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Articles from 1998 In August


Tips to make buildings safe from disaster

Everyone wants their hog buildings to last a long time. But if you take shortcuts in building, forego recommended maintenance or cut corners when remodeling, your facilities will be set up for a fall. A natural disaster and/or accident could damage or completely destroy your buildings.

The insurance investigators at Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Co., Grinnell, Iowa, see it all the time. It's their job, of course, to distinguish whether a natural disaster, a poorly maintained building, or a combination of the two, led to the damage. This sometimes fine line must be settled before the company can decide if it must pay out on a claim.

As a reinsurance firm, Grinnell doesn't write insurance policies directly to pork producers. Gary Connelly, director of reinsurance for Grinnell, explains, "We write insurance for the insurance companies." Local farm mutual insurance companies can't always cover the total value of the farming operation. Grinnell picks up the difference - provided they believe the ag property is suitable to be insured, he adds.

That decision isn't made quickly. Building complexes are getting bigger and more expensive, putting added pressure on reinsurance companies to pick up part of the load. Sometimes it is just too risky and the firm passes on some large units, Grinnell officials admit.

When they do look into an ag property involving a major policy addition of several hundred thousand dollars, a rigorous inspection is conducted to ensure buildings and equipment inside meet National Electrical Code requirements and other building construction guidelines, says Larry Wyatt, Grinnell agricultural/safety engineer. He says often the company will insist the producer add some safety features to a facility before they will even consider insurance coverage.

Furthermore, he says, Grinnell highly recommends that the truss plans and the building plans be reviewed and stamped by a registered, professional engineer.

"That way, you are assured of at least some type of quality," notes Wyatt. For large building complexes, Grinnell is now asking for a letter of certification from the builder. For example, Lester Building Systems will provide a certification stating that their buildings will withstand a certain wind speed and roof snow load.

He declares: "Again, our philosophy is, if the company that built the building isn't willing to stand behind what they are building, why should we put our money at risk insuring it? We like to have the builders provide some assurance that the building has been built to meet some minimum standards."

To help you make the right building decisions, Wyatt strongly advises producers seek advice from their local extension agricultural engineer, or a consulting ag engineer, and their insurance company, before they make a move to build or remodel facilities.

Fire First Insurance Priority Grinnell's number one concern and insurance claim for farm buildings is fire. Major causes include malfunction of the electrical system, malfunction of the heating system and lightning damage, says Grinnell's Gary Downey, loss control manager for the southeast region.

Fire stops and/or fire walls are an important line of defense Grinnell looks for in barns.

"We want fire stops every 75 to 100 ft. in the attic space," says Grinnell's Connelly.

Fire stops can be made of sheetrock or some other dense, fire-resistive material. The fire stops should run from an imaginary line from roof eave to the roof peak, covering both sides of one truss and contacting the roof.

"It will prevent a fire from spreading through the attic space and save a building from going down completely if a fire were to start," he explains.

"Some of these hog units are stretching out 400-500 ft. and the owners are not wanting to put fire stops in them," continues Connelly. "We just simply cannot allow insurance coverage to be placed on those units because if a fire were to start and destroy the building, we would be looking at a value of $300,000 or more."

Fire walls also work, Downey says. They run from floor level to peak of the roof. The goal is to build a one-hour fire wall. That means, if you can contain the fire in one area for that amount of time, chances are it will burn itself through the roof, vent the fire, reduce the amount of heat and hopefully the fire department will arrive to stop the fire at that point.

Many of the larger hog units have gone from using sheetrock to building concrete block fire walls and extending them 2 ft. above the roofline, Downey says. The idea is once the fire burns through the roof, it cannot easily traverse the rest of the roofline and spread to the rest of the building.

He stresses it is a very good idea to invite the local fire department over to familiarize them with the layout of your hog operation, where electrical disconnects are located, and where flammable and combustible gases and liquids are located.

The dry hydrant concept is also worth considering. Pipe is laid in the ground to possibly a second-stage lagoon or pond. The opposite end features a connector that can be hooked into fire department hose lines. Once fire-fighting crews have exhausted water supplies, they can tap into the lagoon/pond water or another farm source to continue the fight, rather than having to endure a delay while fire trucks run for more water.

Electrical Wiring It's one of the major causes of farm building fires, says Downey. "Most of the problems we see are a result of a lack of maintenance or misapplication of the equipment," explains Downey.

Check equipment to make sure connections are cleaned and not corroded. If a fuse blows, don't overload the system by putting in a larger fuse.

If you start by having an electrical system properly installed that meets Article 547 of the National Electric Code (NEC), and properly maintain it, you may never have any electrical problems for the life of the building. Downey offers these additional electrical safety tips:

* Use only NEC-approved wiring in wet or corrosive environments, surface mount the wiring.

* If possible, install as much of the electrical system outside of the animal area, in an office or workroom. If the electrical service entrance panel is located in the animal rooms, make sure it is mounted in a moisture, dust and corrosive-resistant enclosure.

* All electrical connections should be made in sealed junction boxes.

* For the outlet and switch box, use a sealed box with gasket between the box and lid.

* Use water-tight globes on lights.

* Install ground-fault circuit interrupters. These have been standard on pressure washers since 1990. These life safety devices are designed for damp areas where electricity may be used.

"I have seen some electrocutions from pressure sprayer washers in the last five to six years," says Downey. Portable units are available if an interrupter isn't built into your sprayer.

* Electric motors should be totally enclosed to keep out moisture and dust.

Ag heaters are a second cause of fire. Make sure they are away from combustible materials. Heat lamps should be hung by chain or cable and not by an electrical cord, says Downey.

