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Articles from 2010 In August

Why Do Some Sows Prefer Stalls Over Free-Access Area?

Researchers with the Prairie Swine Centre (PSC) at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada are scratching their heads these days trying to figure out this conundrum. Why does it seem that when given the choice, some gestating sows will spend the majority of their time in stalls, while others prefer to be in the free access area most of the time.

A study conducted by the Prairie Swine Centre examined free space utilization by sows in free-access stalls. The study found about 20% of sows in the free-access area at any given time. About 95% of the sows left their stalls at some point during gestation, but about 40% spent less than 2% of their time outside the stalls, while others spent 80-90% of their time out of the stalls.

Harold Gonyou, PSC researcher in animal behavior, reports the sows that stayed outside tended to be the large and older sows.

Gonyou says more work will be done to try and determine why some sows prefer more exercise than others. “We’re looking at this question of whether or not the sows are staying in because it’s a social threat to leave the stall, or whether it is a question of is it more comfortable in the exercise area than in the stall.

“We’re going to be doing some more work where we manipulate the comfort level both within the stall and outside and also manipulate the social combinations that we put together in a group to see if we can better manage and get a more even distribution of sows leaving the stalls and exercising,” Gonyou says.

Free-access stalls seem to have advantages, but producers considering group sow housing need to know whether this system provides all the advantages of group housing, he explains.

Cutout Values Keep on Breaking Records

Another week, another record-high cutout value seems like no big deal. That’s the way it goes in this wonderful pork industry. Right?

That judgment is offered with tongue planted firmly in cheek, since it is indeed a big deal when our product can command such values from a marketplace that is anything but robust! The new weekly record is $94.99/cwt., breaking the old record that stood for exactly one week (See Figure 1).

The best part of this record week is that the entire increase got bid into the price of negotiated pigs (See Figure 2), and even pushed the weighted average across all pricing methods (Figure 3) back to the same level as in late July. Truth is, this week’s strength in hog prices was more influenced by last week’s cutout value run since it created incentives for packers to slaughter more hogs and thus chase hogs a bit.

Federally-inspected hog slaughter last week totaled 2.110 million head, 1.8% higher than the previous week, but 4.2% lower than last year. Though still significantly short of 2009 levels, last week’s run marks the first week since July 17 in which the number of hogs slaughtered in federally-inspected plants has exceeded the level suggested by the June Hogs and Pigs Report.

The cumulative shortfall relative to the predicted level since July 17 is 276,700 head and the question is, “Are those hogs still out there or were they never there in the first place?” As with most things, the answer will likely be some of both. But hot weather and the “bin bottoms” of an already poor quality corn crop lead me to think we will see the vast majority of these 277,000 critters in the weeks to come.

Their market impact will be heavily dependent on how far these animals get spread out. If 50,000 head/week make market weights over the next six weeks, it would add 2 to 2.5% to weekly slaughter totals. That kind of addition would make for a sharp seasonal drop-off – that is, if the pigs are actually still out there.

The normal seasonal pattern is for cash hogs to drop $10-$15/cwt. carcass from late August to October and $12-$18/cwt. carcass from late August to December. Those normal patterns would put October cash hogs in the $70-$75 range, and December hogs between $67 and $73. October and December Lean Hog futures were $74.83 and $72.58, respectively, on Friday. The average basis from the past three years would put cash hogs in Iowa-Minnesota at $71-$74 in October and just over $70 in the first half of December. The second half of December, which must be figured off the February contract, would be in the $67-$69 range. Futures appear to be accurately priced at this point relative to a normal seasonal pattern.

Competition Workshop Goes As Expected
The U.S. Department of Agriculture/Department of Justice livestock competition workshop in Fort Collins, CO, last Friday went pretty much as expected. While the original list of panelists appeared to me to be tilted firmly in favor of the “we need government intervention” crowd, I have to say that the actual discussion, as well as the audience statements, were more balanced than I expected.

Unfortunately, Attorney General Eric Holder and Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Christine Varney were not around to hear much more than their own statements, as both left after the first politician-laden panel. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack did stay until lunch, but missed the afternoon sessions that included the lion’s share of comments from producers. In his defense, it should be pointed out that Vilsack attended the dedication of a new U.S. Forest Service lab at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Fort Collins Friday afternoon. Though I do wish he had stayed at the workshop, I do appreciate his judicious use of travel expenses.

