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Articles from 2003 In August

product news

Pressure Washer

The Hotsy Model 871SS is the new, self-contained pressure washer from Hotsy Corporation. It allows for powerful hot water cleaning in locations where electrical power isn't available. It has a 7-hp gas engine, which delivers 2.7 GPM at 2,400 PSI to blast away dirt and grime.
(Circle Reply Card No. 101)

Central Exhaust System

Fancom AgriComputers introduces Central Flow, an innovative version of the usual central exhaust systems. CentralFlow can help pork producers save an extra 20% on energy. The unique feature of the system is the constant check of the vortex damper position. Practical experience shows that even in the section of the building with the highest demand, the ventilated air is dampened. The CentralFlow system automatically controls the central fan slightly lower to ensure that the vortex damper actually opens a little more. Real situations have demonstrated that this correction allows the central fan to run 10 to 15% less, thus saving money.
(Circle Reply Card No. 102)

Lagoon Liner

High density polyethylene (HDPE) geomembranes and geosynthetic clay liners from GSE Lining Technology Inc. are being used to line holding lagoons, anaerobic/aerobic treatment ponds and evaporation ponds in animal waste facilities. Geotextiles are used as cushioning and geocomposites as venting layers when needed. HDPE is the material of choice for a variety of reasons including the best chemical resistance and the lowest permeability available.
(Circle Reply Card No. 103)

Odor Control Product

ADM Alliance Health offers the Slick N'Clean product line designed to meet the demands of new odor control regulations. The products augment the naturally occurring enzymes and bacterial flora in animal waste. The enzymes, aerobic bacteria and anaerobic bacteria in Slick N'Clean products accelerate the natural biological decay of organic wastes in pits and lagoons. Initial screening in a swine nursery trial found Slick N'Clean Tabs reduced building ammonia concentrations by 50% after 28 days and 55.5% after 42 days, compared with an untreated control group. The company markets four Slick N'Clean formulations for specific uses.
(Circle Reply Card No. 104)

Well Water Cleaner

Oxy Blast from D. Kennedy, Inc., is a hydrogen peroxide product supplemented with three antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal ingredients. Ionic silver, aloe vera and morinda citrifolia are combined with the hydrogen peroxide to help reduce iron and sulfur levels in farm well water and provide various health and performance benefits, according to the company. The product is available in 35% or 50% concentration. A peristalitic pump is available to inject the product into the water system.
(Circle Reply Card No. 105)

Needle-Free Injection System

Felton International Inc., has introduced a new Pulse 250 variable-dose, needle-free injection system and a hand piece specifically designed to administer injections to baby pigs. The system comes with five interchangeable inserts to allow producers to inject .5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0 or 2.5 ml of medication with each injection. Designed to administer pharmaceuticals or antibiotics, the Pulse 250 eliminates or reduces many of the problems associated with conventional needle and syringe injections. The hand piece may be used to inject iron or antibiotics to baby pigs as young as 1 day old.
(Circle Reply Card No. 106)

Flooring System

Dura-Tuff is the latest innovation in plastic creep area flooring for swine from Southwest Agri-Plastics Inc. The 24×24-in. floor sections reduce the overall price per square foot because the support beams are on 24-in. centers. The new design has 7/16-in. openings, which equates to 50% open area for better manure filtration. It also has a ⅛-in. gap around the perimeter of each piece, which provides for easier cleaning. The 24×24-in. sections weigh 6.86 lb. each and feature deep cross ribs to provide strength. The plastic floor also interlocks with Dura-Tuff's new interlocking cast iron sow floor featuring a high/low design for superior traction. The cast iron floor is available in a raised or flat version and many sizes to fit most farrowing crate floor dimensions.
(Circle Reply Card No. 107)

Feed Software Product

Easy Automation Inc. announces the release of QuickFeed, a Windows-based software product that provides and coordinates the feed order management needs of a feedmill that are not found in traditional accounting programs. Designed for the small to midsize feedmill, the system provides multi-user, order entry, ration management, pricing, automatic stage feeding, grain bank, contracts, mix tickets, group closeout reports, inventory control, electronic tie to batching systems and inventory reorder capabilities. Most notable, the system allows for a seamless interface with QuickBooks and Peachtree accounting systems.
(Circle Reply Card No. 108)

Information at Your Fingertips

National Hog Farmer has launched a new electronic newsletter called North American Preview, a weekly e-newsletter targeting three areas vital to the pork industry.

The “Market Preview” segment of North American Preview will keep you abreast of production shifts and market trends through week-to-week and year-to-date updates. Steve Meyer, president and founder of Paragon Economics, will provide weekly production and price summaries in four categories — Cattle/Beef, Hogs/Pork, Chicken and Turkey — plus price updates for major feedgrains.

Meyer's unique ability to analyze production levels and prices trends will keep you current with ever-changing domestic and world markets.

In addition, Meyer will keep a running account of U.S. and Canadian production levels and slaughter data, including sow slaughter. When U.S. and Canadian quarterly pig crop reports are released, he will review the data, including farrowing intentions and quarterly price predictions. These reports will arrive as special “e-news blasts.”

Meyer's pork industry resume includes nine years as staff economist for the National Pork Board, a stint as swine business specialist for a major feed manufacturer and owner/operator of a swine seedstock business.

In the “Production Preview” segment of the e-newsletter, we have expanded our on-farm production coverage through a unique working relationship with PigCHAMP Knowledge Software.

PigCHAMP, the most widely used swine production software in North America, is used on over 18,000 farms that represent about 4.5 million sows. Developed at the University of Minnesota, the software has been in commercial use for over 20 years. The PigCHAMP Datashare program provides data to researchers investigating pork production systems and methods, while allowing pork producers to use the program as a benchmarking tool.

Pigs/Mated Female/Year (P/MF/Y) will be used as the standard for measuring breeding herd performance.

Other key performance indicators will be rotated weekly, each discussed with an eye on current productivity levels and their relationship to the systemic impact on P/MF/Y.

