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Articles from 2009 In July

National Hog Farmer

Genetiporc To Expand Sales Operations Into Ontario

Stratford, Monday June 29. Genetiporc has recently signed an important distribution agreement with Jones Feed Mill, a family owned business serving the family farm for over 70 years. This new agreement will allow Genetiporc to develop their sales in conjunction with the well known and respected team at Jones Feed Mill, with the support of Jerry Koert, Ontario sales representative for Genetiporc. An official launch was organized last Wednesday June 24 during the Ontario Pork Congress and more than 60 people attend. Christian Breton, president of Genetiporc and Jeff Jones, president of Jones Feed Mill, took a few minutes to introduce their companies and their plans to work together.

It is very important for Genetiporc to be linked to an Ontario based company who clearly understands the market signs and business opportunities. The resulting synergy will be of benefit to both companies.

Genetiporc specializes in the production, selection and distribution of breeding stock with superior genetic and health status, thereby ensuring consistent, high-volume supply from a single source. Genetiporc seeks to develop its markets as it continues to offer products meeting the specific requirements of multiple industry segments. Genetiporc is currently doing business in Canada, United States, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Panama, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, China and Philippines.

For further information:

Rejean Bouchard

Director of marketing

Tel.: 418-475-6601


Pork Board Asks for Direction In Crafting New Strategic Plan

The National Pork Board is asking producers for their help in deciding how their pork checkoff dollars are used.

By going to, producers can participate in a nationwide survey to help the Pork Board determine what issues will have the most impact over the next few years and how checkoff dollars should be used to address those issues. The answers will help build a new strategic plan for the pork industry.

The overall objective of the planning process is to find new solutions to the economic, social and scientific challenges facing the pork industry, says Pork Board Chief Executive Officer Chris Novak. The survey, along with three regional meetings held last week, are designed to ensure the plan is focused on critical day-to-day needs of pork producers.

The survey asks what are the industry’s needs now, five years from now and 25 years from now.

The survey allows participants to identify and prioritize the issues they believe are important. Room is provided at the bottom of the survey for specific comments.

The survey takes about 10-15 minutes to complete.

Deadline to complete the survey is Aug. 21.

NPPC Announces Staffing Changes

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has announced that Kirk Ferrell, NPPC vice president of Public Policy, is leaving the organization to devote more time to his family and to explore new career opportunities.

NPPC CEO Neil Dierks comments that Kirk will remain in his current position until late September “to assist with the transition to a new vice president and to help with a number of critical issues NPPC currently is facing.

“Kirk has provided invaluable service to NPPC and the pork industry during his tenure, which began in 1990. His efforts have included various programming and policy responsibilities, most recently as vice president of Public Policy since 2001.”

Dierks also announced that Audrey Adamson, currently NPPC assistant vice president of Public Policy, has accepted the position of vice president of Domestic Policy Issues effective Sept. 1.

Adamson will direct NPPC domestic policy initiatives as well as oversee operational activities of NPPC’s Washington, DC, office.

USDA Touts Benefits of Climate Change

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee that agriculture would benefit economically from the proposed climate change legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives. Vilsack said that USDA’s economic analysis shows that the economic benefits to agriculture from the cap and trade legislation would “likely outweigh the costs in the short term, and the economic benefits from offsets markets will easily outpace increased input costs over the long term.” He stated that the legislation’s creation of an offset market will “create opportunities for the agricultural sector. In particular, our analysis indicates that annual net returns to farmers range from about $1 billion per year in 2015-20 to almost $15-20 billion in 2040-50, not accounting for the costs of implementing offset practices.”