While the session dealt primarily with cattle issues, pork producers were represented by Alden Zuhlke of Nebraska and Chris Peterson of Iowa. The two presented quite different views of hog marketing, with Zuhlke talking about the importance of marketing contracts for bringing his three sons back into his operation, and Peterson focusing on niche marketing and blaming market woes on packer concentration and packer-owned pigs. Mark Greenwood of Agstar Financial Services in Mankato, MN, brought a lender’s perspective to the discussion and made it clear that contractual relationships had been positive for his clients and had contributed to a number of new entrants to the pork industry. All expressed some concern about the thinness of negotiated hog sales.

Comments on the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration’s (GIPSA) proposed rule were reasonably balanced between pros and cons. The rule was not a target of the workshop (a given since GIPSA originally intended to close the comment period before the workshop!), but comments were allowed and will become a part of the comment record which GIPSA must address in crafting the final rule.

Click to view graphs.

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

Actinobacillus suis Activity Persists

A little over two years ago, we commented on a general rise in the frequency of Actinobacillus suis (A. suis) isolation from our swine tissue submission cases, and wondered if it was related to the increased porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) activity (National Hog Farmer North American Preview, June 6, 2008). A. suis is a gram-negative bacteria that is present in essentially all swine herds. It can cause respiratory disease and lameness in older pigs and, infrequently, diarrhea in nursing piglets.

The main concern with Actinobacillus suis, however, is sudden deaths in finishing pigs and adult breeding animals due to bacterial septicemia. Losses tend to accumulate over time rather than as an acute episode, so this bacteria doesn’t garner the same degree of attention as other agents that result in large-scale disease outbreaks. The losses of older growing and breeding pigs can add up when A. suis activity increases.

The chart shown in Figure 1 illustrates the point that, at least for submissions to the Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, the frequency of isolating A. suis from respiratory cases has not dropped off following the widespread use of porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) vaccine, but has held steady and may even be increasing slightly. Because we had associated the increased rate of A. suis isolation with PCV2 activity, it is somewhat surprising that A. suis recovery hasn’t dropped along with the incidence of circovirus disease. We will continue to monitor this over time.

Tables 1 and 2 include antimicrobial susceptibility testing information over several years to show some additional trend information. Table 1 summarizes the percentage of A. suis isolates from 2008 and 2009 that were susceptible to the individually listed antibiotics. The last two columns show the MIC50 and MIC90 values. The MIC50 is the minimum inhibitory concentration of antibiotic that inhibits growth of 50% of the isolates that were tested for the year, and the MIC90 is the concentration of antibiotic that inhibits growth of 90% of the isolates. In other words, these are not bacterial colonies from an individual case, but rather are the composite of many cases tested over the course of an entire year.

The minimum inhibitory concentration is the result we report out from antimicrobial susceptibility testing. The lower the value the better, because it indicates that a lower concentration of antibiotic will inhibit the growth of a particular bacterial isolate.

Table 2 shows data over an eight year-period for just three antibiotics that were selected to illustrate some different points. The first part of this table illustrates the susceptibility testing for A. suis against ampicillin. I included this antibiotic because there is a general trend for increased susceptibility over the eight-year time span. The second section of the table refers to susceptibility to ceftiofur, which has remained relatively stable. The third part of the table refers to the impact of chlortetracycline, which has been more variable, with increases and decreases in susceptibility over time. These tables are designed to indicate that susceptibility to antibiotics can be dynamic, but variable in direction (increased or decreased) and rate of change.

Click to view graphs.

Jerry Torrison, DVM
Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Mexico Adds Tariffs to U.S. Pork Over Truck Access Issue

The Mexican government has added pork to the list of U.S. products against which it is retaliating for the failure of the United States to live up to its obligations under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to let Mexican trucks haul goods into the United States. The tariff rate on ham and shoulder cuts is 5% and on cooked skin pellets it is 20%. The new list also includes certain types of U.S. cheese, pistachios and a range of U.S. fruits and vegetables. The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) said, “We are extremely disappointed that our top-volume export market has taken this action, but we’re more disappointed that the United States is not living up to its trade obligations. That failure not only has hurt dozens of U.S. industries economically, but it could prompt other countries to think twice about entering into trade deals with the United States. Our trading partners need assurance that the United States will live up to its trade obligations.” In March 2009, Congress failed to renew a pilot program that allowed a limited number of Mexican trucks to haul freight into the United States beyond a 25-mile commercial zone. In February 2001, a NAFTA dispute-settlement panel ruled that excluding Mexican trucks violated U.S. obligations under the trade deal. The ruling gave Mexico the right to retaliate against U.S. products, which it did in March 2009, placing higher tariffs on more than $2.4 billion of U.S. goods. The new list will raise the total estimated cost of the tariffs to $2.6 billion.

