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Manure Value Exceeds Expectations

New study reveals hog manure boosts crude protein in forages as well as improves yields.

Pork producers have long known that hog manure is a great substitute for commercial fertilizer in crop production.

A new study at the University of Manitoba shows that applying hog manure on tame grass hay land and pastures is also a great way to increase forage yield and quality.

The three-year study found that forages treated with hog manure had up to 80% more crude protein than untreated fields, a surprisingly high advantage, says head researcher Kim Ominski, associate professor at the university's Department of Animal Science.

Perennial tame hay requires a lot of nutrients every year to achieve maximum productivity. Even alfalfa and other legumes, crops that can fix their own nitrogen, still require substantial amounts of phosphorus, potassium and sulfur. Fortunately, hog manure contains all the major plant nutrients and a number of essential micronutrients.

Commercial Fertilizer

Hog manure's value increases as the cost of commercial fertilizer rises — and fertilizer prices have skyrocketed in the last two years. In early August, the Canadian price for potash (K) was $525(US$) a metric tonne (2,200 lb.); nitrogen (N), urea granular fertilizer (46-0-0), was selling for $650/tonne during the spring 2008 planting on the Canadian prairies; and 12-51-0, granular phosphorus (P), reached a whopping $1,350/tonne.

Since all of these nutrients are found in large quantities in hog manure, producers will want to use it whenever possible. And, with land prices on the rise, the University of Manitoba study also suggests that utilizing hog manure as fertilizer could be a great way to increase hay land productivity without expanding your land base.

Better Pastures, Too

Treated pastures also showed a surprising three-fold improvement, in both carrying capacity and live weight gain, over the control pastures that received no manure during the grazing season (Figure 1.)

Pastures that received a yearly application of hog manure, containing 110 lb. of available nitrogen (N)/acre, showed an 80% increase in crude protein. “Unfertilized pastures had 8 or 9% (crude protein) vs. 16 or 17% in the (manure) fertilized pastures, which is pretty remarkable,” Ominski says.

The study looked at both harvesting and grazing (Table 1 & Table 2) as primary means of removing forage from the system. The research site was divided into three zones with three different treatments that included no manure; a single application of manure every spring; and a split, spring and fall application of manure (Table 3).

Research results revealed that the seasonal variability of the manure, single or multiple applications or timing of the application did not affect forage quality or yield. Quantity seemed to be the only variable.

Ominski says the dramatic results might have been due to the fact the test site was fairly nutrient deficient at the onset of the trial. It contained primarily grass-based forages and had less than 10% legumes. None of the zones had previously received any significant quantities of liquid hog manure. Manure was applied using a splash plate.

Best Management Practices

Manure nutrients monitored in soil, groundwater and pasture forage confirmed using liquid hog manure application is a valuable nutrient recycling practice. Sampling and analysis revealed excess phosphorus (P) stayed within the root zone and did not move beyond. There was no evidence of significant nitrate seepage into the groundwater. Only a minimal amount of salmonella and E. coli present in the manure transferred into the soil. None were found in the cattle that ate the forages.

Ominski recommends that hog manure be adequately agitated to prevent variability in nutrients. Grazing with good stock density will avoid reduction in quality associated with maturity.

Nutrient removal is more efficient with hay than pasture, but consider alternating between grazing and haying for optimum nutrient removal.

The second phase of the study will be key, Ominski indicates. Mario Tenuta will further study phosphorus movement, while Denis Krause will continue monitoring water quality.

The project was funded through a partnership between the University of Manitoba, several commodity groups and multiple levels of government and industry. It allowed researchers to develop a research/demonstration site to promote best management practices and address environmental concerns, including nutrient and pathogen movement as well as water quality issues.

See Associated Figure

Researchers Scramble to Solve Failure to Thrive Syndrome

Teams around the United States are hard at work trying to decipher why healthy-looking nursery pigs are starving out.

A puzzling pig-wasting problem spreading across the country has researchers and producers alike searching for answers.

About 10 months ago, producers started reporting nursery fallout problems, says Mike Tokach, Extension swine specialist, Kansas State University (KSU). Newly weaned nursery pigs appeared to be eating quite well, then a couple of days later they quit eating.

In affected barns, 2-10% of pigs have either died or wasted away. “They go through a very long-term starvation period and either die or have to be euthanized,” Tokach reports.

KSU swine researcher and graduate student John Bergstrom completed one trial comparing four similar nursery diets to determine if there is a dietary component. The trial showed surprisingly big differences in ingredient quality, sourcing and processing — but so far nothing that proves that diet is playing a role, Tokach reports.

The next trial will evaluate the potential role of porcine circovirus and mycoplasma vaccines in producing feed depression.

“What I think we are going to find is that in this postweaning period there are several factors involved: management issues, feed ingredient quality and possibly timing of Mycoplasmal pneumonia and circovirus vaccines that we weren't as concerned about a couple of years ago,” Tokach says.

Multifactorial Syndrome

At the 2008 Leman Swine Conference in St. Paul, a veterinary team presented a report on Postweaning Catabolic Syndrome.

