Flu: It Affects You And Your Pigs

Influenza is a viral disease that affects many species of animals.

The world health community continues to monitor the progress of the avian flu virus as it moves through the bird population around the globe. This influenza subtype is an H5N1 isolate. Poultry with this subtype of virus have infected people.

The ability of the virus to infect people from those who carry the virus is being watched very closely. There is currently no immunity to this subtype in the human population.

If this virus subtype adapts so it can be passed from person to person, this strain has the potential to be the next influenza subtype to affect the human population.

Swine Concerns

Influenza is also a major disease concern in swine. For many years, we only isolated the H1N subtype from the swine population. We now see many strains, with the H1N1 and the H3N2 subtypes being the most common.

The virus that affects swine has the ability to exchange genetic material with other influenza viruses of different species. A poultry/swine/human triangle for genetic material exchange and disease transmission occurs for influenza virus.

The great human influenza pandemic of 1918 that killed 20 million people worldwide was an influenza virus that originated in swine.

There is a concern that the passage of influenza between humans and swine does occur in our swine barns. The flu vaccine that was administered to our staff last fall included subtypes H3N2 and H1N1. It is our recommendation that all workers who come into contact with swine be vaccinated with the human influenza vaccine. This is for the good of workers and pigs.

Case Study No. 1

A 1,500-sow, three-site production farm was experiencing a cough in piglets from 15 days old to weaning. This was a well-managed farm with good production. The entire sow herd was being vaccinated quarterly with a commercial influenza vaccine containing both the H1N1 and H3N2 subtypes of influenza virus.

Blood samples were obtained from sows for serologic examination. This farm had very high antibody levels in the sow herd. The samples had high titer levels, up to 1:640 on 75% of the sows sampled. Laboratory work on piglets yielded an influenza infection by fluorescent antibody testing as well as histological (tissue) examination.

Since this farm was already on a flu vaccination program, we wanted to get an isolate from the farm to use for farm-specific vaccine production. We submitted nasal swabs from farrowing room piglets for virus isolation. An H3N2 subtype of influenza virus was isolated.

A site-specific influenza vaccine was made from this isolate and used in the sow herd. The coughing by piglets in the farrowing crates ceased.

Case Study No. 2

We were called to a 200-sow, farrow-to-finish farm. This single-site operation had a history of respiratory disease problems, including positive titers for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, Actinobacillus pleuropneumonia (APP), Mycoplasmal pneumonia and H1N1 and H3N2 swine influenza virus.

Vaccination for respiratory disease consisted of two doses of a commercial mycoplasma vaccine in the early nursery stage.

The clinical syndrome on this farm was coughing and mortality in the finisher, primarily after 16 weeks of age. Sick pigs were treated with antibiotics, but some mortality occurred due to sudden death in finishing pigs. Respiratory outbreaks occurred from 14 weeks of age through market age.

Typically, multiple finishing rooms would come down with clinical signs at the same time. After these rooms resolved, the syndrome would become quiet again until a new population of naïve pigs filled the rooms, and the process would be repeated.

This farm would endure a respiratory disease outbreak every four months. Diagnostic tests confirmed the presence of mycoplasma and influenza. At times, we would find APP and PRRS.

Since the mycoplasma and influenza organisms were commonly diagnosed, we added a two-strain influenza vaccine to the current mycoplasma vaccination program. We are currently going on two years with only minor respiratory disease problems.


Diagnostic workups are vital to identify the organisms that are key components in any disease complex. In the first case study, we had high antibody levels in the sow herd, but were able to isolate influenza virus from the nasal swabs of coughing piglets. Control of strain variation can be the difference between success and failure in a vaccination program.

The vaccination of workers for the protection of people from pigs, and pigs from people, should be part of the influenza control program.

Manure Increases Soil Enzyme Activity

Applying swine manure to cropland speeds up the nutrient cycling process.

Research by Tom King, a graduate student at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, shows that swine manure increases the activity of three soil enzymes — phosphatase, urease and arylsulfatase.

These protein-based enzymes are the catalysts that convert nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and sulfur — three of the four major plant nutrients — from an organic state to the inorganic form that plants can utilize. The higher the enzyme level, the faster this conversion occurs.

King offers this simplistic explanation: “Enzymes help reactions move along at a faster rate using less energy; they heat things up really quickly.”

Increased enzyme activity is associated with increased biological activity in the soil, which is considered an important indicator of soil quality.

“If your soil is healthy, you've got lots of microbial activity and lots of enzyme activity,” King says. “The more you've got, the healthier your soil is.”

Application Rates Tested

For his study, King applied the agronomic rate of manure, 220 lb. N per 2.47 acre, at double the rate and four times the rate at four different sites in central Saskatchewan. Enzyme levels were measured in the manured plots and then compared to levels in control plots and in commercial fertilizer plots. Manure from a cattle feedlot was also tested at one location.

Areas that received repeated applications of manure showed increases in urease and phosphatase enzyme activity. The study showed little increase in the arylsulfatase enzyme, but the manure used had low sulfur content.

King found stepped increases in urease activity that corresponded to the amount of manure applied. Levels went from about 250 micrograms (mcg) of ammonium/gram of soil in the controlled plot, to about 300 mcg ammonium/gram of soil at the four-times rate. Enzyme activity in the double rate was comparable to those in plots where commercial urea fertilizers had been applied (290 mcg of ammonium/gram of soil).