LP gas tanks should be properly installed, 10 ft. from buildings for 125-500 gal. tanks and 25 ft. away from barns for 501-2,000-gal. tanks.

Install a lightning surge arrestor at the electrical service entrance to the hog house to prevent an excess lightning charge coming in on the electrical lines, says Downey.

Building Integrity For building trusses, use framing hardware to connect the trusses to the sidewalls and add to its strength. Add proper "X" bracing stiffeners and knee braces for support. Roof snow load rating for trusses should be at least 80% of the expected ground snow load from a 50-year storm in your area, explains Grinnell's Wyatt. Trusses should be built to withstand at least an 80-mph. wind.

Buildings should be spaced at least 50-ft. apart to prevent spread of fire.

Consider installation of alarm systems to warn of temperature changes, power outages and/or unlawful entry to your facilities.

Is your hog barn fit to remodel?

When deciding whether to remodel or raze that hog barn and build new, first have it checked out.

"Before you spend thousands on remodeling, invest maybe $1,000 to really have that building checked out," stresses Gerald Bodman, Extension agricultural engineer at the University of Nebraska. "It's better than spending up to $30,000 in remodeling costs and finding out you've got a problem that should have been identified in the first place." Plan on a thorough engineering evaluation taking at least three hours, he says.

If the building checkup uncovers problems that will cost more than two-thirds the price of building new, Bodman usually advises against remodeling.

"It's not a bad rule of thumb, because when you remodel, there are always things you didn't anticipate that you run into that need fixing," he adds.

Bodman also serves as a consultant to livestock producers and the insurance industry. Here are his tips on how to avoid sinking dollars into a bad building.

* Siting — Building location is a key issue. From a disease control, safety or traffic standpoint, is the building sited where it should be? Is it in the right spot from a manure handling or odor standpoint? Decide if the building is too close to town, to the farm home or oriented the wrong way for prevailing winds. Will the building fit future growth plans?

* Truss support — A lot of corrosion of the truss plates is a sign the building could fail. This occurs because of improper sealing of the plates. The Truss Plate Institute recommends one coat of a coal tar epoxy be applied when the truss is laying flat on the ground. The second coat should go on after trusses are in place. The epoxy should be brushed on to cover all exposed edges.

A big problem occurs when galvanized truss plates are cut out. The edges of the fingers are not galvanized and will rust. An alternative is to use a stainless steel plate.

A second problem Bodman sees on newer structures blown down by recent storms is improper installation of truss plates. "Many of them were not pushed all the way in," he says. Truss plates are put on with hydraulic pressure. If the pressure clamps are not set correctly, the plates will not seat properly.

"I am telling people to look at the trusses when they are delivered, and if the plates are not seated properly, reject them," emphasizes Bodman.

Truss problems worsen with age of the building and make those barns unsuitable for remodeling. Once trusses fail, they can't be reused, he notes.

* Sagging of the ridgeline — This means that bracing is failing and there are basic structural problems within the building. Bracing must be designed for wind loads and snow loads. A building sagging or knocked down due to improper bracing is a poor candidate for remodeling, stresses the Nebraska ag engineer.

* Foundation failure — Evidence that the building foundation has begun to fail includes cracking of the concrete and buckling of posts or walls.

* Concrete slats — The biggest breakdown with this flooring is 4-in.-thick slats used in grow-finish when 5-in. depths are needed. "The problem is we are having difficulty finding suppliers that will provide them, because from a trucking standpoint, if they cut an inch off the depth, it saves a lot of weight," he says.

Especially when slats are more than 8-ft. long, they need to be 5 in. thick to retain structural soundness. He tells producers to check slats carefully. If they are sagging more than half an inch from their own weight (no pigs in pens), the building is probably a poor choice for remodeling. When slats sag, hairline cracks develop on the underside. It also means the reinforcing steel is corroding and deteriorating.

Trying to replace poor quality gang slats is difficult. Equipment can't be brought in because of the limited work area in facilities. And slats won't support the concentrated weight of a skid-steer loader, states Bodman. What producers are doing is cutting them and taking them out by hand, one piece at a time, which is a lot of work," he says. Pen partitions frequently limit access to the slats.

* Underfloor manure storage — Pit walls and floors can indeed be a source of manure leaks, Bodman adds. Engineers recommend rebar at least every 18 in. Some builders install rebar every 4 ft. The result has been cracks up to almost 11/44-in. wide and leaks.

Where concrete floors in pits are only 4-in. thick, the result often is cracks up to 11/48 in. wide. When 5-in.-thick concrete pit floors are used, cracks are eliminated.

* Rodent damage — Almost ignored these days, rodent damage can make a hog barn unfit to be remodeled, stresses Bodman. He tries to make that evaluation by checking out the holes in the wood and tracking by the rodents. If there are mouse holes, they have probably destroyed much of the insulation, but the basic frame may still be salvageable.

To demonstrate the impact of rodents, Bodman and other researchers set up several trials. A pair of mice were placed in an enclosure with a 4x4 ft. wall section, representative of the walls of a building, and allowed to reproduce. Eight kinds of insulation were used.

Within six months, all of the insulation was affected. Some 50-60% was damaged, the rest destroyed.

"From an environmental standpoint, it was going to be a very expensive building to operate," points out Bodman. That doesn't count the loss of feed spoiled by the rodents or the feed they ate.

* Electrical wiring — When electrical wiring is embedded in the walls and not surface mounted, there is a 50-50 chance of damage if rodents are present. That greatly increases the fire risk and makes it a poor risk for remodeling.