The team demonstrated this syndrome is a multi-factorial industry problem involving postweaning pigs that fail to thrive. The team consisted of Luc Dufresne, DVM, Seaboard Foods; Thomas Fangman, DVM, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc., and Steve Henry, DVM, Abilene (KS) Animal Hospital.

Their findings were that normal, well-grown pigs begin a progressive decline in body condition within the first five days after weaning. “Even with early detection and immediate supportive nutrient and antimicrobial intervention, affected pigs catabolize fat and muscle tissue over the ensuing 2-3 weeks and deteriorate to become emaciated and require euthanasia,” they explain. “Catabolize” refers to a metabolic imbalance and release of energy that results in a breakdown of complex materials within the organism.

Kansas Field Observations

In swine veterinarian Henry's experience with client herds, weaned pigs at 3-10 days postweaning, with good frame and condition, suddenly become gaunt and anorexic, yet active and alert. “But (they) progress to thin-as-rails by 14 days postweaning and usually die by 17 days postweaning,” he says.

Field necropsies reveal a breakdown of fat in organs and a depletion of fat reserves in most parts of the body. “The gastrointestinal tract is void of ingested feed, feces are pasty and scant, and many pigs appear not to have eaten since being weaned,” he states.

Henry stresses this “catabolic syndrome” is a feature of the well-conditioned, well-framed pig at weaning. These are pigs typically weaned at 21-24 days of age weighing 13-16 lb., carrying impressive body fat stores and appearing vigorous and active.

Tale of Two Syndromes

Dufresne says the Seaboard production system has stuck with weaning pigs at 16-18 days of age, but clinical signs and necropsy results of “failure to thrive” pigs mimic Henry's observations.

“These animals show severe anorexia/cachexia (general physical wasting and malnutrition) with no apparent infectious agent involvement. The syndrome is observed most often in normal or large piglets.

“What has changed, lately, is the increase in prevalence of the condition,” he says. “The combined results of six, system-wide necropsy audits, performed between March 2003 and May 2006, and involving several thousand pigs, show that failure to thrive was the fourth most important cause of mortality behind pneumonia, polyserositis and colitis.” See Figure 1.

Moving to source-specific necropsy audits, two different patterns of the syndrome emerged, Dufresne adds. One is a high incidence of failure to thrive with a high rate of colitis and pneumonia. (Figure 2). “In these cases, diagnostics implicate salmonella and rotavirus, and we suspect that the failure to thrive was initiated by one or both of these pathogens,” he continues.

The use of vaccination, strategic antibiotic treatment and partial depopulation has greatly reduced mortality in those flows. “Although we have been successful at controlling the pathogens, failure-to-thrive pigs remain, but at much lower levels,” Dufresne counters.

In contrast, a different trend has emerged in the last year in some of Seaboard's production flows. “Necropsy results shown in Figure 3 indicate that failure to thrive is the first- or second-highest cause of mortality with no major lesions of colitis or enteritis,” he asserts. In these cases, the catabolic syndrome seems to play a major role by itself. Dufresne offers three major clinical observations:

  • The severity of the syndrome is sow-farm dependent. When pig sources are combined in the same nursery barn, the prevalence of failure-to-thrive pigs can be four to five times higher in one source vs. the others.

  • Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) can be involved, but not always. In one case, when two sow farms combined pigs in nurseries in source-specific rooms, the syndrome results were worse in the offspring coming from a PRRS-stable farm than the offspring from a PRRS-unstable farm.

  • Males are more affected than females. In farms experiencing this syndrome, death loss in barrows is usually twice as high as in gilts. In the necropsy audit results shown in Figure 3, out of 236 piglet necropsies, 152 were barrows and 84 were gilts, Dufresne points out.

Nutritional Considerations

Henry says the inability to obtain whey with predictable quality has led to modifying feed budgets based on wean weight, with less plasma protein included in starter diets.

Henry resolves there are six points impacting nutrition in the current syndrome, based on talks with Tokach:

  • The lactose and lactalbumin in whey are key to predictable response of starter diets. The industry is now using more whey permeate, where the whey protein is removed (used for human markets).

  • Fish meal has also been a critical component in weaned pig diets. The quality and quantity of fish meal has seriously declined, and along with it, the performance of diets in weaned pigs. A number of recent trials show fish meal sources have poorer performance than pigs fed diets with soybean meal replacing the fish meal.

  • Cost-saving moves add to problems. Reducing feed budgets in older, heavier pigs means less plasma and whey to start the pigs.

  • An increase in ingredients in weaning pig diets to improve performance and reduce costs could actually increase quality problems.

  • It can be difficult to identify and solve this syndrome in a normal research setting because it's tough to replicate what's happening in the field. Providing extra care in the research barn to carry out the trial often results in improved performance.

“The greatest frustration is that we have learned much about ingredients to increase consumption, help the immune system, reduce villus atrophy, alter pH, etc., and yet, getting pigs started on feed is a bigger issue today than in years past,” Henry comments.

Health, Treatments

The team agrees that infections with PRRS, swine influenza virus, circovirus, salmonella and rotavirus can certainly compromise the pig, and combined with a lack of feed consumption, lead to a failure to thrive and ultimately death.

