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Articles from 2002 In September

Nomination Information

Environmental Stewardship Program

An environmental recognition program sponsored by National Pork Board and National Hog Farmer.

Environmental stewardship requires constant work and a serious commitment. The Environmental Stewardship Awards Program is for pork producers with all types and sizes of production systems who demonstrate their positive contribution to our natural environment.

Applications and nominations for this recognition may be submitted by pork producers, operation managers and other industry-related professionals. One progressive pork production system in each of four regions in the U.S. is selected annually. A national selection committee, comprised of experts from various pork industry and natural resource organizations, reviews all nominations.

The committee focuses on eight key areas: general production, manure management, soil conservation practices, air quality management strategies, aesthetics and neighbor relations, wildlife management, innovation and a short essay on the meaning of environmental stewardship. Each winner receives a special plaque, an expense-paid trip to the awards ceremony and a $1,000 cash honorarium. All nominations must be postmarked by March 31, 2004.

For more information on the Environmental Stewardship Program or for nomination forms, call (800) 456-7675, or write: National Pork Board, P.O. Box 10383, Des Moines, IA 50306. Forms will be posted on these Web sites in December, January and February: or

Variety Meats Workshop Slated

The National Pork Board is sponsoring a workshop on exporting pork variety meats, Oct. 23 at the Iowa State University Meat Lab in Ames, IA. Registration is $20 in advance, $25 at the door.

The workshop is being conducted for the Pork Board by New Pork Concepts, LLC of Earlham, IA, in cooperation with CK International, a Des Moines exporter.

"Variety meats are frequently overlooked when companies think about adding value to their operations," says Glen Keppy, chairman of the Pork Checkoff Trade Committee. "There is an opportunity for small pork packers to turn a potential cost into a profit and put more dollars into the pork chain."

To register, contact Lars Boerre, New Pork Concepts, 105 S.W. Locust Ave., Earlham, IA 50072, (515) 758-9545, [email protected]; or John Cravens, director of foreign market development for the Pork Board, (970) 613-0968, [email protected].

Pork Board Puts Producers on Alert

Pork producers are urged to be on a heightened state of alert after a recent theft of a bacterium that causes neurologic signs and rapid death in pigs.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced recently it was notified that Actinobacillus pleuropneumonia (APP) had been stolen from a Michigan State University research facility in mid-September. The stolen materials were part of a project to develop swine vaccines.

APHIS and the National Pork Board advised producers and veterinarians to pay special attention to swine herds and be alert to unusual symptoms in pigs including convulsions, acute pneumonia and sudden death.

APP is not a threat to human health. But it can be a serious cause of respiratory disease in swine, says Beth Lautner, DVM, vice president of science and technology at the Pork Board. For control, it’s important to obtain a rapid diagnosis, followed by treatment usually with injectable antibiotics.

The Pork Board asks producers to:

  • Review the biosecurity and security plans at their farms. A Biosecurity Guide and Security Guide are available at
  • Report any suspicious activity or persons around their farm and contact local law enforcement officials.
  • Contact their veterinarian regarding any unusual health situation on their farms.

Symptoms of APP can include cough, fever, reduced appetite, acute pneumonia, encephalitis and sudden death. In some case, frothy and bloodstained nasal discharge can also be seen.

Seven Rules to Outwit Pathogens

Why do pathogens continue to outwit the sophisticated biosecurity systems put in place by the pork industry?

It's partly because the industry doesn't have all the answers about how swine disease organisms spread, says Scott Dee, DVM, University of Minnesota. Plus, over time, humans miss or skip details. Then, when diseases strike, they do retrospective analyses that don't yield concrete results.

And, says Dee, when swine pathogens outwit biosecurity systems, all too often humans quickly jump to the “default explanation” in lieu of scientifically proving what happened. Dee says the classic default explanation for a farm disease outbreak is aerosol transmission.

“There is little scientific evidence of aerosol transmission of swine pathogens, and absolutely no proof of its occurrence in the field,” he stresses.