Food & Feed Concerns with Climate Change — A coalition of food, feed, ingredient, beverage and consumer product associations have outlined its principles for climate legislation. The coalition indicated that the facilities it represents emit approximately 2% of the nation’s greenhouse gases, but are disproportionately vulnerable to indirect costs. The principles outlined are:

• Allowances – The distribution of allowances should be based on an industry’s historic emissions and additional allowances should be distributed to reflect early action reductions in emissions between 2000 and 2012.
• Threshold – If a cap is adopted, Environmental Protection Agency should not be authorized to lower the threshold for the cap in the future, or use the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from sources beneath that threshold.
• Offsets – A viable offset system is essential to contain costs.
• Preemption – Comprehensive climate legislation should preempt or, if necessary, harmonize state and regional climate programs.
• Trade – Climate legislation should be contingent on Senate ratification of an international commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that includes all major sources of emissions and should not authorize the administration to place border measures on foods imported from other nations that do not have equally stringent limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Those organizations signing the letter included: American Feed Industry Association, American Meat Institute, Grocery Manufacturers Association, National Chicken Council, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Grain and Feed Association, National Meat Association, National Oilseed Processors Association, National Turkey Federation and the National American Miller’s Association.

Midwest Governors Call for Higher Ethanol Blends — Ten midwestern governors have written Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson requesting that ethanol blending levels be increased to 15%. Governor Jennifer Granholm (D-MI), chair of the Midwestern Governors Association (MGA), said, “The Midwest has vast natural resources, the scientific know-how and the skilled workforce necessary to lead the world in the production of climate-friendly biofuels.” Governor Mike Rounds (R-SD), immediate past chair of the MGA, said, “Increasing the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline is an important step that will have dramatic, positive effects on advancement of the renewable fuels industry.” Besides Granholm and Rounds, other governors signing the letter included Pat Quinn (IL), Mitch Daniels (IN), Chet Culver (IA), Mark Parkinson (KS), Tim Pawlenty (MN), John Hoeven (ND), Ted Strickland (OH) and Jim Doyle (WI).

Hot Dog Warning Labels — The Cancer Project filed a lawsuit in New Jersey asking the court to require hot dog manufacturers to put a “cancer warning” label on packages. The group wants the label to read: “Warning: Consuming hot dogs and other processed meats increases the risk of cancer.” The American Meat Institute (AMI) said, “We hope the court will move quickly to review the science affirming the safety of hot dogs and processed meats and dismiss this lawsuit.” The Cancer Project is a branch of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, D.C.

Understanding Regular vs. Irregular Returns to Estrus

To improve open sow days, litters/female/year and farrow-to-farrow intervals, we will review a case study looking closer at the impact of returns to estrus.

The definition of a “regular return” to estrus is a female that did not conceive when mated but has a heat cycle every 18-24 days until rebred or culled. An “irregular return” to estrus is a female that does not have consistent, regular return to estrus every 18-24 days.

It is important to understand the difference between “regular” and “irregular” returns to estrus. For example, returns 17 days and less are irregular, 18-24 days are regular, 25-38 days are irregular, 39-45 days are regular, and, 46+ days can be either.

Irregular returns can be caused by several factors. Early irregular returns are probably females that were bred that were not in standing heat. Irregular returns at 25-38-day intervals are females that were bred, conceived, but the pregnancy failed because of body condition, disease, small litter size, injury, a single mating, moldy feed, hormonal problems, etc. These maladies caused the female to absorb the embryos and the female, consequently, returned to estrus.

In order to analyze the data, the breeding crew needs to do a good job of heat checking and recording information, such as the date of the returns and the action taken.

Regular returns to estrus 39-45 days and after weaning were open on Days 18-24, but were missed by the breeding crew. If heat checking is being done well, the crew should find over 60% of regular returns on Days 18-24. Finding these open females as soon as possible reduces open sow days, lowers the farrow-to-farrow interval and increases litters/female/year.

During heat checking, it is important to control the path and speed of the heat-check boar. Going too fast with the heat-check boar causes the heat-check crew to miss some of the regular returns that are in heat on Days 16-25. Boar carts, the Boar Bot, harnesses, gates and panels are often used to control the boar. It is important that all sows being checked get contact with the heat-check boar, especially if they are in heat or just coming into heat.