The environmental stress of chilling, plus the competition associated with establishing dominance during postweaning, places these challenged nursery pigs more at risk.

Specific efforts to improve pig performance have included hand-feeding pellets, the use of milk products and milk replacer, dextrose/electrolyte preparations and multi-day supplementation with concentrated glucose/glycine solutions. Diets have also been supplemented with nutrient-dense feeds and complex protein and lactose.

The results are sometimes beneficial, but more often confusing. These compromised pigs return to feed consumption, yet fail to grow normally and muscle deposition does not rebound normally, according to the team report. Most of these pigs end up being classified as non-growers and are euthanized prior to the move to finishing.

In conclusion, the veterinary team says the postweaning catabolic syndrome has led to a great deal of speculation, yet little data beyond clinical and pathological evaluations. Neither approach has yielded a greater understanding of the cause, processes or appropriate intervention.

Tapping into the Hispanic Workforce

Understanding cultural diversity can give you a competitive advantage in today's swine industry.

Hispanics make up about 15% of the United States population, according to recent census data, which accounts for about 45 million Hispanic people. By 2050, that number is predicted to more than double.

Pork producers are tapping into this emerging workforce, relates Orlando Gil, director of recruiting at Hawkeye Sow Centers, a division of Kerber Companies in Emmetsburg, IA. Approximately 20% of the company's 170 employees are Hispanic.

Gil, who immigrated to the United States from Venezuela in 1977 and has worked in the swine industry for the past 14 years, offers several strategies for building successful working relationships with Hispanic employees:

  1. Not all Hispanics are the same

    The word Hispanic is a broad term to include people living in the United States whose families descended from Spanish-speaking countries. There are differences in ethnicity and culture among Hispanic people, just as there are differences between people of European descent. Education levels and skills vary as well.

  2. Establish clear communications

    “Some Hispanics have a good understanding of the English language, and some do not,” Gil says. Having bilingual workers and providing translated, written documents can help explain production procedures and practices. This is particularly important where safety is concerned.

    Bear in mind that Hispanics sometimes say, “yes,” even if instructions are unclear. “We want to please you and do the best we can. Sometimes we are afraid to say, ‘we just do not understand,’” Gil explains. Have workers demonstrate tasks or speak with bilingual employees to confirm messages are understood, he suggests.

    Likewise, don't assume that a person speaks Spanish just because they are Hispanic. “If you say, ‘Hola, como estás?’ to a second- or third-generation person, they may look at you like, ‘what are you saying? Talk to me in English!’” Gil says.

  3. Money is a huge motivator

    Naturally, it is your responsibility to provide equitable pay to all employees based on jobs and skills. But don't be afraid to provide incentives for value-added skills.

    A person who is bilingual may be more valuable than one who is not, he says. “If you pay those people more, there will be more people who want to be bilingual.”

    Work ethic among most Hispanics is strong, he adds. Hispanic people often want to work as many hours as possible and sometimes ask to forego vacation time in order to earn extra money.

  4. Help employees get involved in your organization and community

    “Minimize segregation,” Gil suggests. “Many times you'll walk into a lunch room and see a Hispanic side and a Caucasian side.” He recommends setting up company activities and becoming involved in community events to help employees get to know each other and break down cultural barriers.

    “We have formed a Spanish Lunch Club at our main office that is open to the community to share a little of our language and culture,” he explains.

    Some Hispanics may be reluctant to merge into American culture. “Many Hispanics are culturally on-hold,” Gil says. “They may not want to assimilate because they are thinking, ‘maybe I'll go back.’” He suggests helping new employees in accessing services such as banking, medical care, shopping and housing to help them integrate into the community.

  5. Consider the impact on all managers and staff

    It is important to realize that not all employees are comfortable when first working with people of different languages or cultures. “No one likes change, and it takes time to adapt to a new environment. Formal cultural diversity awareness training may help staff to adjust,” Gil says. In addition, there are several English-Spanish training programs available through the National Pork Board (

  6. Establish a good reputation

    Hispanics rely heavily on what they hear about employers from other Hispanics. “Word of mouth is very important,” Gil says. “If you want to tap into this labor market, try to become the employer of choice by helping Hispanics integrate and eventually assimilate into your organization and your community.”

  7. Check social security numbers

    Employers can check the work status of new hires online by comparing information from an employee's I-9 form against Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security databases. E-Verify is free and voluntary. Visit

For additional information, contact Gil at: [email protected].

National Pork Board Names New Chief Executive Officer

The National Pork Board has named Chris Novak, a state commodity association executive, its new chief executive officer (CEO).

Novak has served as executive director of the Indiana Soybean Alliance and the state's corn associations. He spearheaded the merger of two soybean organizations and helped build partnerships between the Hoosier state's soybean, corn and livestock commodity groups, as well as helped secure passage of a new state corn checkoff.

Earlier in his career, Novak worked for the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). “This is like coming home for me,” says Novak, raised on a diversified farm near Marion, IA. “I look forward to building on the grassroots tradition of serving both the producers who invest in the Pork Checkoff and those who hold a stake in the success of the U.S. pork industry.”