“Our Dickson site, about 75 miles east of Saskatoon, found that increasing amounts of manure increased soil microbial activity,” King says. “Microbial activity was highest just after application, when the little microorganisms are saying, ‘it's feeding time,’ and they go to work to break the material down.

“Benefits of adding swine manure are remarkably long-lived. We have one set of plots at our Riverhurst site that only had one application of manure in 1999. Even 5-6 years after application, there is still some carryover effect in some of the higher rates of manure,” he notes.

Fall Application Preferred

Since nutrients can be temporarily tied up in the conversion process, King says fall is probably the best time for application.

The fall application date is more important for cattle manure than it is with liquid hog manure, because cattle manure is very highly organic.

“Hog manure is about 98% water, less than 2% solids,” King notes. “The nutrients in the hog manure are much more inorganic and plant-available than cattle manure. It takes longer for microorganisms to break down cattle manure to make it available to crops.”

King concluded that hog manure was very good for agricultural soils when applied at an agronomically correct rate.

“Soil testing is important to find out how much nutrients you need to meet the needs of whichever crop you want to grow,” he says. “We're not saying that manure will meet all of your fertilizer needs, but it does serve as a substitute for some of the commercial fertilizers.”

Manure isn't Waste

Manure has changed over the years, more so in value than composition.

More and more, people recognize manure's true value. The nitrogen content in finishing manure is down 10-15%. Phosphorus content is as much as 50% lower than it was just a few years ago.

Bill Crawford would know. He analyzes manure from southern Minnesota farms as a service he likes to call “post-nutritional engineering.”

Crawford is the environmental manager for Preferred Capital Management, a swine management company in Fairmont, MN.

As a resource, manure is becoming increasingly valuable as the cost of commercial fertilizer keeps increasing. Feeding strategies like split-sex feeding, phase feeding and wean-to-finish programs have all affected what ends up in the pit. By targeting the nutritional needs of the pig, extra nutrients are minimized, so less ends up in the manure, says Crawford.

That doesn't mean the manure has fewer nutrients. “It's become more concentrated because we also don't waste as much water in these buildings. So the nutrient density of the manure is higher — there are more pounds of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) per tanker load today, and it will cover more acres,” he notes.

If a farm is feeding phytase, there is a 30-50% reduction in the amount of phosphorus in the manure.

Using synthetic amino acids will reduce nitrogen in the pit, but not as dramatically as phytase, he says.

New feeding strategies that use DDGS from ethanol production have some effect on the nutrient content of manure, but have more implications for the nutritionists and feedmill operations putting the swine rations together.

Cost Benefits

Compared to commercial fertilizer, the nitrogen and phosphorus in swine manure is typically 80% available and potassium is 90% available when incorporated into the soil for the next crop. Cost differences, however, are great.

“Swine finishing manure applied to a field supplying the correct amounts of N-P-K to raise 200-bu./acre corn may cost $40-$60 an acre. The same amount of N-P-K from a fertilizer plant might cost $100 or more per acre,” says Crawford. “That's huge money when looking at the cost of producing corn on those acres.”

The attached spreadsheet (Table 1) shows price trends for fertilizer over the last four years. Table 2 shows manure analysis results for sows and finishers, with and without phytase.

Crawford says sow manure is much less nutrient dense due to feeding programs and increased water usage. Manure application rates of 10,000 to 11,000 gal./acre to get the correct nutrient level from sow operations are common. Finishing facilities, on the other hand, may have application rates of 3,500-4,000 gal./acre to supply the same amount of N-P-K per acre.

Skyrocketing Fertilizer Prices

The trend is apparent: N, P and K costs keep going up. “There is a reduced value of P component in manure, but typically we're still putting enough P out there for the next corn crop, even when phytase is used in the feeding program. We simply don't have the excess we used to have,” Crawford explains. “The number of swine units lowering the amount of excess nutrients being land-applied through manure, particularly phosphorus, is a positive step toward protecting the environment.”

Both crop farmers and pork producers are benefiting from the high cost of commercial fertilizer. Grain farmers are putting up hog buildings in return for the manure. Pork producers who don't have the land base can expand, and crop farmers can get fertilizer for their corn crops for less cost per acre.

Table 1. Fertilizer Prices Over Time in South Central Minnesota
Fall 2003 Fall 2004 Fall 2005 August Price Estimate 2006
Nitrogen cents/lb. of N
0.195 0.244 0.256 0.26
Phosphate cents/lb. of P
0.255 0.283 0.33 0.30
Potash cents/lb of K
0.138 0.158 0.217 0.21
Table 2. Average Nutrient Content of Manure for Sow Farms
Total Pounds of Nutrients per 1,000 gallons of Manure
Nitrogen, 21 lb. Phosphorus, 17.5 lb. Potassium, 11 lb.
Sow Farms using Phytase
Nitrogen, 20 lb. Phosphorus, 12.1 lb. Potassium, 10.6 lb.
226 Phytase units per ton of feed
Average Nutrient Content of Manure for Finishing Farms
Total Pounds of Nutrients per 1,000 gallons of Manure
Nitrogen, 59 lb. Phosphorus, 39 lb. Potassium, 34 lb.
Finishing Farms using Phytase
Nitrogen, 49 lb. Phosphorus, 19 lb. Potassium, 35 lb.
226 phytase units per ton of feed

A Fresh Start

Starting afresh tugs hard at the American subconscious. Who wouldn't welcome the chance to pull up roots and begin anew, this time doing it all right?

