National Hog Farmer is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Sitemap


Articles from 2003 In September


Pork Checkoff Honors Outstanding Environmental Stewards in Pork Production

For their dedication to a strong environmental conservation ethic, a review committee representing the National Pork Checkoff Board and National Hog Farmer magazine, co-sponsors of the program, have selected four pork production operations as Environmental Stewards for the year 2003. They are:

  • Alliance Farms, Cisne, Ill.
  • Nicolai Pork Producers Inc., Hector, Minn.
  • Bundy Lane, Sarem Farms Inc., Gates, N.C.
  • Vic Little, Quail Run Farms, Rosston, Okla.

"This year's winners represent some of the finest individuals and operations in our industry," said Craig Christensen, a producer from Ogden, Iowa and president of the National Pork Board. "The Pork Checkoff's Environmental Stewards are representative of pork producers across the country who are committed to maintaining and improving the environment."

A national selection committee evaluated each operation on its manure management, conservation practices, odor-control strategies, farm aesthetics and neighbor relations, wildlife habitat and innovative ideas. Each finalist also provided general production information and wrote an essay on the meaning of environmental stewardship. The annual awards program is co-sponsored by Pork Checkoff and National Hog Farmer magazine, who will feature the winners in their September issue.

The 2003 Environmental Stewards also will be recognized among their peers for their commitment to environmental conservation among their peers in March at the 2004 National Pork Industry Forum in Atlanta, Ga.

America's pork producers are stewards of the land, said Christensen. They invest, through the Pork Checkoff, in environmental research and programs that address odor, manure management and regulation compliance, to name a few. This is the ninth year for the Checkoff-funded Environmental Stewards program. To meet the winners and tour their farms, visit the Checkoff Web site at www.porkboard.org.

National Pork Board has responsibility for Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, technology, swine health and pork safety. For information on Checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call the Pork Checkoff Service Center at 800-456-PORK or check the Internet at www.porkboard.org.

Note to media: Pork producers are available to interview about this story. To arrange for an interview, please contact Cindy Cunningham, assistant vice president of communications at the National Pork Board, at 515-223-2600.

Alliance Farms, Sow Farm 202 Paul Burriss, an employee of Hostetter Management Company, is the area production manager for Alliance Farms, including Sow Farm 202. This farm is a farrow-to-wean site near Cisne, Ill. that houses 2,500 sows. This cooperative, which originated in Colorado, provides a continuous flow of nursery pigs for its shareholders. Alliance Farms has established a strong, beneficial partnership with local farmers to use the effluent from the anaerobic/facultative lagoon treatment system. A complete set of records are collected and maintained for the production site and each application site. Alliance Farms works closely with the Illinois EPA in development of regulations and reporting. This site overlooks a 45-acre lake that serves as a home for various wildlife. Burriss and Alliance Farms see themselves, and other pork producers, as greenskeepers of the environment: striving to make their environment one that others can appreciate and admire.

Nicolai Pork Producers, Inc.

Dick Nicolai, owner, and Sam Watkins, owner-manager, operate a 1,500-sow site near Hector, Minn. The partnership, which also includes Donn Cunningham and Gary Lamka, has taken a concentrated approach to manure management and odor abatement. The farm implemented a biofilter to treat odor from the barn and deep pits. The exhaust air from the barn passes through a biofilter which consists of a mixture of compost and woodchips. Microorganisms in the mixture oxidizes the exhaust air and minimizes odor. The site has been host to many visitors interested in biofilter and odor-reduction technologies. NPPI believes in complying with environmental regulations, using natural resources responsibly, minimizing waste generation and educating the community on change and practices.

Sarem Farms, Inc., Bundy Lane

Bundy Lane is an eighth-generation farmer from Gates, N.C., who manages the 4,800-sow farrow-to-wean site as part of his family's operation that includes crops such as corn, peanuts, cotton, soybeans, wheat, fescue and bermuda pasture, as well as Angus cattle and a farm supply business. The sows are housed in tunnel ventilated, pit-recharge buildings with a two-stage lagoon system. Special attention is given to odor abatement to ensure proper biological activity in the lagoons as well as to evergreen biofilters near exhaust fans. The lagoon effluent is applied to cropland to yield economic and production benefits to the operation. The Lane family has had a long history of wildlife management. Bundy Lane also maintains a strong and open relationship with his neighbors. He understands that the better he can manage his operation, the better he can leave it for future generations.

Quail Run Farms, Vic Little and Family

Vic Little, the fifth-generation to raise hogs in the Ditch Valley area, took advantage of an opportunity to return to his family's operation. Together with his wife, Melva, and son, Kirby, he operates a 3,400-head nursery outside of Rosston, Okla. Vic has given special attention with his nursery and the shallow-pit/evaporative lagoon. Some of his practices include lagoon surface wave-breakers, using biocatalysts and microbial additives in pits and establishment of a shelterbelt. The Little family also takes special care when they empties so not to affect the neighbors. Vic has conducted field trials to minimize ammonia levels on the farm and also discovered water conservation practices that can be used. Vic has a special interest in wildlife management, working with the Oklahoma Wildlife Department for conservation. Vic and his family see environmental stewardship as not merely an option, but as an essential part of life and business.

For more information contact: Cindy Cunningham at the National Pork Board, (515) 223-2600.

product news

Swine Trailers

EBY Trailer's TransPork series offers models up to 53 ft. long in either slat or punch-side designs. Both trailers offer maximum ventilation and are designed to assure easy cleanup. In addition to the standard industry options, EBY also offers custom-built trailers to meet the requirements of individual customers. All trailers have slip-resistant flooring, biosecurity features and strength and corrosion resistance.
(Circle Reply Card No. 101)

Nutrition Supplement

Zinpro Corp. introduces MiCroPlex, an organic chromium feed ingredient recently cleared for use by the Food and Drug Administration. MiCroPlex (chromium-L-methionine), can be fed to all classes of swine. A patented complexing technology allows MiCroPlex to offer greater bioavailability and proven function, better value and greater potential net return for pork producers than current chromium feeding sources, the company claims. MiCroPlex is the only chromium source cleared for use in swine diets up to 400 ppb., providing producers greater flexibility in feeding programs, including greater chromium fortification in gestation sow diets during periods of depressed intake and for developing gilts. Supplemental chromium helps meet swine dietary requirements and enhance energy metabolism to improve sow and wean-to-finish performance. It has also been shown to aid in the improvement of carcass quality.
(Circle Reply Card No. 102)