National Pork Board President Steve Weaver of Elk Grove, CA, said: “This is a challenging time for the U.S. pork industry because of the volatility in the markets, but also a time of great opportunity. That is why I and my fellow National Pork Board members are so excited to have someone with Chris Novak's experience and abilities to work with us in meeting those challenges and identifying those opportunities on behalf of all U.S. pork producers.”

Novak starts work Oct. 1. He replaces Steve Murphy, who announced his resignation in January, and who has continued to serve while the board conducted a search for his replacement.

Vaccine Package Approved

The circovirus-mycoplasma vaccine offers dual protection with one dose.

Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. (BIVI) has received approval to market the Ingelvac CircoFLEX-MycoFLEX combination package to protect pigs from both porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) and Mycoplasmal pneumonia. The vaccine package provides administration as a single, 2-ml injection to pigs 3 weeks of age or older. This convenience saves time, labor and stress on pigs. Both vaccines contain ImpranFLEX, an exclusive aqueous-based, polymer adjuvant that helps promote quick, long-lasting immunity while reducing the risk of systemic and injection site reactions. Ingelvac CircoFLEX-MycoFLEX has proven effective as an aid in preventing PCV2 and enzootic pneumonia caused by mycoplasma, significantly decreasing mortality and improving pig performance throughout grow-finish. For more information, contact your veterinarian or call BIVI at 800-325-9167.

Flu Vaccine, Defense System Introduced

Pfizer Animal Health introduces the FluSure XP Defense System — a complete approach to swine influenza virus (SIV) management, which includes an updated vaccine, FluSure XP, to help build protection against current, prevalent strains of SIV. “This virus shifts and evolves over time, so we've formulated FluSure XP to help provide protection against the most contemporary flu strains,” says Mike Kuhn, DVM, senior veterinarian for Pfizer Animal Health. “As part of the FluSure XP Defense System, Pfizer Animal Health is committed to monitoring the emergence of new swine flu strains and updating its vaccine as the industry demands. Additionally, our field force can help producers with farm-specific vaccines as needed,” he says The FluSure XP vaccine contains the H1N1 strain found in the original FluSure; a human-like H1N1 isolate; and a Cluster IV H3N2 isolate. The three strains were selected based on epidemiological data, cross-reactivity and previous efficacy studies. FluSure XP was developed to help protect pigs against swine flu associated with H1N1, H1N2 and H3N2 field viruses. For more information, contact your local Pfizer Animal Health representative or visit or

Durable Hog Lift Offered

ADA Enterprises Inc. unveils the ADA Dura-Trac Dura-Bilt Pork Lift 2000, built for 2,000-lb. capacity and made of heavy-duty gauge steel. The flat-proof tires and swivel casters permit tight cornering and easy maneuvering with heavy loads. The Dura-Bilt Pork Lift 2000 reduces injuries, saves time and reduces potential worker compensation claims. Another benefit is the ability to move or transfer disabled sows. The power winch features power-controlled forward and reverse gears. For more information, contact Mick Kane, director of Global Sales & Marketing at 800-533-6033 or visit

First ‘Visual’ Ear Tag Is Approved

Destron Fearing has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the first visual Premises Identification Number (PIN) tags for identification of market hogs. While not intended for unique individual animal identification, the new, non-RFID (radio frequency identification number) tags provide a valuable tool to enhance swine traceability. The tags consist of a pink, tamper-proof button; a pink, visual panel stud; the official USDA shield; the assigned PIN; and space on the visual panel for an individual management number. For more information, visit or call 800-328-0188.

Pneumonia, Dysentery Claims Extended

Pork producers can now use Denagard (tiamulin) Liquid Concentrate to combat costly diseases in hogs weighing more than 250 lb. The Food and Drug Administration has removed the weight restriction, permitting even broader use of Denagard to treat swine pneumonia caused by Actinobacillus pleuropneumonia and swine dysentery. Response normally takes 24 to 48 hours, as tiamulin is readily absorbed from the gut and can be found in the blood within 30 minutes after dosing. Be sure to follow label directions and required withdrawal times. For more information, contact Novartis at 800-843-3386 or visit

Send product submissions to Dale Miller, Editor
(952) 851-4661;
[email protected]

Pads Radiate Warmth

Precast concrete hot water pads are joining the short list of products designed to keep pigs snug and warm.

The challenge of keeping pigs warm and cozy during the two most stressful events in their lives — birth and weaning — has taken a new twist. A Canadian manufacturer has turned to hot water heat as an alternative to electric heat pads and heat lamps.

John Lichti, co-owner of Cozy Creep, an Ontario-based manufacturing company, began experimenting with hot water heating back in 1996.

The Cozy Creep underfloor heating system offers a low-temperature (84°F - 95°F) heat that warms the floor beneath the farrowing crate by circulating hot water through a maze of pipes encased in the concrete slab (or concrete overpour). A circulating pump returns the cooler water to the heat source, where it is reheated in a closed-loop system.

Various forms of energy — natural gas, oil, propane, biofuel or electricity — can be used to power the hot water heater. Geothermal is perfectly suited for such applications, Lichti says.

Precast Prototypes

In Lichti's first system, the hot water pipes were installed when the new concrete barn floors were poured.

