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 2008 In July

Pork Board Elects Officers, Narrows New CEO Search

The National Pork Board has elected Steve Weaver, a pork producer from Elk Grove, CA, its new president. Members of the board also elected Tim Bierman, a pork producer from Larrabee, IA, vice president. Both officer terms are for one year on the board that administers all pork checkoff programs.

Members of the search committee appointed to screen candidates to replace outgoing Chief Executive Officer Steve Murphy reported that the final two candidates will be interviewed in August, and they expect to make a recommendation to the board by early September.

Weaver owns and operates a 60-sow, farrow-to-finish operation with his wife, Pat. He is serving his second, three-year term on the 15-member National Pork Board, and served as the board’s vice president this past year.

Weaver also serves on the board’s Animal Welfare and Niche Marketing committees and the Administrative and Compensation committees.

The California producer has made more than 40 presentations as a member of the pork checkoff’s Operation Main Street, a program where pork producers speak to local civic and public service groups to discuss modern pork production.

Weaver is past president of the California Pork Producers Association and Western Duroc Breeders. He has served on the California Department of Food and Ag Swine Health Committee.

Weaver has been active in the California Farm Bureau and guest lectures for the University of California at Davis and California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo.

Bierman is the owner and operator of Bierman Farms Inc., a wean-to-finish operation marketing 15,000 hogs/year. He also manages eight hog custom feeding operations. Bierman and his wife, Mary, also raise corn and soybeans on 500 acres.

Bierman chairs the board’s Budget Committee and serves on the Demand Enhancement and Trade committees.

At the state level, Bierman has served as president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) and has been a member of the IPPA executive board since 1999. Bierman is a member of the Cherokee County Pork Producers. In addition, he is a member of the Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Corn Growers and Iowa Soybean Association.

More people in the news
More on the Pork Checkoff

USDA Renews Funding For PRRS Research

USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) renewed funding today for the Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP).

The USDA agency will invest $4.8 million over four years to improve control efforts for PRRS, which affects 60% of U.S. swine herds at an annual cost of $580 million.

“A new strain of highly pathogenic PRRS has been found in China and Vietnam and is implicated as the primary cause of Porcine High Fever Disease, resulting in the death of large numbers of swine,” reports Gale Buchanan, USDA under secretary for Research, Education and Economics. “Renewal of the PRRS project responds to the urgent need to make sure the right tools are available to keep this foreign strain from affecting the U.S. swine population.”

Originally, CSREES funded the project to the University of Minnesota in 2004, with scientists, veterinarians, pork producers and industry collaborating to develop new ways to lessen PRRS’ impact and eliminate the virus.

The second phase of the PRRS CAP is being led by Kansas State University. The focus will be on prevention and control, knowledge needed to support scientists, application of technologies in regional disease eradication efforts and development of educational and outreach programs for scientists, producers and veterinarians.

PRRS first appeared in the United States in 1986. The disease causes sow reproductive failure, reduces growth efficiency, causes pneumonia in nursing pigs and is easily spread among herds.

More Health News
More on PRRS

Hog Market Trifecta Welcomed News

Continued high hog slaughter, a major rally in the pork cutout value and gross packer margins at their highest level since February 1999 – and all of this is happening in July, no less! Graphs of all three appear in Figures 1 through 3 and they explain the recent rally in cash hog prices.

We saw the beginnings of the rally last week when weekly average cash hog prices rose $4 to $6 to get back near $75 on a carcass weight basis. Thursday’s Prior Day National Negotiated Net Price (for hogs slaughtered on Wednesday) was $0.46 higher at $79.84. But the National Negotiated Base purchase price on Thursday afternoon was $1.11 higher at $80.49. The latter is a better measure of the current market since it represents hogs bought Thursday for slaughter over the next few days. The prior-day slaughter data applies to hogs slaughtered Wednesday and purchased in the past few days. So, the forward-looking purchase data always “leads” the backward-looking slaughter data.

Higher quantity and higher wholesale level prices spell higher wholesale demand. But that is apparently not being driven by U.S. consumer demand at present. In fact, the very favorable U.S. consumer-level demand news that we had through April turned quite sour in May. The University of Missouri’s year-to-date demand index went from +3.5 to -1.9 in that one-month period. The reason? Much lower domestic availability, which equals domestic consumption and nominal retail prices, that did not rise fast enough to keep up with inflation. Lower consumption and lower price equals lower demand any way you cut it.

But there is a good side to this story. The reason for lower domestic availability, of course, was robust exports and those helped wholesale pork and hog values. In addition, retail prices tend to lag changes in availability/consumption as retailers try to “hold the line” on prices to avoid angry customers when prices are rising and maintain profit margins when prices are falling. It is very likely that retail prices will increase and make this domestic demand picture better, but it may take a month or two.

The last observation in Figure 3 is for the week of July 12. The spike in gross packer margins is the result of higher cutout values and record-high by-product values. Those values reached $23.14/head that week compared to $17.51/head last year and $13.01/head the same week in 2006. The margin spike provided the fuel for the ongoing cash hog price rally and underscores the propensity of packers to bid away margins in the pursuit of more hogs. That action also suggests a pretty efficient market system.

So what lies ahead? It’s possible that this rally will take out the May highs on most cash hog price charts. Wednesday’s national net price of $79.84 is within $0.50 of those highs and this rally does not appear over. The strength of that May rally led me to believe that our seasonal highs were already in for 2008, but this crazy market will probably prove me wrong again. Can it hold up well enough in the long run to make those futures prices correct? Perhaps, but they still look attractive enough to warrant pricing a good portion of your output through December or February.