Instead of relying on the default mechanism, scientists need to use epidemiological surveys and questionnaires that have been updated to include questions regarding new research information. Researchers also need to investigate routes of transmission using designs that involve multiple replications.

In short, researchers and swine practitioners need to constantly challenge and rethink biosecurity protocols, emphasizes Dee. Too much money is being spent and too much failure is occurring.

Dee suggests rewriting the biosecurity rules based on what we now know. He offers these seven checkpoints:

  1. Introduction of genetic material: Establish a closed herd policy for genetic improvement to minimize animal entry. Quarantine and test all great-grandparent breeding stock using a statistically valid, random sampling protocol.

  2. Personnel entry: Eliminate all downtime that exceeds 12 hours. Require the use of plastic footwear prior to entering office areas in hog barns. Require all footwear to be placed on elevated shelving or perforated plastic flooring to prevent pooling of debris and liquid from soles of boots or shoes.

    Personnel should shower in and out of units using standard operating procedures. Eliminate “pass-through” windows. Wear gloves at all times in animal areas.

  3. Container entry: Establish a neutral, off-farm point for all containers and shipping parcels. All sides of these items should be quarantined for at least 12 hours, disinfected with Lysol spray and allowed to air dry prior to entry into the farm.

  4. Insects: Install insect screen on sidewall openings of naturally ventilated barns and build only mechanically ventilated facilities in the future. Remove any hitchhiking insects from vehicle cabs before visiting farms.

  5. Vehicles: Invest in a truck wash facility that can be properly managed. Use disposable plastic boots when washing vehicles. Clean interiors of vehicles, disinfect cab interiors and floor mats with Lysol spray and allow floor mats to have sufficient drying time.

  6. Rodent control: Hire a professional exterminator to visit the farm on a monthly basis.

  7. Cross your fingers and pray!

Center Targets Two Pesky Diseases

As health challenges take their toll, a growing number of pork producers are demanding that researchers find ways to get rid of two pesky problems: Mycoplasmal pneumonia and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). That's the daunting task facing the Swine Disease Eradication Center (SDEC), says Carlos Pijoan, DVM, director of the two-year-old project.

Though much remains to be learned about how to stop disease transmission from sows to piglets, and the true value of treatment methods, Pijoan says vaccination seems to be adequately controlling mycoplasma infections.

PRRS remains a much stiffer challenge, however. Years ago, it was thought that PRRS would end up being like parvovirus, present in most herds but not a big deal, he recalls.

Then vaccines were developed. Their use has helped, but not proven to be a solution in every management program. Scott Dee, DVM, University of Minnesota and SDEC researcher, suggests the problem may be that producers don't know enough about herd immunity to apply the PRRS vaccines correctly.

Of late, producers have used a variety of cleanup plans to stamp out PRRS. The problem is, too many of those herds have become reinfected, says Dee.

Call for Action

When a flurry of PRRS outbreaks struck the Midwest last winter, they were unusual in that boar studs became infected — where biosecurity is paramount — as well as sow farms, notes Dee.

After that, the SDEC's 17-member industry advisory board put out an urgent call for some answers. The board, which helps support the center, includes some of the largest pork-producing operations, seedstock businesses and pharmaceutical firms in the country.

PRRS research was discussed at winter meetings. Dee and graduate student Satoshi Otake reviewed earlier work that showed aerosol transmission of the PRRS virus is all but non-existent. In their trials, they could not demonstrate airborne spread of the virus, even to pigs just one yard apart.

Other PRRS work they did at the SDEC research farm in west central Minnesota found that mosquitoes and houseflies could readily serve as mechanical vectors of the virus. Other work showed that treating sows using the same needle could spread the virus from sow to sow.

One big question was answered in a recent research project, reported on at the American Association of Swine Veterinarians annual meeting, by graduate student Laura Batista, DVM. She found that viral persistence in a breeding population is actually very short — probably less than 90 days.

