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No People Allowed When Agitating Manure Pits

“Keep people out of the barns when pumping manure pits,” advises Mike Brumm, Brumm Swine Consultancy, Inc., North Mankato, MN. He offers tips for protecting both pigs and people in an online PorkCast webcast presentation entitled, “Emergency Ventilation and Properly Ventilating Barns When Emptying Manure Storage Pits.”

Brumm encourages producers to post lock-out tags on all entrances to buildings that will be undergoing manure pit agitation or pumping procedures. The lock-out tags were created by the Minnesota Pork Board, Iowa Pork Producers Association and Illinois Pork Producers Association. The tags contain information about both the start date and time and the end date and time of manure pit pumping and who to call with questions. Posting tags on the doors can prove helpful if liability questions arise, Brumm notes.

He strongly discourages workers from being in barns during pumping procedures, even if the worker is wearing a hydrogen sulfide detection device. “If a worker is in the middle of a room and the detection device registers gas, they can’t get to the exit fast enough,” Brumm says.

At least one person in addition to the manure handling personnel should be on-site and outside of the barn at all times when pits are being pumped. This person should have the 911 address of the site in writing for reference. An emergency action plan should also be on-site.

The PorkCast program was sponsored by the University of Minnesota Extension’s swine program and the Minnesota Pork Board. Additional tips from Brumm, as well as a printable form of the lock-out tag is available online at the UMN Exension site.

Advice for Manure on Alfalfa

Use care when applying manure to alfalfa fields in order to maximize crop benefits, says Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska extension forage specialist. He offers the following tips for successful outcomes:

  • Apply less than 3,000 gal. of liquid manure or 10 tons of solid manure per acre to minimize salt burn or smothering. If manure is dry, adjust the spreader to break up large chunks that can smother growth.
  • Spread manure immediately after removing a cutting to minimize direct contact with foliage.
  • Only spread manure when fields are dry and firm to limit soil compaction and avoid wheel traffic damaging plant crowns.
  • If the goal is to stimulate grass yield, apply manure to fields with lots of grass, otherwise select fields with little grass if the goal is to minimize grass competition. The nitrogen in manure can stimulate grasses already in the alfalfa to become more competitive.

Anderson says manure application equipment can damage alfalfa crowns and compact soil, so producers should be careful not to do more harm than good when applying manure in alfalfa fields.

Source: University of Nebraska.

Nutrient Management Plan Assistance

Livestock producers in the western U.S. can now take advantage of free and confidential Environmental Assessment and Comprehensive Nutrient Management Planning assistance. The Environmental Resources Coalitions (ERC), a non-profit group dedicated to promoting water quality, recently received $3.9 million in federal grant money to help livestock producers located west of the Mississippi River reduce contamination in water runoff. The grant money will be administered as part of a program called the Comprehensive Livestock Environmental Assessment & Nutrient Management Plan (CLEANmp). The project goal is to provide confidential, no-cost technical assistance to livestock operations to help identify and address issues such as nitrogen and phosphorus application, water quality issues and odor generation.

Livestock and poultry producers must request the assistance. Information about applying for the program is available at the CLEANmp Web site. Eligible Technical Service Providers, registered with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to work in their respective states, will provide the assistance. The CLEANmp program will contract with the local technical service providers at no cost to the livestock producers. Producers will then receive free and confidential reports--an environmental assessment, a nutrient management plan, or both. These reports will provide practical recommendations for the producer’s operation.

The program is expected to run through 2011, but funding is limited and assistance will stop when the grant funds are expended. Learn more about the program and view a map of the eligible states online. For more information about the CLEANmp, contact project manager Betty Wyse, or project technical director Mark White at 573-634-7078.

Incorporate Manure Early in Vegetable Gardens

The national eXtension Web site says animal manures can be used as fertilizer on vegetable gardens. The site recommends incorporating manure into the soil during the fall prior to planting the vegetable crops the following spring. Applying manures during the growing season is not recommended due to the chance of contaminating produce with disease-causing microorganisms.

Learn About Hydrogen Sulfide During Sept. 19 Webcast

Speakers will provide state and national perspectives regarding hydrogen sulfide issues during a live Webcast on Sept. 19, 2008. The Web meeting room opens 15 minutes before the start time and can be accessed at

The Webcast seminars are hosted by the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center, which is a part of the eXtension educational partnership. The center has a monthly newsletter, available via online subscriptions. All information, including archived monthly Webcasts, can be found at under the resource area "animal manure management."