Good Feed Cost News – Finally!
And the news gets better. Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Group December corn futures closed Thursday at $5.92/bu. compared to $6.50 last Thursday. December soybean meal closed at $359.80/ton on Thursday vs. $389.90 one week early. My feed cost index has declined nearly $50/ton in just over three weeks. It’s hard to fathom being excited about buying corn and soybean meal at these levels, but this decline in the grain complex may be as good a chance as we will get to keep costs in the $80s on a carcass weight basis for the coming year. The rate of decline is slowing, so be ready to act when it appears a bottom has been reached.

Click to view graphs.

Steve R. Meyer, Ph.D.
Paragon Economics, Inc.
e-mail: [email protected]

Indiana Launches Certified Livestock Producer Program

Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) have announced the statewide launch of the Certified Livestock Producer Program.

The program honors Hoosier livestock producers for progressive farming practices in the areas of environment, animal well-being and food safety, emergency planning, biosecurity and being a good neighbor.

“Governor Daniels and I believe Indiana livestock farmers do a great job, specifically with their commitment to the environment and the livestock on their farms,” Skillman says. “This program and these certified livestock producers exemplify Indiana’s leadership in innovative ways to help improve understanding of modern livestock production in today’s communities.”

ISDA developed the program to recognize producers who are willing to publicly demonstrate their commitment to progressive farming practices.

Certification requires that producers fully comply with all state and federal permits and requirements, attend a program-specific seminar and use a self-study manual. The program and manual help farmers evaluate practices and consider new options to improve their operations.

When complete, the farmers will review their assessments with industry professionals such as veterinarians, local fire officials and ISDA representatives.

“Certified livestock producers share the same values as many Hoosiers. They are committed to their farms, their families and the future of their livelihood,” says Acting Indiana Agriculture Director Ken Klemme. “We also want the public to explore our Web site and see how modern livestock farmers operate their farms and care for their animals. We think this program will be an excellent way for farmers and their non-farming neighbors to learn more about each other.”

Among those recognized in the program launch is pork producer David Hardin of Danville, IN.

“We want to encourage as many livestock farmers as possible to participate in the program. For those livestock farmers who participate, we will offer local training sessions to make this program accessible to livestock farmers across the state,” says Klemme.

Indiana livestock producers can apply to the program by submitting an application to ISDA. Information can be found online at

More News
More on Environmental Stewardship

USDA Grant Advances Illinois PRRS Research

A University of Illinois swine researcher has received a three-year, $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to continue efforts into developing a genetically engineered vaccine for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS).

Dongwan Yoo has devoted more than a dozen years to the study of PRRS, a viral pathogen that was identified 20 years ago and remains a leading disease threat to the pork industry today.

His earlier work identified two proteins in the PRRS virus that likely help the virus evade the pig’s immune response by shutting down interferon, a frontline defense in the cell’s protective arsenal against infection.

Using the USDA grant, Yoo’s lab in the Department of Pathobiology will use genetic engineering to further map the mechanisms by which the PRRS virus alters the interferon response. He plans to develop mutant PRRS viruses that don’t suppress the interferon response, but instead trigger a normal immune response in the pig. The mutant viruses will be evaluated for their potential in creating a vaccine against PRRS.

In June, Yoo’s vaccine work was recognized at the Eleventh International Nidovirus Symposium held in Oxford, United Kingdom. He presented work that demonstrated how a vaccine developed with a genetically altered PRRS virus could carry genes from another swine disease, porcine circovirus type 2, to induce antibody responses in pigs to both pathogens. This effort shows the potential for using the PRRS virus to create vaccines that protect against other diseases in pigs.

Yoo is part of an integrated PRRS research effort at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine:

  • Federico Zuckerman is working on cell-mediated immunity to develop a robust cell line for use in a PRRS vaccine;
  • William Laegreid is using state-of-the-art molecular genomics and population-based studies to assess factors affecting the PRRS virus; and
  • Larry Firkins, DVM, is evaluating best management practices on hog farms and the economic impact of PRRS on Illinois pork producers.

More News

Watch for Feed Buying Opportunities

What we characterized as a “small decline in projected hog feed costs” last week is developing into a potential buying opportunity for pork producers. The price declines of the past week for both corn and, to a lesser degree, soybean meal futures, may develop into one of the best chances we will see to lower feed costs for the coming year.

Figure 1 shows my feed cost index calculations updated to include Thursday’s close for corn and soybean meal futures. I have argued recently that producers must be prepared to take advantage of what once would have been seen as small declines in feed costs and prospective feed costs. We saw one of those times in mid-March (the pink and red lines in Figure 1) when the collapse of Bear Stearns forced some fund managers to liquidate commodities positions to raise cash.

The feed cost index’s decline in the past two weeks has been larger than the March reduction, so I think producers should be sharpening their pencils and marshalling the necessary resources (i.e. credit line, margin money, etc.) to make a move.

Note that I did not say “Go!” Figure 2 shows the daily chart for December corn futures – and it looks much the same as every other chart all the way through September 2009. All of them broke through the 50-day average this past week. All of them broke through a major support line off spike lows in March and May this past week. All of them have a chart gap within 10¢ below Thursday’s close. All of them have another resistance-support objective in the neighborhood of $6.00.

That is a lot of usage of the word “all” even for grain contracts that, quite understandably, are usually similar within a crop year.

None of these charts say that the decline is over, and my windshield survey of the Iowa, Illinois and Missouri corn crops this week say there is still downside potential. Iowa’s crop has no doubt done some catching up and, while still 7-10 days behind by most estimates, is looking much better. Western and central Illinois corn crops look very good. Northern Missouri is very spotty with some excellent-looking corn and some that may not make good silage. Still, the major corn areas seem to be improving, and there could be some more downside in this market. Be ready.