Performance indicators such as pigs born alive/litter (selected because it's the measure used by USDA to measure sow productivity), pigs weaned/litter (the best indicator for predicting future federally inspected hog slaughter) will be reviewed. This information will be benchmarked with data breaks for the top 10%, the bottom 10%, and the “average” performance for herds reporting to the PigCHAMP database. Interpretation and commentary will accompany the select performance indicators.

Finally, the “Legislative Preview” segment focuses on legislative and regulatory issues. Scott Shearer will report from the nation's capital, outlining key issues and legislation that could impact the North American pork industry and other agricultural industries. Based in Washington, DC, Shearer is with the lobbyist group, BBCHB Inc. He has served as director of national relations for Farmland Industries, Inc., was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Agriculture, in which he directed the legislative efforts of USDA, including the 1996 Farm Bill, trade policy, reorganization of the USDA, food safety and nutritional programs. In the mid-1980s, Shearer was executive director of the National Corn Growers Association, and prior to that, served as legislative assistant to former U.S. Sen. Alan J. Dixon (IL).

To sign up for this new informational resource, simply go to our Web site,, click on the North American Preview banner on the left side of the screen. Then, fill out the information requested, click on the “submit” button at the bottom and you will begin receiving the weekly newsletter with the next edition.

Got Questions?

We've got answers. The new Web site,, is your new, on-line library of free, production-based research information. At, you will find 22 general categories and over 40 subcategories.

For example, if you click on the “disease/herd health management” category, you will find a dozen swine health-related subcategories to choose from. If you're interested in the latest PRRS research, you will find 36 papers and research reports to choose from. You will also find links to over 50 major universities in the U.S. and Canada.

Added Value

Our goal is to supplement our monthly publication with timely marketing, production and legislative information, while building a production-based research archive that will create an ongoing dialogue about the productivity of the North American swine herd. As with any informational resource, our magazine and its electronic support centers are a work in progress. Your feedback will guide their evolution in coming years. We hope to hear from you.

Smithfield Buys Farmland Foods

Smithfield Foods has agreed to purchase Farmland Foods for $363.5 million in cash, pending the completion of bidding.

Farmland and other parties appointed in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy case, voted to accept the bid of Smithfield as offering the greatest value.

The bankruptcy auction process remains open until Sept. 15. “If no further bids are received, Smithfield could close the acquisition of Farmland in about 15 days or about Oct. 1,” says Jerry Hostetter, vice president, Investor Relations and Corporate Communications, Smithfield Foods.

Smithfield has agreed to honor all Farmland Foods hog production contracts. There are 234 contract hog producers in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma. Farmland buys about 60% of its hogs under producer contracts.

The accord also calls for all Farmland production plants to remain open and operate at current production levels. Farmland operates three slaughter plants killing 7.5 million hogs a year at Crete, NE, Dennison, IA, and Monmouth, IL., and six pork processing facilities.

The agreement also keeps Farmland Foods as a stand-alone business run by its current management team.

“Farmland has a good management team, efficient plants and a great brand name,” Hostetter says. “We will sell more further-processed meat products through them and we each can increase distribution through each others' systems.”

Log on to for more information on the company.

Are You Prepared to Raise Your Own Gilts?

There is a growing trend within the ranks of commercial pork producers to switch from purchasing all replacement gilts to producing their own.

This shift to internal multiplication programs is largely driven by health challenges associated with routinely introducing replacement gilts into commercial operations. Generally, purchasing replacement females gained wide acceptance because it maximizes terminal market hog production, allows the genetic supplier to focus on genetic improvement, plus management of the system is relatively easy.

While internal gilt multiplication may present fewer health concerns, it also introduces a new set of challenges and pitfalls that must be taken into account.

Consider the Options

There are several ways that replacements can be produced in an internal gilt multiplication system. The three most popular are a grandparent program, a great-grandparent program and a rota-terminal program.

The challenges in each system are similar, therefore, we will focus on the grandparent program for this review. Figure 1 outlines a typical grandparent program commonly used in commercial pork production.

The first challenge is identifying the number of grandparent females required to ensure a good supply of replacement gilts. Naturally, this number is affected by sow herd cull rates and conception rates, as well as the percentage of gilts successfully bred and placed in the breeding herd.

Using a 600-sow herd as an example, if 40% of the sow herd drops out from culling or mortalities, 240 gilts will be needed annually.

On average, we know that most litters are roughly half boars and half gilts. If we assume that two gilts per litter meet soundness and underline criteria and are successfully bred, then 120 litters are needed to produce the 240 replacements. The 120 litters are then divided by the litters/sow/year that the grandparent females produce. For this example, if we assume the grandparent females produce 2.2 litters/sow/year, we will need 55 grandparent females (120 litters/year divided by 2.2 litters/sow/year).

Should the breeding herd replacement rate increase to 50%, then 69 grandparent females are needed (600 × 50% = 300 divided by 2 gilts/litter = 150 divided by 2.2 litters/sow/year = 69).

If you cull replacement gilts closer and only save 1.5 gilts/litter for the breeding herd, and the herd replacement rate remains at 40%, then 73 grandparent females are needed.

Similarly, if the replacement rate climbs to 50% and only 1.5 gilts are retained from each grandparent litter, then 91 grandparent females are needed.

Generally, the number of grandparent females required to produce sufficient replacement gilts for a commercial operation requires 10-15% of the total sow herd.

Once you've established the number of grandparent females needed, you must decide whether to produce grandparent litters in large lots or small lots spread evenly across each farrowing group. This choice is dependent on whether the operation is breed-to-wean, farrow-to-finish, a sow cooperative or some other type of production system.

Also, since 10-15% of the matings will be devoted to maternal line production, producers must either purchase maternal line boars or maternal line semen to make these matings.

If semen is purchased, it is critical that the grandparent females are mated using the correct semen. This may seem obvious, however, it can be a challenge in some production systems where hired labor is used extensively. Ideally, the owner/operator should take on that breeding responsibility or delegate it to a reliable, detail-oriented employee.

Production Sacrifices

Producers must also remember that half of the offspring produced from grandparent females mated to maternal line boars will be males. As barrows, these are of less value than the offspring obtained from terminal matings. Typically, these animals have poorer growth rate, higher backfat, less muscle (lower % lean), and poorer feed efficiency when compared to the terminal offspring. This can impact the way finishing facilities close out and the profitability of their finishing group.