Check with a qualified ag engineer about what structural or electrical codes should be met.

Test Or Challenge Feeding

I'd like to address those U.S. producers who haven't yet fully realized how important this new way of feeding grow-finish pigs is.

What is it, and how did the idea start?

Some 15 years ago in Europe, we realized that different pig genotypes (a genotype is what's inside an animal's genetic make-up as distinct from a phenotype, which is what the animal looks like) needed rather different nutritional specifications. This resulted in the "feeds for the breeds" concept which soon caught on.

Ten years ago, more than 40% of British genotypes were being fed with a customized diet to suit, as closely as possible, breed differences.

After a while, we noticed that the same genotypes in standard housing but on different farms were giving puzzlingly different performance responses. We saw a difference of as much as 25 lb. of saleable meat per ton of food, which in money at the time was equivalent to a price difference per ton of 9%.

Any farmer would kill to get a feed that much cheaper for the same performance yield.

Thinking Caps So certain feed companies put on their thinking caps. They came to the conclusion that while environmental differences between the farms were a little different, the only major difference left must be the disease status of the different farms' pig populations. This was true particularly with the amount of food energy needed to build up a good protective immune barrier where the pathogen or virus challenge was high.

But the problem remained of how to know which farms needed the high immune status and which pigs didn't. They both looked healthy enough. But those needing the higher immunity barrier just grew slower and converted worse.

This was elegantly demonstrated by Tim Stahly's team (Iowa State University) in 1995. They showed that protein gain/day was 62% more in lean genotype pigs, which virtually didn't have to cope with a high disease challenge. With little or no immunity to invest in, they would use all the nutrients to especially grow lean.

Test Or Challenge Feeding The veterinarians said they could help, but their test would be cumbersome and expensive.

So it was decided to test or challenge a representative group (about 50 growing pigs) on each farm twice a year, both summer and winter. They would use what nutritionists call "a non-limiting diet," one where nearly every ingredient is provided a little more generously than the textbooks advise. The pigs could help themselves.

These 50 or so pigs were carefully monitored for total growth and for lean growth, using an expensive lean profile saddle-scanner. Environmental conditions, disease status, feed consumed, etc., were also recorded and sent to the nutritionist along with the carcass grades.

The nutritionist was then able to construct a lean accretion curve for those pigs on that farm at that time. No, you don't do this work. The feed compounder sends a person to do it.

From there, it was a simple job (for the nutritionist) to design a best-cost diet to meet that particular lean growth curve. We call it an FSD (Farm Specific Diet). In American terminology, it's a sort of ultra-customized diet to suit individual buildings if needed, let alone individual farms.

Very few results have been published in Europe (although plenty exist) because the concept was developed commercially, and the pioneer feed companies wanted to keep the good news under wraps.

But I can show you some results in Table 1, which are fairly typical. Anything giving a 21% higher net profit is worth exploring on your farm, even if the feed costs 7% more as in this case.

Price/Ton Gone? This brings me on to what could be an earth-shattering thought. If FSDs catch on universally, then price per ton just doesn't matter any more. Sure, the FSD food will cost more because the cost of the test and the diet design work needed has to be loaded on to their price per ton quotation.

But if the margin over feed cost is higher (as it nearly always is), then the increased price per ton doesn't matter, because you'll win in profit terms anyway.

Come to think of it, as most feed selling is still done on price, then the expensive feed salesman method of selling is largely redundant.

Here's a little secret. One feed firm has reduced and re-trained their 40 or more reps down to 10 or fewer specialists in this concept, and cut 60% off their sales costs.

A Multiplicity Of Diets I can hear you say, "It won't work. No feed company with, say, 500 grow-out customers can make 500 different diets!"

Sorry, you're wrong. All the specifications can be made from two, or at most three, diets delivered to your farm and put into two or three separate bins. You then blend the diets to achieve the correct FSD for your pigs. You can do this either by computerized instruction, or the feed company can do it from a distance over a land-line at night.

The on-farm methodology just needs organizing and a blender installed, about the size of a TV set. So it's not expensive.

No wonder the feed trade, now sweating under conventional production methods and needing to sell 10-20 different grower diets, looks favorably on doing the lot with only three.

Sure, this farm blending idea is much easier and so much cheaper with a wet (pipeline feeding) system installed. But I've hammered Americans to get into pipeline wet feeding for years and this is just more evidence of the fact that the future of grow-out feeding lies this way.

Home-Grown Information Even if the U.S. is a bit slow in cottoning-on to pipeline feeding, you are doing great work in developing the test/challenge feeding concept yourselves.

I refer you to American research specialists like Steve Dritz and Mike Tokach. There are others. So listen to them and read up on their work. Many U.S. feed companies are looking at it, too. In the field, Jim Pettigrew is an independent consultant in this subject.

New Postweaning Disease Hits Industry

It appears to be a new disease. And it already has a very descriptive name, which just about sums up current knowledge on it: Postweaning Multi-Systemic Wasting Syndrome or PMWS.

PMWS appears to be caused by porcine circovirus. But wait a minute. Didn't researchers talk about porcine circovirus a few years ago, and never found it much of a threat?

New Circovirus? Yes, that's true. Scientists say, however, this porcine circovirus is a different strain. And very possibly a big part of the difference is its link with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), which has been found in a majority of the PMWS cases in the U.S.

"We don't really know enough about the prevalence and the incidence to say how much of a problem porcine circovirus is," says Paul Sundberg, DVM, director of Veterinary Issues, National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).

