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Articles from 2004 In September

Methionine sources studied

New biological and economic data from the University of Missouri suggests the sulfur amino acid:lysine ratio for pigs weighing 15-38 pounds is approximately 60%.

Lysine is generally the first-limiting amino acid in typical swine diets. Depending on the diet composition, methionine is considered the second- or third-limiting amino acid. As a result, commercial diets for young pigs are normally supplemented with a methionine source.

Supplemental methionine is available as DL-methionine in a 99% powder or 40% liquid, and as an 88% aqueous solution of 2-hydroxy-4- (methylthio) butanoic acid, which is the Alimet feed supplement from Novus International.

Research has shown that the early weaned pig can utilize Alimet and DL-methionine with the same efficiency as long as both are based on the same molar equivalency. Therefore, the optimum sulfur amino acid:lysine ratio can be determined using either source.

Evaluating ideal ratios

The objective of the University of Missouri research was to evaluate the ideal ratio of sulfur amino acid:lysine ratio for young nursery pigs using both DL-methionine and Alimet as supplemental methionine sources.

Experiment 1 randomly allotted 1,050 nursery pigs to one of five dietary treatments at a weight of 15.5 pounds. The dietary treatments included five different sulfur amino acid:lysine ratios of 48.9, 53.5, 58.1, 62.6 and 67.2% of total lysine, respectively.

In Experiment 2, 1,549 nursery pigs were allotted to one of nine dietary treatments at an average weight of 18.2 pounds. Diet 1, the control diet, was formulated to contain 1.32% true ileal digestible lysine with no supplemental Alimet or DL-methionine (47.7% sulfur amino acid:lysine ratio). Diets 2 through 9 consisted of the control diet supplemented with four levels of DL-methionine or Alimet that corresponded to sulfur amino acid:lysine ratios of 52.7, 57.7, 62.7 and 67.7%, respectively.

Growth performance data was collected for 21 days in Experiment 1, and for 14 days in Experiment 2. Body weights and feed intakes were recorded at the beginning and end of the trials.

Statistical analysis indicated no differences in growth performance traits between the methionine sources evaluated in Experiment 2. Thus, final data are presented by dietary treatment, evaluating only the effect of increasing sulfur amino:lysine ratio.

Growth performance data for Experiments 1 and 2 are presented in Tables 1 and 2, respectively.

Based on the results of the two experiments, the ideal ratio of sulfur amino acid:lysine was estimated to be 61.3% on a total basis, or 55.9% on a true digestible basis. However, using the combination of biological and economic data, the optimal sulfur amino acid:lysine ratio was estimated to be 62.6% on a total basis, or 57.7% on a true digestible basis.

As the Missouri researchers demonstrated in previous studies, an estimation of the sulfur amino acid requirement can be determined with either Alimet or DL-methionine, as long as both are based on the same molar equivalency.

Researchers: Aaron Gaines, Brent Ratliff, Pairat Srichana, Gary Allee, University of Missouri-Columbia; and Ganfeng Yi and Chris Knight, Novus International, St. Louis, Mo. Contact Gary Allee at 573-882-7726.

Table 1. Effect of Sulfur Amino Acid Lysine Ratio (Total Basis) on Nursery Pig Performance (Experiment 1)a
SAA: Lysine Level 48.9 53.5 58.1 62.6 67.2
Body weight, Day 0 (lb.) 15.5 15.6 15.5 15.6 15.5
Body weight, Day 21 (lb.) 37.1 37.2 37.9 38.2 37.7
Average daily gain (lb.) 1.02 1.03 1.06 1.08 1.06
Average daily feed intake (lb.) 1.44 1.41 1.44 1.44 1.47
Feed:Gain 1.41 1.37 1.35 1.34 1.39
Return over feed $/pigc 6.65 6.78 6.98 7.15 6.88
aMeans calculated from six replicate pens/dietary treatment. Growth performance was evaluated for 21 days.
bLinear and quadratic comparisons were used for diets containing DL-methionine (48.9% - 67.2% sulfur amino acid- to-lysine ratio).
cReturn over feed $/pig takes into account income over feed cost and is a combination of biological and economic data.