Feed Additive

BioPlus 2B is a direct-fed microbial feed additive from Chr. Hansen Inc. BioPlus 2B offers consistent improvement in weaned pig performance with and without antibiotics. Research has shown improvements in average daily gain of 4-7% at a cost of 10¢/pig, resulting in up to a 10:1 return on investment, according to the company. BioPlus 2B is the first microbial feed additive to receive final approval from the European Union. The product consists of two live, naturally occurring microorganisms proven effective in aiding digestibility and feed utilization. The enzymes break down starches, proteins and fats into smaller, more easily digested nutrients for better performance and efficiency in the nursery diet.
(Circle Reply Card No. 103)

Injectable Penicillin

Ultrapen (sterile penicillin G procaine) is a new brand of injectable penicillin from Hanford Pharmaceuticals, available in 100, 250 and 500 ml sizes. Ultrapen is the product of an improved process which Hanford trademarked, MicroSuspension II. It is based on an exclusive, three-step blending process. The company says the process doubles the key step which insures that Ultrapen will instantly resuspend for the life of the product.
(Circle Reply Card No. 104)

Artificial Insemination Tool

AbsoluteSow and AbsoluteGilt from Absolute Insemination are soft, pliable, non-intrusive, safe and effective insemination rods, usable by virtually anyone currently performing conventional artificial insemination. Absolute rods do not push their way through delicate tissue areas. Instead, they “balloon” safely through the cervical tract. The tip of the balloon resembles a donut, and when pressure is applied, the tip gently opens a passageway and draws new material from inside the catheter to feed its growing length. Not only do Absolute rods traverse the cervix, penetration into uterine horns is possible in some species.
(Circle Reply Card No. 105)

Rodent Control

Gladiator from Agrisel USA is an EPA-approved neurotoxin for anticoagulant-resistant rodents. A single dose is lethal to rodents, including the Norway rat, the roof rat and the house mouse, but it is safe for pets and animals. After consumption of Gladiator, results are achieved within one or two days. According to the company, these immediate effects require 400% less bait for the same results.
(Circle Reply Card No. 106)

Overhead Washing System

The HurriTrain from Swine Robotics Inc. cleans around most any barn obstacle and is designed to accommodate the needs of virtually any operation. The HurriTrain runs on a rail system along the ceiling of the barn and works with existing pressure washing systems. It comes with 100 to 400 ft. of hose, depending on the needs of the operation.
(Circle Reply Card No. 107)

Acid Barn Cleaner

BioSentry introduces Acid Barn Cleaner, a concentrated, non-chlorinated, acidified cleaner for use in swine facilities to clean walls, floors, crates, slats, pens, feeders, drinkers and transport equipment. Repeated use of conventional alkaline cleaners tends to leave behind hard water (mineral) deposits, especially if soap-scum-forming saponified soaps are used. Acid Barn Cleaner effectively removes all scale, mineral deposits, scum and biofilms, thus preparing surfaces for more effective disinfection, says the company.
(Circle Reply Card No. 108)

Hog Farm Converts Manure to Electricity

An Alberta, Canada Hutterite colony burns methane from hog manure to produce electricity.

The Iron Creek Hutterite Colony, near Viking, Alberta spent more than $250,000 (Can$) for power in 2001 — but they haven't paid an electrical power bill since.

But, there's no need to hide from creditors. In 2001, the colony invested $2 million (Can$), roughly $1.33 million in U.S. dollars ($1 Can = $0.70 US), in the first Biogem Power System installed in a hog barn in North America. The biogas electrical generation system burns methane generated from intensive livestock waste to produce electricity.

“Biogem's (Power Systems) literature says the system will pay for itself with electricity sales to the power grid alone in 5-6 years,” says colony spokesman Andy Hofer. “Our payback will be even shorter if you add in what we save by reducing our $100,000 water bill. We have no water on our farm, so we have to buy it from a pipeline from Edmonton, 80 miles away.”

The Biogem system recaptures up to 95% of the water from the slurry inputs after it has been through the digestion process. This water is then processed back to usable, clean-quality status, so it can be either reused in the barns or used to fill other farm water needs.

“We use the water for spraying,” Hofer says. “It is perfectly clean water. It is supposed to be fit for human consumption, but we haven't done that yet.”

Additional savings are realized by using some of the heat produced by the system to warm the colony's hog barns. Heat is recovered through a series of exchangers, which use the heat of the engine exhaust, turbos and cooling system to then heat water. About 2% of the total thermal energy produced maintains the temperature in the anaerobic digestion cycle, with the other 96-98% available for other uses.

“We use 30-40% of the heat in the barns, but we still have 60-70% of it going up into the air,” Hofer says. “In the future, there are plans to add a greenhouse operation to take advantage of it.”

How the System Works

“Our system will operate on any biodegradable organic waste,” explains Grant Miekle with BioGem Power Systems in Ponoka, Alberta.

In the colony's operation, manure from their smaller, 600-sow barn and their other livestock operations is brought into a receiving tank, where it is mixed, pre-warmed and delivered into a cutter-pump assembly to be chopped into uniform sizes and pumped into anaerobic digesters. In the digesters, methane gas is produced naturally as part of the decomposition and fermentation process.

The digesters, about 50 ft. in diameter and 20 ft. deep, have an expandable bladder made of a special heavy-duty rubber cap to trap the methane gas. “For lack of a better term, it looks like a balloon,” explains Miekle.

The trapped biogas is then transferred to a piston engine, which generates electricity and thermal energy. The size of the generator needed depends on the amount of input (manure). “A 1,200-sow operation, for example, would produce 80-100 cubic meters (104-130 cu. yd.) of slurry a day, enough to run a 350-kw system,” he says.

“Our plant will generate 350 (kw/hr) of electricity,” Hofer says. “We use half of it to meet the colony's electricity needs and sell the other half to the power grid.”

The colony draws electricity from the power grid during off-peak hours, such as midnight to 6 a.m., when low demand means electricity is practically free. Then they sell electricity during the day, when demand pushes up the cost.

Power generation and consumption are recorded in detail by a computer throughout the day. The colony is paid the difference between the value of the electricity they use and the value of what they sell.

“Typically, our plants cost 1.5¢/kw to operate but on the open grid the average kilowatt sells for 5¢, so you have a pretty good spread,” Miekle says. “This is what makes our plant feasible. There are a number of other plants out there that aren't (feasible) because the cost per kilowatt hour is too high.”

Hofer says their power generation profits vary. “Last year we sold our average kilowatt for 18¢; this year it has only been 7¢.” Still, it adds up. In 2002, the colony earned $110,000 (Can$) selling electricity to the grid.

Manure Volume Reduced 80%

While the colony has benefited from the money the plant has saved and earned, Hofer feels the real advantage has been how it simplified their manure handling.