For the Brinker brothers — Kenny, Dale and Ronnie — the fresh start came disguised as a nuisance. Urban sprawl from St. Louis chewed at the diverse Washington, MO, farm where they grew up and farmed as young men.

In 1990, realizing they could either sell out and quit, or sell out and build the farm of their dreams, they began searching for another location.

The 1,600-plus acres Kenny and his wife, Susan, found and bought near Auxvasse, MO, in 1993 was no showplace, though. Long rented out by a distant investment group, soils were depleted and eroded. Some neighbors pronounced it beyond fixing.

No matter. The Brinkers saw potential.

“It looked like a good location to raise hogs,” explains Kenny. “We'd been working on neglected land where we'd farmed at Washington, so we realized it was possible to bring it back.”

A University of Missouri swine specialist who checked it out thoroughly says the hog farm site is practically perfect.

“The land mass, the distance to neighbors, the air flow — all of that made it ideal. We built it a mile off the road. We thought out of sight, out of mind would be best,” Kenny continues.

Building from Scratch

The Brinkers wanted to build the most modern, environmentally friendly facility possible, so they traveled to North Carolina, where they studied four state-of-the-art hog farms.

“The University of Missouri ag team was looking quite closely at North Carolina as a model. They suggested our least-cost method would be to go with a large lagoon like the North Carolina farms had,” says Kenny.

The soil hardpan at the new location was excellent building material, providing a natural clay base liner in the lagoon.

As step one, they settled on a 650-sow, farrow-to-finish unit, obtaining a permit allowing them to double the size within four years.

“Being able to start new was a real plus. It was all laid out in advance, which really helps in the use of the facility, the flowability of it,” Kenny says.

“We designed it to be the most efficient farm we could without the need to be added to later. In Washington, we farmed with what dad and his dad had built. Here, we were building from scratch. It was extremely exciting.”

The new farm, in its final incarnation, has several buildings connected by a single hallway for biosecurity purposes. In addition to the office and shop, there's a gilt receiving building, breeding building, farrowing house, nursery, four finishing buildings divided into four rooms holding 550 hogs each, and a smaller finishing building with two rooms.

The farm houses 1,300 sows, 3,600 nursery pigs and 10,000 finishing hogs. Two off-site finishing locations handle 3,300 head. The farm sells 32,000 hogs/year.

Controlled Relocation

The Brinkers came to Auxvasse in what they call a “controlled move.” In 1994, the Harrison Creek Farm farrow-to-finish unit opened with 650 sows. Manager Shane Sorell, still with the farm, was hired as manager.

In 1998, they sold their original farm to the city of Washington, MO. Kenny and Ronnie moved to Auxvasse that year. Dale, busy wrapping up the final two years of a hog facility lease in New Haven, MO, arrived in 2000.

From the start, Harrison Creek Farm was contracted for breeding stock multiplication.

“We buy PIC breeding stock and use the semen they want. They have exclusive rights to buy breeding stock at any time,” explains Kenny. “Sometimes it's at weaning, but primarily they're 220 to 260 lb.”

Pigs are bought by PIC, then resold to approved customers. Non-selected pigs go to slaughter.

Soil Rebuilding Continues

The Brinkers knew rebuilding fertility levels on the farm would be a long process. They're still at it, no-tilling 3,400 acres of soybeans and corn this year. Soil organic matter and phosphate levels have steadily increased. Hogs help the effort.

Manure, held in 18-24-in. deep-pits, drains into a 7-acre, 15-ft.-deep lagoon. The lagoon supplies effluent to two center pivots. The first irrigates 120 acres, while the second, installed in 2005, covers 75 acres.

They usually pump in July and August, applying 1½ to 1¾ in. of effluent/acre. Systems are checked hourly. A kill switch can shut off the pivots in case of problems.

The Brinkers' lagoon remains under constant study. University researchers take monthly samples to determine how much nutrient values fluctuate during the year and how quickly sludge levels build.

A recharge pump in the lagoon sends water through a 4-in. pipe back into the pits in order to reduce odor. All the buildings discharge into the lagoon at a single location. The irrigation systems can pump the lagoon down to only 6½ ft. from full pool. That leaves 9 ft. of liquid, reducing odor in the lagoon.

A tour of area fields reveals 36 grassed waterways, five miles of terraces, several ponds and an 8-acre lake. Most waterways were cost-shared through Missouri's Continuous Conservation Reserve Program. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) helped put up their second irrigation system, and provided funding for many terraces, tile outlets and waterways.

EQIP also helps with a pest management-scouting program. A local agronomist helps scout for insects and weeds and recommends pesticide applications.

Variable rate fertilization helps maximize field efficiency. Non-irrigated fields are sampled on 2½-acre grids. Soil tests, analyzed and entered into a global positioning system, help applicators apply the right amount of phosphorous, potash and trace minerals for each grid in the field. That increases crop yield potential, Kenny says, and decreases the risk of over-application.

It's all part of maximizing profit on the cropland, which provides 20% of the farm's income, but it's also part of a mindset to make the farm an environmentally sound, healthy place.

Exercising a Wildlife Plan

“Wildlife is important to us, too. My family really likes deer hunting. When we first bought the farm, we worked with a state deer biologist to do an assessment of the deer population and develop a plan to enhance it. We're still following that plan today,” Kenny explains.