“Everybody thinks PRRS is a never-ending infection like Herpes, but there is clear evidence now that it clears very quickly and there is no shedding after a period of time. That rolls in very nicely with how to acclimate gilts,” states Dee.

What remains a mystery is how both commercial herds and studs last winter came down with the virus, says Dee. A check of source and supplier herds indicated they were not the source of infection, for the most part.

“It appeared to be more of a lateral transmission, so we started thinking about cold weather and mechanical transmission,” he says.

That led Dee to his well-known “snowball” research which showed the virus could survive on snow-packed truck tires and be carried into a barn on boots with compacted snow.

The SDEC, acting on a directive from the advisory board, is conducting a full study of the incidence, distribution and spread of the PRRS virus transmission during last winter's epidemic, says Pijoan.

“I think the picture that is emerging with PRRS certainly is that you can transmit it readily and easily with bodily fluids, but you cannot transmit it readily without those factors,” observes Pijoan.

Additional center research proposals have been funded as well.

Targeting Mycoplasma

Mycoplasma is also not readily spread, says Pijoan. In one trial, Batista and other students tested and handled a large number of pigs that had mycoplasma. Researchers showered, changed clothes and went directly to a PRRS-positive gilt farm known to be mycoplasma negative. Despite following this procedure eight different times, 15 days apart, the replacement gilts remained negative for mycoplasma, Pijoan explains.

For PRRS and mycoplasma, the SDEC is starting over to get the basic facts about these two important swine diseases, explains Dee. Not much is actually known. “It's like driving a car with a blindfold. You can't really see where you are going, or what's coming,” he says.

For more information on the center, log on their Web site, www.cvm.umn. edu/sdec.

Calls for 25% Spot Market

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) continues to push for more competitive markets through Transparency for Independent Livestock Producers Act legislation, co-authored with Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI). The legislation, presented on the Senate floor before the August recess, aims to guarantee independent producers a share in the marketplace.

On July 25, U.S. House of Representatives Tom Latham, Greg Ganske, Jim Nussle (Iowa) and John Thune (South Dakota) introduced the legislation on the House floor.

Key points in the legislation include:

  • Packers would be required to purchase 25% of livestock (cattle, sheep and hogs) on the daily open market, or on a cash basis.

  • Spot market purchase means the purchase of livestock by a processor from a seller, if the livestock is slaughtered not more than seven days after the seller and the processor agree on a date of delivery, and the base purchase price is determined by an oral or written agreement between the seller and processor executed on the day of delivery for slaughter.

  • Packer spot market purchase requirements shall be fulfilled only by purchases from nonaffiliated producers; a person or entities holding less than 1% of the equity in the packer; or a person who does not hold an executive position, does not sit on the board of directors or does not owe the packer a fiduciary duty.

  • The rules only apply to packers large enough to be required to report daily live animal prices to USDA through the Mandatory Price Reporting Act.

  • The schedule of daily spot market purchases shall be reduced by 50% for the closed cooperatives for the January 2006 and January 2008 dates, respectively. Closed cooperatives shall also purchase the daily spot market livestock from non-shareholders and nonaffiliated producers of the cooperative.

  • Single plant entities with no affiliation to larger packing entities are exempt.

  • Does not preempt state law regarding packer feeding of livestock; state law may be more restrictive.

The proposed schedule of daily spot market purchases would begin with a mandatory 5% by Jan. 1, 2004, move to 15% by Jan. 1, 2006, then advance to the full 25% by Jan. 1, 2008. The timeline allows contracts to expire and be rewritten, utilizing the expanded cash market prices as a basis.

Supporters of the legislation now include Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Cattlemen's Association, Iowa Farm Bureau, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF), Center for Rural Affairs and the Organization for a Competitive Marketplace (OCM).

The congressmen are aiming to attach the Transparency Act to the agricultural appropriations bill scheduled for a final vote this month.

Can Industry Make ID Happen?