“It worked extremely well,” he says. “The problem with pouring it in place is that it's labor intensive. The concrete has to be handled and finished properly. You need a plumber, welders, carpenters and concrete people. Everything has to fit together, so it was fairly expensive from a capital standpoint.”

Lichti had plans to expand his hog operation and wanted to retrofit an older barn. The cost for a concrete overpour was prohibitive, so he came up with a modular design. Pipes are precast into 2×4-ft. concrete pads designed to be inserted into existing farrowing crate creep areas or nursery pens. Tubing is designed so 20-30 farrowing crates can be linked in a single, closed-loop system.

The pads are factory made; therefore, quality is consistent and installation is easy because pipes come out to the edge, Lichti says.

“All you have to do is hook up a pipe to the one coming out of the pad and run it to the next pad. Since one control system can handle a loop of 20 to 30 crates, it's great for retrofits,” he adds.

Each 2½-in.-thick concrete pad is treated with silica fume — the same technology being used on bridges. “It keeps salt from seeping into the concrete,” he explains. “It has a high ash content, and it changes the particle size, making them very small so water doesn't seep in when the pads are washed with high-pressure washers.”

An added advantage over hanging heaters with blower fans is the heat radiates from the floor up to the pigs' lying surface, minimizing drafts and dust.

The first 30 units were tested in Lichti's barn.

Comfort for Sows and Piglets

“Since you're just heating the surface where the pig lies, you can keep the ambient temperature in the room quite a bit lower when using radiant heat,” Lichti says. “How much lower depends on your management style, but it could be as much as 10-12°F. lower for a 3-week-old pig in a nursery.”

Lichti compared radiant heat against convection heating for 2,600 litters in an informal trial. His data showed that the weaning weight increased by 18% and preweaning mortality was significantly reduced — dropping from more than one pig/litter down to just over a half pig/litter.

No Muss, No Fuss

Lichti says a practical advantage of the hot water pads is it eliminates the risks of malfunctioning, overheating or shocks from electric heat pads or heat lamps. And they are competitively priced with electric heat pads, he adds.

“When it comes time to wash up, there's nothing in the way,” he says. “It's what clients comment on the most.”

Lichti estimates about 1.5 million Canadian piglets have been weaned on Cozy Creep heat pads every year since 2001. The heat pads received Ontario's Agri-Food Industry Innovations Award in 2006.

Most units are currently being sold in Ontario and Manitoba, but the company plans to enter the United States market later this year. Further information can be obtained at the Web site:

Preparing Pigs For Transport

A swine technical consultant outlines measures to improve the pig handling and loading process.

It takes proper care during shipment, biosecurity to reduce disease spread and top-notch worker safety for the U.S. pork industry to realize a successful market hog transportation program.

Matt Ritter, a swine technical consultant with Elanco Animal Health, says the data shows much work remains to achieve those goals:

  • The national recorded incidence for dead on arrival (DOA) pigs last year was 0.21%.

  • Based on 22 commercial field trials, the rate of non-ambulatory pigs (classified as fatigued or injured) prior to reaching the weigh scale at the packing plant was about 0.37%. No national figures exist for non-ambulatory pigs.

“Adding those two figures together, we get an estimated total of about 0.6% for transport losses. To put that in practical terms, that would be the loss of about one pig per semi-trailer load of pigs,” Ritter notes in an address at the Transportation Biosecurity Summit in Kansas City, MO.

Economically, with an annual slaughter of 104 million hogs, those losses equate to about $53 million annually, he says.

It will take a concerted effort by growers, loading crews, truck drivers and handlers at the packing plant to reverse those losses, Ritter asserts.

Specific actions he recommends:

Do a better job of preparing pigs for transport. Many pigs are raised in 200- to 400-ft.-long, wean-to-finish barns from 21 days of age until they reach market weight 5½ months later. Their only exercise is walking to the feeder and the water source. Ritter recommends that you walk pens daily to acclimate pigs to exercise and reduce excitement during loading.

Routinely move pigs prior to loading. In an Elanco study last summer in North Carolina, pigs on one side of the barn aisle were moved to an outside loading area and then returned to their pens. Pigs on the other side of the aisle were not moved. The next day all pigs were loaded out. Those pigs moved previously took less time to load, showed less signs of stress during loading and had fewer transport losses at the packing plant. “The moral of the story is, if we move pigs one time prior to loading, we can reduce stress,” Ritter says.

Presort pigs prior to loading. “A lot of our larger production systems are starting to move to larger pens where those pigs are being presorted,” he notes. In a recent collaborative study with Anna Johnson at Iowa State University, Ritter compared pens of 192 finishing hogs that were presorted before loading vs. pens of 32 head sorted during loading. Both groups of pigs were in the same barn, sorted by the same crew and placed on the same trailer. “What we found was utilizing large pens and presorting reduced transport losses by 66%,” he says.

Remove feed prior to loading. In an Elanco trial last summer, feed was withdrawn 16 hours before hogs were loaded. This served to reduce transport losses. But remember, Ritter emphasizes, that only applies to the pigs being marketed.

Minimize Stress Conditions

Minimizing stress throughout the marketing period can have an impact on hog marketability, Ritter says. His graduate studies at the University of Illinois clearly showed that pre-slaughter stressors have additive effects on body temperature and metabolic acid values.