Iowa State Plans Manure, Nutrient Plan Workshop

Iowa State University Extension and the Iowa Manure Management Action Group (IMMAG), in collaboration with the Iowa USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, have scheduled a Sept. 25 workshop to train livestock producers and nutrient management plan service providers. The workshop will be held at the Marshall County Extension Office in Marshalltown, IA, running from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Participants will learn how to determine critical field areas and erosion rates. Tips will be offered about calculating phosphorus (P Index) vulnerability ratings, how to incorporate these numbers into manure management planning requirements and how to meet soil sampling requirements for manure management plans. Information will also be provided about where to find the necessary software and how to install it.

The cost of the workshop is $150 on or prior to Sept. 19, and $165 after that date. The workshop fee includes handout materials, refreshments and lunch. Because software will be provided, participants are required to bring a MS Windows compatible laptop equipped with a CD-ROM drive and Microsoft Excel Software. Participants must have an administrator password to the computer they bring in order to install software. The workshop is limited to 30 participants.

Online registration, program information and directions are available on the ISU Extension website. Contact Kapil Arora at 515-382-6551 or Angie Rieck-Hinz at 515-294-9590.

Free Financial Planning Available to Flood Victims

Armed with a $25,000 grant from CF Industries, Inc., Iowa State University (ISU) Extension is providing free financial planning to Iowa farm families dealing with the aftermath of this year’s flooding.

Using the company’s commitment, ISU will temporarily offer its Farm Financial Planning services at no charge. Families in disaster-affected counties can use the program to evaluate their farm businesses in response to flooding, delayed planting or rising livestock feed costs.

Farm Financial Planning is ISU Extension’s farm financial analysis program offering one-on-one financial counseling, a computerized analysis of the farm business and referral to other Extension programs or services.

For more information, visit the ISU Web site or contact your local ISU Extension county office.

CF Industries has also committed another $25,000 to help ISU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences restore flood-damaged areas at research farms across Iowa. That effort will help ISU replace tile drains, reseed eroded waterways, repeat field experiments that were destroyed and support long-term studies on soil fertility, water quality and crop rotation.

CF Industries, Inc., the major operating subsidiary of CF Industries Holdings, Inc., is one of the largest manufacturers and distributors of nitrogen and phosphate fertilizer products in North America, headquartered in Deerfield, IL.

Rewriting Hog Price History

What a difference two weeks can make! My trip to Brazil last week and the associated e-mail challenges prevented my column about record-high hog prices from reaching the North American Preview editors. Too bad, because it’s not often that one gets to write about record hog prices. And too bad, since we have now seen the second-largest one-week decline in hog prices on record! So this week’s column is a bit about both occurrences.

Arriving at the conclusion that the week of Aug. 16 saw a record for farm-level hog prices is not an easy exercise since there is no consistent price series that covers all of history – or even that part back to 1974-75 when hog prices made their last quantum shift. Figure 1 shows a constructed price series from the Livestock Marketing Information Center that uses Iowa-Minnesota practical top live weight prices up to the mid 1990s, and then uses carcass weight quotes to mimic that practical top series. I am not 100% positive that the $90.43 week before last is perfectly comparable to the $89.27 of the week of June 2, 1990, but it is as close a comparison as I know of, so I’m going with it.

“It’s a record high hog price!”
Four such statements could have been made from 1973 to 1991, and now it has taken 17 years to make it again.

Why so many in the early period and then the long dry spell? The record prices of 1976 were the aftermath of the Russian grain deal and significantly higher corn prices in 1974 and 1975. Slaughter dropped from 81.7 million head in 1974 to just 68.7 million head in 1975 (Figure 2) and only recovered to 73.8 million head by 1976. The 1974 to 1976 supply decline was 10%. A 10% decline over two years in order to drive hog prices high enough to cover significantly higher feed costs. Does that sound familiar?

The next record, in 1982, came on the rebound side of the huge herd buildup in 1978 and 1979 that led to record slaughter in 1980. The 1980 slaughter record (which stood until 1995) drove hog prices into the $30s for the first time since the 1974 liquidation year and caused another dramatic reduction in supplies and a new record price.