To find out just how prevalent the virus is, NPPC is using production checkoff funding to move fast to get ahead of the curve, he stresses. We really need to find out what the disease is, how the virus is related to the syndrome, and how to control it before we can say how much of a threat it is to the health of herds, Sundberg stresses.

NPPC convened a summit on circovirus where they put out the call to industry to conduct basic research. NPPC has allotted about $95,000 for circovirus research. Proposals were due Aug. 7 with the research to be funded this year.

"The problem with this circovirus syndrome is that when you get weight loss in postweaning pigs, the list of possibilities can be very long and include infectious and non-infectious causes," explains Sundberg.

A lab diagnostician in Canada has reproduced the disease and the circovirus has been recovered after being given to germ-free pigs. John Lewis, DVM, University of Saskatchewan, says PMWS caused some of the lesions seen with the disease, but not all of them.

Tough Disease Back in the U.S., NPPC's Sundberg says he has heard from diagnostic labs that have been asked to look for the virus in Iowa, Indiana (Purdue), Minnesota and Nebraska. "But all of those labs also said they are not getting overwhelmed with cases," he notes.

Still, the few cases being reported concerns NPPC. In those cases, it's common to see 8- to -10-week-old postweaning pigs that are unthrifty, listless, develop rough hair, and have difficulty breathing.

Steve Sorden, DVM, at Iowa State University's (ISU) diagnostic lab, says there is no effective treatment for the syndrome. All antibiotics have been tried to no avail. "Producers have been seeing 10% death loss in their nurseries and they are trying to live with it," Sorden says.

His advice: If you see unthrifty pigs develop after weaning, don't wait for any further signs. Isolate those pigs immediately. Follow good management practices by paying attention to feed and water availability, housing conditions and good husbandry. Consider having a veterinarian submit a tissue sample to a lab.

Sorden adds he has just started to isolate this new circovirus from lungs and lymph nodes. These days his workload appears to be on the rise. There was one case reported to the diagnostic lab in the fall of 1996. After that, a case would pop up now and again. But this year, the lab has seen 65 cases. The lab now averages about two cases a week.

Perry Harms, DVM, who is at ISU pursuing a graduate degree studying porcine circovirus, says in herds with PMWS, 5-15% of a group of pigs are usually affected. He says at least half of the cases studied have also had PRRS. Pneumonia and salmonella have also been identified as secondary problems.

A bigger question to Sorden is how many pigs get infected but never show any clinical signs. "We say that 10% got sick. Are the other 90% not infected, or did they get infected and recover and we never saw it?" he questions. And why is it that when affected pigs are separated, some continue to waste away, while others recover, asks Sorden.

Source Of Infection In Iowa, most problems have occurred in farms that purchased imported feeder pigs, and sometimes early weaned pigs, according to Sorden.

In his view of these cases, not enough is known about PMWS to determine if porcine circovirus or PRRS is the primary disease agent. "We just know that they are together and we can identify that in the diagnostic lab," Sorden says.

At South Dakota State University's diagnostic lab, Kurt Rossow, DVM, says he has only seen six cases of this new porcine circovirus - and all six have had a dual infection with PRRS. He's seen Streptoccous suis, Pasteurella multocida and Haemophilus parasuis as secondary bacterial infections.

Other Countries "They've known about a porcine circovirus for about 20 years in Germany," Sorden says. "And basically it had not been associated with any disease. They did some studies where they looked at blood samples from slaughter pigs and found most pigs had antibodies to this virus, but they weren't able to associate any disease with it except there was some evidence that it might be involved with Shaker Pig Syndrome."

PMWS has also been detected in hog herds in France, Spain and Ireland.

Since 1995-96, it has been reported in western Canada. Some cases have been severe, affecting half the herd. Problems have been the least in the best-managed herds. Management practices like all-in, all-out have helped to reduce its impact.

A Case For Growing Your Own Leader

Helping employees develop their managerial and leadership skills while working on your farm can have some unexpected benefits.

Loretta Leman, in charge of staff development at Swine Graphics Enterprises, L.P. relates this reaction from a college-age son of an employee who saw his Dad change for the better.

Leman says the son described his dad as "more relaxed, less judgmental, easier to talk to and a better listener." His dad is a farm manager at Swine Graphics Enterprises, headquartered in Webster City, IA. The company employs 110 people who work in hog operations with 20,000 sows.

At Swine Graphics, they like to promote people from within the company and train them to be managers and leaders, one of their strong points as a company, believes Leman.

"It's a good business decision to prepare people with the training so they have a better chance to be successful," Leman adds. (See sidebar on training program, page S-15.)

One of the benefits for the company is more people stay longer in an industry where employee turnover tends to be fairly high.

Murphy Family Farms shares this belief in strong leadership training and promoting from within.

Finding The Best Spot "Nearly all the people we have in management positions today are what we call home grown," says Stacy Bond, human resources and training manager at Murphy Family Farms in the Nevada, MO, operation.

Bond, too, is testament to the promote-from-within philosophy. She joined the operation about three years ago after being a vice president at a financial institution. Her first assignment was in the breeding facilities where she swept barns and moved pigs.

"When they hired me, they told me they knew there was opportunity for me here, but they didn't know exactly where it was," she says. "I didn't either. But by starting on rung one of the ladder, I was able to keep an open mind to where I fit best.

"If they had put me in the job I'm in now, right at the start, I would have failed," Bond adds. "I had to understand the business first."

Murphy Family Farms has 1,900 employees and more than 300,00 sows. Many of the employees have stories similar to Bond's.

