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Articles from 2001 In August

Winning the Hearts of Consumers

USDA Scientists Use Japanese Technology To Treat Manure

Scientists at the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Florence, SC, center are using municipal waste water treatment systems from Japan to treat hog manure in North Carolina.

The system uses large populations of bacteria, inside polymer gel pellets, to break down the ammonia in manure into nitrite and then into nitrate. This process is called nitrification. Subsequently, the nitrate is converted to nitrogen, in a process called denitrification.

ARS scientists Matias Vanotti and Patrick Hunt are the first to apply this treatment to large-scale U.S. production facilities.

In a swine operation, the system works like this:

First, manure is pumped to lagoons to settle the solids. The liquid is pumped into a tank, or reactor, equipped with an aeration system and the bacteria-laden pellets, which occupy 7 to 15% of the tank’s volume, and the ammonia turns to nitrite.

Then, the nitrite is converted to nitrogen gas – denitrification – that occurs under reduced oxygen conditions.

The researchers found that the pellets removed 97 to 100% of ammonia in small-scale tests.

Then, the technology was applied to a 2,600-head nursery at Kenansville, NC, which uses a flushing system to recycle liquid to a single-stage lagoon.

The pilot unit was evaluated in 1998 and 1999, and the nitrification rates were more than 90% in the second year.

Then the researchers developed a second pilot system without a lagoon. The solids and liquid were separated with polyacrylamid (PAM) treatment.

Then the nitrification/denitrification with the pellets. PAM is a water-soluble polymer that clumps the fine particles into larger particles.

During 2000, the team, along with researchers from North Carolina State University, evaluated the second system.

The solids separation reduced the 98% of the oxygen demand, Vanotti says. Combined with the pellet technology, the system reduced nitrogen concentration from 675 ppm to fewer than 25 ppm.

A full-scale demonstration system is planned for a 4,360 head Smithfield Foods farm in Duplin County. The system will separate solids and liquid and make a soil-free growth medium from the solids. It will remove the nitrogen and phosphorus from the wastewater and recycle the cleaned water.

Researchers: Patrick G. Hunt and Matias B. Vanotti. Phone Hunt at (843) 669-5203 or email:

Extruded soybean meal offers no advantage to growth performance

University of Nebraska researchers completed two experiments to study the effect of extruded/expelled soybean meal (ESBM) on growth performance of pigs.

ESBM is produced by mechanical friction creating a high temperature for a short time period. The quality and nutritional value is affected by this production method. The final product has about 7% fat, compared with less than 1% fat in conventional soybean meal.

The first experiment was a 28-day nursery trial in which 480 crossbred pigs were housed in an environmentally controlled nursery. They were weaned at 11 to 14 days and averaged 9.05 lb. Pigs were assigned 20/pen, 10 barrows and 10 gilts.

Diets contained either conventional or ESBM and contained similar percentages of digestible lysine.

Two feeding phases were used. Phase 1 diets were fed from day 0 to 14 days and phase 2 from day 14 to 28 days. Pig and feeder weights were recorded weekly and blood samples were collected on days 0, 14 and 28 for urea nitrogen analysis.


Pigs fed the conventional SBM diet had better average daily gain (ADG) and average daily feed intake (ADFI) than the pigs fed the ESBM diet.

On days 14 and 28, plasma urea concentrations were greater for pigs fed the ESBM diet.

In the second experiment, 240 pigs from experiment 1 were selected to continue in the grow-finish phase of the study.

One hundred twenty pigs, each from the ESBM and control groups, were housed in a modified open-front building with 10 pigs/pen (5 barrows and 5 gilts.) They were assigned to either ESBM or control diets, creating four possible diet combinations: control-control, control-ESBM, ESBM-control or ESBM-ESBM.

Diets were formulated on an equal lysine basis. Three phases were used from 0 to 56 days, 56 to 91 days and 91 to 119 days. Diets contained 1.0%, 0.78% and 0.67% lysine, respectively.