The U.S. is the world's most reliable supplier of safe food. But it faces serious challenges as competitors vie for global trade superiority using source verification programs.

At the same time, the U.S., in a state of flux over livestock identification (ID), faces a crisis of declining dollars and manpower spent on ID programs as disease eradication programs wind down.

Livestock analysts say those shortcomings could affect disease management capabilities. That could make the U.S. vulnerable to the rapid spread of foreign animal diseases and delayed recovery.

ID Plan Stalls

Four years ago, industry groups gathered in St. Louis for the National Farm Animal Identification Symposium, sponsored by the former Livestock Conservation Institute, now the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA). The focus was to lay out a plan of action for a national livestock ID program.

Consensus was that a single, uniform program must be developed for disease control, food safety, added value and market access, recalls Glenn Slack, NIAA president and chief executive officer. NIAA's charge is to provide a forum for building consensus and advancing solutions for animal agriculture.

In 1999, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a notice to establish a unique numbering system for a national ID program. Then industry efforts on ID stalled, partly due to depressed livestock prices, says Slack.

ID Issue Resurrected

In the first half of 2002, NIAA led efforts to resurrect ID through formation of a 25-member, joint industry-government National Food Animal Identification Task Force.

Preliminary details were spelled out during the NIAA-sponsored ID INFO EXPO held recently in Chicago. A summary draft of each working group's progress toward a national ID plan is to be reviewed in late September by the task force, according to Mark Engle, DVM, vice chair of NIAA's Animal Identification and Information Systems Committee and director of swine health programs for the National Pork Board.

The task force's plan is scheduled to be presented for action at the U.S. Animal Health Association annual meeting in late October in St. Louis. The final implementation plan is to be completed by December, with the goal of having a program in place as soon as is possible, says Engle.

Gaps in Identification

Livestock identification is inconsistent. There is mandatory cattle ID if animals test positive for brucellosis or tuberculosis (TB) — but no national requirements for cattle ID, says John Wiemers, DVM, chair of an interagency working group on animal ID in USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

The reduction in livestock diseases has made the job tougher, adds Bob Hillman, Idaho state veterinarian. Manpower and funding have been severely restricted. “As states become free of brucellosis, and now TB, we are no longer required to ID them to test them. The same goes for some swine diseases.”

The result is an increasing number of cases in which multiple herds have to be tested to assure the identity of diseased animals. He declares: “Right now we are testing six herds for TB because of one unidentified steer and testing five herds for swine brucellosis because of one unidentified sow. And that scenario is going on in every state in the country.”

Mandatory Swine ID

The swine industry has had a mandatory ID program since 1988, notes Fred Cunningham, DVM, owner of Northeast Carolina Farms, a 4,000-sow, farrow-to-wean operation in Moyock, NC.

While the swine ID program is working relatively well, one deficiency is the backtag system currently used to identify cull breeding swine, says Cunningham. Retention of backtags can be as low as 15-20% in some instances.

A second need is identification of market hogs back to their last location, rather than to an owner or post office box at the time of delivery to the plant, says Cunningham.

“For slaughter pigs, premises ID is really the way you want to go, because the problems you are trying to deal with originate on the premises, whether it be toxoplasma, trichinae, drug residues or salmonella,” adds James D. McKean, extension swine veterinarian, Iowa State University.

“Individual ID is really up to the pork producer at this point. But I do think we need all the premises identified,” he comments.

A geographically based site number can be married to many different quality assurance or animal health-type certification programs. Then a computer database can sort out the various programs and link producer records to a single premises ID number, explains McKean.

Creating Unity

There was much debate, mostly among cattle interests, regarding the method, traceback, cost, recordkeeping and confidentiality of an ID program.

John Clifford, DVM, with APHIS' Veterinary Services, suggested the group focus on consensus — build a national program based on a unique numbering system.

“We need to begin by identifying high-risk animals, such as breeding animals, because they are the best individuals to count on for a history of what's going on in the herd,” he says.