In this trial, moving pigs singly out of the barn using a slow and calm pace, transporting them at an optimal floor space of 5.25 sq. ft./290-lb. market hog, and using a paddle to walk them a short distance of 75 ft. to mimic unloading at the packing plant resulted in pigs experiencing minimal stress, he explains.

Stress reduction can be accomplished by preparation and communication, according to Ritter.

Prepare the facilities for load out by ensuring there is adequate lighting, replacing any broken cleats on loading chutes and spreading absorbent materials (wood shavings, rice hulls, etc.) on the floor to prevent hogs from slipping and injuring themselves.

Turn fans down to minimal ventilation in tunnel-ventilated barns prior to loading to prevent pigs from getting blasted with air at the doorway to the loading chute.

Communications are essential between the driver and the loading crew to safeguard the clean-dirty line for biosecurity, he notes. Discuss loading strategy.

“Our goal is to minimize the distance pigs are moved during loading,” Ritter observes. If this is not possible, consider these two simple strategies:

  1. Take pigs from the front of the barn and put them on the top deck of the trailer.

  2. Take pigs from the back of the barn and put them on the bottom deck of the trailer.

These actions are designed to reduce stress at the farm during the loading process, he says.

Tools to Move Pigs

Moving pigs with paddles and sort boards is always preferable to using electric prods, Ritter states. His research studies indicate that stress is minimized when pigs are moved with two or less shocks from an electric prod from barn pen to trailer.

Use electric prods only as a last resort to move pigs. Before using an electric prod, try the alternative handling methods. First, tap the pig with the wand of the prod without pushing the power button. Next, shock the gate or ceiling. “Sometimes that noise is enough to stimulate those pigs to move,” he suggests. If that doesn't work, try gently tapping the pigs with your hand or calmly pushing pigs.

Follow these guidelines when using an electric prod:

  • Never use the prod in the pens during loading;

  • Never shock a pig in a sensitive area. This is a willful act of abuse and may result in automatic termination of an employee;

  • Place the electric prod on the back behind the shoulders, which research has shown to be the most effective place to shock a pig in order to get it to move forward; and

  • Never shock a pig longer than one second, and don't repeat a shock for at least five seconds.

If it appears that more than two electric shocks are needed to move pigs from the barn pen to the trailer, Ritter suggests reevaluating your facility design and handling procedures.

During the loading process, if pigs express any signs of stress, open-mouthed breathing or blotchy skin, they should be sorted off to the resting pen rather than loaded. Any pigs having difficulty walking should also be sorted off.

“The goal is to identify and sort those pigs off before they become non-ambulatory,” he explains. If they cannot walk, use a sled to move them to a recovery pen. If the pig hasn't recovered in 2-3 hours, chances are it is not going to recover and should be euthanized.

Trailer Environment

To optimize environmental conditions, hogs should be showered in summer prior to transport and provided adequate bedding in winter. Boarding up the trailer can help protect pigs from frostbite in winter. Refer to the National Pork Board's Transport Quality Assurance program recommendations for more details (

Finally, once trailers are loaded, it is imperative that trucks leave immediately and avoid undue stops to prevent rising temperatures inside the trailer, Ritter says.

Manure Use Terms Revisited

Escalating swine manure values have pork producers and crop farmers reviewing manure use agreements.

It seems not long ago that pork producers who needed land on which to apply manure had to give away the manure and, sometimes, even pay crop farmers to take it.

Now, escalating fertilizer prices have turned the tables. Manure has become a valuable part of crop fertility programs, and many crop farmers are seeking access agreements — and they are willing to pay for it.

The agronomic value of manure for crop production is well established, but with the change in economics has come the need to reexamine written agreements for manure application.

The terms used in manure application agreements in years past may be out of date and could lead to problems as the demand for manure steadily increases.

Some key points in manure agreements are:

  • New Twists to Manure Agreements

    If a tenant farms the land where the manure will be applied, the tenant's concurrence in the terms of the agreement is essential. In some cases, a tenant may be interested in signing the agreement with the pork producer. Some state regulations, such as Iowa, require a landowner to sign the agreement if the operation is required to have a manure management plan.

    Under general real estate law, a tenant has the legal right to possession and use of the leased premises during the term of the lease. However, a tenant's right to possession and use of the leased premises is subject to control by the landowner under the lease. Even if a tenant has the legal right to sign a manure application agreement, a tenant cannot bind a landowner beyond the term of the lease.

  • Who is responsible for and pays for manure application must be expressly addressed in the agreement. This often depends on whether the landowner is paying for the nutrient value of the manure. Landowners most often want the pork producer to be responsible for manure application, since the producer either has the equipment or has more expertise in hiring someone to apply the manure.

  • The agreement should expressly state whether either party would receive payment. Depending on market conditions in each locality and the nutrient value of the manure, some agreements provide for no monetary payment by either party. Some agreements require the landowner to pay for the manure based on its soil nutrient value or at least for the cost of manure application, while others may require the pork producer to pay the landowner for the use of the land (these are much less common in recent years).