Doug Tennal, for example, was a jeweler who wanted to do something different. He started with Murphy Family Farms three years ago by working on a sow farm. With hard work and initiative, Bond says Tennel has progressed to manager over two farms with a total of 7,300 sows and 30 people.

Bond offered one final example: the person now in charge of Murphy's entire Midwest production operations, Stephen Summerlin, started as a powerwasher when he was a teenager.

Building Leaders Pays The bottom line is that Murphy Family Farms has found that developing their own leaders is more cost effective than raiding the competition.

"We have taken a person and have worked with them and trained them," Bond explains. "We have time and money invested in that person. We have a history with them and we know they are going to be successful in the job they are taking on.

"If we brought somebody in externally, we wouldn't know what they could produce." she adds. "There would also be a time frame of building their knowledge before they would be productive.

"I honestly can't remember when we last had a manager leave to go somewhere else," she says. "This process is working."

Identifying Leader Potential "We think of potential similar to a silver platter," Bond says. "We automatically provide some things to all employees. Then it is the person who takes the initiative to learn more - goes beyond what's offered on the platter - who gets to advance to the next levels."

Identifying potential leaders, however, starts at the interview stage. Murphy Family Farms uses an interview process through Talent Plus, a Nebraska firm. With it, there is a series of structured questions that help identify the interviewee's talents.

"Once a person is hired, we provide the best training we can," says Bond. "You can then start to tell if they are going to be leaders. Do they try to learn the information on their own or is it always going to be fed to them from the silver platter?"

Another part of the process is succession planning that involves the managers. As Bond explains, this is a monthly meeting where you get together with the managers and talk about employees with potential.

"The manager will say, 'Here are the observable skills and traits I see.' We discuss that person's potential and then we look at the needs within the company," Bond explains. "For example, you have Joe who has exhibited leadership capabilities and is a highly detailed-type person. We know that in about four months, we are probably going to have a position on one of our sow farms , for example, that requires a detail-type person with leadership ability.

"Maybe that is a good fit for Joe," Bond continues. "Then we discuss what are we doing today and going to do from here on to develop Joe to meet that need we see coming up in the near future."

They also place time frames on people during those succession planning sessions. Maybe Joe has the capability of assuming a leadership role within four months. But, for someone else, it may take 6-8 months because he/she still has more things to work on and learn.

"Once we identify the potential, we start really developing those people," Bond says. That's where an extensive training program (beyond their basic education and training programs) comes in.

"We get to see how they interact in classes and then their managers watch to see how they apply what they learn in their everyday work life," she adds.

Seven Traits Of Leaders Leman of Swine Graphics Enterprises lists some traits they watch for in leaders at the managerial level.

"We don't have a formal test or a process that identifies employees who have leadership potential," Leman says. "But we know what we're looking for."

Some traits they watch for include:

1. A desire to lead. Some people are more task-oriented and just want to do their own job and not have to supervise people - and that's okay. Others are people- and task-oriented and can get great production and efficiency out of those task-oriented people.

2. Proven work habits. Potential leaders must have shown that they are dependable, take initiative, are committed to the company, are organized and have a sense of urgency in getting things done, Leman says. They must also be problem solvers rather than let things go.

3. Effectiveness with people. They must have an attitude of service and helping other people in their jobs. They must communicate well, which includes deep listening and being clear, respectful and honest in their communications. They also must show courage in addressing and resolving conflicts on their own level rather than expecting their supervisors to solve those problems.

Another trait to watch for is the ability to do the hard things. Leman explains that when a leader is supervising people he/she will sometimes have to do things that aren't popular, such as giving constructive feedback, disciplining and terminating. It's important to ask: Can the person do those things in a respectful way?

4. Personal insight and understanding. They should recognize that they have a lot to learn; they should know their own strengths and areas needing improvement.

5. Being a good example. They must be hard workers and able to lead themselves, says Leman. They should have personal goals and ambitions they are working toward. They must be avid learners, always wanting to learn and better themselves.

6. Big-picture thinking. They must have a picture of the whole, how the parts fit together and how people fit in. They must avoid getting muddled in the smaller things.

7. Solid production and technical skills. If they are going to be leading in an area, they have to be very good at doing what they will be supervising.

Nobody gets to take a shortcut at Swine Graphics Enterprises when it comes to training. That's how important they view their three-stage, in-house program.

Stage 1: The first stage is simply orientation to their specific job in the company whether it is production, support or office work, according to Loretta Leman with Swine Graphics. They also have a full day of company orientation. Stage 1 training is required.

Stage 2: This focuses on the basic skills of pig husbandry, says Leman. But there's also a lot of emphasis on interpersonal skills.

"We have more people coming in who have never really had experience with pigs before," Leman says. "Those employees need the basic production and technical training. This is also the stage where they learn to do those things the way we have found to be successful."

Focus for the interpersonal skills includes how to be a good team member, handling change, communicating effectively, dealing with difficult people, managing your own stress, and how to receive constructive criticism.

A three-day, team-building course is part of the Stage 2 training. "It probably impacts our company more than anything else we teach," she adds."It focuses on how to be an effective team member, how to work with people more effectively, how to give each other feedback and correction, how to handle your own conflicts within the team, how to build team decisions and how to conduct effective meetings.

"Another prime course is 'The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,' which has to do with leading yourself and managing your own life," she says. "We also stress continuous quality improvement, customer service, personal improvement, and improvement of job processes and systems.

There are no shortcuts. This Stage 2 training adds up to about three weeks of classes spread out over a year.

Stage 3: Managerial leadership training is required for those who are managers or anyone who wants to advance to be a manager.