Pigs and feeders were weighed every two weeks and blood samples were collected on Days 56, 91 and 119. On Day 119, real-time ultrasound was used to measure longissimus muscle area and backfat. TOBEC (total body electrical conductivity) measurements were collected at the slaughter facility.

ADG was greater for control pigs throughout the experiment. ADG was 1.52 for the control pigs and 1.47 for the ESBM pigs. ADG/ADFI was 1.00 versus 0.98, respectively.

Researchers found no differences in backfat and longissimus muscle area. Hot carcass weight and total pounds of primal cuts were greater for the control pigs.

Researchers: Andrea Tucker, Phillip Miller, Austin Lewis and Duane Reese, University of Nebraska. Phone Miller at (402) 472-6421 or e-mail

Missouri Index Values Quality Over Quantity

Quality Lean Index is used to educate carcass contest participants about pork quality. It is also changing what it takes to win a Missouri hog show.

Pork quantity measured as percent lean wins state fair carcass contests. Pork quality measured in pleasant eating experiences wins the appetite of hungry consumers. But where is the balance between pork quantity and pork quality?

The Quality Lean Index (QLI) was developed at the University of Missouri to educate carcass contest participants about the importance of pork quality. The developers received the National Pork Producers Council innovation award for education at the Midwest section of the American Society of Animal Science for their efforts.

“Traditional carcass contests have rewarded production of very high lean content,” explains Missouri meat scientist Eric Berg. “When this concept originated, the industry was striving to produce leaner pigs. Now the expectations have shifted back toward moderation and emphasis on pork quality.”

Berg, Bill Lamberson, Missouri animal science professor, and Tim Safranski, state swine breeding specialist, developed the QLI.

The QLI uses carcass lean percent, Hunter L* value and pH to grade carcasses.

The Hunter L* measures the intensity of light reflectance and was chosen as a variable because of its association with consumer perceptions of fresh pork color.

Quality measurements are taken from the ham, thus avoiding cutting and devaluing the loin or belly to measure 10th rib backfat for contest carcasses.

Real-time ultrasound determines the backfat and loin eye area prior to slaughter.

Doing the Math

The mathematical equation developed for the index is QLI = (7.76 % lean) - (0.067 % lean2) - (1.9995 L* value) + (1.62 pH). The photographs and Table 1 illustrate how the QLI is used to judge two carcasses.

  • Percent lean The carcass lean content is determined by a certified ultrasound technician before slaughter.

  • Percent lean squared This variable is added to the index because of the negative correlation between very heavy muscled pigs and meat quality.

  • Color evaluation The QLI uses HunterLab MiniScan XE Plus spectrophotometer on the Gluteus medius muscle, the large muscle on the cut surface when the ham is removed from the carcass. Quality measures in this ham muscle have a high correlation to the color and pH of the loin muscle.

  • Muscle pH Obtained with an SPK pH-Star glass-tipped pH probe by insertion into the same ham muscle. The ultimate pH of normal meat is 5.5 to 5.7. Higher pH leads to a shorter shelf life for pork products, and lower pH is associated with acidity and drip loss.

Interest from Producers

Interest in the QLI is growing among the state's commercial swine producers, who are coming back to carcass contests, Berg says.

“Producers have recognized the direction and focus of the pork quality chain,” he says. “They enter these contests with the goal of obtaining information about the quality of their pigs, and actually winning the contest is a nice reward for being progressive in their management.”

The Missouri Pork Producers Association and the university have begun featuring the QLI at seminars for commercial producers.

The QLI was used to judge the 2000 Missouri State Fair barrow carcass show. A number of county market hog shows have incorporated use of the QLI, Safranski says.

Interest is also growing among organizers of barrow carcass contests in Ohio, Tennessee and Iowa, researchers say.

The hogs bred for barrow shows aren't the same as those commercially produced for meat, but Berg finds similarities.

“The show ring can be considered either an artificial representation of the industry or can be looked upon for trends in the future of pork production,” he says.

As with many “contest” environments, the hogs at the Missouri shows were becoming freakishly huge and atypically lean, Berg says. The QLI completely changed what type of hog participants need to win.