One side note – Don’t wait too long. The corn market has bottomed out in early September each of the past two years. Those of us who were waiting for “harvest” lows got fooled. It looks like it is the southern Corn Belt harvest that sets the timing these days.

Adjust to New Pig Values
Have you adjusted your management and decision-making to the new realities of the value of pigs? The changes we have seen in feed costs, sunk costs, financial risk, etc. should be driving some changes in our attitudes to a host of management decisions.

Consider the following total cost figures for market hogs from Iowa State University’s (ISU) Estimated Costs and Returns series and my forecasts based on the ISU parameters:

  • May ’06: $101.67
  • May ’08: $154.91
  • May ’09: $186.40
May 2008 costs are 53% higher than one year earlier and May 2009 costs will be 20% higher than current costs.

Those numbers mean that all of the valuation losses that can beset pigs will be much more painful. Death loss, morbidity, dead on arrival at plants, non-ambulatory pigs, carcass condemnations – all of them will be far more painful now and will be even more so in months to come.

Further, since these figures represent cost numbers and not foregone market value, they are money that you have already spent and, perhaps, borrowed so they can represent even more interest costs.

Have you done a critical evaluation of your “loss-preventing” strategies in light of these higher costs? I know you have plenty on your management plate, but this is one area that should probably be added somewhere near the top of your list. The consequences are going to get larger.

Click to view graphs.

Steve R. Meyer, Ph.D.
Paragon Economics, Inc.
e-mail: [email protected]

Federal Court Frees Up CRP Land

U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour has ruled that livestock producers should be allowed to use at least 2.5 million acres of noncritical Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land for haying and grazing, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) announced. The ruling rejects calls for a ban of USDA’s Critical Feed Use (CFU) initiative.

NPPC, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association jointly filed a brief highlighting the significant losses livestock producers are facing due to rising grain prices, and the need for the CFU initiative to help farmers access feed and help save their farms in the process.

A week ago, the federal court issued a temporary restraining order immediately halting haying and grazing on CRP lands for critical feed use, at the request of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and other state wildlife federations.

In denying an extension of the injunction, Judge Coughenour stated: “There are substantial competing hardships, whose impact could be devastating to citizens who trusted their government was acting legally in implementing the CFU initiative, as well as to the nation and the world economy at large, if the court issues the injunction that plantiffs urge.”

Instead, the judge ordered the NWF and USDA to form a compromise plan aimed at relieving the hardships of livestock producers, and suggesting that at least 2.5 million acres of CRP land be released for haying and grazing.

According to USDA estimates, the CFU initiative will generate around 18 million tons of hay worth about $1.2 billion. This additional hay would free up large quantities of other commodities currently in short supply and lower input prices for all livestock producers, regardless of their participation in the initiative, NPPC says.

NPPC board member Doug Wolf, a hog and cattle producer from Lancaster, WI, praised the ruling. “This is a significant victory for pork producers who face not only losses as a result of volatility on grain markets, but tremendous uncertainty over securing adequate supplies of feed. The court’s decision to allow this land to be hayed and grazed could free up an estimated 105 million bu. of corn, or a 10-15% increase in carryover stocks of grain, providing the certainty producers need to continue operating.”

More news

Brazilian Pork: Southern Brazil Pork Industry Symposium will present technological advances in reproduction, handling, nutrition and sanitation

The first technical event in the sector will be held from August 13 to 15, 2008, in Chapecó (SC), a city with the largest number of federally inspected slaughterhouses in Brazil.

Specialists, researchers, businessmen, veterinarians, zootechnicians and producers from all over Brazil and abroad will be gathered in Chapecó, SC during the First SBSS - Southern Brazil Pork Industry Symposium, organized by the Núcleo Oeste de Médicos Veterinários [Western Nucleus of Veterinary Doctors. The event, which will be held from August 13 to 15, 2008, at the Plínio Arlindo de Nes Culture and Event Center in Chapecó – Southern Brazil, is an opportunity to promote discussions, present new technologies and directly outline the perspectives in the sector in the largest pork industry producing and exporting region. Brazil is currently one of the main protein exporters in the world, and is the leader in chicken and beef exports, among its advantages are technology, territorial extension, supply of grains and skilled labor.

The main businesses in the cattle raising sector, suppliers and veterinarians are located in Chapecó – Southern Brazil, or in the Western Region of Santa Catarina, hence the demand for technical and qualified information that resulted in the first technical event on pork industry, geared towards the needs of professionals and businesses. Professionals from Brazil's main exporting businesses will participate in the event and in discussing international demands and sanitation advantages of Brazilian herds. Brazil now has the capacity to be the largest exporter of pork, as with other meats produced with an excellent standard and a guaranteed market.

The First SBSS – Southern Brazil Pork Industry Symposium will be held in the new Culture and Event Center in Chapecó, with an auditorium that seats over one thousand participants. "The first technical event on pork industry, held in Chapecó, will be the setting of lectures and debates on sanitation, management, well-being, nutrition, markets for Brazilian pork and agricultural commodities. Brazilian and foreign specialists will be gathered at an event that provides something long called for in the sector, promoting these debates in such a way that they are technical and applicable in the field, quickly transforming theory into practice", pointed out veterinary doctor Miguel Breda Canal, Chairman of the organization.

"The central pyramid of SBSS will be to deal with the most commonly questioned subjects of day-to-day production. With a scientific committee represented by research, the university and professionals that work in production, there will be lecturers and discussions in the four main areas of swineculture, pork industry, such as sanitation, nutrition, production handling and technological innovations", pointed out Miguel.