“We've enhanced the deer population with timber stand improvement around most fields. We've pushed the tree line back and planted switchgrass, clover, big bluestem and lespedeza, which makes excellent habitat for quail and rabbits and good browse area for deer. In some cases, we've added food plots, planting about 6 acres each year in wheat, clover or grain. In the corners of fields, we leave some crop standing for wildlife.”

In addition, the Brinkers restored a 6-acre wetland area, attracting muskrats, beaver, ducks and geese.

To the Brinkers, environmental stewardship means closely monitoring many areas and stopping potential problems before they develop.

“We grew up on a typical small farm for the time, with cattle, hogs, chickens, corn, wheat and hay. Our parents taught us, by example, the importance of taking care of the land. Our farm was the first in our county to install terraces and waterways on our hilly fields. We were one of the first to no-till crops,” Kenny says.

“We're looking to the future here. Some of our children say they want to farm, too, so we're teaching them what we've learned about taking care of the land and the environment. It's our duty to preserve and improve the land and resources.”

Many farmers do that, but many are also are shy about letting the community know what they're doing. In July 2006, the Brinkers hosted the local chamber of commerce's town and country event, with more than 200 people visiting the farm, eating dinner and getting a tour of the exterior of the facilities.

In addition, the Brinkers supply pork for FFA fund-raisers and school carnivals, and each year donate hogs to the Mid-Missouri Food Bank.

“If the story of what farmers are doing doesn't get out to our urban cousins, they're going to hear the other side of the story,” says Kenny. “It isn't something we're doing because we want publicity. But it's necessary to tell the story, or some radical group will do it for us.”

Corn Again!

Not since the colonists sat down with the Native Americans to learn how to raise maize have U.S. citizens been so enamored with corn.

Questions about ethanol's contribution to solving our dependence on foreign oil are nearly as frequent as political candidates' promises to support programs aimed at alleviating that dependency through renewable fuels.

In rural America, the late-summer speculation over the price of corn is as predictable as the start of a new football season. But this year, there's the unsettling question of ethanol's impact on corn prices.

With a dutiful eye on crop and yield projections, decisions are being made about when to lock in feed needs for 2007.

The U.S. corn crop is being projected as the third largest in history (near 11 billion bushels), with the second-largest yield on record (just over 152 bu./acre). If we could take ethanol out of the equation, one would think we'd have plenty of corn to go around. But we can't.

According to the American Coalition for Ethanol, the number of ethanol plants has doubled since 2001; just over 100 plants are now operating in the United States. Nearly 50 more plants are currently under construction, and an untold number are on the drawing boards. Some equate this boom to the dot-com craze of the '90s.

Is the ethanol craze a blip on the corn price charts, or is this growth sustainable?

In the Aug. 18, 2006 edition of the Cincinnati Business Courier, Senior Staff Reporter Dan Monk cites a research report from Standards & Poors, the oft-quoted independent provider of risk evaluation and investment research, describing the ethanol industry as “highly speculative.”

S&P is quoted as saying, “The industry's success depends on continued high oil prices, friendly regulatory climates and favorable pricing on corn and natural gas. S&P estimates that the (ethanol) industry will have excess production capacity by 2008.”

Then I read University of Illinois Extension Economist Darrel Good's weekly outlook on corn prices, quoting the average harvest delivery bid in central Illinois at $2.015 on Aug. 18, very near the Commodity Credit Corporation loan rate. Good and others expect the demand for corn to be very strong in the 2006-2007 marketing year. He sets consumption at over 11.8 billion bushels.

Will market prices offer corn growers ample incentive to increase crop acreage next year? If not, the short- and long-term profit picture in the pork business could get a little dicey.

Sow Count

Some are wondering if this corn talk is spawning a bit of pessimism in the pork industry.

University of Missouri Economists Glenn Grimes and Ron Plain note that the U.S. sow slaughter between early March and Aug. 5 was 127,000 higher than the previous year. And gilt slaughter appears to be running ahead of last year, too. Canadian sows were removed from the data.

That's left the Grimes-Plain team asking — “What's up with that?”

“Is it possible that we are reducing the size of the breeding herd with the average producer with 30 consecutive months of profit and still counting?” they ask.

Grimes sets the odds of that as “near zero.”

The only other explanation is that some of the USDA's breeding herd data is incorrect. The September Hogs & Pigs report will help clarify that.

On the positive side, Statistics Canada recently reported the Canadian sow herd is smaller than a year ago for the third consecutive quarter. That's important, because 75% of the growth in the North American pig crop between 1993 and 2004 occurred in Canada.

“A slowdown in the expansion of the Canadian sow herd will go a long way towards bringing stability to production,” Grimes and Plain agree.

Stay Tuned

Ethanol demand will be driven by several factors — consumer acceptance, government support, conditions in the Middle East, the next election.

The answers to the ethanol and pig crop questions will come — but your challenge is to stay ahead of the curve. There are many smart market watchers who keep tabs on both industries every day. If you're not inclined to add that to your daily tasks, I'd suggest tapping into the wealth of expertise they offer.

Clostridium Vaccine Ok'd

A vaccine receives federal approval to battle pig diarrhea problems.

Novartis Animal Health U.S., Inc. has received a conditional license to sell the first commercially approved Clostridium Perfringens Type A Toxoid for swine. The disease resides naturally in the swine intestine, but remains one of the leading causes of baby pig diarrhea. “Control of C. perfringens Type A is becoming increasingly important to offset the poor performance of pigs affected by diarrhea,” remarks Duncan Rowe, director of the Novartis swine business unit. “Diarrhea in the first couple of days of life can cause lower weaning weights, which directly affects survival in the nursery and grow-finish phase.” The vaccine includes a proprietary dual-component adjuvant formulation that plays an important role in vaccine efficacy. It is safe for use in healthy swine, including bred gilts or sows and feeder pigs. More information is available at www.livestock.novaritis.com or by calling (800) 843-3386.