Senators Support Proposed GIPSA Rule — A group of 21 senators have written Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack expressing their support for USDA’s proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule regarding livestock and poultry marketing practices. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), originator of the letter, said, “Our action in the 2008 farm bill, along with this proposed rule, are designed to make clearer the protections and the prohibited actions under the Packers and Stockyards Act so that producers and growers receive fair, equitable, and nondiscriminatory treatment in marketing and contracting arrangements involving livestock and poultry.”

Senators Question Objectivity on GIPSA Rule — Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) have written Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stating their concerns about the objectivity of USDA’s actions regarding the proposed GIPSA rule. The senators said, “Our nation’s livestock industry is critical to the success of rural America and a positive contributor to our national balance of trade. As the administration moves forward with regulations affecting all participants in the industry, it is vital they do so in an open, unbiased and deliberative process.” The letter focuses on “press reports” of a USDA employee who used their government e-mail account to pass along a message from an interest group soliciting attendance at the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Department of Justice livestock competition workshop Aug. 27 in Ft. Collins, CO. The senators had requested information concerning who received the e-mail, content of subsequent e-mail messages, and all solicitations or position statements from any USDA employee regarding the workshop. The senators had asked for a “description” of how the administration would ensure the Ft. Collins competition workshop would be “conducted in a fair and unbiased manner.”

Recess Appointment for Food Safety Under Secretary — President Barrack Obama has announced his intent to recess appoint Elisabeth Hagen as USDA’s under secretary for food safety. Hagen’s nomination had been held up in the Senate. Thus, the President decided to use his authority for recess appointment. Dr. Hagen served as the USDA’s chief medical officer prior to the appointment. Previously, she was a senior executive at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

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

HBO’s ‘Temple Grandin’ Sweeps 2010 Emmys

The HBO biographical movie “Temple Grandin,” about Colorado State University’s professor of animal science, well-known adult with autism and noted cattle and hog handling expert, won best picture and best actress honors for actress Clare Danes, who portrayed Grandin.

The film also won best supporting actress honors for Julie Ormond who portrayed Grandin’s mother, best supporting actor for David Strahaim who portrayed Grandin’s favorite teacher and best director for Mick Jackson.

The movie, which first aired February 2010, and continues to air on HBO, received 15 Emmy nominations in covering the life of Grandin, who has become a prominent author and speaker on autism.

While the film was expected to capture many awards, it actually fared better than expected.

American Meat Institute (AMI) President J. Patrick Boyle offered hearty congratulations to Grandin, who is an AMI member, the lead instructor at AMI’s Animal Care & Handling Conference, and a past recipient of AMI’s Industry Advancement Award.

“Temple Grandin has done remarkable things for our industry and for people with autism,” Boyle says. “She has transformed the way we handle livestock and measure welfare. She has been a gift to so many people including those in our industry. And, of course, she has helped to enhance animal welfare dramatically.”

Grandin was also honored in 2007 as one of The Masters of the pork industry in the May 15, 2007 issue of National Hog Farmer magazine.

Congressman Urges Economic Investigation of GIPSA Rule

Twitter: Georgia Congressman Calls for Economic Study of USDA’s Proposed GIPSA Rule.
Tags: News; 38, 39, 40.

Congressman Urges Economic
Investigation of GIPSA Rule
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) has called for a sound economic analysis to judge both the need and the use for a proposed USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule on the procurement of livestock.

“In my view, it is unprecedented for a federal agency to propose such a wide-sweeping regulation and not conduct an economic analysis,” Kingston says in a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “I am concerned that despite Congress having appropriated $13 million in the current fiscal year for the USDA Office of the Chief Economist, GIPSA has seemingly ignored this resource to analyze the proposal.”