  • Considerations for Entering a Manure Agreement

    To ensure adequate land to apply manure for the pork producer and to ensure compliance with any government regulations, the agreement should state that additional commercial fertilizer or manure from other sources will supplement and not replace the pork producer's manure, and that any additional nutrient applications will not exceed amounts allowed by regulations.

  • A particularly key issue as fertilizer costs increase is whether the pork producer is required to apply a minimum amount of manure, or any manure, under the agreement. Pork producers may have more acres than needed to ensure there is enough land for manure under all circumstances. Accordingly, agreements may include a clause stating that there is no guarantee of a minimum amount of manure or that there is no obligation to provide any manure during the term of the agreement.

    Crop Considerations

    On the other hand, crop producers may want to be assured of a minimum amount of manure each year, or may want the agreement to state that they will receive all of the manure from the hog operation for as long as hogs are raised and manure is produced by the operation. This issue needs to be discussed and the parties' agreement expressly written in the contract.

  • Because manure is a variable source of crop nutrients, pork producers may want to include a clause stating that there is no warranty as to the quality of the manure or whether the manure will achieve any particular yield results. Crop producers, on the other hand, may want a specific clause stating that the manure will meet specific standards, particularly if they are paying for and relying on the manure as part of their fertility program.

  • Most pork producers (and their lenders) want the manure agreement to remain intact if the landowner transfers the farm. Crop producers have also become interested in making sure the agreement remains in effect if the pork operation is transferred. If so, the agreement should specify that it “runs with the land,” and the agreement or a memorandum of the agreement must be recorded with the county recorder.

  • The agreement should detail each party's liability and whether the parties are indemnifying (holding harmless) each other for liability. Liability for nuisance from application of manure may be a primary concern of parties to a manure application agreement.

  • The pork producer and crop producer may want to take steps to protect against action by any mortgage holder or contract holder on the pork operation or the crop producer's land. For example, if there is a foreclosure or forfeiture of a landowner's interest in the land, the mortgage holder or contract seller may allege that the manure application agreement is an encumbrance on the land and eliminate the manure agreement in the foreclosure or forfeiture. One way to protect against this is to obtain, before the manure agreement is entered into, what is called a non-disturbance and attornment agreement from the pork producer's or landowner's mortgage holder or contract seller.

New Twists to Manure Agreements

The increase in the value of manure and the increase in pork producer input costs have led some to consider additional terms in manure agreements that reflect the changing economics. Examples include:

  • Terms that require the crop producer to guarantee that the pork producer will have access to corn produced by the crop producer on the land that receives the manure. This clause could set the price for the corn or could simply state that the pork producer is guaranteed the right to purchase the corn at market price.

  • A requirement that the crop producer pay for input costs that may rise as the fertilizer value of the manure rises. In addition to feed costs, LP gas for the hog unit, manure sampling, nutrient management plan preparation and soil testing are examples of additional expenses that the pork producer may want to require the crop producer to pay all or part of as compensation for the manure.

  • Crop producers may want to include a requirement that the pork producer not implement any management practices or technology that would reduce the fertilizer value of the manure. This type of clause needs to be carefully considered by the pork producer, as it may limit what the producer can do to implement new odor control or other environmentally desired practices.

As with all other contractual agreements, when both parties fully understand the written agreement, then the contractual relationship is much more likely to benefit both parties without disputes later on.

And as in the case of all legal agreements, both parties should work with individual legal counsel to address their particular circumstances.

Considerations for Entering a Manure Agreement

A pork producer who is considering entering into a manure application agreement should consider the following factors:

  • Procedures for removal and application of manure from the production facility in compliance with state and federal requirements for manure storage and application.

  • Cost of removal and application of manure.

  • Sale value of manure based on the crop nutrient value.

  • Terms in a long-term manure agreement that allow for recouping as much of the value of the manure as possible over the length of the agreement.

  • Potential nuisance and other legal liability from the application of manure.

Crop Considerations

A crop producer entering into a manure application agreement should consider:

  • Soil nutrient levels and nutrient requirements of crops.

  • Nutrient content of the manure to be applied. Some crop producers are concerned future technological advances in rations and manure treatment designed to reduce odor may lower the fertilizer value of the manure.

  • Cost of organic nutrients compared with nutrients from commercial fertilizer.

  • Potential soil compaction from application of manure.

  • Potential for increased soil erosion due to possible reduction in crop residue from the manure application.

  • Possibility of nuisance and other legal liability from application of manure.
    Eldon McAfee

Scenic in the Sand Hills

Scenic in the Sand Hills

Enterprise Nursery Madrid, NE

Technology and a motivated team help keep this nursery site in tune with the environment.

When you view a sunset from Joyce and Gary Cullen's home, your view is as wide as the western sky. Their home is in the sparsely populated Sand Hills of western Nebraska, a few miles from the little town of Madrid.

The Enterprise Nursery site consists of two, 21-room, environmentally controlled buildings. The site is permitted for 15,960 head raised from about 14 lb. to 55 lb.

The Cullen's home sits just south of Enterprise Nursery 1 that Joyce manages for NPP, LLC, a Columbus, NE, pork production firm. She has a reputation for attention to details and for keeping her nursery spotless, as does Regina Berry, who manages the identical Enterprise 2 nursery unit just 700 yards east.