He also stressed the sense of urgency. “We are at risk. We need to move forward and we need to do so now.”

Farm of origin ID — premises or individual ID — is vital for protection from both domestic and foreign animal diseases, adds Idaho's Hillman.

For more information on NIAA's efforts on ID and other programs, log on to

USDA program requires:

  • Individual animal identification (ID) for all breeding stock moving interstate and a change of ownership;

  • Individual ID of all adult breeding stock at commingling or slaughter;

  • Premises ID of feeder pigs moving interstate and a change of ownership;

  • Group ID of market hogs delivered to slaughter plants back to the owner, and

  • Feeder pig shipments across state lines within a production system to be moved with a valid swine production health plan, which must be approved by both states and the records kept by the premises for three years.

Other ID Programs

In Canada, a mandatory cattle ID program went into effect July 1. It requires that all cattle be identified at the herd of origin by one of 29 approved bar-coded, plastic dangle tags or two electronic button tags. Identification is recorded at the packing plant. There are no movement restrictions.

Julie Stitt, manager of the Canadian Cattle Information Agency (CCIA) that oversees the program, says 12 million tags reportedly have been sold by manufacturers. Canada has 13 million cattle. In tests of the program, there have been 18 successful attempts to trace back tags to the herd of origin using the CCIA ID number, she reports.

The program was launched because animal health issues and the percentage of cattle being identified had declined dramatically, says Stitt.

European Union and Japanese mandatory animal identification programs have developed rapidly, and were borne out of crisis from foot-and-mouth disease and BSE problems, explains USDA's Wiemers.

Both Australia and New Zealand have voluntary ID programs aimed at cattle, using strictly electronic ID systems.

Developing countries are adopting advanced technology to move past the U.S. in several areas, and the same thing could happen with livestock ID, harming export markets, warns Mark Armentrout of AgInfoLink, a Colorado-based information management company.

Identification or source verification is a key element in providing proof of sound production practices for foreign meat buyers, says Phil Seng, president and chief executive officer, U.S. Meat Export Federation.

That proof equals trust, and trust transcends food safety. It's what's needed to sell net meat importers on your products, he says.

product news

AI Caddy

Kubus Inc. announces the AI Caddy. The new caddy offers an alternative to organizing artificial insemination supplies and semen doses. The caddy includes an insulated case that can be used for semen and synthetic seminal plasma. It holds 30 cochette bags, 25 tubes or 15 bottles and is built of lightweight frame material (5 lb.) for easy transport. A hinged system allows the caddy to be placed on gate bars up to 2½ in. thick.
(Circle Reply Card No. 101)

Animal Health Claim

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of Tylan Premix at 40 g./ton, for the prevention of swine dysentery, in combination with Paylean. Neither product requires pre-market withdrawal. Feeding Tylan at 100 g./ton for three weeks, followed by 40 g./ton of feed until market weight prevents swine dysentery, according to Elanco Animal Health.
(Circle Reply Card No. 102)

Closed Herd Breeding System

Monsanto Choice Genetics has introduced a closed herd breeding system to give producers greater control over herd health and genetic performance. The Core Matriarch Pyramid introduces genetics through semen, reducing health challenges and streamlining introduction of new genetics. The program is based on one Genepacker maternal line, developed from a cross of two unrelated Landrace lines. Producers can choose semen from a Genepacker grandparent boar and breed F1 females right on their farm, making it easier to maintain a baseline of pure genetics and shortening the time required to introduce new genetic breakthroughs.
(Circle Reply Card No. 103)

Milk Supplement

New from Merrick's, Inc. is LITTER-GRO baby pig milk supplement, a combination of milk proteins, spray-dried animal plasma and animal and vegetable fats to boost performance of both baby pigs and sows. The supplement helps pigs reach their potential when the sow is unable to produce enough milk. The product can be used as a supplement in early or late lactation, in heat-stressed sows and in early weaned nursery pigs under 10 lb.
(Circle Reply Card No. 104)