“I was surprised that the QLI was so widely and positively accepted by the Missouri show jocks,” he says. “It meant retooling and rethinking the efforts expended in winning a carcass contest.

“This also tells me they are aware of the direction of the industry regarding production of high quality pork and toward the ultimate goal of total customer satisfaction,” Berg says.

Table 1. Comparison of Two Carcasses Ranked by the Quality Lean Index
Carcass #1 Carcass #2
Percentage of carcass lean = 64% Percentage of carcass lean = 58%
Percentage carcass lean2 = 4096 Percentage carcass lean2 = 3364
Hunter L* value = 60 Hunter L* value = 48
Ham Gluteus medius muscle pH = 5.48 Ham Gluteus medius muscle pH = 5.64
Quality Lean Index Quality Lean Index
(7.76 64%) - (0.067 4096%) - (1.9995 60)
= (1.62 5.48) = 103.12
(7.76 58%) - (0.067 3364%) - (1.9995 48)
= (1.62 5.64) = 137.85
Carcass #2 has a superior Quality Lean Index

Newborns Grow Better with Dexamethasone

Research conducted by USDA's Agricultural Research Service and the University of Missouri shows pigs injected with dexamethasone grew 12% faster in their first 18 days of life. Dexamethasone is a synthetic version of a type of hormone called corticoid that is naturally produced by animals under stress.

In the research, 40 crossbred pigs were assigned by birth weight and sex to either sterile saline (10 boars and 10 gilts) or dexamethasone treatment (10 boars and 10 gilts).

Pigs were injected with 0.45 mg. of dexamethasone or saline per lb. of body weight within one hour of birth.

Weights were recorded on days 0, 7, 14 and 18. On day 17, pigs were fitted with a jugular catheter for blood sampling.

Weight Gains

Birth weights (3.37 0.09 lb.) did not differ between the control and treatment pigs.

The researchers found a 12.2% increase in average daily gain (ADG) for the dexamethasone pigs. Dexamethasone-treated pigs gained 0.63 lb./day, compared to control group gains of 0.56 lb./day.

Weights at 18 days averaged 15.5 lb. for the dexamethasone pigs and 14.1 lb. for the control pigs.

Blood samples were taken at 15-minute intervals to determine serum concentration of growth hormone (GH), insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and IGF-2.

Then, pigs were sacrificed for tissue collection for RNA samples from the pituitary, liver and longissimus dorsi muscle.

The researchers found higher concentrations of IGF-1 and lower concentration of GH and IGF-2 in dexamethasone-treated pigs.


Based on the results, dexamethasone treatment at birth enhances growth during the first 18 days of life.

The researchers find that the early neonatal period may be an opportune time to alter physiological factors that influence growth.

Current research projects are investigating if the dexamethasone effect is maintained throughout the grow/finish phase and if there are changes in carcass quality.

Researchers: Jeffery Carroll, ARS, Columbia, MO; Tim Safranski and Johnna Seaman, both from the University of Missouri.

Contact Carroll at (573) 884-4798 or

USDA Funds Marketing Resource Center

USDA has announced a $5 million multi-state grant to establish the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AMRC), a collaboration of university and outreach specialists who research and interpret information on value-added agricultural activities.

The center will be aligned with four universities. Iowa State University Extension will provide administrative leadership. Kansas State and the University of California will conduct research/outreach and commodity specific content. Oklahoma State will focus on food processing and proprietary data analysis.

The center will offer:

  • An electronic, Web-based library to disseminate information and resources to producers and processors;

  • A Web-based forum to encourage the exchange of information and development of strategic alliances and partnerships; and

  • Coordinated research and outreach support systems, including training and instructional materials for producers utilizing new telecommunications and computer technology. Visit

Midwest Pork Conference

The First Annual Midwest Pork Conference is slated for Sept. 6-7 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.

The program is hosted by the state pork producer groups of Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky and Ohio. Sponsors include National Hog Farmer magazine.