There's a production side and a people side to this training, too.

The production side covers management skills in farm operations, including managing animals, schedules, projections, systems, finance, quality, community relations, manure management, etc., Leman says.

On the people side, topics include things like giving constructive performance feedback, handling complaints and delegating effectively. It also i ncludes legal issues such as sexual harassment in the workplace, interviewing and hiring. This stage of training can take a couple of years with meetings one day per month.

What all this does, Leman says, is help people be happier in their jobs because it better prepares them to fit into the Swine Graphics Enterprises culture. And it's a job that's right for them.

Building A More Durable Finisher

There are seven key construction features that need to be addressed when building or remodeling a double-curtain-sided finishing building, reports consulting agricultural engineer Larry Christenson of Kalona, IA.

Two such types of finishers are used primarily in the Midwest. The first features a flat, insulated ceiling with some type of mechanical ventilation for cool weather operation. The second unit is naturally ventilated all seasons.

The second type of structure features either insulation on the roof line or a raised, insulated ceiling with some type of continuous ridge opening or box chimneys to provide exhaust of warm air.

Following are seven features Christenson says hog producers can use to add longevity to those structures:

1. Overhang enclosure: Many of both types of finishers utilize an overhang on both sidewalls formed by the extension of a truss chord. Most agricultural builders in the Midwest enclose this overhang with metal trim to protect it from the elements and to restrict bird entry.

Christenson recommends covering the bottom of the overhang with a solid material or solid soffit.

"This will eliminate the entry of dust and moisture-laden air into the attic area," he says. Warm air migrates from the animal room as the curtains begin to open from the top down. Warm air and dust rises and travels up along the sidewall toward the bottom side of the overhang. The closed soffit will keep the dust from collecting on the bottom side of the roof metal and settling on the insulation, reducing its effectiveness.

Also, warm, moist air is restricted from the attic area. During cool weather this moist air would condense on and deteriorate the underside of the roof metal and fall into ceiling insulation, causing serious damage, explains Christenson.

The air from the animal room should also be restricted from the attic to prevent recycling of contaminated air back into the animal room in those buildings with ceiling inlets for cool season mechanical ventilation.

Wind-driven snow is also restricted from entering the attic area with the use of solid-soffit covering, says Christenson.

2. Attic air openings: These inlets are needed to allow fresh air to enter and moisture and warm air to exit the attic area. A second function for these openings on double-curtain-sided finishers with flat ceilings is to provide air entrance for cool season room ventilation when exhaust fans are used, he points out.

Make sure there are adequate openings into the attic area for ventilation air before it enters the animal space.

"When you close the sidewall overhangs (soffits), the only place we can bring the air in is through the ridge vents and gable extensions," explains Christenson. His recommendation is to add a gable extension to both ends of the building by extending the roof and gable end out at the top of the wall and forming a horizontal opening to allow air passage into the attic area. This extension can provide a 12 in. or greater opening across the endwall. It should be built with a door to close the majority of the opening during extremely cold weather operation.

Christenson says producers should install roof ridge vents so they provide about half of the needed opening area into the attic for those facilities using cool season mechanical ventilation. His choice is the high profile, 10-ft.-long units with a wide throat opening. Low-profile vents may plug when there is significant roof snow load, he points out.

3. Vapor barrier and proper sealing: Install an adequate vapor barrier and seal all openings between the animal room and the structural interior. This is vital to keeping animal moisture, gases and dust from making contact and causing deterioration to the framing lumber, insulation or steel sheathing, says the Iowa agricultural engineer.

The sidewall vapor barrier should be installed on the inside of the wall and all seams and joints properly caulked.

For buildings with ceilings, apply the vapor barrier to the bottom side of the insulation before the covering is attached. Insure that all joints and seams between the ceiling covering, sidewalls and endwalls are sealed to eliminate air leaks.

For roof insulation, one method of construction is to place 4x8-ft. sheets of rigid board insulation between the roof purlins and the roof steel. Joints must be sealed on the bottom side to prevent moisture from traveling into the joints and condensing when it strikes the roof metal, causing deterioration.

The best method is to add a full-coverage vapor barrier on the underside of the insulation and/or framing.

The same naturally ventilated building as previously described can be constructed using a scissors truss to support a raised, insulated ceiling. An effective vapor barrier and caulking can easily be installed to add longer service life to the building.

4. Sidewall curtain openings: Finishing building curtains should seal tightly against the sidewalls when closed during winter, Christenson emphasizes. Use a large staple at the top of the curtain opening to hold the stay rope flush to the sidewall. The standoff bracket at the bottom of the curtain should be rigid to firmly hold the lower end of the stay rope.

"Without adequate tension in the stay ropes, winter winds will pull the top of the curtain away from the sidewall and allow heat to escape the animal room," he says. Properly installed hardware, which firmly seals the closed curtain against the building, will reduce air loss and thus the heating expense.

5. Durable ceiling material : Use a durable ceiling material to extend the service life of your building. Remember the covering on a flat or raised ceiling adds significantly to the structural integrity of the building.

Christenson recommends using ribbed steel, aluminum, fiberglass or plywood with some type of protective covering for the ceiling material.

Polyethylene sheeting is a less durable product. This cross-laminated sheeting, when used on the ceiling, provides no structural integrity and no fire resistance, he says.

6. Siting: A large number of hog buildings have collapsed the past several winters in the Midwest due to drifting snow at farm and building sites. Producers should evaluate the building site with regard to snow drift and roof snow load potentials, Christenson says.