Table 2. Effect of Sulfur Amino Acid Lysine Ratio (True Digestible Basis) on Nursery Pig Performance (Experiment 2)a
SAA: Lysine Level 47.7 52.7 57.7 62.7 67.7
Body weight, Day 0 (lb.) 18.2 18.3 18.3 18.3 18.2
Body weight, Day 14 (lb.) 32.0 32.3 32.5 32.6 32.2
Average daily gain (lb.) 0.99 1.00 1.02 1.02 1.00
Average daily feed intake (lb.) 1.35 1.33 1.33 1.34 1.31
Feed:Gainc 1.37 1.33 1.31 1.31 1.32
Return over feed $/pigd 4.42 4.51 4.61 4.59 4.46
aMeans calculated from eight replicate pens/dietary treatment. Growth performance was evaluated for 14 days.
bLinear and quadratic comparisons were used for diets containing an added source of methionine (47.7%- 67.7% sulfer amino acid- to-lysine ratio).
cMeans within a row without a common superscript differ (P < 0.05).
dReturn over feed $/pig takes into account income over feed cost and is a combination of biological and economic data.



Swine Waste Technologies Unveiled

A research project at North Carolina State University (NCSU), studying 15 alternative manure management technologies, has identified two as having potential to be “environmentally superior.”

The two technologies projected as better than the current swine lagoon and sprayfield system commonly used in North Carolina are a long way from reality, however, and may be too costly to implement anyway.

Mike Williams, director of the Animal and Poultry Waste Management Center at NCSU, indicated at a July 26 press conference that the two systems had cleared a major hurdle toward being declared “environmentally superior.” The two systems reduce nitrogen, ammonia, odor and other pathogens to acceptable levels.

Williams directs the four-year-old, $17.3 million effort between the state of North Carolina and pork industry partners to identify and quantify alternative swine waste management technologies. Large swine integrators Smithfield Foods and Premium Standard Farms, under agreements the two parties reached with the North Carolina attorney general in 2000, fund the study.

Questions Remain

“The two technologies identified met one of the conditions of the agreement, and that is they appear to meet the environmental performance criteria,” says Rann Carpenter, chief executive officer, North Carolina Pork Council. “But Williams also pointed out, and I think very appropriately, that the other equally important components, the operational and economic feasibility issues, have yet to be determined,” adds Carpenter.

“Williams has done an excellent job of managing a challenging process, and they continue to support his work,” states Don Butler, director of governmental relations and public affairs at Murphy-Brown of Warsaw, NC, the livestock production subsidiary of Smithfield Foods.

The project has faced many roadblocks, including delays in obtaining permits, finalizing construction contracts, completing construction and actual technology evaluations. Some of the most important questions in this process remain unanswered, he notes.

Those questions include determining which farms the technologies may work on, whether a typical farmer could operate them and whether they are operationally and economically feasible.

Williams stressed the agreement stipulates that the projects must prove economically viable before they can move forward.

Two Technologies Outlined

Leonard Bull, associate director of the NCSU waste management center, says the first technology is called ORBIT (Organic Biotechnologies, LLC). It features a high-solids anaerobic digester being tested at Timber Ridge Farms near Clinton, NC. The enclosed digester will be used to convert solid hog wastes into biogas (methane and carbon dioxide). The biogas can then be used as an alternative energy source to generate electricity or heat. The liquid portion will be used to make a value-added liquid fertilizer.

The second technology, known as Super Soils (Super Soil Systems USA), could provide the swine waste solids for a digester such as the ORBIT example. Alternatively, solids could be composted and blended to produce a value-added product to be bagged and sold off the farm. The liquid portion of the swine manure is processed through a series of large metal tanks to remove nitrogen and phosphorus and retain calcium phosphate, which has value as fertilizer. Eighty percent of the liquid is recycled through hog barns, and 20% is applied via irrigation to cropland.

Bull expects that the evaluation results of 4-5 more technologies will be rolled out by the end of this year, with the rest of the project evaluations completed within another year. It is also possible that several technologies could be utilized in combination.

More information on the Smithfield/PSF agreement and project results are posted at:

Lagoons' Legacy

“An anaerobic treatment lagoon that is properly designed, constructed and managed, combined with land application of treated effluent as organic crop fertilizer, is a very good system,” says Butler. “Sound management will be the key to environmental protection, regardless of the type of technology employed by the industry in the future.”

The state's approximately 4,500 active hog lagoons have weathered a series of strong storms and hurricanes in the last decade, says Carpenter. Even during Hurricane Floyd, which battered North Carolina's coastline in 1999, 98% of the state's hog lagoons were completely untouched by floodwaters. Fifty lagoons were impacted by floodwaters and only six were breached.