Ventilation Fan

American Coolair's fiberglass FGBC fan now comes in 36-in. and 52-in. sizes. The unit also features a cast-aluminum blade assembly. The innovative drive assembly allows V-belt power to be transmitted directly through the bearings, which results in more economical operation and increased bearing life. Specially formed structural components provide for a sturdy, yet aerodynamic support package. The FGBC fan is certified through the Bioenvironmental and Structural Systems Lab (Bess Lab) at the University of Illinois. For more information, call (904) 389-3646 or e-mail info@coolair.com.

Data Management

Val-co has introduced GrowTRAC Service, the first low-cost, easy-to-install, secure Web-based solution to extend your capabilities for comprehensive reporting and immediate alarm notification. GrowTRAC allows you to manage your operations with “one click” password-protected access to all data from one location. Standard or custom reports enable you to view current conditions or historical trends via the Internet or cell phone. The Predictive Diagnostics help identify conditions to make better management decisions by tracking weights, water use and genetic comparisons. Temperatures are monitored and fuel use is calculated, providing notification of low quantity or excessive cost. Call (800) 998-2526 or click on www.valcompanies.com.

Pressure Washer

A new, all-electric, hot water pressure washer has been introduced by Landa Water Cleaning Systems. The EHW creates instant hot water spray with the pull of the trigger, without an open flame or hazardous fumes. Two models are available with cleaning power ranging from 3.5 to 4.2 gpm. and from 2,000 to 3,000 psi. Both models operate on electrical power of 460-volt, three-phase. The EHW features the Landa industrial high-pressure pump, engineered with 10% fewer rpms than comparable pumps, extending the life of the pump. It's backed by a seven-year warranty. The washer is housed in a stainless steel cabinet and connected to the motor via two V-cogged belts and cast iron pulleys for years of reliability. Go to www.landa.com for more information.

Rat Bait

Neogen's new Prozap Zinc Phosphide Rodent Oat Bait is designed specifically to combine exceptional lethality and palatability. It is formulated from dehulled oat groats that are kiln-dried to eliminate the possibility of germination and to kill any possible bacteria and mold that could cause an off flavor. The bait requires a minimal amount to be effective, and its fast action provides immediate results. The product carries a non-restricted label, meaning it can also be used around homes and agricultural buildings. Call (800) 621-9929 or visit www.neogen.com.

Send product submissions to Dale Miller, Editor (952) 851-4661; dpmiller@nationalhogfarmer.com

A Better Idea

Great ideas tend to float through the ether until finding the right fertile mind to implement them.

Something like that must have happened to Pat Hord. He graduated from high school in 1987 and joined his father, Duane, on the family farm near Bucyrus, OH, planning to concentrate on the hog business.

With 150 sows and aging facilities, his father soon began thinking about how to give the farm a better shot at survival.

“Dad went on a trip to North Carolina with the National Pork Producers Council. He came home and said, ‘We've got to go to 600 sows, but I don't know how.’ That was four times larger than we were at the time. It sounded crazy,” Pat says.

He soon realized his father was right. They had to update facilities and make them environmentally sound. They had to grow or get out of the business.

Pat hit the road, too, looking at hog farms in North Carolina, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and others.

“I wanted to see what successful producers were doing. I read industry magazines. I talked to consultants and veterinarians, people who see things all over the world. I learned a lot,” he says.

“Being willing to learn is important. If you don't continue to learn every day, it doesn't matter how much schooling you have.”

Focus on Hogs

His father began to focus more on crops while Pat handled the hogs, which he enjoyed most.

In 1993, the new hog farm opened with 700 sows in one location. Before long, that grew to 1,000 sows, then to 1,500, and never stopped. Today, Hord Livestock has 11,000 sows, about 80 employees and could grow more.

“We grew into it. That's really important to us. We don't want to do any more than we can be successful at. We don't want to sacrifice excellence at the altar of growth. That sometimes caused us to grow slower,” Pat says.

At the outset, Hord contracted with other farmers to take newly weaned pigs for finishing. Currently, about 60 contractors feed Hord's hogs.

“There was a period in the early '90s when you could determine if you wanted to be the integrator or the contractor. When we first started, I thought about contracting. But I was naïve enough to think we could figure it out and do it ourselves. It's kind of unheard of today to start and do what we've done,” he says.

From the planning stages, Hord intended for the new units to be environmentally sound. He's most pleased with his Temple Woods sow farm, a 2,400-head unit built in 2002, surrounded by corn, soybean and wheat fields, plus a buffer of trees. Manure is stored in a 10-ft.-deep pit with a year's capacity.

The manure gets incorporated into wheat stubble in late summer, or after corn and soybean harvest, using an AerWay SSD with a 5,000- or 12,000-gal. tank or a hard hose dragline system.

“It does an excellent job of mixing manure into the soil, so it eliminated tillage prior to the manure application. It helps prevent manure from moving through soil cracks and/or earthworm holes and getting into the subsurface drainage tile,” he says.

Based on 2006 fertilizer prices, the total value of nutrients produced at Temple Woods is $16,218 annually, he says.