Buildings should be sited at least 100 ft. (140 ft. recommended) south of a farmstead shelterbelt.

"This will keep the buildings out of the snow drop or catch zone created by the windbreak," he explains. This distance will still provide northern direction wind protection for the buildings.

A set of buildings placed at an open site should also be protected from snow drifting and the potential for large snow accumulations on sheltered building sections. At an open site, the northern-most building provides a windbreak for the other buildings and may result in large drifts across the sheltered areas of buildings to the south. Christenson suggests producers consider installing a snow fence or use large bales at a 50-to-70-ft, distance to the north and west to form a temporary snow fence.

7. Roof snow load: Evaluate potential snow load accumulation at your building site. Christenson advises producers to think about increasing the potential snow-carrying ability of buildings by adding 10 lb. of roof-bearing capacity at about 1% of the total building cost. "That is very economical insurance," says Christenson.

Cup Waterer Doesn't 'Runneth Over'

It was only one trial comparing two types of hog waterers. But it made a believer out of Iowa pork producer Kirk Nelson.

A few years ago, the Aurelia, IA, producer convinced his contract production partner, Land O' Lakes (LOL), to allow him to do a trial comparing cup and nipple waterers.

Conditions were about as objective for the 3-month trial as they could be, he recalls. His two, 1,000-head, contract finishing buildings were brand new so the water meters LOL had installed read zero. All of the LOL contract pigs came in at a start weight of 45-50 lb. They were all single-source pigs. And they all entered the facilities on the same day.

Each finishing building contains three rooms of 16 pens each, including one sick pen. Two adjoining rooms in one of the contract finishers were set up for Nelson's trial. In one room, there are 16 pens with a single cup waterer for 22-head average capacity. The cup waterers chosen for the trial by Nelson were the Suevia brand sold by Primeline Marketing, Cherokee, IA. The second room included two, standard, adjustable nipple waterers mounted in each of the 16 pens. The trial ended when all of the pigs went to market at 250-260 lb.

Cups Win Handily Nelson says LOL let him run the trial and decide if there was any difference in the two watering systems.

The results were almost staggering. "In that 3-month period, 10,000 less gal. of water was used in the room with cup waterers compared to that in the nipple drinker room," he observes. "I am not saying that the cups were the only factor for the water savings, but I guess I feel they had a lot to do with it."

That kind of water savings is due specifically to the design of the bowl waterer, says Nelson. The pig puts his snout inside the waterer, triggering the valve that releases the water. But he cannot trigger the release of more water than he can drink at one time.

"Pigs really can't get in there and play with the waterer," explains Terry Johnson, owner of Primeline Marketing. "When they get their snout in there and activate the pin which releases the water, they either drink the water or they can't breathe because when the water cup gets full it puts their nostrils under water."

The Suevia line of hog waterers is made in Germany. Primeline Marketing is the U.S. importer and sells the product wholesale to dealers who sell the line of five different models to producers. Models range from a size for newborns up to a size for large hogs over 280 lbs.

Johnson says the model Nelson has in one of his buildings and was used in the trial is the 95R, designed for hogs from 8 lb. to 280 lb. The models fit the pig's snout, to prevent water waste.

Johnson warns if the producer attempts to use model 95R in a wean-to-finish system, where pigs might start on the cups as small as 8 lb., the producer will encounter some water spillage.

Water Savings Go Far Using the cup waterer can create water savings in several ways, according to Nelson. If you are hooked up to rural water lines for your main water source or as a backup, cup waterers can reduce your water bill, he says.

Also, reducing water waste can turn into some real dollar savings if you are paying for manure removal, he says. "Right now, if you are hauling in excess of a mile away from your farm location, it will cost you at least a penny a gallon to hire a custom manure hauler, and it's probably going to be higher than that," Nelson observes. Hauling a million gal. at a penny a gallon is $10,000. Cup waterers could help cut that cost, he notes.

Getting water medication into a group of sick pigs can be critical, too. The less water wasted, the better job of medicating, according to Nelson.

Low Maintenance For Nelson, another big plus he has realized from the bowl waterer is low labor and maintenance. With the 95R for 50 lb. to finish, there are no height adjustments. Set it at 4-5 in. from the floor to the lip of the bowl and leave it there, he says. With traditional nipple waterers, he reports having to adjust the height at least twice during grow-finish.

The valve is the only moving part to be replaced in the Suevia cup waterer, says Johnson. It has taken several years before Nelson replaced any of the springs and the O ring in the valves.

The waterers are made of cast iron with a porcelain finish. If one ever breaks from normal use, it will be replaced free of charge, says Johnson. Since 1989, when the waterer was introduced to the U.S., not a single waterer has had to be replaced from damage during normal use, he says.

The only way the waterer has broken is when a producer installed it on a gate and over-tightened a bolt.

In addition to finishing, Nelson runs a 200-sow, farrow-to-finish farm.

Delegates To Consider Voluntary Checkoff

Next month, pork producer delegates will decide the fate of a proposal for a new voluntary checkoff. The proposed checkoff, called a voluntary investment program (V.I.P.), is for 5 cents/market hog or sow. It would be used to fund the growing need for lobbying, legal and export trade efforts. Both state producer groups and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) would share the proceeds equally.

The current mandatory Pork Act checkoff can only be used for producer education, pork promotion and research.

The NPPC delegates will hold their special session Sept. 15 in Washington, DC, just prior to the annual NPPC legislative seminar. During the annual Pork Industry Forum held last March, the NPPC delegates approved holding the special session this fall to consider the voluntary checkoff. This gave the delegates time to visit with their constituents about the proposal.