Chapecó, in the heart of production
The SBSS will place Chapecó in the spotlight of the productive sector, as the themes debated during the event are part of everyday life for the producers on farms and the businessmen and their technical staff in agro industries, pork industry,ranging from the search for higher quality raw materials, to international demands, food safety and exports. "An event on hog raising in Chapecó has long been requested by the sector, and because the Western Nucleus of Veterinary Doctors accepted the mission of continued training of veterinary and zootechnician professionals, we are going to hold an event of high technical level, following the example of the best in the country", emphasized veterinary doctor Miguel Breda Canal, Chairman of the Western Nucleus of Veterinary Doctors.

According to the organization committee there is a great demand for information on swinecoulture that, beginning with this event, will be answered here, near the production. In the tradition of other events held by Nucleovet, the symposiums have a dynamic, objective and practical character, with debates and instructions on the day-to-day activities of agro industries and their technicians.

The program for SBHRS will take a different approach to information from all other congresses in Brazil, because, following the example of previous events, it uses specific language and important subjects in the sector. "As it is near the region with the largest production in Brazil and the largest concentration of professionals, this justifies all the effort of holding an event that will stand out and be prominent as it has the mission of foreseeing challenges in the sector and preparing professionals for new technology and market demands" emphasized Canal.

For further information see

More information:
Eliana Panty Schwarz
[email protected]

More pork production events in your area

World Pork Expo 2008 New Product Tour

World Pork Expo 2008 New Product Tour

The 2008 New Product Tour panel members included:

Joel DeRouchey, a Kansas State University Extension environmental management and swine nutrition specialist.

Jeff Feder, a veterinarian with Swine Vet Center, P.A., St. Peter, MN. Swine Vet Center focuses on herd health, conducting production research and helping producer clients manage their operations.

Jay Harmon, an Iowa State University Extension agricultural engineer, specializes in livestock production systems and air quality.

Matt Thome, a farrow-to-finish producer from Adams, MN, oversees the farrowing and nursery stages of the family-owned operation.

Summing up their thoughts on this year's tour, the panel made the following observations:

“We had the opportunity to learn more about a wide range of products that may provide timely benefits to swine producers,” DeRouchey notes. “I was particularly impressed with the advancements in technologies that may assist with more precise feed delivery, improved feed budgeting and in-barn feeding,” he adds.

“It is always interesting to attend the World Pork Expo and see the wide variety of new and existing products that are available to help make producers' operations more efficient,” Feder relates. “This year was no exception. Products and ideas designed to help producers make more efficient use of higher-priced inputs have more potential now to provide a good return on investment.”

“It was encouraging that many vendors were in tune with the needs of producers, especially paying close attention to issues related to rising feed costs and ways to provide opportunities to gain efficiencies,” Harmon says.

“Many of these products were developed around the goal of making producers more efficient,” Thome observes. “In these times of tight margins, small efficiencies add up to major advantages.”

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 considered “most promising.” Products are not ranked in any particular order.

World Pork Expo Producer's Choice

Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. Ingelvac MycoFLEX

The Ingelvac MycoFLEX Mycoplasma vaccine from Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. received the most votes to claim the “Producer's Choice” honor as part of a new event featured at this year's World Pork Expo.

The National Hog Farmer New Product Review Room showcased 19 products that were nominated for the 2008 World Pork Expo New Product Tour. World Pork Expo attendees could learn about new, cutting-edge ideas, while having an opportunity to cast their own vote for their favorite new product or service. The Producer's Choice voting took place during all three days of the World Pork Expo trade show.

Ingelvac MycoFLEX is the first one-dose, 1-ml. Mycoplasma vaccine that provides a flexible and novel approach to the control of porcine enzootic pneumonia caused by Mycoplasmal pneumonia. The non-viscous, highly syringeable vaccine is intended for use in pigs 3 weeks of age or older. The vaccine provides immunity for a duration of at least 26 weeks.

Learn more at or call 800-325-9167.

Integra Pit Monitor

AP (Automated Production Systems)

The Integra Pit Monitor is used to monitor the effluent level in manure storage pits. “Think of it as an electronic dip stick,” explains AP's Tom Stuthman. The unit's digital display is mounted on a heavy-duty base designed to be in direct contact with pigs. The display gives a reading of the depth of effluent in inches or centimeters, captured by a sensor that extends into the pit. With pit dimensions entered into the unit's memory, the display also provides the volume in gallons or liters.

A programmable alarm closes a contact that can be wired to an alarm system to provide an alert when a set limit has been reached. The alarm includes a “snooze” feature to allow the producer to acknowledge the alarm and automatically resets to be activated again as the level increases further.

The Integra Pit Monitor's readings can be accessed by a remote PC equipped with proprietary software by using a dial-up connection to an on-site network collector unit.

“An unlimited number of sites can be accessed from one central location, which greatly increases the accuracy and timeliness of pit level reporting while eliminating an unpopular and time-consuming task,” Stuthman says.

“The network collector unit can also be programmed to dial out and send a fax report of current conditions on a specified schedule. This means if you wanted every farm to report the effluent level to a central location or head office every Monday morning, you could do that,” he adds.

The Integra Pit Monitor is supported by AP's I-Box system from E2E, which can provide access to current and historical data on feed, water, animal weight, animal environment and effluent level from any PC equipped with Internet Explorer from anywhere in the world.

Matt Thome asked if one monitor installed in a double-wide finishing building would be adequate to monitor the entire building's pit status. According to Stuthman, one monitor per pit is sufficient, regardless of the number of rooms in the building, as long as the pits are connected.

The panel felt this product could be particularly beneficial to a larger producer who may need to plan manure pit emptying routes. The product would be a good fit for producers who were already using the I-Box system.

List price is $995. The unit can typically be installed for under $1,000.