Also, remember, sows like variety in the boars being used for heat checking. We suggest rotating boars daily and replacing the heat-check boar after 1-2 hours of heat checking. The best heat-check boars are the older, more mature, stinky and ugly ones. Good heat-check boars are usually at least 12 months old, aggressive, and produce lots of pheromones during the heat-check process.

The farms that are the most successful at heat checking have two-person teams with one person controlling the boar, the other applying back pressure to each sow and looking for those females showing physical signs of heat.

Table 1 is from the Swine Management Services’ titled: “In-Depth Breeding Analysis Report – Returns to Estrus.” This report helps identify when the second or third-service females were found in heat and, if rebred, their subsequent farrowing rate. The data is broken out by parity and the time the females were found in heat.

The first area to look at is “% of Services” (right column), which shows only 29.7% of regular returns are found during Days 18-24. Unless this farm is dealing with a health challenge or feed quality issue, to review the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) for the entire heat-checking process, including the age of heat-check boars and the time spent looking for returns.

This dataset also shows 42% of the returns are found after Day 38, which again means several open females are being missed by both heat checking and pregnancy checking. Looking at “average days” (bottom row), we find a return-to-estrus average of 40.1 days; the best job was done finding sixth-parity females at 26.5 days.

The top farms that are finding 60+% of regular returns at Days 18-25 will average less than 30 days to find a return to estrus. Some farms have pulled that average down to 22-25 days. The data also shows a lot of variation in farrowing rate by parity and when rebred.

To reduce open sow days, increase litters/female/year and lower farrow-to-farrow interval requires that you look into more detail, checking to see when regular and irregular returns to estrus are being found and the effect it is having on breeding performance. Remember to make appropriate changes to the standard operating procedures and training manuals.

Key Performance Indicators
Tables 2 and 3 (below) provide 52-week and 13-week rolling averages for key performance indicators (KPI) of breeding herd performance. These tables reflect the most current quarterly data available and are presented with each column. The KPI’s can be used as general guidelines to measure the productivity of your herd compared to the top 10% and top 25% of farms, the average performance for all farms and the bottom 25% of farms in the SMS database.

If you have questions or comments about these columns, or if you have a specific performance measurement that you would like to see benchmarked in our database, please address them to: or

Mark Rix and Ron Ketchem
Swine Management Services LLC

Click to view graphs.

Profitability: No Gain Without Some Pain

I had the honor once again to speak to the annual National Pork Industry Conference at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri last week. The event was, given the economic conditions of the pork industry, surprisingly well attended. The mood was somber, but not what I would call depressed, even though everyone was obviously growing weary of the continuing economic challenges.

I began my talk with the old joke about the guy who walks into the doctor and says, “Doc, it hurts when I do this,” and then moves his arm up and down. The doctor, of course, responds with an emphatic “Then stop doing that!”

The metaphor for the pork industry is obvious: If the economic outcomes of our businesses are to change, we have to not do what we’ve been doing.

Factors Impacting Pork Prices
Now some of what we have been doing is really not our fault. The H1N1 Flu Outbreak Virus forced “us” to sell a lot more pork on the U.S. market. Without that extra supply, things would have been different this summer.

Another “problem” of what we have been doing is the paradoxical impact of improving efficiency. Becoming more productive is what the American farmer is all about, right? But the surge in productivity – especially litter size – in the past two years has completely confounded any output rationalization efforts that we have seen. It appears that the sow reductions to date have simply been the removal of the “circovirus compensating” sows that were in place to keep pig flows reasonable in the face of large death and morbidity losses.

An aside on this topic: I have mentioned several times that we heard several anecdotal reports of a surge in sow productivity after the introduction of circovirus vaccines. That surge appears in the data as we compared the production from vaccinated sows in 2008 to that of unvaccinated sows in 2007.

