizes.

Members of the National Pork Board and this year's class of the Pork Leadership Academy were the first pork producers trained on the newly introduced Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA Plus) program.

The June 6 training officially launched PQA Plus, a program that incorporates an animal well-being component into the popular Pork Quality Assurance (PQA Level III) program, introduced in 1989.

By marrying the Pork Checkoff's PQA III with Swine Welfare Assurance Program (SWAP), the industry now has what National Pork Board President Wayne Peugh describes as “a continuous improvement system focused on producer education, certification and premises assessment.”

Speaking at a World Pork Expo press conference, Peugh, an Edelstein, IL, pork producer adds, “The pork industry is working on programs that will demonstrate to our customers our accountability, trust and social responsibility in pork production. The Pork Checkoff is working to provide producers with tools and the ability to do that, and PQA Plus will serve as a foundation to help meet that challenge.

“I really believe that this program is an answer — not only to our producers' needs — but also to our consumers' needs,” he adds.

New PQA Plus Handbook

A new PQA Plus producer certification handbook describes the two basic elements of the program — food safety and animal well-being.

Food safety initiatives target production practices that minimize physical, chemical and biological hazards to keep the product safe and maintain consumer confidence.

Chemical hazards could include herbicides, insecticides and violative antibiotic residues.

Biological hazards are those that could cause foodborne illness, such as bacteria, virus, mold or parasites.

Physical hazards include any foreign object that could cause injury to a person consuming a product.

Clearly, consumers expect animals to be treated with care throughout their lives and the harvesting process.

The “plus” portion of the new program addresses these acceptable animal well-being practices. The producer's role in animal well-being is assuring that pigs are provided with appropriate conditions in which they are able to adapt to their environment while maintaining good health and physical condition.

The PQA Plus certification handbook offers 10 good production practices:

  1. Establish and implement an efficient and effective herd health management plan. Important components would include regular evaluation of the herd's health by a veterinarian, effective internal and external biosecurity programs, rodent and pest control, and cleaning and disinfecting procedures.

  2. Use an appropriate veterinary-client-patient relationship as the basis for medication decision-making. The herd's veterinarian should be actively involved in medical judgments regarding the health of the animals and the need for treatment, while the owner/caretaker agrees to follow the veterinarian's instructions.

  3. Use antibiotics responsibly. Used for the health and welfare of animals, pork producers recognize the importance of using these tools responsibly to minimize the development of antibiotic resistance, to prevent harmful residues, and to preserve their effectiveness in the production of wholesome pork products.

  4. Identify and track all treated animals. Identification is the first critical step to a site-specific recordkeeping system capable of identifying treated animals and following appropriate withdrawal times.

  5. Maintain medication and treatment records. The primary purpose for maintaining records of all medications administered is to ensure proper withdrawal times can be met.

  6. Properly store, label and account for all drug products and medicated feeds. Medications and vaccines are perishable and, therefore, must be protected from environmental extremes and from contamination.

  7. Educate all animal caretakers on proper administration techniques, needle-use procedures, observance of withdrawal times and methods to avoid marketing adulterated products for human food. Everyone involved in medicating pigs must be trained to properly administer the products. All must be capable of reading and understanding label directions and withdrawal periods, and be responsible for identifying all treated animals.

  8. Follow appropriate on-farm feed and commercial feed processor procedures. Delivering high-quality feed includes meeting nutrient requirements of all animals, delivering feed-based medications at appropriate levels and avoiding feed contamination. Accurate labeling and recordkeeping are critical in feed processing and delivery.

  9. Develop, implement and document an animal caretaker training program. Effective training of all workers in a swine production unit protects worker safety and ensures all tasks are performed properly and the animals are cared for humanely.

  10. Provide proper swine care to improve swine well-being. The PQA Plus program provides a dozen care and well-being principles which include:

    • Recordkeeping — Veterinary-client-patient relationship; medication and treatment records; documented caretaker training program (euthanasia, handling, husbandry);

    • Emergency Support — Written action plan for emergencies; emergency detection system; emergency backup system.

    • PQA Plus Site Assessment — As deemed necessary by the producer and the advisor, but at least once every three years.

    • Daily observation — Identification of sick pigs; provision for treatment pen(s).

    • Animal evaluation — Physical examination of pigs and production performance evaluation.

    • Body condition score (BCS) — Commonly used to evaluate sow condition, but also helpful in evaluating condition of boars, replacement gilts and pigs in other stages of production.

    • Body space — Physical space and stocking density guidelines for breeding animals and pigs of various sizes should be discussed with the PQA Plus advisor to ensure the animals' needs are met.

    • Euthanasia — A written euthanasia plan is recommended (timeliness and functional equipment required).

    • Facilities — Focuses on pen maintenance, feeder space, water availability and floor condition.

    • Handling and movement — Anyone responsible for handling or moving pigs should receive proper training, including the use of equipment, such as sorting boards, etc.

    • Ventilation — Temperature and air quality control affect the well-being of pigs, regardless of housing type.

    • Willful acts of abuse — Intentional acts of neglect or abuse must be understood, recognized and corrective action taken.

Certification Process

The PQA Plus program has undergone nearly 12 months of pilot farm testing. “The purpose was to make sure that producers of all sizes and all production styles are able to take advantage of the new program,” notes Peugh.

The new program has two levels of recognition, explains Erik Risa, Pork Checkoff's manager of certification programs.

“The first is a certification for individuals, similar to the process used in PQA Level III, and is valid for three years. The second portion is recognizing sites as defined by their premises identification number. The site status requires an on-farm assessment, and one individual on the site must hold PQA Plus certification. This level of certification is also valid for three years,” he explains.

“PQA Plus provides food safety and animal handling assurances to our customers, including restaurants, food retailers and consumers. The program assures consumers that they are purchasing the highest quality, safest product possible, while caring for the animals' well-being,” Peugh states.

“PQA Plus helps earn customers' trust and improves the image of the industry. And, perhaps most importantly, PQA Plus is the right thing to do,” Risa adds.

When certifying in the program, producers must attend a session conducted by a trained PQA Plus advisor.

To contact an advisor or to attend the session nearest you, go to for details or call 800-456-7675.