The situation becomes even more significant in breed-to-wean operations because the barrows from the maternal line matings will be sold along with the terminal weaner pigs. It is critical to tell buyers so they can adjust for the differences in performance. Explain to the buyer that, in your attempt to improve the health of the animals being produced, you have employed a within-herd multiplication system, which naturally produces some maternal line barrows.

Table 1 shows the expected decrease in production values of the maternal line animals relative to terminal offspring, plus a cost estimate. These values can be used to estimate the production costs of running a grandparent internal gilt multiplication program. It must be noted that these costs do not include the increased labor costs of animal identification, tracking and other items.

Table 1. Estimates of the Decrease in Production Performance and Associated Costs of Internal Gilt Multiplication in a Typical 600-Sow Farrow-to-Finish Operation
Item Change in Production Value Per Item, $ Amount of each item1 Dollars Lost
Change in Feed:Gain, lb. 0.3 .064/lb. 80,784 lb.2 $5,170
Increase/Decrease in P/S/Y -1 13.50/pig 55 pigs $743
Change in market value/pig -2.5 2.50/pig 1,224 $3,060
Change in days to market 5 0.17/day 6,120 $1,040
Total $10,013
1 Values based on 600-sow, farrow-to-finish system needing 55 grandparent females producing 2.2 litters/year each for a total of 120 maternal-line litters/year, and 10.2 pigs/litter or 1,224 maternal line animals produced per year.
2 Calculates to 66 lb. more feed required per maternal line animal produced.
P/S/Y = Pigs/Sow/Year

In this example, the production losses incurred by the 600-sow herd producing its own replacement gilts are estimated at over $10,000.

Cannot Cut Corners

Once the correct matings have been made and litters are farrowed, the next challenge is identifying the gilts from the grandparent litters using a tagging, ear notching or tattooing system. It is easy to lose track of these gilts in a typical production system, so it is essential to be able to identify them throughout the growing and finishing phases.

The replacement gilt candidates need to be grown and developed until they reach breeding age and weight. Gilt development costs include facility, vaccination, feed, etc., which can easily add up to $30/gilt or more, depending on the specific situation.

An additional consideration is many operations may not have adequate gilt development facilities, so new or rented facilities may be required.

Using the previous example in which 240 gilts are needed, we know that it will take at least 300 breeding age gilts to fulfill our needs because about 20% will be disqualified for unsoundness, poor quality or failure to breed. Therefore, the development costs in our example would approach $9,000 per year (300 gilts × $30 per gilt). This raises the cost of internal multiplication, including production losses noted in Table 1, to over $19,000 for the 240 replacement gilts needed in our 600-sow herd example (labor not included).

Genetic Selection Required

When all replacement animals were purchased, your genetic supplier was responsible for the genetic improvement. Now that responsibility lands on the producer. This is one of the more hidden challenges of an internal multiplication program and this ongoing genetic selection pressure must not be ignored.

Producers should not rely on the maternal line boars or semen they are purchasing for all of their genetic improvement. When gilts from grandparent litters are born and raised, producers must adopt evaluation procedures that will allow them to accurately select for economically important traits and ensure their maternal line females continue to improve.

Perhaps the simplest example is with feet and leg soundness. Assuming a producer purchases grandparent stock that has sound feet and legs, mates them to maternal line boars, he must then evaluate all gilt replacement candidates for feet and leg structure and soundness before bringing them into the breeding herd. If they are not sound, it won't be long before the producer has a barn full of sows that want to sit on their rear quarters, have difficulty getting up, and a whole host of other soundness problems.

Failure to adopt an effective genetic selection program will result in deterioration of other economically important traits such as number born alive, litter weaning weight, growth rate and backfat. Detailed selection information is available from the National Swine Improvement Federation at

A final note of caution — it is imperative that a commercial operation does not mistakenly bring back females that were sired by boars producing terminal market hogs. Not only are these animals likely to have poorer maternal performance, if they are saved as replacement gilts and bred to the terminal sire line intended for market hogs, on average, 50% of the heterosis will be lost.

Herd Size is an Issue

If your herd is less than 300 to 400 sows, then the feasibility of an internal replacement gilt multiplication program may be questionable. Regardless of size, periodically it will be necessary to introduce females in most internal gilt multiplication systems. The exception is the rota-terminal system where the purchase of females may only be required once. After the initial purchase, all genetic introductions can be accomplished through purchased semen.

With the grandparent and great-grandparent programs, there is a risk of disease introduction anytime new animals enter the herd. Still, in an internal gilt multiplication system, the frequency of introductions and the number of animals brought in is greatly reduced compared to purchasing all of your replacement females.

If the breeding herd staff is adept at using artificial insemination, semen can be used to produce both the maternal and terminal offspring. Vasectomized boars, used for heat detection, can be produced within the herd, thereby limiting disease risk and exposure further.

There are advantages and disadvantages to any gilt replacement system. Certainly, the easiest way to obtain replacement females is to purchase them. The advantages of raising your own replacement females are numerous, including lower herd health risk, reduced acclimation periods and possible total cost savings.

However, the disadvantages include extra demands on management, maternal line females displace females that would otherwise produce terminal market hogs, and evaluation and selection are required to maintain genetic progress.

If producers are not dedicated to the internal multiplication system, it can be extremely difficult to manage. If difficulty occurs, much of the health benefits attained could be lost by reduced productivity.

Ileitis Represents Hidden Challenge

There are two forms of ileitis — the acute form which strikes late finishers hard, with severe bouts of bloody diarrhea and sudden death — and the chronic form, which causes infection and 1-2 weeks of diarrhea.

The chronic form of ileitis represents a big threat to pork producers trying to combat the number one enteric disease of grow-finish pigs.

Elanco Animal Health scientists say a subclinical form of the chronic form of ileitis is of growing concern because, if left untreated, it may depress growth without any evidence of clinical signs (diarrhea or gaunt appearance). It can only be confirmed by laboratory tests.