“We have lots of pigs, lots of manure and lots of smell,” Hofer explains. “We have barns 15 miles apart, and our land (for injecting manure) is up to 25 miles away. We spent a lot of money hauling manure. The digester has eliminated more than 80% of our manure volume. It reduced 10 million gal. to two million gal. and the residuals still have a nutrient value as fertilizer.”

All organic waste generated on the colony is fed into the system year-round. The outputs from the system are clean, re-usable water and a dry, organic, nutrient-rich material, which is about 4% of the original volume and has a consistency similar to peat moss. Since this organic material contains all the residuals from the process, there is now no need for a liquid, manure-spreading program at this site.

For nine months of the year, Hofer cycles material back through the digester to break it down further. “Theoretically, you could completely eliminate the manure by putting it back into the digester until it completely breaks down, and have a closed-loop system. We haven't tried this since we are concerned about a buildup of salt,” he says.

The Real Bonus — Less Odor

Perhaps the best byproduct of all is odor reduction. Since the Biogem system burns off the methane to produce electricity, and has a proprietary system to eliminate sulfides, the system eliminates the odors usually associated with hog manure.

“You are burning the smell,” Hofer says. “If you smell anything, you have a leak in the system and you are losing energy.”

“Odor control is a big selling point,” Miekle says. “All producers want to be good community citizens. If they can find a solution to the odor problem that takes care of some of the environmental and community complaints and pays for itself in the long run, we feel it is a win-win situation. Many producers agree.”

Biogem Power Systems has the North American distribution rights to the Romain Welter & Sons system from Luxembourg. Currently, there are 130 biogas electrical generation systems operating in Europe. The colony is currently adding a second system at their 1,200-sow barn 15 miles away from the main site.

Living by the Lake

Driving past the 2,500-sow operation known as Alliance Farms #202, the average motorist might notice only a well-kept hog farm sitting a few hundred feet away from a country road. But fly over this same unit and the view is dramatic.

The sow farm sits at one end of a man-made 45-acre lake on gently rolling land in Wayne County, IL. The lake fills a natural series of draws and hollows to form a jagged, dragon-shaped structure. The lake is a magnet for southern Illinois' abundant and varied wildlife population.

“Alliance Farms has been proactive in keeping the area wildlife friendly,” says Paul Burriss, area production manager for the company's Illinois operations. The lake was expanded from five to 45 acres as the operations were constructed on this site. “The lake is not only a source of supplemental fresh water, but is used by our employees and others for fishing and hunting,” he says. “It's a favorite spot for duck hunting as well as a good lake for bluegill, catfish and bass.”

Various species of birds also gather at the lake, from pintails, coots and Canada geese to the rare Sand Hill crane.

Winning Ways

Alliance Farms won an environmental stewardship award in 2002 for a farrowing operation located at its arid Yuma, CO site. This year, Alliance Farms #202 receives a nod for its environmental management in a moist and humid climate.

In 1996, Alliance Farms expanded operations into southern Illinois. Total production in Illinois now includes three sow sites and two nursery sites. Burriss oversees all Illinois production, and is an employee of Hostetter Management Co., a firm that provides management on a contract basis for Alliance Farms.

Alliance sow farm #202, built in 1997, produces approximately 1,050 weaned pigs each week that are shipped to one of the company's nearby 8,000-head nursery sites. From the nurseries, pigs are shipped out to shareholders for finishing.

Precise Placement

Keeping the water in the lake as pure as possible is a driving force behind nutrient management at the sow farm. For example, filter strips around the lake help to slow runoff from area fields as well as trap sediment and enhance infiltration within the filter strip. These strips also trap fertilizers, pathogens, heavy metals and pesticides, helping keep water pure.

The farm uses global positioning system (GPS) technology to make sure that effluent gets placed where it can be used most effectively. All areas of the farm, including the buildings, lagoons and setback areas, have been mapped using GPS technology. Recordkeeping is GPS referenced. Alliance Farms has contracted with area farmers to utilize effluent from the sow farm. Fields receiving nutrients have been divided into 10-acre grids for soil sampling.

“We sample the lagoon prior to application,” says Andy Glover, who serves as environmental and agronomic consultant for Alliance Farms. His Independent Consulting Service based in Mt. Erie, IL, has set boundaries with GPS to find total tillable acres, allowing for setbacks, in each field.

“We pull our soil samples and mark those points with GPS,” he says. “We can go back to that same point for soil testing in the future so we can get a good comparison. We can compare apples with apples and get an idea of what's going on with the nutrients in that soil profile.”

Since the sow farm uses a two-stage lagoon system, effluent is not highly concentrated. Buildings use a shallow (2-ft. deep) pit system with pull plugs. The plug is pulled on a weekly schedule to properly feed the first-stage lagoon. Water from the second-stage lagoon is recycled to recharge the shallow pits. “The bacteria brought in with the recycled effluent begins breaking down manure in the pit, allowing the lagoon to work more effectively,” Burriss says. “The recycling process also allows us to use less fresh water.”

Nutrients are typically applied using an umbilical hose with injectors, but in some cases, a traveling gun can be used to irrigate fields. “We have been injecting enough nutrients to allow the farmer to totally eliminate commercial fertilizer,” Glover says. He keeps a close watch on both nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) levels, making sure N is high enough to suit crop needs while avoiding a buildup of P.

“People have told us we can't build potassium (K) levels on these clay soils, but we have been building levels of that nutrient in the soil as well,” he adds. He figures that effluent will replace $18,774 worth of commercial fertilizer this year, based on the current costs of commercial fertilizer nutrients.

With effluent applied spring and fall, some fields may receive as much as 40,000 gal./acre. More typically, rates run about 15,000 gal./acre. Effluent is usually applied ahead of corn in a corn-soybean rotation.

Good Housekeeping

Extra effort in several key areas helps keep the sow unit attractive to both neighbors and employees.

Odor management began at planning stages, as engineers sited the buildings more than 400 ft. from the road, and oriented the tunnel-ventilated buildings so that ventilation fans point away from the road. “With that distance to the road, the air coming out of the buildings has time to mix with outside air and dilute the odor,” Burriss points out.

Buildings are given a thorough cleaning, including exhaust fans, equipment and feed lines, on a regular schedule. Pull-plugs are drained on a rotation to keep from overloading the lagoon. Employees flush out any remaining solids before recharging the pits.

The farm also uses odor control products to further polish air leaving the farm. A commercial pit additive (Pit Remedy) is added monthly to help reduce odor and promote breakdown of manure solids in the lagoon.

Alliance Farms #202 also has experimented with adding carbon to the lagoon to help reduce hydrogen sulfide emissions. Carbon has been shown to reduce hydrogen sulfide emissions in deep pit barns by absorbing the volatile fatty acids produced by bacteria as they break down protein. Burriss is continuing to evaluate the effectiveness of carbon for lagoons.