Vaccination Tool

From Prima Tech USA comes the Bottle Mount Vaccinator (BMV). The BMV features a fast bottle changing system that fits most 100 ml. bottles. It allows the user to quickly and easily change bottles while protecting them from breakage. The BMV with automatic refill completely drains each bottle, reducing medicine waste. The adjustable-dose bottle receptor has larger, fast-filling valves, a durable plastic body and strong, long-lasting O rings.
(Circle Reply Card No. 105)

Weigh Bars

Alley Weigh Load Bars from Weigh-Tronix provide an easy, low-cost way to create a scale to weigh animals or track feed consumption. Each Alley Weigh Bar consists of a 20 × 3-in. aluminum C-channel and a 500-lb. capacity weigh bar. To install, simply set a platform on top of the bars and a scale is ready to weigh. The load bars are easy to move at 5 lb. each.
(Circle Reply Card No. 106)

Wean-to-Finish Feeder

Vittetoe Inc. offers a new wean-to-finish tube feeder. A state-of-the-art mechanism allows 30 different feeder positions. The central adjustment handle controls both tubes simultaneously. Adjustment is simple: pull a pin, change the setting and replace the pin, eliminating the guesswork.
(Circle Reply Card No. 107)

Pig Starter Feed

Land O' Lakes Farmland Feed has launched NEWtra-Start, a new starter feed which is a unique combination of plant-based natural herbs, spices, fruits and essential oils. Herbs include garlic, basil, cinnamon, sage, thyme, peppermint, marjoram and others to provide added palatability, nutrient digestibility, growth and health. Company trials have shown a 3.4% average increase in feed intake and a 3.5% improvement in feed-to-gain ratio. Experiments have also shown over a 2-lb. advantage for NEWtra-Start-fed piglets over control pigs in a 35-day nursery period, according to the company.
(Circle Reply Card No. 108)

Prioritizing Preservation

Old Elk Lake shines like a jewel among Wisconsin''s rolling hills and fertile farm ground. For generations, the Harrison family has adopted leading-edge conservation practices to make sure this rare, shallow prairie lake stays in pristine condition.

Taking an even longer view of their environmental stewardship responsibilities, Lynn and Pat Harrison recently sold development rights on a field adjacent to the lake, where they raise row crops and finish hogs in a pair of confinement buildings.

The Harrisons, who own and operate E&L Harrison Enterprises, Elk Mound, WI, sold 77 acres that adjoin the lake outright to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). They also sold the development rights on 360 additional acres to the DNR, but will continue to farm and raise hogs on that piece of ground, continuing to use Best Management Practices to protect the lake and other aspects of the environment.

The area is under significant development pressure from the rapidly expanding Eau Claire and Menomonie communities. Selling the development rights to the DNR “means that at least half of that lakeshore will never be developed,” Lynn says.

Pat adds that the decision was made with future generations in mind. “We wanted to see the lake continue to exist as it is for the kids and grandkids to enjoy,” she says. “We want to preserve the land, and make it better if we can.”

That kind of conservation-minded thinking has been passed down ever since Lynn''s grandfather, John Harrison, moved to Elk Mound and began raising crops and livestock in 1913.

John and his sons began soil testing in the 1940s, eliminated disking in the 1960s and went to a total chisel plow conservation tillage system in the 1970s. The family was among the first in the county to install contour strips and to adopt the grassed waterway. Lynn has operated the farm with 100% no-till for the past 12 years. The farm grows about 900 acres of corn and soybeans, with about 250 of those acres on highly erodible land, which is farmed in contour strips.

Production Adjustments

Similarly, Lynn operates the hog farms with the highest environmental standards in mind. He began using a no-till injector to place liquid manure from his deep pit buildings in 1998. This practice allows him to capture the benefits of injection without burying too much residue on highly erodible land.