Seminars feature five educational tracks. Sept. 6 is “Production Technology Day” with talks exploring profitable facility management, production options, new ideas in employee relations, financial management, swine nutrition, production liabilities and how to get the best contract.

“Marketing for Profitability” is the theme on Sept. 7. Experts will focus on maximizing production opportunities, marketing manure, marketing ventures, mandatory price reporting, packer profiles, adding value through niche marketing and food safety issues.

The trade show features 150 exhibitors. It will be open both days following the seminars.

To register, call (317) 713-1553. For more details, contact the Indiana Pork Producers Association office at (800) 535-2405 or e-mail The program is online at

USDA Overhauls Price Reporting System

After an internal review, the USDA's Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) will make several improvements to the new mandatory livestock price-reporting program.

Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman announced changes including data testing, audit surveillance and changes to the 3/60 confidentiality rule.

“The review by our team outlines several important measures that USDA will begin taking immediately to ensure the effectiveness and reliability of these programs,” Veneman says. “It is important that we continue to build and maintain a system of checks and balances to prevent any potential error in reporting.”

The review panel's key findings and recommendations include:

  1. That there was a programming error and inadequate testing prior to and after April 2 to ensure accuracy of reports.

    Recommendation: AMS will parallel test the data to experience a wide range of reporting conditions, work with the livestock and meat industries to develop validation data sets and use those data sets to test any change in programming.

    AMS already has collected most of the validation data to remedy the testing problems, says Weldon Hall, assistant branch chief of livestock and grain market news for AMS.

  2. That the audit surveillance plan for ensuring accuracy of data is behind schedule and needs improvement.

    Recommendation: To correct this, the agency will speed up the audit process, change job hiring specifications, seek additional personnel details or utilize other agency personnel.

  3. Confidentiality provisions are preventing the release of a significant portion of information.

    Recommendation: The USDA will find an alternative standard to the 3/60 rule, which will apply confidentiality standards to data collected over a multi-day period rather than the current several hour period. The 3/60 rule prevents USDA from publishing data if less than three packers are in the report or if one packer's data is more than 60% of the total.

“AMS is in the process of evaluating an alternative confidentiality guideline,” Hall says. “We have been seeking input from producer groups, general farm organizations and entities currently reporting under the mandatory program.”

The new guideline must be cleared through USDA channels, Hall adds.

The mandatory program began April 2 and was authorized by Congress in 1999. Pork packers that process more than 100,000 head/year are required to submit twice-daily purchase and volume data, along with weekly slaughter cost and non-carcass premium data.

AMS is getting a better sense of the packing industry's purchasing patterns, Hall says.

“We now have data sets for evaluation that provide AMS with information to access and analyze various means of preserving confidentiality, while at the same time publishing more data.”

Price Forecasts Accurate, but Range Wide

How accurate are the price forecasts given monthly or quarterly by university agricultural economists?

John Lawrence, Iowa State University (ISU) ag economist, set out to answer that very question. He found that, on average, price forecasts for one and two quarters into the future are fairly accurate.

Lawrence studied three methods of price forecasting, using records from 1990 to 2000, including his market hog price forecast published in the Iowa Farm Outlook Newsletter, the Chicago Merchantile Exchange Lean Hog Futures and the 10-year seasonal index.

The forecast error is defined as the actual average price minus the forecast price. Therefore, a positive error means the forecast was too low and a negative number means that the forecast was too high, he explains.

Watch for Variability

“On average, all three forecasts work pretty well for the first two quarters and are not bad for three and four quarters out,” he says. “But it is not the average that you worry about it's the variability.”

Lawrence uses this example: there is a 67% chance that first quarter prices will be from $4.28/cwt. below to $4.28/cwt. above the ISU forecast. Although this range is not very assuring, it is similar to the futures and index forecasts.

Producers must remember that the forecasts represent an average; therefore, they are not very accurate, Lawrence says.

“Forecasts do, with the results of this study, provide a likely range of prices and a realistic measure of the risk,” he says.