Visit, or call 217-226-5767 for more information.

BinTrac VMI

Herdstar LLC

BinTrac VMI serves as a Web-based bin-monitoring system. Weight-based BinTrac Pro sensors measure on-farm feed inventory and disappearance rates as a stand-alone system that may also be connected to the Web using Bintrac's VMI communication hardware. A farm's management offices and/or feedmills can then access near real-time information through a password-protected Web site.

An “order desk” interface clearly shows bin status and features smart alarms to allow remote feed ordering and order tracking, and indicates the status of pending orders. “The BinTrac VMI system is an end-to-end solution because it provides all of the hardware and software needed,” explains Bob Baarsch, CEO of Herdstar LLC. “The Bintrac Pro loadcells and brackets are unique because the system allows installers to easily retrofit bins in an existing system, whether they are empty or full.”

Data can be transmitted through locally hardwired equipment or sent up to 4 miles with wireless radio. One BinTrac Pro console displays the feed weight and level in up to four bins.

“BinTrac VMI is an accurate and affordable system that allows remote monitoring of feed bins for multiple locations,” Baarsch says.

“Pork producers benefit because there are fewer livestock performance losses due to reduced out-of-feed events, and real-time consumption data helps improve management. Feedmills are able to reduce expedited orders. This in turn saves trucking costs and improves feedmill scheduling and throughput efficiencies by eliminating surge days.”

BinTrac VMI can verify feed delivery information. Managers can find out when feed was delivered, how much was delivered, and verify which bin was filled.

Baarsch says having accurate feed usage information helps managers and consulting veterinarians with early disease detection. Usage information can also help predict within four days of when a feed bin will be empty. An intuitive Google Earth map relates a producer's entire system in red, yellow and green status conditions as to when a site/barn/bin is going to run empty.

The panel felt the BinTrac VMI's ability to tell when to order feed would be beneficial to producers.

There are two installation options. Producers can purchase the BinTrac Pro system for a stand-alone local solution to monitor bin weights and feed levels. A VMI communications option can be purchased at any time to connect the local information to The local-bin-only solutions prices start at $770 per bin. The communication system varies, depending on the site and configuration. Communication hardware starts at less than $1,000 for a simple dial-up, once-a-day solution to an “always on” cellular Internet situation. Monthly fees apply to both options.

Visit or call 612-756-3515 or 877-Bintrac (877-246-8722) for more information.


VitaPlus Corporation

Mentor is a Web-based nutrition modeling and feed budgeting program that improves the accuracy of feed budgeting and closely targets the nutrient requirements of growing-finishing pigs using scientific modeling. The program then creates farm-specific feed budgets for each feeding group based on average starting weight, number in a group, performance and carcass data.

“Producers are able to more closely target specific nutrient requirements during each stage of the growth period and eliminate over- or under-feeding,” says Dean Koehler, Vita Plus swine technical services manager. “The mentor program also dynamically adjusts feed budgets based on pig movements and removals, non-standard feed delivery amounts and the implementation of Paylean. The growth curves can be customized based on farm-specific data in order to determine dietary lysine requirements.”

Information may be shared with feedmills, employees and consultants, according to user permissions set up by each farm. All data is maintained in a secure web environment.

Joel DeRouchey asked how many diets could be programmed into mentor. Koehler says that multiple diet menus, each consisting of 18 diets from 1.25 to 0.40% digestible lysine, are uploaded into mentor, although the feed budgets for most producers' pig groups use around 12 of the 18 diets from about 50 lb. to market weight.

The panel felt there may be some logistical challenges associated with managing so many diets, such as placing numerous small orders of feed ingredients. Uniformity of pig groups would also be crucial.

Koehler says the mentor program has an initial farm setup fee of 4 cents/pig/year and then an ongoing charge of no more than 10 cents/pig. This should provide at least an 8:1 payback, based on typical feed savings of 80 cents/pig when using mentor, as compared to a typical five-phase grow-finish feeding program. Visit or call 800-362-8334 for additional information.


FeedLogic Corporation

The FeedSaver is a smart feeding system using blend-on-the-fly technology to deliver the correct diet to nursery or finisher pigs using just two base diets.

“Using the FeedSaver can result in lower feed costs, fewer feed mistakes and reduced feed wastage,” says Drew Ryder, FeedLogic Corporation president. “Blending two base diets allows producers to make frequent, small adjustments to the feed mix. This means the diet can more closely match the pigs' requirements at each growth stage.”

Special NutriSync software is used to create a feeding curve unique to a farm's pigs before the barn is filled. Specially equipped feeders monitor feed usage. The system automatically monitors and records feed intake and adjusts diets in response to variations in intake.

Two versions of the FeedSaver provide alternative methods to delivering the feed. The battery-powered M-Series moves throughout the barn on rails, filling standard feeders with the correct diet. The lower cost S-Series is a stationary system that batches the feed into standard feed lines going to standard feeders. With both models, the FeedSaver system monitors feed intake and adjusts the density of the diet accordingly.

The systems can be accessed online from anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day, seven days a week using Microsoft Windows-based software. Nutrition decisions can be made off-site using live data. The controls in the barn use simple Windows-based menus, explains Ryder.

Matt Thome asked if producers could make changes to the system on-site using handheld Personal Data Assistants, such as a Blackberry. Ryder says that option is being considered, but is not possible yet.

Ryder says an average FeedSaver M-Series system logs 2 miles/day and delivers around 5,000 lb. of feed.

Jeff Feder asked how many pigs could be fed using the system. Ryder says the M-Series system will feed 1,500 head comfortably, while the S-Series can handle up to 3,000 head.