The secret to the success of any swine waste management system is a high level of management, regardless of the type of technology utilized, and that's what North Carolina's pork producers are demonstrating, observes Butler.

Having said that, state pork producer leaders still support Williams' work.

“We do believe strongly that Dr. Williams should be allowed to complete his work and make the environmental and economic determinations, so that people will have factual information by which judgments can be made on appropriate waste management technologies for any given hog farm,” states Carpenter.

Building Herd Health Success

An isolation/acclimation (I/A) facility has helped improve swine herd health and development of gilt replacements for a Minnesota pork-producing family.

It's been just a year since Mark and Dede Kotewa completed construction of a 25 × 96-ft. I/A facility at their 400-sow, farrow-to-finish operation near Fairmont, MN.

The I/A unit utilizes the concepts of isolation and acclimation, yet is practical and cost-effective for the family farm, says Mark Kotewa. For example, the entire facility is attached to the farrow-to-nursery barn, connected by a hallway.

The I/A unit itself is divided into two separate rooms: an 8 × 25-ft. isolation room reserved for 35 to 40, 21-day-old gilt replacements, and the other for acclimation. The Kotewa's veterinarian, Mark Wagner of the Fairmont Vet Clinic, stresses the isolation room is totally walled-off from the rest of the I/A unit. A door to the room is always locked. It is only opened when gilts are moved from isolation to acclimation. Entry to isolation is from an outside door using a separate pair of boots.

The isolation room features its own ventilation and heating system, feeding system and separate, 8-ft.-deep manure pit. Plastic-coated slats provide comfort and warmth; temperature is maintained at 84° F upon entry and ramped down a few degrees each week. Pigs are fed a typical nursery diet and stay in isolation 5-6 weeks.

The acclimation portion of the unit is a fairly standard room, with gilt age groups staggered. Gilts move into acclimation at about 10 weeks of age, flow through the three pens as they grow and leave for the sow gestation barn at 28 weeks of age.

Gilts are assured of at least 12 sq. ft. of space in acclimation. Diets are fortified with extra calcium and phosphorus, compared to typical grow-finish rations. Additional ventilation provides plenty of fresh air during boar exposure. Pens feature concrete slats with some solid dividers to limit nose-to-nose contact.

Proof in Performance

The Kotewas believe having a confined I/A area has paid off in performance. Farrowing rate is running at a respectable 84%, compared to 70% in the past, remarks Dede. And pigs marketed/sow/year has climbed about a pig and a half in the past year, adds Mark Kotewa. Plus, from the first quarter to the second quarter of 2004, the weaned pig average climbed from 9 to 9.5, adds Wagner.

Mark Kotewa wonders why they waited so long to build the confined I/A unit. The previous I/A facility consisted of some Cargill-type outside facilities where gilts were placed at 100-200 lb. The Kotewas fought the weather extremes of southwestern Minnesota and the risk of area spread of major disease problems like porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) and swine influenza virus (SIV).

Cull rates were also high in the Cargill units. With the new I/A unit, cull rates are running at a very respectable 3-5%, says Dede. She notes that gilts are culled mainly for feet and leg problems and belly ruptures, and seldom for health reasons. “If I bring in 35 new gilts, I can almost always count on raising 32 that will go on to the sow herd,” she says.

Now gilts develop better, it's easier to check heats, and biosecurity and health are improved, adds Dede.

Health Program Drives Results

“The health status of the breeding herd starts with the gilts and trickles on down through the whole operation,” remarks Dede. “To give the gilts these kinds of conditions to live in provides a lot of payback. This kind of I/A facility is reasonable and realistic for our small sow herd,” she says.

The gilt program is built around healthy replacements, stresses Mark Kotewa. PIC gilts purchased from a Wisconsin seedstock producer every eight weeks are certified PRRS-free.

PRRS herd stability is provided by applying serum therapy in the isolation barn. (To read more about serum therapy, see “Controversial PRRS Control Procedure Wins Advocates,” pages 20-22, June 15, 2004, National Hog Farmer.)

“We bleed a random sample of gilts about a week or so after they arrive,” explains Wagner. “They are tested for PRRS, and at the same time the oldest gilts are tested for PRRS to make sure they have been properly acclimated to the farm's virus, and that they are no longer shedding the virus.”