That impact should have been over when we began comparing 2009 data to that from the vaccinated sows in 2008, right? But it has not ended, and one well-known veterinarian explained to me that a reason is the impact that circovirus suppression is having on the immune systems of vaccinated animals. We have not only eliminated circovirus, but we have enabled the animals to fight other pathogens more effectively, thus raising their health level another notch and providing this added surge of productivity.

I doubt that that impact can continue forever, but it certainly is not waning yet and provides a huge challenge: If we are to reduce output to drive prices up, we must reduce the sow herd by a larger percentage than productivity growth. And we haven’t done that yet.

My “it hurts when I do this” schtick reminds me of another famous (at least in Oklahoma) comedy routine by Archie Campbell on the old Hee-Haw television show. Archie would weave stories that had some good happening, to which Roy Clark or some other accomplice would say, “That’s good” and Archie would respond “No, that’s bad!” He would then describe some awful happening to which Roy would say. “Oh, that’s bad!” Archie, of course, would reply with “No, that’s good!” And on and on they would go. It was great fun.

Lower Feed Prices Are Good – and Bad
I feel that way – without the fun part – about the recent drop in corn and soybean meal prices and the surge we have seen in cutout values over the past two weeks. While the latter has yet to translate into higher hog prices – and that may take awhile given the fact that the cutout and hog prices have been upside down for much of this year (see Figures 1 and 2) – the profit picture improved markedly from mid-June to last week, and then declined sharply as Lean Hog futures fell to contract life lows for most contracts on Monday morning.

Figures 3 and 4 show my forecasts through July 2010 as of June 21 and then again today. Note that the projected losses through year’s end and through July 2010 are both smaller now than they were in June. But they are over $3/cwt larger than they were just one week ago.

So – the drop in feed prices is good because it means producers are losing less. That’s good. No, that’s bad – because we still need to reduce the sow herd enough to offset productivity gains and reduce supplies and that will not happen with less economic pain. So – the drop in Lean Hog futures this past week is bad because it hurts producers’ profits prospects and adds to their financial stress. No, that’s good – since it increases incentives to reduce the sow herd and will lead to higher long-term profit levels.

I could go on, but you get the drift. Economics is all about incentives and the incentives for output changes are shifting weekly and, in some instances, daily. I still believe we need to produce less to bring some semblance of consistent profits that are large enough to compensate producers for the risks they take. Unfortunately, it will take economic pain to get that done.

Click to view graphs.

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

Pork Board Elects Officers, Approves Budget for 2010

Larabee, IA, pork producer Tim Bierman has been elected by his fellow board members as president of the National Pork Board. Gene Nemechek, DVM, swine veterinarian with Tyson Foods in Springdale, AR, has been elected vice president. Both begin immediately serving one-year terms.

Bierman, board vice president, has a long history of pork industry service with the Iowa Pork Producers Association. He serves on the pork board’s trade committee. In the past, he served on the national group’s animal well-being, domestic marketing and budget committees and has held a number of other state and national pork industry positions.

“Pork producers know this is one of the most challenging periods our industry has ever faced,” Bierman says. “It began almost two years ago with the sudden and dramatic increase in our input costs because of higher corn and soybean prices. And now with the H1N1 flu, we’re experiencing lower prices for our pigs because of the way some countries and some consumers have misconstrued the role of swine in the global pandemic.

“At the same time,” Bierman says, “I am optimistic because I believe the National Pork Board, through the pork checkoff, is well positioned to help producers work through the current challenges. We continue to assure consumers and our trading partners that pork is safe to eat. We have new research from the National Animal Disease Center that proves what we already knew: That even when pigs get sick from the flu, that they recover and return to normal and that there are no traces of flu virus in the meat.

“We continue to market pork products aggressively at home and abroad. And we continue to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Pork Producers Council, swine veterinarians and others to assure that producers have the information they need in these challenging times.