The panel was concerned about cleaning and durability of the unit. Ryder says when the barn is being washed, the M-Series feeding unit can either be moved to another area or protected with an available cover.

The S-Series unit is mounted in a protected area above the ceiling level. Information is constantly being backed up, so if the system goes down, data is not lost. A dedicated customer service line offers constant phone support.

Common components are designed for ease of replacement and repair, according to Ryder. An alarm system uses e-mail or phone to alert an operator when the system cannot load or deliver feed, ensuring problems are rectified as soon as possible and pigs do not run out of feed. Essential parts can be delivered to most locations within 24 hours. At biosecure barns, essential parts can be stocked on-site.

The panel felt the product would be convenient and offered some potential cost savings. However, some concern was expressed that it may take a long time for a producer to get caught up in the event feed ran out.

The FeedSaver is priced from $7 to $26/pig space, depending on the number of pigs being fed and the level of precision required. The system is covered by a one-year warranty. Visit or call 320-222-3000 for more information.

MMi Animal Feed Ingredient

Advanced Management Solutions (Mistral)

MMi is a clay-based feed ingredient designed to help prevent pockets of moisture from forming in feed. “These pockets of moisture are where fungi, molds and bacteria grow,” states Mistral's Alain Reocreux.

MMi is manufactured using a processed clay called Amadeite, dried yeast cells and diatomaceous earth. The Amadeite is created via a patented process using nanotechnology to increase the surface space between the layers of clay by 10 times. This increase in space provides a greater area for absorption.

“MMi is finely processed to increase the surface contact with grains and allow for easy dispersion throughout the feed,” he explains. “MMi encompasses the moisture between the layers of clay, sealing any moisture from contact with the grain. The goal is to protect the hygiene of the grain to create a healthy feedstuff. Clay is also believed to have healing properties in the gut and can be very helpful for the pigs.”

MMi can be used as an anti-caking agent and iodine source in bulk, mixed or pelleted feeds.

Joel DeRouchey asked about research data. Tim Torkelson, Advanced Management Solutions product specialist, explained field evaluations have been conducted using over 20,000 nursery pigs in northern Iowa. Ongoing studies are collecting data at the same facility. The nursery trial results indicate adding MMi helped drive an overall average weight increase of 2 lb./pig for the MMi group, with higher average daily gain and less feed needed per pound of gain.

A study of over 400 grow-finish pigs was also conducted in Asia. The results showed the MMi group was heavier by an average of 4.13 lb. at the end of the trial. Average daily gain was 3% higher for MMi pigs than the control group. Pigs receiving MMi also recorded a 4% lower average daily feed intake, while the feed/gain ratios improved by 3.5%.

Jeff Feder asked about inclusion rates. Torkelson suggests a 2.2-lb./ton inclusion rate for gestating sows, 4.4 lb./ton for farrowing sows, 3.3 lb./ton for nursery pigs and 1.1 lb./ton for finishing pigs.

Jay Harmon asked about availability and how to order MMi. Torkelson added that MMi is readily available from feed dealers and distributors across the United States. The light tan powder comes in a 50-lb. bag and can be added in pellets, premix or complete feed. The cost is between $2.50 to $2.70/per pound of MMi.

The panel agreed the cost was somewhat high compared to more typical binding products. They would like to see results from more controlled research studies, rather than comparing before- and after-use closeout data.

For additional information, visit, or call 715-284-3360.

Ecodrum Composter

Tri-Form Poly, Inc.

The Ecodrum Composter needs only water, wood shavings and electricity to turn the drum in order to efficiently process mortalities into cured compost. The vessel composter is constructed of UV stabilized polyethylene.

“The polyethylene helps lead to a long, corrosion-free life and features a smooth, snag-free interior,” explains Tri-Form Poly sales representative Timothy Epp.

The composter is built in modular sections so that additional lengths can be added, depending on the size of the operation. A typical size would be 5ft. in diameter by 44ft. long.

Epp says the Ecodrum includes a standard, 24-hour timer and memory chip, preset to rotate the drum once each day. Composted material automatically discharges on every revolution.

There are two loading doors approximately 3-ft. wide by 4-ft. long on the top of the composter. He recommends using a loader to fill the composter.

The Ecodrum Model 460 has a daily capacity of up to 740 lb. of mortality. “This translates to a weekly capacity of approximately 5,180 lb.,” Epp explains. “Our largest model, the Model 660, has a daily capacity of up to 1,110 lb., or a weekly capacity of up to 7,770 lb.”

Matt Thome asked about carbon sources for the compost process. “Most people use wood shavings,” Epp says. “You can reuse cured compost for more than one compost cycle at a rate of about half compost to half new shavings. The carcass-to-carbon ratio is at least one-to-one, by volume.” Many sow operations will add shavings at a ratio of one or two bales for every sow.

Joel DeRouchey asked how long it takes to compost mortalities. Epp says a big sow can be completely composted in about two weeks.

Jeff Feder asked if the motors are designed to sit outside. Epp says the Ecodrum uses exterior grade ¾-hp, variable speed Baldor motors to rotate the composter.

Both Feder and Jay Harmon asked if the composting process has to be modified in the winter. Epp recommends putting the Ecodrum in a sheltered location or surrounding the composter with hay bales. “Don't attempt to compost frozen carcasses,” he advises.

Thome and Harmon wondered about maintenance. Epp says the motor, gear reducers and bearings are the only working parts. There is a 10-year warranty on the polyethylene compost drum. Everything else carries a three-year warranty.

The panel was concerned that the composter may be difficult to load.

“The Ecodrum Composter comes in a variety of sizes. Retail pricing starts at $28,000,” Epp says. Learn more and locate dealers at or call 204-746-6401, ext. 3.