Gary Cullen is known for keeping the grass around Enterprise Nursery mowed like a country club. There's even a shooting range out back that he keeps manicured, where family zeroes in their rifles and friends who may want to break a few clay pigeons can find entertainment.

While the nursery buildings provide a home for pigs, the landscaped grounds around the buildings provide a resort-like setting for the folks who live and work around the Enterprise Nursery site.

“It's a pleasant location,” Joyce Cullen says. “We're so isolated, it makes for a very peaceful place to be.”

The pigs that reside in these nursery buildings are destined to become replacement gilts in the NPP system.

“Enterprise Nursery is not only at the top of the pyramid when it comes to genetics and health,” says Scott Burroughs, NPP's chief operating officer. “It's also a model for aesthetics and environmental quality. Taking the extra steps to maintain the grounds like a golf course is what makes the difference between good managers and great managers.”

Full-circle fertility

Manure management is designed to capture the value of fertilizer nutrients from the site and put them to their best use by applying them through a pair of center-pivot irrigation circles.

“The land here is rolling sand, with 3% to 10% slope,” says John Csukker, NPP environmental manager. “With these sandy soils, manure-derived nutrients are an ideal fit, as they can be applied during the growing season as the crop requires. When nutrients are applied to sandy soils in spring or fall, there's always a risk they will leach from the soil.”

There's also a powerful economic payback for capturing the nutrients. During the 2007 crop year, the applied effluent provided 50% of the corn crop's nitrogen requirement, 50% of its phosphorous and 100% of the potassium on the nearly 260 acres being watered by the two pivots. That adds up to at least $118/acre in fertilizer value at today's commercial fertilizer prices.

The Enterprise nursery buildings are set up with shallow, 24-in.-deep, pull-plug pits. Enterprise 1 drains to a lift station, and then is pumped to the lagoon. Since Enterprise 2 is located near the lagoon, it simply gravity feeds into the structure.

NPP Ag Operations Director Gale Schafer points out that the lagoon is managed as a true treatment system, not just a manure storage pond. “It's designed to treat waste, to break down solids, not just store it,” he says. “Plugs are pulled on a regular schedule so as not to slug-load the lagoon, but to keep feeding it regularly. That stimulates the proper growth of bacteria to digest solids more completely and break them down better.”

The anaerobic lagoon was designed to provide 10% more storage volume than what was required by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. The lagoon also is double-lined. A 12-in. clay liner was incorporated into the lagoon design, but NPP added an additional ring of 30-ml high-density polyethylene. This helps prevent any erosion on the banks of the lagoon and serves as a weed barrier as well.

Application takes place through the center pivots using low-pressure drop hoses that can place effluent at or below the crop canopy, which helps reduce evaporation losses and holds down any odor.

The pivots are not connected to any fresh water source during application for maximum safety. When the pivot is switched from water to effluent irrigation, the hose from the irrigation well is removed and set aside, and a different hose carrying effluent is connected.

Sampling scenario

Because the effluent has a high value to the farmer who operates the adjacent cropland, samples are taken of both the effluent and the soil to make sure nutrient needs are matched. Effluent samples are taken at intervals during land application and shipped to a laboratory for testing within 24 hours. Soil samples are taken on a grid system guided by global positioning system (GPS). The fields are divided into approximately 40-acre units, and eight, sub-sample points are taken from within that section. A hydraulic probe samples at 12-, 24- and 36-in. depths.

Farm Works software is used to input manure and soil test results, as well as generate soil fertility maps to aid in planning future cropping practices. Soil sample results, crop yield goals and agronomic recommendations from the testing laboratory provide input for the soil fertility program and are kept as documentation of manure handling practices.

Technology tools

Some type of hi-tech tool is being used to monitor just about every activity at the Enterprise Nursery site, from pivot operation to fan speeds in individual rooms. A HughesNet satellite system and E-Frame Networking brought high-speed Internet to the nursery offices in 2007. Dicam controllers were also installed, allowing remote monitoring of ventilation, water and feed delivery systems.

GuardianACTION software provides real-time monitoring of each room's environment and provides alarm functions via e-mail, phone call or text messaging to make sure personnel are alerted to fix any problems.

“I can log in from anywhere I can get Internet access and see what's going on in the barns,” says NPP's Burroughs. “It helps me get a handle on what the problem is without having to drive to the site.”

Building relationships

The NPP team also invests in building relationships with the community. It sponsors an internship program, providing young people a chance to experience production agriculture first-hand. Enterprise Nursery also offers a scholarship program for high school students who work at the nursery as a way of encouraging their continuing education.

And there's also the continuing effort to make the land around the site attractive for both the public and the abundant wildlife that makes these Sand Hills home. Planting windbreaks and shelterbelts with both conifers and hardwoods, establishing grass to help hold sand in place against wind erosion and controlling weeds all help build the site's image.

“We see the entire NPP team taking on a sense of ownership and a pride in doing things right,” Burroughs says. “It's that kind of approach that helps build the image of our farms and the pork industry. Ultimately, it's the environment that wins.”