A serological survey conducted by the Agriculture Department's National Animal Health Monitoring System found that 96.2% of tested U.S. herds are positive for Lawsonia intracellularis, the bacteria that causes ileitis. But only 37% of those herds appear to be clinically infected.

That leaves a large gap of herds that may be subclinically infected with ileitis, but may go undetected or undiagnosed.

More Damage Found

In a new study, Swedish researchers have reported that subclinical bouts of ileitis can produce damage that begins earlier and lasts longer than previously thought.

A study by M. Jacobson at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences looked at 13 herds of young grower pigs, nine poor performers with and without diarrhea, and four herds with average to good performance and no diarrhea.

Postmortem examinations discovered the good-performing pigs were indeed healthy. But the poor-performing pigs concealed numerous pathogens, ileitis being the most common.

In the poor-performing herds, researchers found 67% of sick pigs harbored Lawsonia intracellularis.

But more significantly, scientists found Lawsonia in 41% of the poor-doing but seemingly healthy, diarrhea-free pigs.

Findings on intestinal lesions were similar, with 63% of the poor-doing but outwardly healthy pigs having microscopic lesions.

“This study emphasizes what we've known for a long time,” says Tom Marsteller, DVM, Swine Technical Services Manager with Elanco Animal Health. “Even though grower pigs may appear outwardly healthy, they may be infected with Lawsonia and suffering from the subclinical form of ileitis.”

Also, based on the Swedish study, average daily gain is 25% less in pigs with subclinical disease including ileitis, than in healthy pigs.

Earlier Studies

In an earlier study published in Veterinary Microbiology, Roberto Guedes, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil, reported that following an outbreak of ileitis, intermittent shedding of Lawsonia lasted up to 12 weeks, confirming long-term, persistent bacterial infection, without any apparent clinical signs of the bacteria.

Another study showed that shedding can take place for an indefinite period, spreading infection to penmates.

Data from Minnesota swine veterinarian Nate Winkelman indicated that pigs that were challenged with ileitis, but recorded no difference in fecal scores from unchallenged pigs, had lower gains and feed efficiency.

“So if your only measure is whether you see diarrhea, you may be missing something,” says Marsteller. He says producers may need to weigh pigs and check records to assess gains over a period of time to find out if they are missing subclinical infection with ileitis.

Disease management is one goal of Advanced Ileitis Management, Elanco's new ileitis control program. Marsteller explains that Tylan can help improve growth through ileitis prevention.

Tylan also works to manage pig flow, reducing lightweights and variation.

And it improves economic returns by controlling all forms of ileitis, including the subclinical form that can reduce profits by $3-3.50/pig, says Marsteller.

For prevention and control of subclinical ileitis, Marsteller recommends using Tylan Premix at 100 g./ton for 21 days.

Follow Guidelines in Introducing New Gilts

When introducing new breeding stock to your operation, never add new gilts directly to your existing herd, warns John Waddell, DVM, director of Veterinary Services for Danbred North America.

The Sutton, NE, swine veterinarian says remember to follow a protocol of isolation and acclimation to assure the health of the receiving herd and the animals being introduced.

Waddell offers a basic set of guidelines to reduce the risk of disease introduction and to increase the chances of the new stock realizing its genetic potential.

Start by using a “veterinarian to veterinarian” dialogue to establish the health of the source herd and to ensure compatibility with the recipient herd, he says.


By providing for isolation, buyers have time to detect any swine diseases that may have been incubating or encountered in transit to the receiving herd, says Waddell.

Follow these eight steps during isolation:

  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect all equipment new animals will come in contact with;

  • Inspect animals for transportation injuries, other problems or abnormalities;

  • Place gilts in isolation and make sure they find the water source immediately. They may be used to a different water delivery system.

  • Offer a high quality, nutrient-dense feed. Consider adding a feedgrade antimicrobial such as tylosin to prevent stress-related conditions such as porcine proliferative enteritis (ileitis);
  • Limit people traffic at the isolation unit to one person. Change clothing and boots prior to entering and upon exiting;

  • Follow a 28-day isolation period (minimum). Monitor animal health for signs of disease, loss of appetite or lameness and contact your veterinarian if symptoms persist;

  • Contact your breeding stock salesperson in the event of serious health complications, and

  • Schedule your herd veterinarian to take blood samples required by state or provincial health regulations.


Acclimation should be at least 21 days to allow new breeding animals to adjust and build immunity to match the rest of the breeding herd, says Waddell.

Feedback, fenceline contact and vaccinations may enhance acclimation. Base vaccine and antibiotic applications upon the recommendations of your veterinarian.

Recording heat detection results of replacement gilts during acclimation will ensure more effective matings following acclimation and reduce non-productive days, observes Waddell.

Replacement boars could be trained for mating or semen collection during this acclimation period.

For more details on these guidelines, log on to www.DanbredNorthAmerica. com or contact the company at 888-326-2733 in the U.S. and at 877-468-9994 in Canada.

Nebraska Study Raises Serious Concerns

A study released by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture casts serious doubt about the future of its livestock industry.

“The Agricultural Economy in Nebraska: Making Nebraska the Agricultural Leader of the 21st Century” was done by a Texas market research consulting firm.

In a recent press conference, Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns questioned the value of Initiative 300, Nebraska's 21-year-old state constitutional law that bans corporate farming.

The study reports I-300 and local control of zoning have erected barriers that “threaten the vitality of Nebraska's livestock industry, the key economic driver for the agricultural economy in Nebraska.”

In the interest of protecting the smaller producer first, the state has built regulatory barriers which have limited producers' access to capital, reduced their ability to invest or expand their operations or turn their operations over to younger producers, the study concluded.

Rod Johnson, executive director of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association, says the drop in state pork producer numbers almost parallels the drop nationally. In the decade from 1991 to 2001, the state went from 12,000 producers to 3,000. Total hog inventory declined from 4.6 million hogs in 1991 to 2.9 million hogs for 2001. Producer and inventory totals have remained nearly stable since that time, he notes.

“The alarming thing for me is the drop in market share, from producing 8% of U.S. hogs in Nebraska to producing 5%,” says Johnson.