Feet First Chute

Zinpro Corporation

The Zinpro Corporation developed the Feet First Chute as part of an effort to reduce sow lameness. An international collaboration of researchers, veterinarians and nutritionists make up the Feet First Team.

The Feet First Chute gently and quietly raises sows off the ground, providing easy access to the foot for examination and trimming.

“Research has shown that a great deal of sow lameness can be traced to unequal weight bearing of claw digits, most commonly an unbalanced outer claw,” explains Mark Gerber, Zinpro account manager. “Our goal is to trim the claws so that we distribute weight equally between the claws.”

Gerber says it is common for many sows to develop claw-related lameness problems just prior to the second parity. This can especially be an issue when group-housed sows fight.

The Feet First Chute requires a regular power outlet configured for both 110 volt and 220 volts (USA and European Union). The chute raises 2.5 ft. off of the ground. A three-fold safety mechanism helps keep workers and sows safe. It consists of a safety brake on the winch, safety brake on the steel riser, and a safety locking pin. The chute is 78-in. high, 33-in. wide and 80-in. long. A training video is available to help users understand the proper way to trim feet.

Joel DeRouchey asked if there was a height limitation for sows or boars using the chute. Gerber says there is no height limit. The Feet First Chute can hold a maximum weight of 1,500 lb.

The panel was concerned about the ergonomic impact of having a person bending over to trim the hooves. Gerber suggested a lowered area or operator's pit could be put into buildings. The panel also noted it would be very important to train the hoof trimmers properly so they didn't do more harm than good when trimming feet. They felt it would be crucial to spend time reviewing the training materials with employees. The panel also thought there would be additional potential for using the Feet First Chute in boar studs.

The Feet First Chute sells for $5,800. Learn more at, or call 952-983-4000.

Electrostatic Particle Ionization

Baumgartner Environics, Inc.

The Electrostatic Particle Ionization (EPI) system from Baumgartner Environics, Inc. (BEI) helps create a healthier environment in buildings by using static electricity to collect and control airborne particles. EPI uses electrode pins, called corona points, to electrically produce negative ions. When concentrations of negative ions are in the air, they tend to polarize airborne floating particles. This causes the polarized particles to wedge together on edges and “stick” to grounded surfaces such as the ceiling, walls and floor of a building. This prevents the particles from being inhaled into the respiratory tract of both pigs and humans in the barns.

“EPI will reduce dust particles, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and odors from the air,” says John Baumgartner, president of BEI. “An abundance of negative ions interferes with the cellular functions of microbes. The result is that many microbes are killed or disabled by the EPI system.”

Joel DeRouchey asked about the run times for the EPI System. Baumgartner says the system is designed to run continuously, 24 hours/day, seven days a week.

“The ion discharge process is continuous, and the ions discharged immediately polarize new particles encountered in the treated airspace,” Baumgartner says. “You can feel the difference in air quality overnight.”

Jay Harmon asked about the system's energy use. Baumgartner explains: “The EPI is extremely energy efficient, using only 90 watts to clean the air in a typical 1,200-head finishing barn. It is possible to enjoy clean air in a whole building for the cost of lighting a light bulb.”

Matt Thome asked if there were any special cleaning considerations. Baumgartner says some extra care is needed when power washing to ensure the dust adhering to ceilings, walls, floors, gates and feeders is cleaned from all surfaces. The EPI system is stainless steel and is cleaned along with the other surfaces in the barn.

“The EPI system should be turned off, and make sure the corona points are pointing down after cleaning,” Baumgartner advises. “The points can sometimes bind on the suspension cable and point toward the ceiling.”

He also recommends turning the EPI off once every two weeks and cleaning dust off of the ceiling directly above the corona discharge points with a broom. “After cleaning the ceiling, turn the system back on. This helps to maintain the ion discharge rate and system performance over the production cycle,” he says.

The panel felt the EPI system could potentially help improve air quality and promote healthier working conditions for anyone working in the barns.

“Air quality is not only important for the pigs, but also for the health of people spending time in the barns,” Feder observes. “I will be interested to see if improved air quality can be measured in performance of the pigs.” The panel wondered about the durability and longevity of the system, but overall, thought it was a commendable product.

The cost of the EPI System is around $4.50/pig space. The actual price quotation is based on the square footage of the area that is to be treated. Visit or call 320-523-1644 or 800-823-4234 for additional information.

VSS 700 Pregnancy Checker

Veterinary Sales & Service

The VSS 700 Pregnancy Checker has been available from Veterinary Sales & Service for about six months.

“Veterinary Sales & Service has an exclusive arrangement with the Chinese manufacturer to produce this ultrasound unit,” explains Todd Mezera, director of Sales for Veterinary Sales & Service. “The unit is built to be water resistant and easy to clean.” The VSS 700 can detect pregnancy as early as 20 days.

An internal, six-hour battery comes standard. An additional, external battery will provide another 3-4 hours of scanning time.

The panel felt the VSS 700 Pregnancy Checker is designed to be simple to use and easy to clean. They thought the cost seemed quite reasonable.

The VSS 700 comes complete with the scanner, case, probe and internal and external batteries for $3,500. Additional probes are available at the time of purchase for $500.

Visit, or call 800-617-0503 for more information.

SuperDos Professional Line

Dosmatic USA

The SuperDos Professional Line of medicators was designed to help keep chemicals and medication away from the components in the medicator, explains Sam Chandler, vice president of North American sales for Dosmatic, USA. A patented, one-way gasket accomplishes that goal, he says.

Cleaning chemicals or medications are mixed in a patented, internal mixing chamber that is separate from the motor. The mixing chamber design ensures a thorough and precise mixing of the water-injected chemical or medication before they leave the unit.