“I’m also optimistic about the progress our industry is making through the We Care initiative to demonstrate to all of our customers that U.S. pork producers are ethically and scientifically committed to delivering high-quality pork products that are safe, nutritious and affordable. I will continue to encourage producers to become certified in our industry’s Pork Quality Assurance Plus program and to have their sites assessed so we can continuously improve our animal handling practices. I will be urging producers to get involved in their communities and to help young and old consumers understand what it’s like to farm in the 21st century. I’m looking forward to a good year.”

Bierman and his wife, Mary, raise 15,000 hogs annually on their diversified farm in northwest Iowa. Bierman succeeds California pork producer Steve Weaver who has one year remaining on his three-year term on the board.

The pork board officers were elected during their summer meeting held at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.

At their meeting, the board focused on both the 2009 and 2010 budgets. The board agreed to cut 2009 spending by $4.2 million to account for unexpected expenses related to the industry’s response to the H1N1 flu outbreak this spring. The board assured that this decision won’t affect a new proposal to spend an additional $1 million on pork promotion this fall.

The board also set a $46.8 million target for the 2010 budget. This figure compares to a $58.5 million budget for 2009. Because of lower hog prices, checkoff revenues are expected to decline in 2010.

For more information on pork checkoff programs, call the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-7675.

Swine Transition Seminar Offers Resources, Assistance

Pork producers facing difficult economic decisions in their operations may want to attend the Swine Transition Seminar set for Aug. 5 in Building C at Northwest Community College in Sheldon, IA.

Iowa State University (ISU) Extension field specialist Dave Stender and ISU Extension farm management specialist Tom Olsen are coordinating the program to help provide information, assistance and resources to pork producers.

Cost for the seminar is $15 per person or $20 per couple and includes materials and meals. Register early to ensure an accurate meal count. For more information and to register, call Dave Stender at (712) 225-6196 or (712) 261-0225 or access the meeting brochure.

“Never before has the hog-corn ratio been so low for so long resulting in unprecedented financial losses,” Stender says. “The outlook for prices remains weak because world demand for pork is still soft. Some producers have responded with sow cutbacks and inventory reduction, while others buy existing operations at a reduced price to keep them going.”

Olsen says the current hog economy is adding to pressure on producers, suppliers and lenders, and decisions can be difficult.

“Long-standing networks of producers, owners, contractors and managers are under stress. Many are being forced to consider new arrangements,” he says. “This seminar will address the options and opportunities for producers.”

The seminar has two tracks: one for ownership options for sows and buildings and one for producers who want to continue in their existing systems on a long-term basis. Registration is at 9:30 a.m., with the keynote presentation by ISU agricultural economist John Lawrence at 10 a.m. The tracks run concurrently from 10:30 a.m. to about 3:45 p.m.

Track one will examine the management expertise needed to own pigs and offer some guidance regarding how a group of producers might work together to get this done.

“On one hand, sow unit shares are available,” Stender says, “while another group of producers facing empty barns and reduced payments is looking for a new pig source.”

Track one speakers include Lawrence, Stender and ISU swine nutrition associate professor John Patience.

Track two will look at traditional ways to reduce cost in a sow unit. This track will also present a non-traditional approach to reduce a producer’s sow herd while minimizing the negative impact of reduced throughput. Discussion will include financial modeling to increase weaning weight and finishing performance, disease control, low birthweight pigs, designing rations for feed cost efficiency and other possible scenarios, Stender says. Track two speakers are Stender, Patience and Iowa Pork Industry Center director John Mabry.

A third optional session targets contract growers who are facing changes in their current contracts. This session will run from 4-8 p.m. and include discussion of a good contract, legal issues, insurance, liability, responsibility and the value of manure. Speakers are Lawrence, Stender and ISU Center for Agricultural Law & Taxation legal consultant Erin Herbold.