The farm carefully manages mortalities, moving losses to an off-site refrigerated trailer for pickup by a commercial renderer.

Community Involvement

Alliance Farms also works to maintain good relations with the community. “We hope we are viewed as a contributor to the community,” Burriss says. “We donate annually to the Cisne High School after-prom party as well as many other groups throughout the year.” The farm has supplied metal for the local high school for use in welding classes and has donated money for the Mt. Erie Township's 150-year anniversary celebration.

But the best community ambassadors are employees of the unit, Burriss says. “Our employees have lived here their whole lives and are active in local churches, clubs and organizations. They have built relationships with people that take a lifetime to build.”

Trying to preserve those relationships as well as preserving nature is the challenge facing Alliance Farms. “We want to preserve what is here for future generations,” Burriss says. “Our employees really like this lake. We need to make sure that it is preserved for these folks and for many generations into the future.”

Managing for Minimal Impact

Sarem Farms • Bundy Lane • Gates, NC

When it comes to informing the public about pork production and the environment, Bundy Lane takes the proactive approach. Whether he meets a neighbor with a concern about pork production or crosses paths with a true anti-hog environmentalist, Lane usually offers his business card. “I invite them to come out to my farm and take a look around any time they want,” he says.

Over the years, a number of those folks have accepted Lane's invitation to visit Sarem Farms, his 4,800-sow farrow-to-wean operation near Gates, NC. “Once people come out here to the farm, they leave with a totally different point of view,” he says. “If someone has concerns about pork production, I challenge them straight up to come and take a look.”

Perhaps one reason that Bundy displays such self confidence is the fact that he's no newcomer to either agriculture or pork production. The Lane family's agricultural roots run deep in northeast North Carolina. Bundy, a North Carolina State University graduate, represents the eighth generation of the family to farm in the area. “My ancestors got off the boat from Europe in Edenton, about 30 miles away,” Lane says. “Each generation farmed as sharecroppers until my grandfather was able to buy a small bit of land.”

Since that time, the family has expanded and diversified operations. Roger, Lane Bundy's father, manages the family's Angus cattle business as well as a farm supply business. Bundy manages the sows while his brother, John, manages 3,000 acres of row crops. “Each generation has always had some pigs and cows along with crops,” Bundy says. “We are doing the same thing, but on a different scale.”

Bringing a large-scale hog operation into the area required Lane to place a premium on environmental stewardship right from the start. The sow farm was built in 1996 under contract with Carroll's Foods (now Murphy Brown). It sits only about 500 ft. from the edge of a meandering swamp that eventually feeds the Chowan River. The Chowan and other waterways in the area are increasingly popular with bass fishermen, boaters and others seeking recreation. “There's a huge fine to pollute these waters,” Lane says. “North Carolina charges a $25,000-a-day fine, so you absolutely must do it right if you're going to be in this business.”

Diversified Farming

The sow farm features tunnel-ventilated and pit-recharge buildings connected to a two-stage lagoon. Like much of northeastern North Carolina, the 700-acre tract is heavily wooded. The site contains 375 acres of forest and 325 acres that grow peanuts, cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat and forages.

Forages, watered and nourished by effluent through one of the farms center-pivot irrigation units, support 75 head of Angus cattle. The 80 acres of forage is split between fescue, a cool-season grass, and warm-season Bermuda grass. A second center pivot feeds cropland, and a traveling gun irrigator is used on other fields.

Commercial fertilizer is used to balance the nutrients from applied effluent. In most cases, little additional fertilizer is needed. “Effluent is almost perfect for cotton,” Lane says. “It just about matches the (nutrient) analysis we need.”

The effluent, providing both nutrients and irrigation water, was a blessing in 2002, when the area experienced a severe drought. “Our corn receiving the effluent averaged about 130 bushels an acre,” he says. “Corn grown right next to it that received only commercial fertilizer and no irrigation yielded only about 30 bushels.” Cotton yields were also up, and the boost to forage crops allowed the farm to make enough hay to last through the winter.

Fertilizer value adds up in cost savings. Lane figures the nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in the effluent, using costs for commercial fertilizer of 30¢/ lb. for N and 28¢ for P, ring up an annual savings of $2,753.70 for N and $1,879.80 for P.

Management Innovation

Some of the innovations in manure management at Sarem Farms are easy to see. The center pivots, for example, feature automatic valves that help prevent over-application in case the system stalls. Computer control panels on the pivots allow Lane to adjust applications to meet the precise needs of the crop. A single-channel radio system allows constant monitoring as well as remote-control operation of the pivots.

Lane also is experimenting with what he calls a “natural biofilter” to help disperse odors and gases coming through the tunnel ventilation fans. He planted broadleaf evergreen bushes (ligustrums) in the path of the air exhausted from the buildings. “We know the plants help collect dust, and we feel there has been a noticeable reduction in odor immediately beyond the bushes,” he says.

Perhaps the most innovative aspect of environmental management on the farm is not so easy to spot. It involves a commitment to continuing improvement of all nutrient management processes. Sarem Farms is among the first 10 hog farms in the U.S. to implement a process called Environmental Management Systems (EMS).

EMS started as a pilot program developed by the Environmental Protection Agency in cooperation with the North Carolina Department of the Environment and Natural Resources. “EMS is based on continued quality improvement, which is the management style we have always tried to incorporate on the farm,” Lane says. “It was not a big leap in management style.”

EMS involves a system of management and recordkeeping that helps manage environmental and production concerns simultaneously. “Many farms probably view production and environmental management separately, but everything involved in production can eventually impact the environmental side,” he says. “EMS takes a more holistic approach, looking at the big picture.”

David Ray, a contract service manager for Murphy Brown, says that Sarem Farms stands out because environmental management has always been incorporated into daily operations. “Bundy has made environmental management a number one priority,” Ray says. “He has proven that production and nutrient management go hand-in-hand, and both receive equal attention on this farm.”

EMS demands consistency in management through the development of such things as standard operating procedures, Lane points out. He has developed a manual that provides all the information required to keep Sarem Farms in compliance. “If anything would happen to me, it would allow my wife and brother to step in immediately and find out where all the files are and what they need to do to continue operations,” he says.

Serving Fellow Farmers

Lane also takes an active role working on environmental issues on behalf of fellow pork producers. He helped found Frontline Farmers, and serves as chairman of its environmental committee.

“Frontline Farmers was formed a couple of years ago to make sure that the perspective of farmers was represented on environmental issues,” he says. “Membership is open only to those who own and operate hog farms. Not absentee owners or investors, but those folks who are actually pumping the manure.”