Mark Kotewa observes: “Bringing in PRRS-negative Isowean gilts and acclimating them to our farm has really worked to keep our whole sow herd PRRS stable. The focus is on minimizing PRRS activity in the sow herd, doing a good job with acclimation, and then dealing with swine flu, because we know being in a hog-dense area, we are always going to have a lot of flu problems.”

“Each group in I/A has a vaccine schedule all the way through the 28-week period they are in I/A, and there was just no possible way we could have implemented that with the outside (housed) gilts,” emphasizes Dede.

Proper gilt development, along with proper vaccine timing, are keys to getting the job done accurately, adds Wagner.

Flu Protection

On arrival, gilts are blood tested to ensure maternal antibodies aren't present that would block SIV vaccine; gilts are then given their first dose of flu vaccine. About two weeks later, they receive their second dose of vaccine.

“We give them two shots in isolation because we know these gilts are susceptible to flu at a young age, so we want to make sure that we get them well-acclimated to flu before we put them in acclimation, where there are multiple ages of gilts,” says Wagner. Gilts receive a third flu vaccination prior to their move to gestation.

By keeping the PRRS virus in check, the swine flu program and related bacterial problems are reduced, he says.

Farm's Flu History

Swine flu used to be a significant problem for the Kotewa's operation. Pigs were coughing and many pigs were just unthrifty, says Mark Kotewa. Some flu respiratory problems even showed up in nursing pigs.

“Initially, we did a blanket sow vaccination program, 2-3 times/year and it seemed to work well for keeping sows stabilized, but not always for providing weaned pig protection,” explains Wagner.

“When you have some nursery age pigs in the same air space as gestation and farrowing, sometimes the flu virus can be more active and serve as a source to reinfect sows,” he points out.

Because of the switch to a flu shot 3-4 weeks prior to parturition, sows have time to respond to vaccine before farrowing, in addition to passing maternal antibody protection onto their piglets, Wagner says. This program has provided flu protection through 6-8 weeks in the nursery.

All of this has made the Kotewas very pleased. Hog prices are the best they've been in years. And so, too, is the health of the family hog operation.

Preparing for Swine Flu Virus

In the last five years, SIV has become a bigger disease threat for the southern Minnesota pork industry.

Before 1998-1999, the veterinarians at the Fairmont Vet Clinic (FVC) say they dealt with one main swine flu strain — the H1N1 “classical” strain, common since the early 1900s. Mostly, the virus blew through a farm, dealt some losses and blew back out again.

In the late '90s, the H3N2 flu strain arrived and changed all that. It started the flu evolution, agree FVC veterinarians Clark Huinker and Mark Wagner. The classical H1N1 strain has been mostly displaced by the “recombinant” H1N1 strain and H3N2. Both new strains can cause recurring problems and require treatment.

More flu is also diagnosed because of improved technology. FVC, for example, sends in suspect serology samples to the University of Minnesota and Iowa State University diagnostic laboratories to perform highly sensitive polymerase chain reaction tests to identify the virus and sequencing to characterize the nature of the virus detected.

A fast test called Directigen A can be run right in the veterinary clinic. It allows veterinarians to swab nasal passages and lung airways, providing non-subtype-specific identification of swine flu in a very short time, says Wagner.

Detection shows recombinant H1N1 seems to be more prevalent in the fall and H3N2 in January-March, says Wagner. The rest of the year is a toss-up.

Neither of the two main swine flu strains cause many deaths. Pigs with H1N1 cough more, while pigs with the newer H3N2 cough less, but tend to lie around more. High fever is common with both strains.

More Cases in Summer

FVC veterinarians have seen more cases of swine flu this summer.

Marie Gramer, DVM, University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, reports that an outbreak of swine flu in parts of southern Minnesota and northern Iowa this summer is probably due to sow herds left unvaccinated.

Summer produces the greatest number of swine flu cases in 4- to 8-week-old nursery pigs, reports Bruce Janke, DVM, Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. More cases in older pigs were observed in other months, particularly in the fall. Nursery pigs were the most common group affected during June-August 2003.

Janke says growing problems with swine flu may in part be due to mixing pigs from sows of different parities. It becomes difficult to achieve similar levels of immunity in different parities with numerous swine flu strains operating in a herd simultaneously.