It was nine years before hog prices would set another record, largely because of the demand difficulties of the 1980s. Fat phobia, cholesterol phobia and nitrate phobia were at the top of consumers’ minds and newspapers’ headlines and pork demand suffered. The University of Missouri’s pork demand index stood at 125.1 in 1979. Five years later, it stood at 100, meaning that the index had fallen by just over 5% per year.

By 1991, U.S. hog slaughter had still not recovered to the levels of 1981, but the “Pork: The Other White Meat” campaign and significantly higher promotional budgets funded by the mandatory checkoff (initiated in 1987) had stopped the erosion of pork demand. That combination drove hogs to their last record early in the summer of 1991.

It should be noted, though, that the 10-year period preceding that record (1980-1990) saw the largest reduction of producer numbers for any decade in history as 391,110 operations exited the pork industry. And in those days, each operation was generally an enterprise owned by one farmer – not just a physical location that is part of a larger enterprise as many hog operations are today.

Why has it taken 17 years to set another record? Three reasons:

  • Technological innovations from buildings to genetics to nutrition to management to records/analysis systems to economies of scale and size have allowed producers to consistently improve the efficiency of their operations. Back when per unit input prices were stable and relatively low, these efficiency gains resulted in cost reductions over time that allowed profits to be realized even as hog prices trended downward.

  • Consolidation of production into fewer hands also meant more pigs in each producer’s hands. This enabled producers to accept lower per-head margins and still generate enough profit to live comfortably.

  • Domestic demand has been stable, but not growing. I don’t mean to be critical in that point. A stable pork demand at a time when chicken demand was steadily growing and, at least through 1998, when beef demand was still falling is not too bad of a result. But output growth and stable demand will not often allow higher, much less record, prices.
2008 is Unique
The uniqueness of the 2008 situation should be obvious: It is the only price record that has not involved some type of output reduction. In fact, this record has been set on an output increase of nearly 9%, year-to-date. The driver, of course, is exceptionally strong hog demand driven by meat exports and record by-product values.

Which brings us to last week and a near-record large drop in hog prices. The decline of $10.89/cwt. was second only to the $10.93/cwt. decline for the week of Sept. 8, 1973. Only two other weeks, one in December 1975, another in December 2004, have seen declines of over $10/cwt.

Why the big fall? It’s not a supply issue. Slaughter last week was still over 5% larger than last year. Since we have concluded that the upward run was likely driven by export demand, this slowdown is almost surely driven by declines in export demand. We will not have data for August until mid-October, so it will be interesting to see whether this is the case or not, and if it is, to see where the exports have fallen the most. I have always been a bit concerned about post-Olympics China, but difficulties in Mexico and Russia will also contribute to the decline. Aren’t roller coaster rides fun?

Click to view graphs.

Steve R. Meyer, Ph.D.
Paragon Economics, Inc.
e-mail: [email protected]

Iowa Swine Veterinarian Conference Schedule Set

Dates for the 16th annual Swine Disease for Practitioners Conference are confirmed for Nov. 6-7, 2008 at the Scheman Building, Iowa State University in Ames, IA.

Among talks scheduled for Nov. 6 are:

  • The risks to and impacts of disease on pork exports by John Lawrence of Iowa State University (ISU);
  • Blue Ear/High Fever Syndrome in Southeast Asia, R.B. “Butch” Baker, DVM, ISU;
  • A condemnation and outbreak of erysipelas, Joe Bender, ISU;
  • Reemergence of swine dysentery – implications for control, Robert Glock, DVM, Tucson, AZ; and
  • Circovirus vaccine compliance techniques, John Johnson, DVM, ISU.

Highlights Nov. 7 include the second annual Pig Power Networking Event, which provides an opportunity for veterinarians to interface with 20 veterinary students interested in practicing swine medicine. The program runs 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Interested parties should contact Locke Karriker, DVM, ISU Student Chapter advisor, [email protected].

Kicking off the Dr. Roy Schultz Lecture Series is New Understandings about PCV2 (porcine circovirus type 2) Virus and Effects on Pigs by Kenneth McCullough, Institute of Virology and Immunoprophylaxis, Mittelhausen, Switzerland.

Related talks cover experimental infections with PCV2a and PCV2b types by Philip Gauger, DVM, ISU, and PCV2 and semen contamination – practical implications by Darin Madson, DVM, ISU.

Lisa Becton, DVM, National Pork Board, will provide a review of the Transportation Biosecurity Summit held in Kansas City this summer.