Lane's profile with Frontline Farmers has led him to be involved in a number of stakeholder panels. That includes the technology panel overseeing research into alternative technologies at North Carolina State University. This was the research that came about as part of the agreement between Smithfield Foods, Premium Standard Farms and the North Carolina attorney general regarding pork production's impact on the environment. “I'm the only farmer on the panel,” Lane points out. “When people are looking to solve our problems, it seems important that we make sure the farmer perspective is involved.”

Leaving Footprints

Lane points out that good environmental management can be part of the search for improved efficiency. “I want our total footprint on the environment to be as small as possible,” he says. “To me, the best way to get that job done is to wring the most from every acre of land or the most pigs from every sow. It's also good business to do that. And the more we get from each acre in production, the more land can be left untouched by mankind.”

He plans to continue to spread that message. “People inherently want to believe farmers,” Lane says. “They have a good image of farmers. You're always taking a risk when you invite people to your farm, but we need to take that risk.”

Protecting Precious Water

Quail Run Farms • Vic Little Family • Rosston, OK

Wandering for about 12 miles through Harper County, OK, Old Settler's Ditch delivers the lifeblood of agriculture — irrigation water — to the community known as Ditch Valley.

In the late 1800's, settlers worked shoulder-to-shoulder with horse-drawn equipment to bring water from the Cimarron River into their valley. Working together was a key to survival, and for more than 100 years, their descendants have kept up that spirit of cooperation to maintain what they call simply “The Ditch.”

Irrigation water from this narrow furrow supports high-quality alfalfa and other crops in the valley. The Ditch eventually dumps back into the Cimarron, which supplies downstream communities with drinking water. And the Old Settler's Ditch is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Vic Little's Quail Run hog operation sits only a stone's throw from The Ditch. So, as you might imagine, Little places a great deal of emphasis on making sure his hog farm does not impact water quality in The Ditch.

“Water is a valuable commodity, and it is getting more precious all the time,” he says. “I have designed my hog farm to protect the surrounding water table. There is no way that I am going to pollute the water that my family and I depend on for our livelihood and health.”

Coming Home

The opportunity to raise hogs is the reason that Little is back in the Ditch Valley neighborhood. He grew up here on a farm that has been in the family for nearly a hundred years. He left the area to work in the natural gas industry, and his wife, Melva, taught school.

In July 1998, the Little family decided to come back to Vic's home near Rosston, OK, and build a 3,400-head nursery on contract with Murphy Farms. (Melva now serves as human resource training manager for Murphy Farms, headquartered in nearby Laverne.)

“It was always a dream of ours to bring the family back to the farm,” Melva says. “But it would have been hard to support our family on traditional farming. The hog farm offered us the opportunity to come back here, and our dream came true.”

The Littles' son, Kirby, has been doing hog chores since he was a third grader and has picked up more responsibility through his junior high years. He remains actively involved in managing the nursery and, at 13 years old, he's looking forward to joining the National FFA Organization this fall. The Littles also have two grown daughters, Andrea and Ashley.

By establishing his hog operation on the High Plains, Vic Little wanted to locate and construct the buildings to “cause the least disruption of the land's natural geography.” After construction, Little planted a cover crop of native grass to prevent erosion, and he left some areas as natural cover to attract wildlife.

The lagoon is lined with clay, and the Littles added rock to the berms to further protect the lagoon's integrity. A 300-ft.- long planting of trees along the north side of lagoon is intended to become a shelterbelt that will protect the lagoon from wind erosion while also attracting wildlife.

Wave Stoppers

In addition to the rock, Little also came up with an innovative way to cut down on wave action caused by strong Oklahoma winds. “I walked out behind the nursery one day, and the wind was blowing so hard that the waves on the lagoon had whitecaps,” he says. “I figured a wave-leveling system of some kind could reduce water movement and further protect the lagoon.”

He came up with the idea of using 2-in. pipe unrolled across the lagoons and anchored to the bank. These pipes are placed about one-third of the way from either end of the lagoon. “I doubt that we have $100 invested in materials to do this,” Little says.

“All that wave action really adds to the surface area of the lagoon, and you're also getting the effects of agitation,” he says. “We felt that another advantage to wave levelers is that they might cut down on any odors coming from the lagoon.”

Little says he's observed the wave levelers in action, and they seem to do the job of calming the lagoon. Waves begin to form, but are knocked down by the pipe barrier. “I've also called my neighbors, and they feel it has helped us minimize odors,” he says. “Just that benefit alone is worth the minimal investment we have in the system.”

The nursery is a double-curtain, naturally ventilated structure with radiant heaters. A computerized controller (Ventium) monitors six sensors that measure humidity, air movement and temperature. The device automatically adjusts curtains and heaters. An alarm system warns of electrical, water or feed system problems.

Pit plugs are pulled on a weekly schedule, draining manure into the lagoon. The system operates as an evaporative lagoon due to the area's low humidity, but adequate land on this 100-acre site is available for application when needed. Since a neighbor lives just a mile northeast of the nursery, Little doesn't pull plugs when winds favor the southwest.

Studying Ammonia

The Little family has been involved in a number of industry projects. One was a field trial, in cooperation with Bill Luce from the Oklahoma Pork Council, to study ammonia levels in buildings. The research looked at whether a commercial biocatalyst added to confinement building pits could enhance the activity of naturally occurring microbes.

The bottom line of the study was that the treatment may have helped lower ammonia, but also found that ammonia levels in the barn were low to begin with. “The study showed that our barn, where we use recycled lagoon water to recharge pits, had just as low an ammonia level as buildings where they used fresh water,” Little says. “Using recycled recharge water is another way for us to save on the amount of water we use.”

Not only have the Littles participated in the On-Farm Assessment and Environmental Review (OFAER) program, but Vic also participated in training to become a certified OFAER assessor. “My desire was not to become an assessor, but to learn how to be a better environmental steward in my own operation,” he says.

Quail Run also participated in a study that involved 31 farms in five states, conducted by the University of Missouri and sponsored by the National Pork Board. This research studied environmental management practices on the farms to see if the proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit Regulation Guidelines were feasible. The farm also has received an EPA Seal of Approval.

Good Neighbors

The Little family has welcomed dialog with neighbors in Ditch Valley. “I had mixed feelings when I heard about Vic Little coming back to Ditch Valley and building a pig nursery,” says neighbor D.A. Mundell. “I live only a mile northeast of the lagoon. At first, I did get a fair amount of odor.”

Vic regularly called his neighbors to see if they could detect odor, and encouraged them to call when they detected odor so he could make changes. “Vic has used a variety of methods to control the lagoon odor,” Mundell adds. “I am confident someday I can say, ‘No, I can't smell a thing,’ when Vic calls. My skepticism is gone.”