“We haven't built a farm with a lagoon since 1996. As we analyzed the economics, we felt a pit made more sense. Plus, there's been a negative stigma in the media about lagoons. And, we have the crops that can utilize the nutrients. As the price of fertilizer increases, we're seeing increased value out of the deep pit,” he says.

Manure Management

Growing ever larger, Hord Livestock invested in ways to improve manure management and maximize nutrient use by crops.

In 1999, Hord cooperated with several state and federal agencies to test manure movement through soil structure on the farm, evaluating several systems, application rates, ground conditions and handling equipment.

They also worked with a soil scientist, studying how earthworms affected manure movement through the soil. The researcher found the earthworm population was very high, most likely due to no-tilling crops. It made Hord aware that some sort of soil tillage prior to manure application helps keep it from moving through earthworm holes.

“There's a lot of tile in this area, a lot of subsurface drainage,” Hord explains. “Earthworm holes have the potential to allow effluent to move through the soil structure and into the subsurface drainage. We like having the earthworms, and the AerWay allows that, but what we're doing breaks those holes up. And on no-till ground, it's not causing erosion. Plus, it breaks up compaction.”

Hord pays close attention to soil conservation, and has no-tilled crops for 20 years. All soybean and wheat fields, and some cornfields, are no-tilled. He figures no-tilling saves $13.34/acre in plowing and cultivating costs, including the costs of running equipment.

The 4,500-acre farm includes 40 acres of filter strips designed to keep chemical and manure runoff out of water sources. Grassed waterways also reduce soil erosion and protect water quality. “Ours are 66 ft. on both sides of the waterway,” he says.

“We want to make sure we have no bad publicity. It's important that we don't have any water quality violations. We present ourselves as professionals,” he adds.

Air quality is also important. The company planted more than a mile of vegetative windbreaks. In 2001, they landscaped with a truckload of fast-growing trees.

“We do this for air quality and for aesthetics. Trees vertically disperse dust particles, which carry odor. They also disturb the air pattern and cause it to mix and tumble, which dissipates odor,” he says.

“The Temple Woods site is next to a body of trees on two sides. There, we're taking some advantage of being on the downwind side of trees. When we site a contract facility, location is the first thing I look for. I'm looking for a body of trees.”

Ride the main road by Hord's headquarters, and you see a trimmed-and-tidy yard in front of the office; a large electronic sign flashing time, temperature and grain prices; and across the road, the company's 900,000-bu. grain storage facility and feedmill.

Engaging the Community

“I never rationalized that I could place pigs in this location and folks not know it. We want to engage our community. We want people to know who we are and what we do. Everything is above board,” Hord says.

“We want people to perceive us as a value to the community, for employment and for the economic activity we generate, and we want to be seen as a leader. We're trying to build credibility and comfort levels in our community and educate the public. Part of that is being visible.”

Hord sends a quarterly newsletter to everyone living near one of the company facilities. It includes a wide range of topics, ranging from manure handling issues to animal welfare, along with recipes and local information.

In addition, Hord hired a videographer to put together a film on a mini-CD he calls a “D-Card.” The D-Card is given to neighbors, Chamber of Commerce members, contract growers, new employees and anyone else interested in the company. It profiles the company and explains Hord's position on issues like animal welfare and environmental stewardship. The CD also includes testimonials from neighbors, employees and contract growers.

“We tried to address the hot topics so we can keep on the offensive. People have responded well,” he says.

Hord has a gauge for measuring public relations success on a hog farm. “The quieter it is, the better. I can count on one hand how many complaints I've had about odor,” he says. “What we're trying to do with the D-Card, the newsletter and with our web site is put a face on the farm for the public.”

Hord calls himself an environmental activist, and says stewardship just makes sense. His family lives here, drinks from well water and breathes the air.

“I make my living by how well I can care for our livestock. The better I treat them, the better I can provide for my family,” he says.

EPA Approved to Collect Emission Data

Eight hog farms will be among those monitored in the two-year study.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been approved to take the next step to gather air emissions data from agricultural animal feeding operations (AFOs) to ensure environmental compliance.

Nineteen operations that voluntarily agreed to take part in a nationwide air emissions monitoring study have been selected to be tested using new, high-tech equipment that will measure gases, odors and particulate matter. This group includes seven dairies, eight hog farms, three layers and one broiler site, says Al Heber, coordinator of the monitoring project at Purdue University.

The hog sites to be tested include two each in Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina and Oklahoma, and will encompass all phases of pork production. These selections are pending EPA approval.

The $13-14 million project will also track animal activities, feeding, manure removal and barn environments that factor into air emissions, says Heber.

In all, 2,568 farms, including 1,856 hog farms, signed voluntary agreements with the EPA.

EPA will use the farm data to help validate and develop methodologies for predicting air emissions from other farms, says Heber.

“It is going to be the most comprehensive data set ever developed,” Heber says of the two-year EPA project that is slated to launch in January 2007.

Cashing in on Manure's Value

Hog manure: a new cash crop?

Until recently, Bob Johnson hadn't calculated the exact value of liquid manure generated at his family's farrow-to-finish hog operation.

But with anhydrous ammonia selling for more than $500/ton, it was clear that every drop held real value for the family's 2,000-acre grain farming operation near DeKalb, IL.

When Johnson finally penciled out the value of the three million gallons applied annually, he came up with a value of $24,500 for the nitrogen (N) alone, at a 160-lb./acre rate. The value about doubles when he figures in phosphorus and potassium. With a $50,000 fertilizer savings, “pig manure doesn't smell near as bad as it once did,” he jokes.