The hog operation has changed considerably to reflect changes in the industry over time. “Back in the 1950s and early 1960s, we farrowed twice a year in converted dairy barns,” Lynn says. “In 1967, we built a slotted floor farrowing house. That started the process of moving our hogs inside. The next year, we built a slotted floor finisher and fed hogs outside on concrete lots.”

Another slotted floor finisher was added at the home place in 1986. “At that point we had everything inside except gestating sows,” Lynn recalls. “We were to the point where we were getting 17 pigs per sow per year, while other people were reporting that they were producing 22 pigs per sow or more. We knew we were at a competitive disadvantage.”

The Harrisons considered building a sow unit, “but I wanted to manage pigs, not people,” Lynn says. “So we put up two new finisher barns on the land near Old Elk Lake in 1998, and converted our other buildings to become an all-finishing operation.”

The farm''s one-time capacity is now about 4,000 head. “We have been buying our feeder pigs since July 1999 through a network arrangement associated with Big Gain feeds from Mankato, MN,” he says. “All but one load of pigs has come from the same farm.”

Manure Supplements Soybeans

All manure is handled from deep pits. The older slotted floor buildings from the 1960s have 4-ft.-deep pits, the two built in 1998 have 8-ft. pits, and the finisher at the home place has a 10-ft. pit. When necessary, manure from the 4-ft. pits can be hauled to the 10-ft. pit for storage until it can be applied. The 10-ft. pit is typically emptied twice a year.

The two finishers at the Old Elk Lake location are usually pumped out for injection each fall. Those pits actually have about a 14-month capacity, so “we have a lot of flexibility in handling our liquid manure,” Lynn says.

Most producers target their manure application to feed a corn crop, but not so on this farm. “We have been spreading more and more manure to ground that will go into soybeans,” he says. “We have seen a larger yield response on beans than corn. We have done some work with test plots, and our experience has been that soybeans have about a 10-bu. bump in yields following manure application. In corn, we think the yield increase is more like 5 to 7 bushels per acre.”

Lynn says some people expect soybeans to lodge when they receive additional nutrients from manure, but “we haven''t seen that with the newer varieties. Most of them don''t get as tall as the older varieties.”

Real-World Research

The Harrisons follow a regular soil-testing schedule on a three-year rotation, and make sure the crop needs are matching up to the manure application rates. A typical application rate is 3,000 gal./acre. In the past, he has used book values for nutrient content of the liquid manure, but recently has started sampling and testing manure.

The rate of application, manure sampling techniques and balancing of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) nutrient application are just a few of the management practices that the Harrisons will be studying under their relationship with the Discovery Farms project.

That project is an integral part of the Wisconsin Ag Stewardship Initiative, a producer-driven program working to assure a healthy environment, as well as a healthy farm economy, through real-world application of environmental research. E&L Harrison Enterprises was accepted into the Discovery Farms Program in October 2001.

The program is an innovative research effort with cooperation from the University of Wisconsin college of agriculture and extension system and state agencies. Lynn says his interest in the program was sparked during his experiences with the Wisconsin Pork Producers Association''s Environmental Assurance Program.

“I got to thinking more about environmental issues in farming, and got involved in the regulatory process,” he says. “We need to have facts and scientific research behind the regulations, which is the idea Discovery Farms is founded upon. Farmers need to be able to live with the regulations and protect the environment, but they still need to make a living.”

Discovery Farms will be working with Harrison Enterprises on odor issues as well as phosphorus indexing, nutrient crediting and groundwater issues.

Lynn started testing manure as part of his first experience with the Discovery Farm project. He took samples last fall at various times during the pumping process. This spring, he experimented with core sampling a pit using a 3-in. PVC pipe with a rubber plug attached to a rod. By capturing a core sample, he was able to get an accurate reading of the entire pit before starting the pumping process.

“The sample was statistically the same as sampling the first, last and middle load,” he says. “We can take a core sample a few weeks ahead of time and have the test results before we start to haul.” A monitor on the tractor applying the manure keeps an accurate track of acres covered.