For example, Parity 1 sows have lower antibody levels than Parity 4 sows on the same vaccination program, due to lack of herd exposure to circulating SIV strains, he states.

Maternal antibodies for swine flu degrade at a standardized rate, notes Robyn Fleck, technical services veterinarian for Schering-Plough Animal Health Corp.

“However, pigs from Parity 1 sows start with lower maternal antibody titers, and through normal degradation, become susceptible to SIV sooner than pigs from older sows that start with higher titers at birth,” she explains. Titers are measures of levels of protection or exposure.

Fall Checkup

Huinker and Wagner suggest now is the time to prepare for this fall's heightened flu season. Area surveillance can provide benchmarks on types of flu present.

Monitor herds for the virus. Wagner suggests collecting blood samples from gilts in isolation prior to placing them in the sow herd to make sure they've been properly acclimated or immunized.

Sow testing is a little more variable. On some farms, monthly serology monitoring is performed. On others, it is done less often. It depends most on the clinical history of the farm, he says. The point is to look for titer change following vaccination.

Vaccine Strategies

Standard strategy is to vaccinate sows to provide continuous protection against flu to nursery pigs, says Huinker. Mass vaccination and vaccination before farrowing are the two most common types of sow flu vaccination.

Before fall, producers may choose to booster the whole sow population. “The goal is probably focused more on providing stability to the sow population,” says Wagner. Other farms may vaccinate only gilts.

Vaccinate first with commercial products and then with autogenous products if initial results are inadequate, agree Huinker and Wagner.

Most important is tailoring a control program to a specific farm, stresses Wagner. Properly isolate and acclimate replacement animals to reduce PRRS spread, and by doing so, reduce the impact of flu if it strikes.

Practice good management. Change boots and coveralls, wash hands and shower in and out, says Huinker. If there is flu in the finisher, work in that barn last.

And for pigs infected with flu, provide electrolytes and aspirin, and fortify rations with vitamins and minerals, notes Wagner.

Swine Flu in Canadian Pigs

Fairmont, MN, swine veterinarian Clark Huinker says he seldom diagnoses swine flu problems in nurseries — except in pigs purchased from outside the area.

That usually refers to pigs brought in from Canada from unvaccinated sow herds. These naïve pigs become infected once they are introduced into U.S. herds, he says.

In Canada, most of the cases of swine flu submitted to the University of Guelph Animal Health Laboratory at Ontario show only signs of classical H1N1, says Susy Carman, veterinary virologist. Virus sequencing is done at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. So Canadian producers mainly vaccinate for this strain of the flu virus.

But some Canadian producers who export pigs to the U.S. vaccinate for H3N2 swine flu, because they realize the pigs are at risk after they cross the border, adds Gaylan Josephson, swine health adviser at the Guelph lab.

“We also seem to be seeing more multiple agents in respiratory problems, particularly in the nursery,” notes Josephson.

That view is echoed by Huinker. Sometimes flu hits finishers; they can be treated with water medications and it is over. But when secondary bacterial problems like Haemophilus parasuis and Actinobacillus suis really hammer finisher pigs on top of swine flu, consider vaccinating finishers early for protection.

If Canadian pigs break early with flu in U.S. nurseries, sows in Canada should be vaccinated prefarrowing, advises Robyn Fleck, Schering-Plough Animal Health technical services veterinarian. Later breaks on U.S. finishing floors can be controlled by vaccinating pigs upon arrival.

“This is because pigs that break with SIV within a week or two of arrival in a U.S. nursery or wean-to-finish barn aren't receiving adequate immunity from the sow,” she says. “Pigs that break with flu in the finisher have simply lost protective maternal immunity.”

Developing the proper control plan hinges on broad-spectrum flu protection and good communication between U.S. and Canadian veterinarians, adds Huinker.

Canadian Hog Duties Rejected

In a move that surprised National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) leaders, the Commerce Department issued a preliminary ruling rejecting an NPPC request to impose countervailing duties on Canadian hog imports.

“We have not had a chance to review the Commerce Department's analysis, but it is public knowledge that the Canadian producers have received large amounts of subsidies over the years,” reports Jon Caspers, NPPC past president and Swaledale, IA, pork producer.

“This decision is right on the facts and the law,” says Daniel Porter, U.S. counsel to the Manitoba Pork Council and seven companies that are the subject of the subsidy investigation.

The final Commerce Department subsidy ruling is due out in December.