Besides a lack of economic analysis, Kingston says there are other questions that have been raised about the rulemaking process that require immediate action. Some view the agency circumventing the intent of Congress and carefully choreographing efforts by the agency and others within the USDA to lobby Congress, press, industry and public officials on the proposed rule.

“…Anyone who witnessed the recent Livestock, Dairy & Poultry Subcommittee hearing on the administration’s proposed rule got the message that there are broad, bipartisan concerns that the proposed rule goes far beyond the scope of the 2008 farm bill, lacks a sound economic analysis necessary to judge both the need and utility of the proposed rule and may be the result of a flawed rulemaking process,” he says.

“I am troubled that while the USDA and the Department of Justice are in the midst of conducting a series of workshops throughout the nation to gather information on a range of topics addressed by this proposal, USDA has chosen to focus its resources on efforts to promote this regulation rather than carefully consider the consequences, intended and unintended, particularly for those it purports to protect – producers,” Kingston concludes.

View the complete letter at

Pork Center Introduces Swine Science Online

Months of testing has culminated in the U.S. Pork Center of Excellence launching classes at six universities through Swine Science Online.

Starting this month, classes are being offered at Colorado State University, Iowa State University, North Carolina State University, South Dakota State University, the University of Nebraska and the University of Missouri.

“The Swine Science Online curriculum is an exciting new way for students to really streamline their college degree,” says Jodi Sterle, associate professor and Extension swine specialist at Texas A&M University. “This knowledge and experience is exactly what the industry is looking for in its new employees.”

The result is students become more marketable and appealing to employers upon graduation, says Tim Safranski, associate professor at the University of Missouri.

“Being able to take these courses from such prominent specialists can really set them apart from other graduates as they pursue careers with pigs,” Safranski adds. “We’re really excited to have this opportunity to provide our students in-depth training in this comprehensive coverage of swine production.”

The Swine Science Online curriculum provides a special combination of classes and real world experience for students, says Tom Baas, professor of animal science at Iowa State University.

“The wide range of classes that are offered provides endless opportunities to gain experience and awareness in numerous areas that will be beneficial to all participants,”
Baas adds. “The Swine Science Online program is an excellent way for students to obtain knowledge and training that will enhance their understanding of all aspects of the pork industry.”

The program fits a busy schedule, says Dana Hanson, associate professor at North Carolina State University.

“The online curriculum gives students from across the nation an opportunity to study swine science at their convenience,” Hanson says. “Students can custom-design their course of study in swine science, oftentimes filling gaps with classes not offered at the university they attend.”

In short, students who have taken Swine Science Online will be better prepared, says Maggie DenBeste, program coordinator at the U.S. Pork Center of Excellence.

“The ultimate goal of the Swine Science Online program is to have more academically trained students entering the pork industry,” DenBeste says. “After completing required and elective courses, students will be able to apply for a Swine Science Online certificate administered by the U.S. Pork Center of Excellence.”

Seven courses offered this fall encompass basic swine science, swine health and biosecurity, breeding, gestation and farrowing management, swine business and records analysis, swine environment management and contemporary issues in the swine industry. Instructors from across the country are used to teach academic programs in swine production and management.

To learn more, visit
National Hog Farmer

HealthPro Brands and Elanco are Development Partners for Meat and Poultry Industries

CINCINNATI, OHIO — HealthPro Brands, Inc., and Elanco, the animal health division of Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE:LLY), today announced that Elanco is the global animal-protein development partner for HealthPro Brands' antimicrobial food wash. Elanco will manage the development through its new food-safety business platform, Elanco Food Solutions, and will commercialize several formulations for the meat and poultry industries.

HealthPro Brands currently markets an antimicrobial formulation under the FIT® brand for the produce industry, and it also sells a fruit and vegetable wash for consumer use at home. The company has partnered with the University of Georgia Center for Food Safety to develop a new and improved formulation for restaurants, grocers, beverage manufacturers and food-processing facilities, which is the formulation sold to Elanco.

"We are very pleased to establish a partnership with Elanco Food Solutions," said Todd Wichmann, president and CEO of HealthPro Brands. "Elanco already has relationships with beef and poultry packers and processors and is working with them to implement pre- and post-harvest food-safety interventions. They are committed to bringing science-based food-safety technologies to their customers and this product is an excellent addition to their line-up."