He says his group supports a review of I-300, suggested by the study, “to make sure it is working to the advantage of our producers.”

Capturing Manure's Value

Six steps to understanding the new CAFO rules

If you're befuddled by the new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), you're not alone. But, hopefully, we can clarify the basic changes and help you figure out where to go for help.

Step One is understanding that EPA's CAFO regulations are the new minimum standards for all livestock operations that meet EPA's definition of a CAFO. That doesn't mean they're the ultimate regulations. States can always choose to pass more rigorous standards and to enforce them. In many states, this is the case for certain types of livestock operations and especially for producers of certain species of livestock. When state or local laws and regulations exceed the minimum requirements for federal standards, then those are the rules in force. When state standards are less restrictive, the EPA standards are the rules in force.

Step Two is to understand the permitting process. If state standards are the rules in force, then the state agencies charged with enforcement will be the permitting agencies. If EPA's standards for a particular operation are more rigorous than the state's rules and laws, then EPA is the permitting agency. However — and this is a big however — EPA in most cases delegates its permitting and enforcement authority to the states, which assign it to the agency they choose.

Therefore, livestock producers who operate CAFOs must find the correct agency to get the applicable rules and permits. That agency will be the primary information source for regulations.

In a few cases, CAFO operators may be required to get permits from two sources. Operators who don't know which is their permitting agency might do best to call the EPA office for their region. (See page NM4, “Who To Call”).

Step Three is to determine whether your operation qualifies as a CAFO by EPA's definition. CAFOs now fall into three categories: large, medium and small. The rules that determine into which category you fall depend primarily on the combination of livestock species and number of animals confined (see Table 1).

Medium CAFOs will be regulated if a stream runs through the confinement area or there is a man-made conveyance for wastes to surface water. Small CAFOs will be regulated for the same reasons as mediums, or if they're deemed a “significant contributor of pollutants.”

Table 1. CAFO Thresholds
Industry Thresholds
Animal Type Large CAFO Medium CAFO
Dairy Cows 700 200-699
Veal Calves 1,000 300-999
Beef Cattle 1,000 300-999
Swine 2,500 (55 lbs. or more) 10,000(<55 lbs.) 750-2,499 (>55 lbs.) 3,000-9,999 (<55 lbs.)

Although there are several significant changes to the old rules, three major changes are:

  1. “Dry” poultry manure handling systems are now included in the CAFO regulatory process.

  2. The exemption for facilities that could prove they controlled nutrient runoff in 25-year, 24-hour storm events is gone.

  3. Every CAFO that falls under the new guidelines will have to produce and live by a nutrient management plan for land application of wastes, particularly the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus.

Step Four is to understand the role of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in the regulatory process. Simply put, NRCS is not a regulatory agency, but many of its recommended standards and practices are now essentially part of the law of the land. For example, land application requirements in NRCS's Code 590 will now be the minimum standard in every state, but many states will have standards more rigorous — in some cases for one species and, in other states, for many livestock species. This information can be obtained from local NRCS offices or viewed on its Web site:

NRCS and the land-grant universities are the technical resources for the implementation of the new EPA CAFO standards, since EPA regulations reference their codes and data as the minimum rules. Each state's NRCS should be able to deal with all technical issues facing a CAFO.

For example, nutrient management plans required of all CAFOs will use the NRCS Code 590 as a minimum standard. CAFO operators may depend on NRCS input in the development of these plans and even for engineering purposes if they don't provide their own engineering and nutrient management experts. Some large operations have these resources in-house and don't need the direct involvement of NRCS.

NRCS certifies all nutrient management planners, for itself and for all private entities. This is valuable knowledge for those seeking a certified nutrient planner.

Step Five is to understand the timetable for implementation of the new standards. There are too many nuances to capture in this single article, but your permitting agency can clarify these.

The schedules for compliance vary among existing facilities designated as CAFOs. Many of the regulations must be met by December 2006. New CAFO facilities must be compliant when they open.

Step Six is getting a handle on reporting requirements. This may be the most annoying for many operations, but it's a fact of life.

“I suspect one of the biggest hurdles for many producers will be the record-keeping requirements,” suggests Dan Waldner, Extension dairy specialist at Oklahoma State University.

There seems to be no one doing this on a custom basis, comparable to independent nutritionists, accountants or crop consultants. That means that, in the near future, CAFO operators must do it themselves.

Basic reporting requirements involve annual reporting of six items:

  • Amount of manure/wastewater generated.
  • Amount of manure/wastewater transferred.
  • Land application acres covered by nutrient management plan.
  • Land application acres used in the previous 12 months.
  • Summary of production area discharges.
  • Nutrient management plan development/approval statement.

The final rule requires permittees to indicate whether their plans were either written or reviewed by a certified Nutrient Management Plan planner, yet the agency is not requiring that the plan be developed or reviewed by one. EPA believes certified planners are valuable to these operations and having this information will help EPA and the states determine which plans need closer scrutiny.

Who To Call

If your operation falls under the new permitting guidelines but you don't know the permitting agency in your state, call your regional EPA office.

Region 1 — Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut.

Bruce Rosinoff, Boston, MA; (617) 918-1698.

Region 2 — New York, New Jersey. Andrea Coats; (212) 637-3850 or

Region 3 — Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Washington D.C.

Hank Zygmunt, Philadelphia, PA; (215) 814-5750 or

Joseph Piotrowski, Philadelphia, PA; (215) 814-5715 or

Region 4 — Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi.

Sam Sampath, Atlanta, GA; (404) 562-9229 or

Region 5 — Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin.

John Colletti (tribal contact), Chicago, IL; (312) 886-6106 or

Arnie Leder, Chicago, IL; (312) 886-0133 or

Steve Jann, Chicago, IL; (312) 886-2446 or

Region 6 — Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico.

Kenneth Huffman, Dallas, TX; (214) 665-8403 or

Region 7 — Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa.

Ralph Summers, Kansas City, KS; (913) 551-7418 or

Region 8 — Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana.

Debra Thomas, Denver, CO; (303) 312-6373 or

Region 9 — California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii.

John Ungvarsky, San Francisco, CA; (415) 972-3963 or

Region 10 — Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska.