In a separate but related case, the Commerce Department has delayed issuing a preliminary ruling until October on whether Canadian hogs are being dumped in the U.S. market.

Environmental Stewardship Program

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, 2005.

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

A Message From National Hog Farmer

National Hog Farmer is proud to partner with the National Pork Board and Phibro Animal Health in bringing pork producers and the public the positive environmental stories portrayed in the 2004 class of Environmental Stewards of the Pork Industry. It is our hope that this tradition of recognizing outstanding stewardship, begun in 1994, will generate more thought-provoking ideas and serve as an inspiration for the nation's pork producers as they work hard to be environmentally conscious citizens.

Livestock Insurance Policies

The Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) and Livestock Gross Margin (LGM) insurance policies are again being made available by the Agriculture Department as of Oct. 1.

The LRP insurance policy protects hog, feeder cattle and fed cattle producers from depressed market prices. The program was suspended last December due to the Washington State case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Changes were made to deal with long-term suspension and resumption of the program due to catastrophes or highly volatile futures markets, according to the agency's Risk Management Agency (RMA).

The LGM pilot program also resumes Oct. 1 in all Iowa counties. It pays an indemnity to Iowa hog farmers if the actual gross margin (hog price minus feed costs) for market hogs sold during the coverage period is less than the gross margin guarantee for the coverage period.

More information is available at

Leman Swine Conference Set

The Leman Swine Conference will be Sept. 18-21 in St. Paul, MN.

Keynote speakers are:

Gordon Spronk, DVM, Pipestone Veterinary Clinic, Pipestone, MN: What baseball can teach us about raising pigs; Brian Buhr, agricultural economist, University of Minnesota: Back to the future for your marketing strategy — seeking your optimal market; and Scott Dee, DVM, Swine Center, University of Minnesota: The future of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome in North America: what will the next decade bring?

For registration information, call (800) 380-8636 or e-mail

Connecting the generations

When the Boettger folks gather around a table and talk about their family farm, you might think they were talking about a treasured family heirloom. And why not? Three Generation Pork and its surrounding 160 acres is located in south central Minnesota, on some of the flattest and richest soil in the world.

In addition to growing corn and soybeans, the region also provides sweet corn and peas for major food companies. “We're sitting in quite a garden spot,” says Sylvia Boettger, who has spent most of her 90 years watching bountiful harvests being gathered from the land.

Her son, Dan, and his wife, Midge, now handle day-to-day operations. Their daughter, Nicole, represents the third generation. She helps out when not tied up by her off-farm job.

Dan pursued careers as a teacher and commercial fisherman, but came back to the farm when his father passed away.

Dan is a big man, but his voice softens and his emotions rise to the surface as he describes his stewardship of the family farm. “My father provided me this farm, and I want to make sure it is passed on to the next generation,” he says. “As technology improves, we should be able to make the farm even better when it is time for us to pass it along.”

Finisher site

The Boettger family had previous experience with farrow-to-finish swine production, but built Three Generation Pork in 1996 to contract finish pigs for the Holden Farms' pork production system. Two, 2,000-head, curtain-sided finishing buildings feature total slats over deep pits. Supplemental heat is provided as needed in extreme cold weather.

The site is operated all-in, all-out, with pigs arriving at approximately 50 lb. After about 125 days on feed, finishers are taken out averaging around 285 lb. A short break between groups allows buildings to be pressure-washed and readied for the next group.

The deep pits have a 12-month capacity, but the Boettgers have a contract applicator remove manure twice a year as a hedge against unfavorable weather or soil conditions. The 150 tillable acres surrounding the site receive manure injections every other year, ahead of corn in a corn-soybean rotation.

Neighboring farms receive manure applications when it is not being used on the home place. Dan points out that there is a waiting list to receive these crop nutrients.

“The farmer pays for the pumping cost and the application cost to receive the manure,” he says. “It works out to about half the cost of commercial fertilizer, and many farmers believe the natural fertilizer, with its additional organic matter, gives crops a boost compared to commercial fertilizer.”

Prior to applying the manure, Dan takes a column sample of manure from the pits to test it for nutrient value. Those results are matched with soil samples and crop nutrient needs. Application rates are set according to nitrogen needs of the corn crop.

Since their finishing rations include phytase, there has been little or no buildup of phosphorus in the soil since they've been utilizing manure nutrients.