Since Pork Forum, at least two states held delegate meetings. In Iowa, delegates gathered to discuss the proposal. Because a quorum was not present, no official action was taken. But in an informal vote, the attendees overwhelmingly approved the voluntary checkoff, according to the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

In Illinois, producers openly discussed the issue during a special delegate meeting of the Illinois Pork Producers Association. No official position was taken.

The Minnesota Pork Producers Association board of directors voted to have their delegates vote in favor of the program.

The resolution for the V.I.P. includes the following points:

* Initiation of a voluntary investment program at point of animal sale;

* A minimum level of 5 cents/market hog or sow;

* Funds from the V.I.P. would be split with 50% to state producer groups and 50% to NPPC; and,

* The Packer Processor Industry Council (PPIC) be strongly urged to establish their own V.I.P. contribution of 2.5 cents/market hog or sow with all funds going to NPPC.

The current Pork Act checkoff does not change with approval of this voluntary checkoff. The mandatory checkoff rate is 45 cents/$100 value of market hogs. It raised $61 million in 1997.

Because these funds cannot be used for legal, legislative and export work, both NPPC and state producer groups have needed to raise non-checkoff funds. NPPC generates $2.6 million/year through World Pork Expo, industry contributions and PPIC. That money is used mainly to fund NPPC's Washington, DC, office.

In total, state producer groups generate about $3 million in non-checkoff funds through membership, trade shows and allied industry contributions.

But as the environmental, legislative, and legal needs increase for states in particular, non-checkoff money is running short. A special non-checkoff working group of NPPC producers made this conclusion, according to Charlie Harness, NPPC vice president of communications.

The group concluded that the non-checkoff needs at the state level will increase 25% and at NPPC 20% each year for the next three years. This will be a total of $3.25 million/year more for each of the next three years.

Retrofitting Buildings

As we look at potentially low market prices for an extended period of time, we need to ask ourselves as producers how to minimize our costs. The answer will not be the same for all producers.

Case Study No. 1 Our first case is an example of a decision many producers face - maintain their own finishing barns or contract finish in new facilities. Many producers have older, less-efficient facilities, but they are paid for and fully depreciated. Feed efficiency is poor. To improve efficiency, better facilities are needed. Then the question is asked, "How much can we afford to pay for new buildings?"

This producer is a 200-sow, farrow-to-finish operator who finishes pigs in various old barns in his immediate area. In most of these farms, the only obligation he has is the upkeep of the farm and buildings. However, the feed efficiencies are between 3.4 and 3.9. He had the opportunity to put pigs in a contract finishing barn for a payment of $36/pig/year. If he is able to turn the barn 2.7 times, his cost per pig is $13.33. He asked us for some advice.

We advised him that it was important to look at the feed efficiency for his existing locations and insure that it was accurate. We also advised him to figure what improvement he could expect in his new location. If feed cost is 6 cents/lb., a 0.7 feed efficiency improvement would equal $9.10/pig.

The producer has to decide if he can get enough feed efficiency improvement and other advantages to justify the additional $13/pig expense.

In this example, he made the decision to do some minor repairs and replace the feeders. He did not feel he would see a big enough improvement to justify the increased building payment of the contract finisher. If he is able to keep his feed efficiency under 3.6 consistently, he felt he would have a lower, overall cost of production. If he is unable to control his feed efficiency and he needs to lighten his work load, contract finishing is more appealing.

The decision simply comes down to cost justification of added expense. If the improvement in performance does not easily cover the added production cost, it is not a sound management decision.

Case Study No. 2 Our second case is an example of a comparison of two, 1,500-sow farms. Both of these farms are breed-to-wean with weaned pigs going off site. One is a new farm with an overall construction cost of around $1,000 per sow.

The second is a 600-sow farm that converted existing facilities and built some new facilities to reach 1,500 sows. His total remodeling cost was $150,000 with an existing debt on the facility for $300,000. His total finished cost was $450,000 or $300/sow.

It is not completely fair to compare these farms side by side from a facility standpoint. But from a cost standpoint, it does show the difference of a facility cost/pig. Some older farms with less debt will have some advantages over the more expensive facilities at least for the short term.

The first farm with the new facilities had a principal and interest cost of $6.94/pig, based on 22 pigs/sow/year spread over 10 years.

At the same production level and time frame, the second farm with the remodeling had a principal and interest cost of $2.18/pig for a $4.76 advantage over the other new farm.

Production greatly affects the facility cost per pig. We are assuming equal production levels between the two farms.

This is an example of a producer using some equity in his existing building to keep facility cost and overall production cost down.

A couple of disadvantages with the remodeling is that it may not be as saleable as a newer unit. Plus, employees may rather work in a new barn than an older, remodeled one.

Individualize There are many factors that go into making decisions about which direction to take in the industry. It is important that each producer look at his own situation and decide what is best.

When approaching the decision from a cost basis, three-site system and contract growers may not always be the best paths to take. There may not be enough improvement in performance in these systems to justify the increase in cost over your current system.

Remodeling buildings and using existing building equity will allow some producers to lower overall cost of production. Many of our producers who have stayed independent and expanded and retrofitted their facilities over time have a lower cost of production than the newer systemswith newly constructed facilities. Facility cost per pig is not the only difference but it is a significant contributor.

However, the decision to change your production system is not always a financially driven one. Reducing work load, outdated genetics, and buildings with no salvageable value also are key things to consider when looking at your future in this industry.

Regardless of what the hog market outlook is, survivors in this industry will identify what they are good at and where their advantage is so they can capitalize on it.