The lower body of the medicator has more open ports entering and exiting the unit, reducing pressure loss. The SuperDos features a 1-in. inlet/outlet pipe connection.

Jay Harmon asked what water flow rates and water pressure is necessary for optimal medicator performance. Chandler says the SuperDos Model 20 IA has a minimum flow rate of 0.04 gal./minute (gpm) and a maximum flow rate of 20 gpm. The preset feed ratio on that model is 1:128. Minimum pressure is 5 lb./sq. in. (psi), with a 100 psi maximum pressure. The Model SD 20-2.5% has an adjustable feed ratio from 1:500 to 1:40. The flow rate on the Model SD 20-2.5% is 0.04 gpm to 20 gpm, and pressure ranges from 5 psi to 100 psi. The SD 30-2.5% model has a similar feed ratio and pressure to the other models, but offers a flow rate ranging from a minimum of 0.15 gpm to 30 gpm.

Jeff Feder asked how to adjust the medicators. Chandler says the SD 20-2.5% and SD 30-2.5% are adjusted by rotating the adjustment cylinder on the lower end so that the top of the cylinder is even with the desired ratio.

Matt Thome and Jay Harmon wondered how to effectively match the size of a medicator to the size of operation or number of pigs. Chandler says the SuperDos Professional medicator would accommodate just over 2,500 pigs at 30 gal./min. Another model, designed for just over 1,500 finishing pigs, is available with a fixed lower end set at 1:128. The same model is also available with an adjustable lower end.

Chandler says the SuperDos 20 gpm models will accommodate up to 2,500 finishing pigs at peak water consumption. For groups of 2,500 to 4,000 finishing pigs, the 30 gpm SuperDos model is recommended. Peak water consumption for groups of 1,500 finishing pigs or less will be accommodated with the MiniDos models, which have the same patented features and flow rates from 0.03 gpm to 12 gpm.

Thome wondered about filters for the medicators. Chandler says a 1-in., Twist-II-Clean filter with a manual back-flush can be included for approximately $70.

Thome also asked if the medicators were rebuildable and/or repairable. Chandler says they can be easily repaired because all wear parts are accessible from the lower end. The SuperDos Professional Line of medicators is covered by a three-year warranty.

The panel thought the SuperDos Professional Line of medicators offered some good benefits for producers, and they especially liked the option of having higher flow rates.

The suggested list price is $283 for the SuperDos 20 IA medicator and $330 for the SuperDos 20-2.5% (adjustable). The SuperDos 30-2.5% model has a suggested list price of $461. To learn more, visit or call 800-344-6767 or 972-245-9765.

Will 'Downer' Sows Be Next?

There are significant reasons why a ban on “downer” cows should not be followed by a ban on downer sows, says a veterinary expert with the National Pork Board.

On May 20, the USDA announced a proposed rule to ban non-ambulatory cattle from slaughter, following an April 22 petition from the American Meat Institute, the National Meat Association and the National Milk Producers Federation.

Paul Sundberg, DVM, vice president of Science and Technology with the National Pork Board, says that downer cows are truly a species apart from downer sows. The downer cattle issue that led to the largest beef recall in U.S. history wasn't really about animal handling or welfare, despite apparent abuse in a California beef packing plant. The real issue stemmed from a food safety concern because downer cows are associated with mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

While BSE affects very few cows, pigs don't become infected with BSE at all, he explains.

Pigs become fatigued from overexertion, turning them into downers when they are not given proper rest.

However, the cause is not due to disease, but rather to a buildup of lactic acid in the muscle. It's the same scenario that occurs in humans who run a race and feel tightness in their muscles.

“What we are trying to help everybody understand is that if a fatigued pig can't walk, it is not a food safety risk,” Sundberg says.

And he says the pork industry is stressing to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) that meat plant inspectors must uniformly apply a policy that differentiates between a fatigued pig that can't walk and a cow that can't walk.

When that fatigued pig is given proper rest, it can recover and still be processed for consumption, Sundberg says. “It's a natural process that pigs must go through in order to recover.”

Producer Education

The need for education extends to pork producers, too. “Producers may not understand fatigued pigs either, because they may not see them. If they are able to get them on the truck and haul them to slaughter, they get their sales ticket and they go home,” Sundberg says. But a pig may not show signs of fatigue until it gets further into the packing plant.

The Pork Board is preparing an educational report on what producers can do to help avoid that condition.

“If a producer has a pig that gets away and has to be chased four times down the alleyway before it gets loaded onto a truck, it is probably at risk for being a fatigued pig when it gets to the packing plant,” Sundberg states.

Proper sorting and handling of pigs throughout the loading process can help reduce the incidence of fatigued pigs.

Truckers can do their part by providing appropriate bedding or sand, according to weather conditions, to keep pigs from slipping and moving around during transportation.

Early Detection

Producers should try to identify pigs early that are suffering from this metabolic condition. Once identified, segregate and provide proper rest.

Sundberg suggests the best management is to cool these pigs down with either air and/or water. “Remember, a pig doesn't sweat, so misting water on a pig can help it cool down, and within a couple of hours the pig should be back on its feet and obviously recovering.”

Genetics or other factors may contribute to this condition, too.

If a pig is lethargic for more than two hours and does not show any signs of alertness, it should be euthanized.

Pending Legislation

Since 2003, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) and Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) have proposed legislation to ban the slaughter and processing of all non-ambulatory livestock (including pigs), says Jennifer Greiner, DVM, director of Science and Technology for the National Pork Producers Council.

Following the California case involving downer cattle being processed at the Westland Packing Co., Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) sponsored a bill that essentially says sick livestock cannot be allowed to enter the food chain.