The Littles continue to look for new ways to expand their environmental stewardship. “I take the responsibility as a landowner and caretaker of related resources very seriously,” Vic says. “The Ditch Valley community is unique in that the only way farm families have survived here is by working together. The Ditch is a community project, and all of us in the Valley need to continue to cooperate and help maintain it for the future,” he continues. “I hope to make Quail Run appealing enough so that my children will want to continue that tradition.”

Odor Busters

A multi-faceted approach to odor control balances pH levels in the manure pit while controlling air quality in the pigs' environment above the slats.

Six years ago Dennis Willard built a new, 2,000-head contract-finishing barn. Soon after, he was peppered with odor complaints from neighbors on all sides. The list of complaints leveled at the 81 × 208 ft. unit grew to 50 per day at times. Today, odor complaints have dwindled to just one discontented neighbor.

The answer to Willard's odor-sensitive neighbors' concerns is a novel approach that treats the air space above the slats and the 6-ft.- deep manure-holding pits below as completely separate environments.

In a nutshell, the program the Smithsburg, MD, producer has incorporated focuses on managing the pH balance in the pit so that microorganisms can efficiently break down the volatile fatty acids into odorless gases — carbon dioxide and methane — while also controlling the dust levels in the pigs' environment above. And, as an unexpected benefit, the pigs are performing better.

The odor-busting squad supporting Willard's efforts includes three dedicated professionals who have championed the program through a trial-and-error process.

Leading the charge is Sonny Pusey, swine business manager with Land O' Lakes Feeds, who is also responsible for identifying new product opportunities for the company. In 2000, when he first encountered the odor control program, Pusey promptly wrote a multi-page memo to upper management noting this technology was one to keep an eye on.

The originator of the concept is Gary Rapp, Athens, IL, a self-described entrepreneur with roots in the hog industry. He has shepherded his odor control/air quality philosophy through the development and patenting process.

Finally, Warren Kosman, a professor and head of the chemistry department at Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN, conducted laboratory simulations and formulated theoretical understandings.

The Setup

Willard contract finishes for Deer Stone Ag, which has about 24,000 additional feeder pigs finished annually by various growers in Maryland and Pennsylvania. All pigs come from the same genetic base and are fed the same pelleted rations, which provides an opportunity to effectively compare pig performance data. Pigs are delivered to Willard weighing about 45 lb., placed 25-28 per pen, and marketed at about 255 lb. Split-sex and phase feeding is practiced.

Willard's home is just 300 ft. south of the finishing unit. Two neighbors are within about 1,000 ft. of the unit — one to the north, another to the south; 2,000 ft. further down the road in each direction sits two more neighbors. Another neighbor built a new house roughly 2,000 ft. northeast in 1998, the same year Willard built the new finishing facility.

Odor complaints came rolling into the Maryland Department of the Environment for over two years before Willard began phasing in what has become known as Land O' Lakes' “Good Neighbor Program.”

A departmental spokesman indicated the situation was markedly improved, although complaints have not totally ceased. The lone complainant is the homeowner about the length of a football field north of the finishing facility.

For perspective, Willard remembers the circumstances of that person's first complaint: “The last of September the health department showed up here and said they had received a complaint about the odor from pigs in the barn. I said, ‘let me show you these pigs.’ I opened the door, we walked in and there was just new concrete. We didn't have the first pig in there yet.”

“We're not getting complaints from any of the other neighbors (now) — even when we haul manure,” he says.

Pay Attention to Pits

Willard adopted portions of the “Good Neighbor Program” in steps over the past couple of years. He started with the pit.

In an effort to contain pit odor, the first step was to slowly float crude vegetable oil with a mixture of activated carbon oil down the pit wall and onto the slurry surface. This is called the “liquid lid” and its purpose is to seal organic molecules (including the volatile fatty acids responsible for the smell) under the surface.

“We shoot for about one-quarter of an inch of the liquid. With gravity, it seeks its own level,” explains Rapp.

Chemist Kosman says to think of the liquid seal as the equivalent of a Zip-Loc bag. “The seal serves as a Zip-Loc on top of a set of molecules that you really don't want to smell. The idea is to keep the odor inside the bag — or in this case, contained below the seal in the pit. Of course, the animals are constantly depositing new waste into the pit right through the seal, which seals itself up again,” he says. “And, other things contained in the seal solution help slow down the process of the molecules coming through (the liquid lid). It's not just vegetable oil.” The seal is expected to last up to two years.

“Corn oil, soy oil or any cheaper vegetable oil can be used,” Kosman adds.

Once the pit was sealed, Rapp's next step was to adjust manure pH below. Willard's 6-ft. pit has a dividing wall in the center, but ports allow manure to flow between them to equalize manure depth.

An orbiting probe in each pit monitors pH levels near the bottom, where acidity is typically highest. The probe rotates about 10 seconds every hour to keep the filament clean and relay accurate pH readings to a central computer.

“The orbiter is a vital part of the equipment,” explains Rapp, adding that a static probe could form residuals on the sensor that affect pH readings.

“It's the acids that we're trying to attack,” he continues. “Our pH target is set at a maximum of 8.0.”

With pH highs and lows set in the computer, the pH orbiter readings tell the computer when to add an ammonia-based, acid neutralizer (buffer) to the pit.

Two, 3,000-gal. tanks containing the neutralizer solution sit at one corner of the finishing building. When the computer opens a valve, the pump kicks on and the neutralizer is pumped into a manifold of PVC pipes that direct the product to the bottom of the pit. Pressure gauges at the near and far ends of the barn monitor pressure of the whole manifold injection system. Rapp says there's about 2 psi difference between the ends of the manifold.

Orifices mounted in the injectors proportion the flow rate out so that the neutralizer is injected equally from one end of the pit to the other. “That way, we only need to have one point of monitoring (pH), avoiding a bunch of sensory monitors mounted throughout the pit,” he adds.

The computer tracks all injections. For example, if the orbit sensor in Pit #1 reports a pH of 7.4, a computer printout will show the date, the amount of neutralizer injected into the pit and for how many seconds the injection occurred. When the pH hits the 8.0 target, no neutralizer is injected.

What's the big deal about pH? That's where the chemist comes in.

“Primarily, it is acid-base chemistry in terms of the molecules most responsible for odor,” explains Kosman. “I say ‘most’ because there are other molecules in the pit. But the ones most responsible for odor are acids, and we tend to just neutralize them with acid-base chemistry. The problem is, we don't want to go too far because if we do, we're going to really disrupt the anaerobic environment that's in the pit naturally.”