There are costs with handling liquid manure, Johnson quickly points out. They bought a semi tanker to haul manure to nearby fields. One tractor is delegated on manure application days, plus one or two employees to apply it.

“Intrinsically, we know we are well ahead of the game,” he says.

Johnson's not alone in his appreciation for the value of hog manure. In fact, it's become a hot commodity with grain farmers who are now willing to buy, trade or contract for manure, or even build new barns to gain access to this alternative to petroleum-based fertilizer.

Calculating the Value

Kari Keller-Steele, JBS United's environmental director, based in Rushville, IN, has definitely seen an increase in demand for manure in recent years.

“Input costs for traditional grain farming have skyrocketed in the past five years, and that has forced people to look at things differently,” she says.

To help JBS United's customers put a value on liquid manure, Keller-Steele has designed a spreadsheet that calculates a value per 1,000 gallons, which then translates to a per-acre value. (Table 1.) Prices are based on what a farmer would pay for a commercial fertilizer with a comparable nutrient profile.

Keller-Steele says the spreadsheet helps barn owners and crop farmers reach an agreement that is beneficial to both.

She says an approach that works well is when the barn owner uses the spreadsheet to establish a value, and then offers the manure at a discount of one-third to one-half the total value.

Manure as a Cash Crop

Discounts for liquid manure vs. commercial fertilizer are usually expected, according to Keller-Steele, because nitrogen is highly volatile.

“Application of manure isn't as exact as a commercial fertilizer. Nitrogen in manure can't be guaranteed 100%,” she explains.

Timing of application, load-out from the pit and application method all have an impact on how much nitrogen remains intact and available.

Keller-Steele says more nitrogen is available to crops, especially corn, when manure is applied in the spring. And, whether manure has gone directly from the pit to the field impacts nitrogen levels, too. Injecting manure is also better than topical application.

“All of those factors increase the likelihood you'll realize the full value of the nitrogen,” she adds.

No Nitrogen Worries

Kent Buckert, a contract hog grower near Warsaw, IL, has taken the worry about available nitrogen out of his manure deals. He sells what's generated in his two 960-head facilities once a year, alternating between two different grain farmers with fields within a half mile of the barns. Buckert sets the price based on the value of phosphorus and potassium, and then gives the nitrogen away for free.

“I'm happy if my manure is gone,” he says, “And the farmers are happy to get the free nitrogen and a fertilizer with organic activity.”

To come up with values for phosphorus and potassium, Buckert collects two samples from each pit and sends them to two different labs for analysis. Then he uses a self-designed spreadsheet to calculate the pounds of phosphorus and potassium per 1,000 gallons and a value per acre for each nutrient.

Buckert last sold phosphorus for $49.06 per acre and potassium for $39.93 per acre. (See calculations on page 16.)

More than Dollars Ahead

Five years ago, northern Illinois farmer Kim Huntley wanted to diversify his operation beyond his 3,200 acres in corn and soybeans. He built two 2,000-head, wean-to-finish buildings — his first foray into confinement hog management. The two buildings pump out about one million gallons of manure annually. The manure is custom injected on 450 acres that Huntley farms nearby.

Originally, he considered the organic fertilizer from the buildings was nothing more than a perk for his farming enterprise. He was quite pleased and surprised to see an immediate, positive response in plant health and yield on the acres injected with manure.

“The plants just seemed to get off to a faster, healthier start and yield was better,” says Huntley. He tracked 10-12% better yields in a field where manure was applied compared to a nearby field that received commercial fertilizer.

Huntley no longer purchases potassium or phosphorus for land where manure is applied. He purchases no commercial nitrogen during the first application year, and buys only one-third to one-half the amount needed for the crop the next year, because organic nitrogen continues to break down and provide usable nitrogen.

Huntley takes special care to match application rates with plant needs. “You have to apply it at agronomic rates,” he emphasizes.

Last year he actually gave surplus manure to a neighbor because he didn't want to over-apply it to his land nearby, nor did he want to transport liquid manure over the road. He prefers to pump manure no more than three quarters of a mile.

Huntley is in the process of constructing a new 4,800-head confinement facility amidst land he farms four miles from his original site. Obtaining more manure was a major motivation for the expansion, which should provide fertilizer for about 600 acres of cropland, applying manure to 200 acres/year in a three-year rotation.

“At first I was looking at the manure as something extra, but in essence, the manure is just as viable of an enterprise as the hogs,” suggests Huntley.

Manure Management at Your Fingertips

Determining manure application rates, keeping track of stormwater conditions, or preparing for a regulatory inspection will be simplified with a new service from JBS United, Sheridan, IN and Hestia Software, Seattle, WA.

The new service, called Assured, offers complete manure management planning assistance, on-farm reporting and data recording through Dell hand-held technology, plus other resource management and environmental compliance applications.

The service, designed for swine, poultry and dairy producers, was initially introduced to Indiana and Illinois pork producers at the 2006 World Pork Expo. Plans are to expand to Iowa, Ohio, Michigan and other states shortly.

Kari Keller-Steele, JBS United's director of environmental services, says the trademarked program streamlines data collection and provides useful, on-the-go reports.

For example, Assured allows growers to instantly compare a barn's manure test results with soil tests and agronomic goals in a target field. It also provides an easy method of recording daily, weekly or monthly compliance tasks or agronomic events.