David Domingo, Seattle, WA; (206) 553-0531 or

Annual cost will top $300 million

EPA says 15,500 facilities will be designated concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) across the U.S., and will be regulated under the new rules. This will include 11,000 large facilities, 4,500 medium facilities and a limited number of small facilities. This will affect 60% of all manure produced by animal feeding operations.

The agency pegs the annual social costs of the regulations at $335 million, with the total drawn from compliance costs by CAFOs and administrative costs to federal and state governments.

Large CAFOs will spend $283 million (measured in pre-tax 2001 dollars). Medium CAFOs will spend $39 million per year, and small operations designated as CAFOs will spend $4 million per year. State and federal governments will spend $9 million per year.

The public will actually carry more of the cost than these numbers indicate because NRCS's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) could provide several million dollars to CAFOs to help them accomplish technology objectives.

Further, EPA estimates that perhaps 285 existing CAFOs will be forced out of operation by the costs of compliance. This would be 3% of all large CAFOs.

EPA estimates that the total value of reduced pollution will be $204.1 million to $355 million per year. The estimate includes reductions in nitrate contamination of private wells; reduced eutrophication and pathogen contamination of coastal waters and estuaries; reduced public water treatment costs, etc.

EPA says the new rules will stop 56 million pounds of phosphorus now being released from CAFOs into the environment, in addition to 110 million pounds of nitrogen, 2.1 billion pounds of sediment and 911,000 pounds of metals.

The problem with P

For animal feeders, phosphorus is that sticky mess that won't go away

Lee Borck is establishing his own guidelines for phosphorus application on land that Ward Feed Yard farms around Larned, KS. The effort puts the operation well ahead of the curve for EPA's new CAFO regulations.

“We want to establish our own baseline rather than have the government tell us we can only put on 15 tons of manure,” says Borck, Ward Feed Yard president. Instead of a statewide NRCS-established level, Borck has found that, on irrigated alfalfa growing in sandy ground near the Arkansas River, he can apply 25 tons per acre of raw feedlot manure every other year with no buildup in phosphorus (P).

Ward Feed Yard has been monitoring manure samples for more than 10 years. The study on phosphorus use in alfalfa, conducted by Diamond Ag Research, is in the fourth year of its five-year run.

Borck's preemptive research is well warranted in the face of increasing regulation of all nutrients, but of P in particular. Even though environmental regulations in Kansas have been fairly rigorous in the past — such that only 300 animals qualify as a concentrated feeding operation — P applications by beef feedlots have never been regulated.

Because of EPA's CAFO regulations reference to NRCS Code 590, all the major nutrients certainly will be in the future.

As the minimum standard, NRCS's Code 590 says nutrient applications shall not exceed crop needs. This will be a change for animal feeders in many parts of the country. The patchwork quilt of regulations may continue, but the minimum standards say P and other nutrients must be accounted for.

Animal manure was historically applied according to nitrogen (N) needs, but that will all change. Manure, especially manure from hog and chicken operations, is very high in P and potassium in relation to plant needs for N.

The background

Depending on livestock species, about 70-80% of the N, 60-85% of the P and 80-90% of the potassium fed to animals comes back out in the manure. P is the big, bad wolf of the pollution woods. NRCS says that, although N and carbon compounds can cause problems, P is the main element that can be controlled and therefore help control eutrophication in fresh water. Eutrophication is the natural aging of lakes or streams brought on by nutrient enrichment.

When large amounts of nutrients such as P speed the eutrophication of surface waters, it can cause fish kills, reduce biodiversity, create bad taste and odor in drinking water, increase water treatment costs and encourage growth of toxic organisms. P is of particular concern because plant growth in fresh water is often limited or encouraged by P levels.

The solution

Generally, the more crop you can harvest and remove from a land application site, the more P and other nutrients you will remove. A big crop will remove more nutrients than a small one. Wheat plus the wheat straw will remove more nutrients than just the grain. A two-crop rotation of warm- and cool-season plants will remove more nutrients than one crop per year.

That's why multiple cuttings of alfalfa or double cropping of silage or haylage are popular cropping schemes on the land application sites for CAFOs whose nutrient output and uptake are already regulated.

Larry Poindexter, NRCS nutrient management specialist in Stillwater, OK, says this holds true. “More of the applied nutrients are generally taken off if you can remove them in hay or grain and take them offsite.”

A smorgasbord of pollutants

Phosphorus (P) is not the only potential pollutant emanating from CAFOs. Nitrogen (N), although much more mobile and more volatile than P, can nonetheless become a problem. It's easily transported in water, but removing it requires additional and expensive treatment beyond the normal purification processes.

N from manure is available in several forms, but especially as ammonia and nitrate. Large amounts of N in bodies of fresh water can reduce dissolved oxygen levels and therefore the ability of the water to support life. Excess ammonia can also cause eutrophication. Excess nitrate can be hazardous to humans drinking that water.

Organic matter is a problem in surface water because it's decomposed by aquatic bacteria and other microorganisms, a process that consumes oxygen.

Dissolved solids, including such things as manure, bedding, feed, hair and feathers, increase the turbidity of water and physically the function of desirable aquatic plants and animals. Pathogens and odorous/volatile compounds may also cause problems. Solids that settle to the bottom can damage the habitat for some species of fish, shellfish and other aquatic life. Further, solids can serve as a transport mechanism for the accumulation and transport of other pollutants.

Disease-causing microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses and parasites, are another form of pollution that comes from CAFOs. In its final report on the new CAFO rules, EPA noted that more than 150 pathogens found in livestock manure are associated with risks to humans, including six human pathogens that account for more than 90% of food and waterborne diseases. Commonly recognized examples are campylobacter, salmonella and E. coli.

Concentrated animal wastes have also been shown to pollute waters with excess levels of salts, trace minerals, antibiotics, pesticides and hormones.

If you wish to gain a deeper understanding of ag runoff effects on bodies of water, try the “Agricultural Waste Management Field Handbook,” available online through the NRCS Web site at:

Another excellent source is “Agricultural Phosphorus and Eutrophication,” a booklet available through USDA-ARS, publication ARS-149. It is available through this Web site:

The dope on digesters

Anaerobic digesters are today's waste management star.