Lynn, who serves on the National Pork Board environmental research committee, believes in always keeping an eye out for new technology that will help advance environmental stewardship. “Environmental stewardship means getting involved and educated,” he says.

He points out that today''s farmer has seen his role expand from conservationist to environmental manager. “It is important to be proactive at all stages of farming practices to prevent pollution,” he says. “Preventing soil erosion, preserving water quality and providing wildlife habitat all are keys to improved environmental stewardship.”

Evaluating Biosecurity Risks

When auditing a farm for biosecurity issues, it's easy to see that pigs, people and location have the most impact on the level of risk.

If the farm is already in production, its location is set. But if you are considering a new facility, assessing locations is very important. Survey the surrounding area, drive the roads and check the site from the air in a small plane to better screen the whole area for risk. Record the exact location, topography, type and size of area pig operations on a plat map.

Disease Risk Management

Farm assessment is crucial because activities on-site have great impact on animal health.

A scoring program can be used to evaluate a farm or site. Examine the loading areas, farm entry point, staff activities, manure disposal system and pest control practices.

For walkways or loading chutes, bays or docks, the risk is in the level of contamination that occurs. For outdoor units, access of these areas by birds, other livestock, pets and people allow contact with the animals at the farm. Unwashed trucks hauling slaughter pigs can cause contamination, especially if pigs leave the truck and re-enter the loading area or buildings. Clean and disinfect confined loading chutes after each use.

The main entry point to the farm or buildings should be controlled. Doors should be locked and only employees or approved visitors allowed in. If the farm has shower facilities, employees and visitors should go into the farm only after taking a shower and putting on the farm's clothes and boots.

While there has been much debate about “downtime,” the practical approach is to keep visible material from being transferred between farms by using appropriate footwear and control of people traffic. Service people should also have “clean” clothes and boots and their equipment should be free of material from other pig farms.

Farms with outside pig lots can control visitors by blocking the driveway.

Control health risks of live animal introductions by using proper isolation facilities and testing procedures. Your health advisor should be in regular contact with the genetic supplier to design an action plan.

The isolation unit should be apart from the rest of the production system to prevent incoming animals from having direct contact with the herd. It should include a containment area for new animals that develop disease signs.

Separate boots and clothing should be assigned to the isolation area. Shower facilities should be kept clean and available for use.

Farm personnel required to take care of the animals in isolation should do so at the end of the day, or use care to prevent material from coming back into the herd.

Case Study No. 1

A single-site, farrow-to-finish producer normally hauls his own pigs to slaughter. In the middle of winter, he couldn't get the flat tire on his livestock trailer repaired and called a local hauler to take a load to slaughter.

This hauler's truck wasn't clean and the producer's loading chute didn't stop pigs from coming back off the truck and reentering the sorting area.

Two days after selling the pigs, classical transmissible gastroenteritis broke out in the finisher and spread to the whole herd. Several hundred pigs were lost, performance was reduced in the rest of the production system and sows were too sick to breed as a result of this single compromise.

The necessity for using clean trucks is real. And the importance of having “one-way” doors out of a finisher can prevent animals from coming back into the building.

Case Study No. 2

A producer reluctantly used an off-site building to isolate incoming gilts. The extra cost of the facility and the time to care for the animals was causing the producer to question its necessity.

A set of gilts arrived that tested positive for pseudorabies. The source herd had tested negative, but the gilts had become infected in between monthly tests.

The producer sold the new gilts immediately and restocked from another source.

Because of isolation and testing, a major catastrophe was avoided.

The producer continues to use this isolation facility. Now he realizes the cost of prevention is far less than herd exposure or infection.

Biosecurity Audit

Auditing all aspects of a farm will reveal where health issues can potentially compromise herd health. In most cases, the local veterinarian or the farm's veterinary consultant can evaluate the risk. The health of your herd could be at risk if you delay. Contact your veterinary advisor to have a biosecurity audit done as soon as possible.