Angie Delks, DVM, Suidae Animal Health, Algona, IA, will present the practitioner’s role in transportation biosecurity evaluations.

Jeff Zimmerman, DVM, Iowa State University, will discuss disease control in contemporary swine populations.

For more information, visit or contact conference coordinator Julie Kieffer at [email protected].

How Can More Pork End Up Being Less?

The United States is producing more pork but less is available for U.S. consumers, according to a Purdue University Extension marketing specialist.

“What does more pork production but less available for U.S. consumers mean?” asks Chris Hurt. “Pork exports grew by 68% in the first half of the year and imports fell by 15%, meaning that 1.1 billion pounds less pork was available for domestic consumers.

“By the second quarter, U.S. pork production was 9% higher, but U.S. consumers had 6% less pork available to consume.”

It’s all part of what Hurt terms a “remarkable year” for the U.S. pork industry. Unusually high feed and energy prices and 20% more pork produced in the first half of 2008 made profits seem a distant dream.

“But salvation has come in the form of international trade as cheap U.S. pork, subsidized with producer losses and the weak dollar have made pork trade more important than exports are for the corn market,” he says.

As with the role of corn exports in setting corn prices, pork exports have become the single most important factor in determining pork prices. Comparisons of export percentages for corn and pork are startling, Hurt says.

“For the 2007-08 marketing year, corn exports represented 19% of total corn use,” he says. “For 2008-09, current USDA forecasts are for exports to represent only 16%.

“Pork exports, in contrast, are forecast by the USDA to represent 23% of U.S. production in 2008 and 22% in 2009.”

Positive projections for the U.S. pork trade and the potential for declining pork production into 2009 may produce a positive trend for pork and hog prices.

Per capita pork supplies available for U.S. consumers are anticipated to be down 8% in the current quarter and off 10% in the fourth quarter.

For all of 2008, per capita supplies for U.S. consumers will drop about 5%. In 2009, supplies are expected to decline another 2-3%. All this means pork for U.S. consumers will be relatively tight during the next 18 months.

“While trade has been the salvation of the pork industry in 2008, it also presents vulnerabilities as the U.S. industry has become dependent on these trade impacts to continue,” Hurt says.

China and Hong Kong’s import surge from the United States represented 50% of increased pork sales in the first half of 2008.

But Hurt suggests there are at least three concerns when it comes to China:

First, China’s domestic pork production has dropped due to “blue-ear disease” and this year’s earthquake. Estimates are that production has declined 8-9%.

“Pork price inflation was rapid in the winter and spring and gave the Chinese government strong incentives to buy cheap U.S. pork,” he explains.

“The second uncertainty might be called the ‘Olympics effect.’ China had strong incentives to import a large amount of pork in the months prior to the Olympics, not only to keep consumer food price protests to a minimum, but also to have sufficient availability for their Olympic guests. If so, their pork purchases might be reduced in the post-Olympic period.”

The final concern is that this period of rapid pork purchases won’t last because China is trying to restore its own production.

“China has primarily had a policy of self-sufficiency in food production in the last decade with the exception of soybeans and soy products,” says Hurt. “The question of whether China is making a fundamental shift away from self-sufficiency and toward some dependency on imported pork could have profound implications for the U.S. pork industry,” relates Hurt.

Russia provides another area of concern. Russia accounted for 13% of the increased pork exports in the first half of the year – but they tend to be a “value shopper.” Looking for the lowest-priced source of animal protein could reduce their purchases as the price of U.S. pork rises.

Without historical precedent for the current impact of pork prices from international trade, Hurt relies on the futures market instead of a computer model to forecast prices for 51-52% lean carcasses.

“Prices drop from their current low $60s into the very high $50s into September,” he says. “The final quarter of the year will average in the mid $50s with recovery into the higher $50s for the first quarter of 2009. The highest prices will be in the spring and summer of 2009, with averages in the mid-$60s,” he says.

Hurt says producers can compete for high-priced corn if these hog price forecasts hold. “Hog producers will be able to pay about $6.25/bu. for corn in 2009 and still break even compared with only $4 in calendar years 2007 and 2008.”

But to achieve that strong competitive position, he believes three conditions must be met: pork producers must continue to reduce farrowings; foreign customers must continue to buy U.S. pork; and crude oil prices must stay under $140/barrel to compete with ethanol plants for corn.