Kosman credits Rapp and his wife, Carrie, for bringing the concept to Valparaiso University. Intrigued, Kosman began simulation experiments in the laboratory. “If we can take care of the volatile fatty acids, we're really taking care of most of what would be the odor problem,” he says. “If they are volatile, they all have one thing in common: your nose can pick it up. They stink. The more we remove volatile fatty acids in the slurry beneath the seal, the less they will disperse in the air above the pit.”

The goal is to create the best possible pit environment so that microorganisms can survive and break down solids. Kosman describes the pit program as a “double-barreled approach,” beginning with immediately neutralizing the volatile fatty acid molecules, thereby allowing the microorganisms to naturally go through the total digestion process, which eventually breaks down almost all of the organic waste to methane and carbon dioxide — both odorless gases.

“We don't have to add enzymes or microorganisms to the pit. Everything is there. However, we do add some chemicals to help keep a neutral environment,” he says.

“So, we're getting rid of the volatile fatty acids in two ways. The first is immediate, acid-base neutralization where the base buffer neutralizes some of the acids right away, but in so doing, it also preserves the anaerobes that continue the (breakdown) process that goes all the way down to methane and carbon dioxide. That's exactly what goes on in anaerobic digesters — except we put it right down there in the pit so you don't smell it,” Kosman explains.

But, he cautions: “Someone with a little chemistry background might think they can do that themselves. The thing you have to watch out for is overdoing it. If you get things too basic, you will begin killing off those anaerobes. That's why we monitor the pH closely. We put the neutralizer in gradually, as we need it.”

Pigs' Living Space

Pusey describes the above-slat challenge as the reverse of what's happening below.

“What takes place in the manure is entirely different than the living environment above the slats,” agrees Kosman. “That's an aerobic environment and the chemistry is entirely different. We have a basic problem that you have to treat with an acid. When the waste breaks down, it primarily releases a ‘base’ into the air — which is ammonia.”

Although ammonia is very water soluble, there is very little moisture above the slats, so high ammonia levels become very noticeable.

The final step in squelching odors in the Willard finisher is the “atomizer,” which disperses a fine mist over each finishing pen. The atomizer solution is a corn oil-based product mixed with four other ingredients. “A lot of people have tried just using an oil, but oil alone won't quite get the job done,” explains Rapp.

The first step in the atomization process is to get the corn oil mixture in suspension. To do so, the product in the mixing tank is actually circulated through the PVC dispersion system placed above the rows of 11.6 × 19 ft. finishing pens.

“The mixing time is set for 7 minutes — the amount of time needed to mix about 55 gal. into good suspension,” Rapp explains. The atomization time is set for 45 seconds, which includes the time to build the pressure to 240 lb., so actual time spent dispersing a 1-micron mist is about 30 seconds. The solution is delivered through nozzles on 10-ft. spacings to ensure each pen is covered thoroughly. About 1.8 gal. of solution are dispersed per cycle.

When the cycle is complete, all liquid drains back to the mixing tank so nothing is left in the line, allowing each cycle to start over new.

Willard manually switches a valve during morning and evening chores to ensure each side receives the daily treatment.

In the end, the atomization solution cuts the dust and ammonia associated with odor.

Production Advantages

The performance of Willard's pigs has improved incrementally as each part of the odor control program has been introduced.

During the last five turns, from July 20, 2001 to June 15, 2003, they incorporated the liquid seal on one side of the barn, then the other. The pit neutralization treatment followed; then one side was atomized, then the other. “That probably explains why each subsequent group has performed better,” says Pusey.

Table 1 compares Willard's last five groups' performance (treated) to his non-treated groups before odor control programs were begun. The only variables in the comparison are the incorporation of odor control technology in Willard's barn, and a sire-line change made by the source herd supplying the pigs. Pig source and nutrition remained the same throughout. Market price was standardized at $40/cwt. for the comparison.

Pusey notes that after standardizing all costs and revenue, Willard's system profited Deer Stone Ag $10.89/head over all costs, including the cost of odor control. “Every year since the treatment began, this farm has generated more income — even after the cost of the treatment,” he says.

Other key data points include feed conversion and daily gain. Willard's feed conversion during the untreated period averaged a respectable 2.71. However, since the treatments were initiated, feed conversion has improved to 2.57. Similarly, daily gains averaged 1.73 lb./day before treatment. They've climbed to 1.88 lb./day since treatment was initiated.

“The percentage of mortality decrease really started to show itself more dramatically once the atomization system was put in,” Pusey notes. Mortality in the last five groups was a mere 1.94%, while morbidity was just 1.41%. “Dennis' numbers are dramatic. We can't say why scientifically, but my observation is that when you take the dust and particulate matter out of the air, the lungs are much healthier and the pigs just do better. It is rare to hear a pig cough in Dennis' barn.”

Pusey prefers to express the treatment and equipment costs on a “per pig” basis. “Essentially, we're looking at an amortized cost over five years of 44¢ in equipment costs/head, and a treatment cost of $2.06, based on the 10,442 pigs Willard has finished,” Pusey says. The total cost for the equipment in Willard's system is $12,300. “We could amortize it over a longer life, say 10 years, and then it really looks good,” he adds.

He also notes that treatment costs for Midwestern producers would be even lower, because their shipping costs would be markedly less than Willard's cost for shipping to the East Coast.

The odor-busting threesome is currently working with Midwestern universities to set up third-party oversight of field data collection on the “Good Neighbor Program.” Interested parties can contact Pusey at (574) 658-4137 (e-mail: Spusey@landolakes.com), Rapp at (217) 968-1611 (e-mail: rapptech@dtnspeed.net) or Kosman at 219-464-5387 (e-mail: Warren.Kosman@valpo.edu).

Table 1. Willard Farm Before and After Treatment and Performance Compared to Others in System

Start Date Non-treated Historical Treated 5 Complete Groups*
Average Days on Feed 108 108
Number Started 20,907 10,649
Number Died 1,046 207
Number Culls 360 147
Mortality, % 5.00 1.94
Morbidity, % 1.72 1.41
Number Finished 19,861 10,442
Start Weight, lb. 1,075,038 511,344
Average Start Weight, lb. 51.42 48
Ending Weight, Grade Ones, lb. 4,944,301 2,614,509
Average Ending Weight, lb. 253.54 253.96
Ending Weight Culls, lb. 34,323 15,212
Average Ending Weight Culls, lb. 95.34 103.48
Total Gain, lb. 3,903,586 2,118,377
Average Gain, lb. 186.71 202.87
Total Feed Consumed, lb. 10,578,718 5,438,449
Total Feed Consumed/Head, lb. 533 520.82
Total Feed Cost, Standardized @ .065/lb. $687,616.68 $353,499.19
Total Feed Cost/Head Sold $34.62 $33.85
Average Daily Gain, lb. 1.73 1.88
Feed Conversion 2.71 2.57
Cost/lb. Gain $0.1762 $0.1669
Grade One Income @40¢/lb. $1,977,720 $1,045,804
Cull Income @25¢/lb. $8,581 $3,803
Total Income All Sales $1,986,301 $1,049,607
Total Pig Cost ($40/pig) $836,280 $425,960
Total Building Cost ($34/space) $250,884 $130,333
Total Feed Cost $687,617 $353,499
Income Over Cost $211,520.47 $139,814
Income Over Cost/Head $10.65 $13.39
Equipment Cost/14 Turns (5-Year Life) $4,621.20
Equipment Cost/Head $0.44
Treatment Cost $21,504.28
Treatment Cost/Head $2.06
Net Income Over Costs $211,520.47 $113,689
Net Income Over Costs/Head $10.65 $10.89
Advantage Per Head $0.24
*For period 7/20/01 to 6/15/03