Information such as actual acres applied, whether water lines were checked on a specific day or the equipment used to inject the manure can be recorded on the hand-held device. This information is then transmitted (via a phone or computer data line) into Assured's database for that grower, stored and retrieved for management decision-making.

“Our goal is to bring growers a simple and accurate way to stay compliant with state and federal regulations,” says Keller-Steele.

The service costs $1,700 the first year, including the hand-held device, and $1,200 each year thereafter. For more information, contact 765-938-2125, extension 25 or e-mail: assured@jbsunited.com. Click on the Web site: jbsunited.com/products.environment.
Karen Bernick

Table 1. Manure Comparative Values Average Finishing Manure Values1
Pounds of Nutrient/ Ton of Manure Fertilizer Equivalency Pounds of Equivalent Fertilizer Dollars Per Ton of Fertilizer Value Per 1,000 gal. Value of Application Per Acre
Application Rate, gal./acre= 4,744
TKN2 10.81
Ammonia 6.70 Nitrogen, 28% 23.91 $227.00 $12.21 $57.94
Organic N 0.88 Nitrogen, 28% 3.14 $227.00 $1.61 $7.62
Phosphorus (P205) 5.94 0-46-0 12.91 $292.00 $8.48 $40.23
Potassium (K20) 7.91 0-0-60 13.19 $256.00 $7.60 $36.04
Sulfur 0.86 Am. Sulfate 3.32 $150.00 $1.12 $5.32
Magnesium 1.12 None priced
Calcium 2.69 Hi-Cal Lime 7.08 $5.25 $0.08 $0.40
Boron 0.02 Borate 40, 20% 0.08 $1,200.00 $0.21 $1.00
Copper 0.05 None priced
Manganese 0.05 Mang. Sulf., 28% 0.17 $860.00 $0.32 $1.53
Zinc 0.12 Zinc Sulf., 19% 0.64 $1,000.00 $1.45 $6.87
Total Value $33.08 $156.94
1Copyright© May 2003 JBS United, Inc.
2Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen (TKN), is a commonly used expression for total nitrogen in manure.

Illinois contract hog grower Kent Buckert uses these calculations to set the price of manure he sells. He charges only for the phosphorus and potassium and gives the nitrogen away for free.

Fertilizer Prices (Assumption based on local farmer reports.)
$/cwt. % $/cwt. for nutrient
NH3 $22.50 82 $27.44 for N
Phosphorus, 18% N; 46% P205 $15.25 46 $33.15 for P
Potassium 60% K20 $12.35 60 $20.58 for K
Manure Nutrient Content (Based on the average of two test samples per building.)
South Building North Building
Avg. lb.
per 1,000 gal.
1,000 gal. Avg. lb.
per 1,000 gal.
1,000 gal.
Nitrogen (N) 30.2 300 32.25 225
Phosphorus Pentoxide (P205) 17.35 300 19.6 225
Potassium Oxide (K20) 24.25 300 23.85 225
Value of Fertilizer
South Building North Building Total lb. fertilizer Fert. $/lb. Total Value
(Avg. lb./gal. × 300) (Avg. lb./gal. × 225) (Both buildings)
Nitrogen (N) 9,060 7,256 16,316 $0.2744 $4,477
Phosphorus Pentoxide (P205) 5,205 4,410 9,615 $0.3315 $3,187
Potassium Oxide (K20) 7,275 5,366 12,641 $0.2058 $2,602
Value per Acre
Total gallons 525,000
Total acres: 65
Gallons/acre 8,077 (525,000 ÷ 65)
Total lb. fertilizer lb./acre (Total lb. ÷ 65) $/acre (lb. × price from above)
Nitrogen (N) 16,316 251 $68.88
Phosphorus Pentoxide (P205) 9,615 148 $49.06
Potassium Oxide (K20) 12,641 194 $39.93

Environmental Stewardship Program

The environmental stewards recognition program is co-sponsored by National Hog Farmer and Pork Checkoff.

The Environmental Stewardship Awards Program is for pork producers with all types and sizes of production systems who demonstrate their positive contributions to our natural environment.

Pork producers, managers and industry-related professionals may submit nominations for this program.

A national selection committee, comprised of experts from various pork industry and natural resource organizations, reviews all nominations. Nominations are scored in eight key areas: general production, manure management, soil conservation practices, air quality and odor control strategies, farm aesthetics and neighbor relations, wildlife management, innovation and a short essay on the meaning of environmental stewardship.

Four pork producers from across the country are selected each year based on their demonstrated commitment to environmentally sound pork production. Winners are recognized in a special insert in the September issue of National Hog Farmer and during Pork Industry Forum held in March the following year.

For more information on the Environmental Stewardship Program or for nomination forms, call (800) 456-7675, or write: National Pork Board, P.O. Box 9114, Des Moines, IA 50306. Nomination forms will be posted on these Web sites in December, January and February: www.pork.org or www.nationalhogfarmer.com. Nominations for the 2007 awards must be postmarked by March 31, 2007.

A Message From National Hog Farmer

Environmental stewardship requires constant work and vigilance. National Hog Farmer is proud to partner with the National Pork Board and Phibro Animal Health in bringing pork producers and the general public the positive environmental stories portrayed in the 2006 class of Environmental Stewards of the Pork Industry. It is our hope that this recognition of outstanding stewardship, begun in 1994, will serve as an inspiration for the nation's pork producers as they work hard to be environmentally conscious citizens.