“There is a definite economic advantage when we use manure for our fertilizer source,” Dan says. “Other than a little starter fertilizer applied when we plant corn, there has been no commercial fertilizer used on the place since we built the hog farm in 1996.”

The spring application window is a bit wider than in many parts of the country due to the area's vegetable production. “Sweet corn is planted up to July,” Dan points out. Manure nutrients applied ahead of that crop are used efficiently, perhaps with less chance of nitrogen leaching losses than would be the case with early spring manure applications.

Soil savers

In order to save soil and avoid compaction, soybeans are no-till drilled after a corn rotation at Three Generation Pork. “This not only is good for the soil, it is good for wildlife,” Dan says. “The stalks and other crop residues provide a food source for deer and pheasants during the winter months.”

Little Cobb River borders the farm, and in an effort to protect it, the family participated in a program to establish filter strips. These grassy areas not only stop sediment from reaching the creek, but also provide habitat for wildlife.

Recently planted shelterbelts on the north and west sides of the facility also support and protect wildlife. On the north, conifers and green ash, along with other hardwoods, will help provide protection from wind and snow while also serving as a visual screen.

Dan says the trees may also help break up the odor plume. “Anything we can do to help the air move around or up will help settle out particles and prevent dust and odor from leaving the site.”

Three rows of conifers screen the west side of the facility and add aesthetic appeal. The ground around the buildings has been seeded, and the Boettgers keep it neatly mowed. Service roads are graveled and regularly maintained. “We have the attitude that if the place looks nice, it is less likely that someone driving by will perceive odor,” Dan says.

Mortalities are kept behind a screened holding area, where a rendering service provides quick removal within a few hours.

The family also took a proactive approach to neighbor relations right from the start. Before taking in the first group of pigs, the Boettgers invited their community, including local officials and regulators, to have a first-hand look at the new barns. “Because of biosecurity concerns, it is hard for people to get a look at how hogs are raised these days. This was a way for us to start discussions on how we plan to operate in the future,” Dan says. “We have all been through the Environmental Assurance Program, and strive to maintain open communication with neighbors.”

“Education is an important part of the equation,” Nicole adds. “Many people don't understand modern pork production. Anything we can do to educate the public should help.”

Another way Dan and Midge work with the public is through their passion for pheasant hunting. The family often raises and releases pheasants to help boost the local population. Dan works with youth hunts, helping young kids experience their first successful pheasant hunt.

Point of pride

Three Generation Pork always strives to do the right thing, which is not always the most economical choice. “We're proud of our operation, and we want to show people that we care about pigs and the environment,” Dan explains. “We feel it is our duty to consider the environment in all our decisions.”

Participating in various on-farm programs provided by the pork industry has helped the family learn, develop and improve its best management practices. “We have a high level of expectation for our farm,” he adds. “We can provide a great food product without harming the environment that we have been entrusted to protect. We must take the responsibility to protect it and leave it for future generations to enjoy.”

National Pork Board Officers

Illinois producer Dave Culbertson of Geneseo was elected president of the 15-member National Pork Board at the board's annual summer meeting in Hilton Head, SC.

Culbertson and his wife, Cheryl, run Geneseo Pork Inc., a 1,450-sow, farrow-to-finish operation that markets 30,000 hogs/year.

Culbertson observes: “The National Pork Board's mission is to reach out to a broad range of producers, and that's a job we take very seriously. We want to keep providing sound science that will benefit all producers.”

Elected vice president was Danita Rodibaugh of Rensselaer, IN. Rodibaugh is a stockholder and office manager at Rodibaugh & Sons, a family farm corporation that sells purebred swine. The farm has 375 sows, markets 7,000 pigs annually and produces corn, soybeans and wheat on 1,800 acres.

Japan Hikes Pork Tariffs

For the fourth time in four years, Japan raised tariffs on pork imports.

The hike was effective Aug. 1, 2004 and lasts until the end of the Japanese fiscal year, March 1, 2005.

Japan imported 348,431 tons of pork during April-June 2004, well above the safeguard trigger level of 282,704 tons. Japan's pork safeguard increases the government-mandated pork gate price nearly 25%, raising the average price of imported pork by as much as 54 cents/lb.

The Japanese government explained that the increase in the pork tariff was partially due to a complete ban on U.S. beef, which has increased domestic demand for pork. Japan banned U.S. beef imports after a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy was discovered in a Washington State cow last December.