"This antimicrobial food wash is expected to reduce E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter pathogens in animal-protein processing facilities," said K. Douglas Miller, PhD, director of Elanco Food Solutions. "Elanco plans to co-develop additional formulations based on HealthPro Brands' proprietary and patented technology. We also will conduct efficacy trials specifically for our meat and poultry customers while ensuring the product does not affect the nutritional, health or flavor properties of the treated food products.

"When Elanco Food Solutions launched earlier this year, we committed to delivering multiple food-safety technologies for the animal-protein packing and processing industry," added Miller. "Because there is no 'silver bullet' solution, we know a comprehensive, integrated line of food-safety interventions will help the food chain meet the growing demand for safe, wholesome and affordable beef, poultry and pork products for consumers."


Todd Wichmann, HealthProBrands, Inc., (513) 492-7512

Joan Todd, Elanco, (317) 277-7464

National Hog Farmer

New TOPIGS A.I. Station in Germany

TOPIGS SNW is starting up an SPF A.I. station in Germany. The German subsidiary of TOPIGS has taken over the Stockhausen A.I station in the east German federal state of Saxony. Following a renovation, the station will provide room in the autumn for 150 TOPIGS breeding and terminal boars.

At the new TOPIGS station, boars will produce SPF semen for pig farms in the eastern federal states of Germany. The sales of TOPIGS genetics is exhibiting strong growth in this region. In addition to this, Stockhausen A.I. station will also export semen to Eastern and Central Europe.

TOPIGS SNW has grown in just a few years to become one of the most important providers of genetics on the German market. The market share in sows is more than 10%. With the setting up of Stockhausen A.I. station, TOPIGS is taking the next step in the introduction of TOPIGS terminal boars onto the German market.

For further information please contact

Peter Loenen, communication manager TOPIGS

Telephone: +31 411 648846


National Hog Farmer

Aubrey Schroeder Joins Pfizer Animal Health Team Pork

New York (August 23, 2010) - The Pfizer Animal Health U.S. Pork Business Unit welcomes Aubrey L. Schroeder, PhD, to its staff as meat scientist.

In his role with Team Pork, Schroeder will provide technical expertise to the U.S. Pork Business Unit by identifying and communicating quality assurance and safety findings that will guide the value of Pfizer products and services throughout the entire food chain, including packers, processors, retailers and industry key opinion leaders. Additionally, he will meet regularly with key opinion leaders and pork packer leadership to proactively assure successful implementation of products and services in the packing plant and in further processing.

“We are impressed with Dr. Schroeder’s breadth of knowledge in our industry,” says James R. Bradford, DVM, MS, Dipl ABVP, senior marketing manager, Pfizer Animal Health. “He is a technical expert in the production side of the meat business, but he can also translate the opportunity for those in the corporate suite. We welcome his expertise to our growing pork business.”

Schroeder brings more than 21 years of animal health experience to the company. Most recently, Schroeder worked for Elanco, a Division of Eli Lilly and Company. While with Elanco Animal Health, Schroeder was involved in the support of the meat industry as the technical expert liaison with the packing industry, clinical development and technical field support. He also conducted research when registering existing feed additive products, injectables and new product launches of Elanco products in beef, dairy, swine and poultry. Most recently, Schroeder was a principal research scientist and scientific expert.

He is a member of the American Society of Animal Sciences, American Meat Science Association, the Institute of Food Technologists, Sigma Xi, and National Cattleman’s Beef Association. Schroeder has recently served on the industry advisory committee for the California Polytechnic State University Department of Animal Science, San Luis Obispo, Calif.; and the industry advisory board on meat science and food safety at Texas A&M University for the Industry, Department of Animal Science, College Station, Texas.

Schroeder earned a bachelor’s degree in business, and a master’s and doctorate at Michigan State University (MSU) in meat science/growth biology. While at MSU, he competed on the meats, livestock and live animal evaluation judging teams. Additionally, Schroeder was an instructor for meat science and animal husbandry/animal science classes and coached the meat judging and live animal evaluation teams for several years.

Pfizer Animal Health, a business of Pfizer Inc., is a world leader in discovering and developing innovative animal vaccines and prescription medicines, investing an estimated $300 million annually in animal health product research and development. For more information about how Pfizer Animal Health works to ensure a safe, sustainable global food supply from healthy swine and other livestock, visit