Anaerobic digesters are one of the hottest waste management technologies because they help with many of the problems CAFOs are facing, and may offer a return on investment. Anaerobic digesters are sort of lagoons with lids on them. Most are heated to speed the bacterial process.

The new farm bill made Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) money available through NRCS to help fund anaerobic digesters.

They apparently do a great job controlling odor, they dissolve more of the solids than simple lagoons and similar holding technologies, they destroy most pathogens, and they capture methane gas that can be used as a heat source or to produce electrical power. Still, their implementation is limited.

Specifically through a program called AgSTAR, a joint effort of EPA, USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy, there now are 31 anaerobic digester systems in operation at commercial livestock farms in this country. Fifteen are at swine farms, 14 are at dairy farms, and two are at caged-layer farms. Many were done in coordination with emerging state agricultural energy programs in Iowa, Minnesota and New York.

One of these is at Craven Farms of Cloverdale, OR. That operation finished a heated, unmixed, plug-flow digester sized for daily manure production of 1,000 cows in December 1996. The farm is currently producing about $24,000 of electricity and $30,000 of digester fiber yearly. The value of digested solids is twice the original estimates. The digester has eased manure handling and reduced the cost of application.

The total cost of the system, which was defrayed by several grants and by AgSTAR's technical assistance, was $252,848.

The installed cost for the systems listed on the AgSTAR Web site range from a low of $15,000 for a 3,000-pig nursery unit in Iowa that simply flares (burns off) its gas, to $546,000 for a 5,000-sow, farrow-to-wean Iowa facility that generates electricity. Some of the units flare all the methane produced. Others use some of the gas to warm water and/or air and then flare the excess. Still others generate electricity and heat. Obviously, the latter facilities have the highest payback, but also the highest capital investment.

In 23 of the 31 AgSTAR-aided systems, the captured methane is used to generate electrical power and heat. Although electrical generation has up to now required a fairly large volume of methane to run an internal combustion engine, pending research at the USDA-ARS research station at Beltsville, MD, might yet show the value of micro-turbine engines for the same purpose from much smaller operations.

Anaerobic digestion converts much of the organic nitrogen into ammonia, which offers an advantage. The resulting effluent of 60-80% ammonia is preferable for managers who need to calculate and track nutrient application rates, says Mark Moser of Resource Conservation Management, Inc., Berkeley, CA. Nitrogen availability is more predictable in ammonia than in organic matter.

Smithfield Foods, the nation's largest pork producer, has for several years been experimenting with anaerobic digesters. It will soon complete in Utah an anaerobic digester facility to turn the waste from 257,000 pigs into biomethanol. Then, through a patented process, the company will combine the methanol with oil and market it as biodiesel.

Garth Boyd, director of environmental technology for the company, says he looked at hundreds of technological innovations over the past few years and believes this route has the best combination of attributes, including the payback.

Boyd says Smithfield began experimenting with anaerobic digesters in large part for odor control. The opportunity to gain the other advantages, however, makes anaerobic digestion an attractive technology.

The payback from electrical generation depends to a large degree on the location, Boyd adds. Some states require buyers and sellers of electrical power to offer better rates for “green” or non-fossil fuel energy. Others don't, and the payback is usually much poorer.

Despite Smithfield's size, its interest in the new technology and aggressive plans for large new facilities, its use of anaerobic digester technology is still fairly limited. Boyd says only 10 of the company's 2,000 farms have digesters that actually capture methane and do something with it.

Digesters cost more to build, per unit of volume, than lagoons, but a heated digester requires a much smaller volume than a lagoon. Construction costs vary among regions, soil types and digester types. Costs cited in recent AgSTAR projects, minus gas use costs such as generators, showed these results:

  • Unlined lagoon construction cost 7¢/cu. ft., while a HDPE-lined lagoon costs about 16¢/cu. ft.

  • Concrete tank digesters, including boilers to maintain digester temperature, cost $1.90 to $2.25/cu. ft.

  • A digester project using a clay-lined, partially concrete-lined lagoon cost about $1.09/cu. ft.

A lagoon system requires 20 times the volume as a heated digester to achieve the same level of treatment, and that investment could be transferred into digester construction, Moser says. Therefore, for comparable levels of biological stabilization, an operator would spend about $1.40 in an unlined lagoon; $3.20 in an HDPE-lined lagoon; $2.25 in a structural tank digester that is heated and mixed; and $1.09 in a heated, mixed, covered, lined-lagoon digester, he says.

Some good information on anaerobic digestion technology and resources is available through the home page of the AgSTAR program:

PAM and pellet solutions

There may be another commercially viable solution to the N and P puzzle. Successful research at the USDA-ARS Coastal Plains Soil, Water and Plant Research Center at Florence, SC, has recently been licensed to commercial operations. In its two forms, it has the potential to essentially stabilize nitrogen compounds and remove phosphorus in one of two forms that are more commercially saleable than raw sludge.

Scientists at the research station adapted Japanese technology for treating municipal wastewater, explains soil scientist and station research leader Patrick Hunt. The process treats lagoon effluent by running it through a nitrifying chamber that has large populations of bacteria entrapped in polymer gel pellets. These break down the volatile ammonia into nitrite, then more stable nitrate. This process is known as nitrification.

Then, in a process called denitrification, the nitrate is converted to nitrogen, an odorless gas that's the largest component of air. Denitrification needs two conditions: a source of carbon and an anaerobic environment. These conditions are typically found in wetlands or liquid manure storage units.

Another system eliminates the lagoon entirely. It uses a flocculant called polyacrylamide (PAM), together with a screening system, instead of a lagoon to remove the solids. Then it uses the same nitrifying-denitrifying sequence to change the nitrogen. The combined technology of PAM and the pellets lowers nitrogen concentration in the remaining effluent from 675 parts per million to fewer than 25. That water, now purified and deodorized, can be reused to clean the hog houses or for crop irrigation.

Both systems also kill nearly all the pathogens by raising the pH to about 10.5, Hunt says. During this process, the remaining phosphorus is converted to calcium phosphate, which is then recoverable and saleable to the nutrient industry, Hunt adds.