Hogs Mute Property Values

A new study from the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University (ISU) suggests that large livestock facilities have a moderate effect on residential property values.

The study conducted by CARD economists Bruce Babcock and Silvia Secchi, and Joe Herriges, ISU economics professor, found that living near large livestock confinement units has the greatest effect on home values the closer the residence is to the facility and if the home is sited downwind.

A distance of ¼ mile to the nearest large livestock unit decreases property values by 11% if downwind to the northwest and 7% if downwind to the south. At a distance of ½ mile, property values drop 8 and 5%, respectively. At ½ miles, property values decline only by 3 and 2%, respectively.

The analysis included data on every rural home sold in the Iowa counties of Webster, Humboldt, Hamilton, Franklin and Hardin from the mid-1990s to the summer of 2002.

The study's authors suggest that with the moderate effect on property values, livestock producers wishing to build new facilities might consider paying neighbors for potential declines in property values.

“The size of payments would need to provide the operation the opportunity to be profitable,” says Babcock. “Agreements also would have to include good-faith provisions in which producers agree to follow management practices shown to reduce damage. In return, rural residents would agree to allow the facility to operate.”

For the full report, “Living with Hogs in Iowa: The Impact of Livestock Facilities on Rural Residential Property Values,” log onto CARD's Web site, www.card.iastate.edu.

Former Industry Leader Dies

J. Marvin Garner, 81, Hiawatha, IA, passed away recently following a lengthy illness.

Mr. Garner served as executive secretary of the Chester White Swine Record Association from 1958 to 1969, when he became executive vice president of the National Pork Producers Council.

In 1979, he returned to his home state of Missouri, working in marketing for Biozyme Inc., before finishing his career as a realtor.

Dealing with Pig Flow, Site Issues

All-in, all-out (AIAO) pig flow has always been stressed as a “solution” to swine health problems. This management technique was first used to control diarrhea problems in farrowing.

Because of effective vaccines and other control strategies for neonatal diarrhea, and dramatic changes in the nature of the swine industry, AIAO pig flow for wean-to-finish age groups garners more attention today.

The potential improvement in performance seen in controlled trials is one of the factors encouraging AIAO flow and multi-site production. But as with any technology, field application is seldom as “pure” as the controlled experiments.

On the farm, these two techniques present unique health issues to be addressed, as outlined below.

Case Study No. 1

Several thousand weaned pigs were moved to an empty wean-to-finish site. These pigs were from several sow sites with varying porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) status. The site was double-stocked with plans to move out pigs as feeder pigs. Site fill time was about three weeks. All pigs were on a two-dose Mycoplasmal pneumonia vaccination protocol.

Within three weeks, there was a significant amount of coughing and thumping in these pigs; the clinical diagnosis was swine influenza virus (SIV). Four to five weeks later, respiratory problems increased. Numerous pigs were thumping and coughing and several had mild purple discoloration (cyanosis) of ears and/or some splotchy purple skin patches. Gross lesions were consistent with a “meaty” lung typical of interstitial pneumonia. Several pigs had infection on the surface of the heart and lungs typical of Haemophilus parasuis.

Pigs responded poorly to antibiotics and several became pale, poor-doers. Samples were collected on pigs 11 to 14 weeks old. Samples were positive by immunohistochemistry (IHC) for PRRS and porcine circovirus. Microscopic lesions seen with postweaning multisystemic wasting syndrome (PMWS) weren't found. Some of the lungs submitted did have bacterial pneumonia lesions. Mortality and culls were very high for this “fill.”

After emptying the site, it was cleaned, disinfected and refilled. Changes made included sourcing the PRRS-positive pigs from one sow herd and the PRRS-negative pigs from other sow herds, all housed together in four barns.

Besides mycoplasma, this group was also vaccinated for Haemophilus parasuis. Although a lung sample was IHC positive for SIV when pigs were 9 weeks of age, overall respiratory status improved significantly.

Interestingly, at 9-10 weeks of age, 10 of 10 pigs tested in the PRRS-negative barns were still PRRS negative by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Six of 15 pigs sourced from the PRRS-positive farm were ELISA positive at 8-11 weeks of age.

Although these groups have not been closed out, mortality from wean-to-market is projected to be less than 5%.

Case Study No. 2

This nursery is run continuous flow, but rooms are cleaned and disinfected between groups. Feeder pigs are moved to contract growers at 45-60 lb. Nursery mortality has recently stayed below 2.5%.

Pigs were weaned at 17-20 days of age from a 2,500-sow herd into an off-site nursery. Some swollen joints or nervous signs common with Streptococcus suis infections were observed in the nursery. One pig was found to have Strep suis Type 2. Only PRRS was isolated from the serum of a second pig observed the same day showing mild cyanosis of the ears.

A shipment of 600 pigs from this nursery site was delivered during one of Indiana's big July rains. A week to 10 days later, pigs began to die. Within two days, death loss was already 2.6%. The barn that did not get stressed lost only one pig.

Clinical examination found pigs were depressed, lying down and showing high rectal temperatures. Brain and liver cultures of a pig that died revealed pure cultures of Strep suis Type 2. Samples were not checked for PRRS, but based on recent results at the source, PRRS could have been another factor. Also, the death loss accelerated the day after the group was vaccinated for mycoplasma.

Treatment of individual pigs with high doses of antibiotics plus corticosteroids and water medication using sulfadimethoxine stopped the death loss.

Summary

These case summaries demonstrate that AIAO pig flow doesn't always work perfectly, whether the AIAO is by room or by site. Certainly, large populations of pigs at sites present an increasing need to understand the patterns of disease agents.

The second case study demonstrates how essentially the same pig population may react differently, based on complicating factors.

To reduce the impact of disease, practitioners and producers must learn to “adjust the flow,” rather than always “go with the flow” in multi-site production systems.