National Hog Farmer

Charm Sciences Receives 5-Year USDA Contract for Antibiotic Test

Lawrence, MA, July 16, 2009

Charm Sciences, Inc. is pleased to announce a 5-year renewable contract award by the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to provide Charm KIS™ (Kidney Inhibition Swab) tests to USDA inspectors at slaughter facilities to screen for sulfonamides and antibiotic drugs under the National Residue Program.

FSIS will begin implementing the Charm KIS Test in phases starting with cattle (FSIS notice 50-09), and eventually implement it for all livestock.

Fusing simplicity, speed, and sensitivity, the Charm KIS test rapidly screens broad spectrum antimicrobial drugs in both fresh and thawed tissue. The KIS test detects close to kidney tolerances for sulfonamides, beta-lactams, tetracyclines, aminoglycosides, macrolides, and lincosamides. The KIS test has been successfully applied to beef and pork kidney, poultry serum, water, feed extracts, and live animal urine samples.

“The USDA contract provides an important diagnostic and prevention program for the quality of US beef and pork, and affirms Charm Sciences’ resolute commitment to a safe food supply,” said Dr. Stanley Charm, President of Charm Sciences.

KIS reagents are self-contained, solvent-free, and pre-measured in a single-use, disposable swab. Testing can be performed in a farm, slaughter house or laboratory setting. The KIS test requires no sample preparation or extraction and is performed in four easy steps:

(1) Cut tissue with KIS housing

(2) Absorb sample on the KIS swab

(3) Re-insert swab into housing and twist to activate test

(4) Incubate for 3 hours and observe color change.

KIS incubators are available for low, medium, and high sample throughput.

About Charm Sciences, Inc.

Charm Sciences is the world leader in food and feed safety diagnostic tests. Charm Sciences continues its 31 year history of providing unique food safety solutions to maximize brand protection, quality, and value to the manufacturer and the consumer.


Charm Sciences, Inc.

Telephone: +1 978.687.9200

Fax: +1 978.687.9216



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National Hog Farmer

JBS United’s Steve Webel, Receives ASAS Fellow - Industry Award

SHERIDAN, Ind., July 20, 2009 –The American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) has presented JBS United’s Stephen K. Webel with the ASAS Fellow - Industry Award during the ASAS Awards Program held Monday July 13, 2009 as part of the Joint Annual Meeting of ASAS, ADSA, and CSAS in Montreal, Canada. This award recognizes individuals with distinguished service to the animal science and livestock industry over an extended period of time.

Dr. Webel is Director of Reproduction Research and Development for JBS United, Inc. and is an internationally recognized scientist who provided leadership for development of innovative reproductive management programs and products. Dr. Webel served the ASAS as a board of directors member, treasurer, foundation chair and president of the Midwestern Section. His pioneering research contributed to the development of controlled-release steroid implants, orally active progestins, gonadotropins for follicular maturation, dietary omega-3 fatty acid formulations, and numerous proprietary products for estrous cycle regulation and dietary supplements to enhance reproduction.

Dr. Webel’s leadership and collaboration resulted in numerous proprietary pharmaceutical products for estrous cycle regulation in cattle, horses and pigs, and dietary supplements to enhance reproductive performance in horses and pigs. He served the livestock industry as a member of the Illinois Livestock Industry Task Force and the Illinois Council for Food and Agriculture Research. He has also served as an advisor to commodity organizations, and has conducted numerous presentations and written for multiple publications.

Dr. Webel was surprised and excited to receive this award, and stated, “It is an honor to be recognized for the contributions I have made in the field of animal science and reproduction. It has been a very rewarding career and I look forward to continuing to serve this great industry for many more years to come.”

More information on the award and ceremony can be found by visiting the ASAS website at

About JBS United

Since its founding in 1956, JBS United, Inc. has been dedicated to providing research-based solutions to enhance animal nutrition and livestock production profitability. The company

provides products to producers worldwide. For more information, visit the JBS United web site at

Lisa Coverdale (800) 382-9909

Marketing Manager