For a look at this technology, see the USDA-ARS website for the Florence research station and select “animal waste treatment.” That Web address is:

Turning up the heat

Anaerobic digesters come in many varieties but one of the important distinctions is the heat range at which they operate. The hotter they run, the faster they change nutrient composition.

  • Ambient or unheated digesters use no heat other than what they generate on their own.

  • Mesophilic digesters operate at 37° C (about 95° F).

  • Thermophilic digesters operate at 55° C (about 135° F).

Web resources

Lengthen lagoon life

Lagoons for large-scale CAFOs would seem to be old technology by now, but they still hold some secrets. One is how long they should work effectively before sludge accumulates to the point where they require cleanout.

Although large-scale animal waste lagoons would seem to follow in the footsteps of municipal lagoons, they really don't. They're deeper and therefore more anaerobic and they carry much higher nutrient loads per given amount of volume, explains Doug Hamilton, Oklahoma State University waste management engineer.

All the engineering estimates for life of a lagoon are based on a series of measurements taken in South Carolina research about 1985, and although those estimates have been surprisingly accurate, they don't always work out. For example, inefficiencies arise in lagoons when too much sludge accumulates or when fluid levels are drawn too low.

An example of their uncertain behavior is seen in research Hamilton has been conducting on two nearly identical swine lagoons in Oklahoma since 1995. One has followed the normal sludge accumulation pattern shown in the South Carolina study, with buildup to the seventh year, then a slowdown after that. The other has accumulated about one-third as much sludge. The difference in the two lagoons: The one with higher accumulation had the sludge disturbed by running the irrigation pump near the bottom.

Hamilton says it's too early to know the exact implications of this project, but disturbing the sludge may disrupt the bacterial action of a lagoon. Based on all the evidence to date, he makes two suggestions for CAFO operators using lagoons:

  1. Stick with the design standards for size and loading to avoid problems.

  2. Don't stir the sludge.

The design standards may not be perfect, but they still appear to be the best thing out there, and the tendency of many operators to skimp on size won't make a lagoon work any better.

Managing PRRS' Impact in Gilts

Since porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) has been a major health concern, several companies have developed programs for producers to close their herds and raise gilts internally.

The challenge for producers raising their own gilts is to accomplish PRRS exposure without causing more problems to the main sow herd.

Case Study No. 1

A producer with about 250 sows farrows and finishes on one site. Sows are hand-mated in groups to facilitate all-in, all-out group management through the nursery stage.

The herd has produced its own gilts for several years but the producer does bring in boars each year.

The herd has a few grandparent females that are bred by artificial insemination (AI) using semen from a PRRS-negative boar stud.

PRRS was diagnosed in the herd several years ago, producing reproductive and respiratory symptoms. Production was stymied for several groups, and then recovered very quickly.

The producer was convinced that the PRRS virus entered the herd with some replacement gilts that were not isolated nor tested. The producer didn't know the status of his herd before the PRRS break, but assumed it was PRRS positive because all of his neighbors' herds were.

The producer implemented an internal gilt production system over two years ago when the main sow herd tested positive for PRRS.

Tests indicate the herd is producing pigs that are ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) positive and PCR (polymerase chain reaction) negative for PRRS at weaning. They become ELISA negative by the time they leave the nursery and are transferred to the gilt development unit.

In the older, on-site gilt developer building, gilts are penned next to cull sows. The cull sows are frequently switched to provide gilts with adequate exposure to urine, feces and saliva. Growing gilts are also given feedback material from the breeding herd.

Gilts become PRRS positive but “cool off” before they are introduced to the breeding herd.

The key to PRRS immunity is that it will be fairly strong and long lasting provided all animals on a site have been exposed to the herd's virus.

Case Study No. 2

A 1,200-sow, farrow-to-wean operation breeds sows naturally, and has several boar lines for its internal gilt-breeding program.

The sow farm is PRRS positive with only one strain of the virus identified. Feedback of material from the breeding area to pregnant sows and from the farrowing area to late pregnant sows is done routinely.

At weaning, pigs test ELISA positive but PCR negative. Pigs go to several nursery sites that hold 1-2 weeks of production. When pigs leave the nurseries, they test ELISA and PCR negative.

When the nurseries are emptied, maternal line gilts are selected and taken to a continuous-flow, grow-finish barn near the sow herd. The barn is purposely left dirty to expose grower gilts to the PRRS virus.

Several months later, these gilts have “cooled down” and test PRRS negative when they go into isolation at the sow farm. There they receive direct feedback from sows. These gilts continue to stay non-infectious. The tagged maternal gilts within the sow herd are regularly tested to maintain a long-term record of PRRS status.

Case Analyses

These two cases demonstrate the complexity of production and procedures. No two farms are alike and the need for intense investigation and cooperation is high.

Single-site farms may not have the same level of risk for virus introduction because there are fewer people to be compromised.

There is still a lot we don't know about the PRRS virus. Each strain appears to have different levels of virulence or ability to cause disease. Many farms have more than one strain of the virus.


Veterinarians must fully evaluate the entire production system to develop a reasonable method for gilt introduction. Monitoring and risk assessment are crucial. Too much focus on PRRS may allow some other infectious agent to work its way into the herd.

There are still big questions about PRRS virus spread within an area by aerosol, insects and other means.

Producers and their farm staffs must be totally uncompromising with procedures for sanitation, biosecurity and transport vehicles.

They also need to be certain their suppliers of semen or live animals are doing routine testing for PRRS and other disease agents. Routine testing should be done within the herd on known-status animals so that changes can be identified.

Producers should develop a PRRS plan of action that best meets their situation.

First Professorship Recipient

University of Nebraska swine geneticist Rodger Johnson is the first recipient of the Omtvedt professorship in animal science.

The professorship recognizes those who have demonstrated outstanding ability and accomplishments in teaching, research or service to academics and the livestock industry.

The endowed professorship has an annual salary stipend of $10,000 and the appointment is for five years.

Irv Omtvedt retired in 2000 after serving as University of Nebraska vice president and vice chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources for 12 years.