“The futures market, with a good estimate of the basis to the cash market, is a quick, always available and free forecast that is as good as anything out there,” he says. “But keep in mind it is a forecast at that point in time, not a guarantee of what prices will be unless the producer takes action to hedge at that price.”

For more information, visit culture/periodicals/ifo/011501.pdf.

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Evaporative Cooling System

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Prefarrowing Bacterin-Toxoid

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Nursery Watering Cup

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Reproductive Vaccine

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Gilts should receive two, 5-ml. doses prior to breeding. Sows should receive a single, 5-ml. booster dose prior to breeding.
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Disinfectant Applicator

The Germinator, a foam-generating disinfectant applicator from CTS Cleaning Systems, utilizes an on-board air compressor. It includes a portable cart with a steel frame encased in ABS plastic, an air compressor, application wand, water and air throttles, 50-ft. of hose, container caddy dual meter injection manifold and gauges for precision injection. The Germinator produces a thick, disinfectant lather that clings to everything it comes into contact with.
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Disinfection Mats

Coburn Co.'s disinfection mats are made with a tough, poly-mesh cover over high-absorbency, bonded urethane foam. Mats have a non-permeable bottom and sides to contain the disinfection solution. The product is effective up to one week, depending upon level of contamination and the disinfectant solution used.

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Utility Vehicle

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Free Booklet

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CLA Improves Performance, Pork Quality

Research at Iowa State University shows supplementing conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in swine diets improves feed efficiency, decreases fat deposition and improves the firmness of the hog’s belly.

For the project, eight replications of five littermate barrows were penned individually, beginning at 58 lb. Diets included 0, 0.12, 0.25, 0.5 and 1.0% CLA. The diets contained 18.7% crude protein and 1.0% lysine and then were reformulated every three weeks (six phases). In the final finishing stage, diets contained 12.3% crude protein and 0.55% lysine. The CLA was substituted for corn. Pigs were weighed and feed disappearance determined every 14 days.

Real-time ultrasound was used to determine backfat and loin eye area at 114, 150, 200 and 250 lb. Pigs were slaughtered at 255 lb. at the Iowa State Meat Laboratory for total loin dissection and primal to wholesale-ready cut measurements.


Average daily gain (ADG) increased as the concentration of CLA in the diet increased. ADG was 2.24 lb. for pigs fed 1.0% CLA, compared to 2.07 lb. for pigs fed the control diet. Pigs fed 0.5% CLA had an ADG of 2.14 lb.

Average daily feed intake (ADFI) was 5.90 lb. for the control diet and 5.79 lb. for both 1.0% and 0.5% CLA-diet-fed pigs.

First-rib backfat tended to decrease linearly, as demonstrated by a –3.91% difference at .12% CLA and a –15.65% difference at 1.0% CLA. Last rib and last lumbar fat depth was not different between treatments and controls.

Researchers found that fat depth decreased at 200 lb. of liveweight for pigs on the 0.12% CLA treatment. This difference was maintained at 250 lb. for the 0.12 and 0.25% CLA treatments.

The ultrasound results showed an increase in loin eye area (LEA) for 1.0% CLA treatments between 200 lb. and 250 lb.

Within the individual wholesale-ready cuts, researchers found no difference in finished ham, loin or picnic weights, but did find heavier butt weight for the 1.0% CLA treatment pigs.

The most obvious difference was the hardness (firmness) of the belly. The researchers measured the belly by suspending the longitudinal midpoint of the belly across a stainless steel rod and measuring the distance in centimeters between the ham and shoulder end, with either the lean side up or down.

Pigs fed 0.5 and 1.0% CLA had firmer bellies, which provide the potential for improvement in sliceability and an increase in yield of bacon.

The researchers believe the firmer bellies are a result of a higher ratio of saturated:unsaturated fatty acids in the belly fat.

Further study is necessary to define the most appropriate dose required to optimize pig performance, economy of gain and body composition.

Researchers: F.C. Parrish, R.L Thiel-Cooper, J.C. Sparks, Bryon Wiegand and Richard Ewan, Iowa State University.

Contact Ewan at (515) 294-5132 or email: