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Scientists Test MRI Device To Measure Pigs’ Composition

Scientists at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are testing an advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-based device they say can accurately and precisely measure total body fat in piglets using the principles of quantitative magnetic resonance (QMR).

The new device, called EchoMRI, was tested by ARS researchers to measure not only total body fat, but lean tissue mass, free water mass and total body water in piglets.
The work was done with a grant from the National Institutes of Health, which wants to know if the new technology could be used in human pediatrics.

Standard MRI tests are commonly used to scan and analyze human tissue. But when used for body composition analysis, imaging systems are often substantially in error due to the interpretation of visual images using software that relies on population averages.

EchoMRI uses a new type of QMR methodology for body composition results that depends on the density of hydrogen nuclei and the physical properties of the tissue.

ARS scientists tested the device in piglets vs. dual x-ray (DXA) technology and chemical analysis. The 25 piglets weighing 3.5-8 lb. were screened live and at necropsy using a prototype EchoMRI device for infants. The piglets were also scanned using DXA and then subjected to chemical analysis.

Of the three methods tested, EchoMRI was found to be an accurate means of measuring piglets’ total body composition, total body fat, lean tissue mass, free water mass and total body water. While conducted on piglets, similar results could be obtained on market hogs, according to ARS researchers.

EchoMRI obtains measurements in only a few minutes without anesthesia or sedation, is radiation-free and does not require the subject to remain completely motionless.

Thus, repeated tracking of small changes in body composition could be helpful to researchers to optimize feed use and identify high-value breeding stock.

Learn more about ARS.

All-Natural Pork Group Provides DNA Traceback

Nature’s Premium Brand, producer of all-natural fresh pork, has announced the capability to track DNA for product traceability back to the farm of origin.

Nature’s Premium will use IdentiGEN’s DNA TraceBack system, process-verified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for product verification.

Nature’s Premium Brand pork packages will carry IdentiGEN’s DNA TraceBack seal at the meat case to guarantee to consumers that each cut came from the company’s production and processing system.

Midwestern family farmers raise the Nature’s Premium Duroc pigs on a strict vegetarian diet with no animal by-products. Animals never receive antibiotics or growth promotants. Health, sanitation and humane treatment of pigs are emphasized.

“Simply put, this program equates to trust,” says Nature’s Premium founder and CEO John Stewart. “We take samples of the actual DNA of every animal in the program to assure that we are delivering the premium quality assurances customers expect.”

Each product receives a permanent and tamper-proof bar code that provides the unique DNA of every animal, says IdentiGEN CEO and President Donald Marvin.

The IdentiGEN system is an approved USDA Process Verified Program that ensures product integrity throughout the food chain. More information can be found at

Center Connects Manure Experts With Producers Nationwide

The Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center at Kansas State University (KSU) connects manure management experts from land-grant universities and federal agencies with livestock producers and their advisors.

The connection is, then click on Animal Manure Management.

The center at KSU is part of the national Extension interactive Web resource customized with links to local Cooperative Extension Web sites.

The center was launched in March 2008 and logs more than 12,000 hits per month. The goal is to be the first stop for science-based information on animal manure issues.

“The most popular resources are the live and archived Web casts,” says Jill Heemstra, manure management Extension educator in Nebraska and the national coordinator for the center. “When we have a live Web cast, people from about 100 sites log on, but each recorded Web cast receives more than 70 views every month.”

Live Web cast presentations take place at 1:30 p.m. (CST) on the third Friday of each month. Twenty archived Web casts are currently accessible.

The Web site also offers:

· A newsletter promoting upcoming Web casts and summarizing research projects and new resources on animal manure issues.

· More than 100 pages on manure treatment technologies, storage and handling, environmental planning, regulations, small farms, nutrient management plans and more. A database stores frequently asked questions.

Individual questions are directed to university experts in the “Ask the Experts” resource.

New resources planned for next year include research-based information on antibiotics and hormones, air quality and grazing system water quality.

The Web site has a wider audience than anticipated, says Mark Risse, a professor at the University of Georgia and one of three project co-leaders.

“Beyond people who advise producers, county Extension agents, Natural Resources Conservation Service staff and consultants, we are finding policymakers, producers, the general public and even other scientists are using the Web site,” reports Risse. “It is the best science-based information on manure compiled from around the country to a single site. Users are coming to it to answer specific questions, for general education and for continuing education.”

September Webcast Targets Manure Odor

Managing odor is a key part of managing livestock manure. That topic is the focus of the Sept. 19 Webcast presented via the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center at Kansas State University.

Hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S) is produced from animal manure under anaerobic conditions. The odor of H2S is associated with a “rotten egg” smell. H2S is an odorant of concern because it can reach toxic levels and even fatal levels in confined manure storage pits.

Leading the discussion will be Larry Jacobson of the University of Minnesota, an official of the Minnesota Pollution Control Board (invited) and other experts in the field.

More Webcast information will be posted on as it becomes available.

The Sept. 19 Webcast starts at 1:30 p.m. (CST). To learn how to participate, click on the Web site, go to the learning center and follow the steps on “How Do I Participate in a Web cast”?

Farmland Values Soar Fourth Year in a Row

The average farm real estate value for Illinois in 2008 is $5,000/acre, according to a new University of Illinois Extension study.

“This is the highest value on record,” states Dale Lattz, University of Illinois Extension farm financial management specialist. He prepared the analysis based on data from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

“Fourth Year in a Row of Double-Digit Increases for Illinois Farm Real Estate Values,” is available on U of I’s Extension farmdoc Web site.

“The $5,000/acre figure includes the value of all land and buildings,” says Lattz. “The figure is 15.5% higher than the 2007 average of $4,330/acre. This increase marks the fourth year in a row of double-digit increases.

“The 2005 value increased 27.6%, the 2006 value increased 14.1% and the 2007 value increased 13.9%. The 2008 percent increase was the second highest since 1977.”

Farm real estate values in Illinois have increased 121% since 2000, adds Lattz. And farmland values have shown a year-over-year increase every year since 1988.

The current strength in farmland values appears to be driven by higher corn and soybean prices and expectations that those prices will remain high due to strong demand, concludes Lattz.

Agricultural Lenders Hold Two Fall Conferences

The Kansas State University (KSU) Agricultural Lenders Conferences are set for the eastern and western parts of the state this fall.

The first conference is Oct. 1 at KSU’s Southwest Research and Extension Center in Garden City. The second conference is Oct. 8 in KSU’s International Grains Program Conference Center in Manhattan.

Registration costs $80 in advance or $90 at the door.

The schedule is the same for both locations with registration at 8 a.m. followed by the program at 8:55 a.m.

The program covers the livestock outlook for 2008-09; the grain outlook for 2008-09; crop rental agreements in a new risk era; commodity program decisions in the 2008 farm bill; and crop insurance changes and disaster aid.

For more information, contact Rich Llewelyn in KSU’s Department of Agricultural Economics at [email protected] or 785-532-1504 or log onto the Web at

Farm Science Review Includes New Hog Ventilation Trailer

Pork producers attending Ohio State University’s (OSU) Farm Science Review Sept. 16-18 can learn more about managing the environment in their hog barns that can help improve production efficiency and save money.

OSU Extension staff will demonstrate its new ventilation trailer, with all of the features found in standard ventilated livestock facilities to simulate various ventilation scenarios and troubleshoot specific problems.

The ventilation trailer will be on display during the show at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, OH.

“Most modern swine facilities depend on mechanical ventilation to make animals as comfortable as possible,” explains Glen Arnold, an OSU Extension educator in Putnam County. “The more comfortable the animals are, the faster they grow and the more productive they are. But it’s easy to lose track of proper ventilation maintenance – to warm the building more or to run the cooling fans longer than need be – or to miss small problems with the system that could be costing a producer money.”

Arnold will demonstrate the benefits of the ventilation trailer during Farm Science Review. He and colleagues have been conducting training sessions throughout the state.

Arnold says producers can save on energy costs simply by improving the efficiency of the system.

“Producers can often save $2,000 to $3,000 a year or more in propane expenses just by tweaking the system to make it more precise,” he says.

To learn more about the show, go to

Dieters Benefit from Higher-Protein Breakfast

A new study published online today found a link between timing of dietary intake and feelings of fullness throughout the day.

The study, published in the British Journal ofNutrition, concluded that when people ate high-quality protein foods, such as eggs and lean Canadian bacon for breakfast, they felt fuller throughout the day compared to when more protein was consumed at lunch or dinner.

“There is a growing body of research which supports eating high-protein foods when dieting to maintain a sense of fullness,” says Wayne W. Campbell, study author and professor of foods and nutrition at Purdue University. “This study is particularly unique in that it looked at the timing of protein intake and reveals that when you consume more protein may be a critical piece of the equation.”

The new research, funded by the Pork Checkoff and the American Egg Board, tested overweight men who followed a reduced-calorie diet. Two diets were evaluated: normal protein intake, 11-14% of calories or increased protein intake, 18-25% of calories.

Purdue researchers tested the effect of consuming the additional protein at breakfast, lunch or dinner or evenly spaced throughout the day. The result was the greatest feeling of fullness was attained when the additional protein from eggs and lean Canadian bacon was eaten at breakfast vs. lunch or dinner.

“This is another example of how pork provides consumers interested in weight control more options,” states Barb Determan, Early, IA, pork producer and chair of the Pork Checkoff Nutrition Committee. “Just last year, a checkoff-funded study published in an issue of the journal Obesity revealed that a calorie-restricted diet with additional protein resulted in retained post-meal feelings of fullness and improved overall mood. The same study also found that a higher level of protein intake was more effective in maintaining lean body mass during weight loss.”

Most Americans consume only about 15% of their total daily protein intake at breakfast, says Campbell.

Consumer research from the International Food Information Council also shows that 92% of Americans believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day. However, just 46% eat breakfast seven days a week.

“This presents a great opportunity for pork,” says Determan. “Consumers can visit to find high-quality breakfast ideas that will help them in their weight loss efforts.”

National Pork Board Names New Chief Executive Officer

National Pork Board Names New Chief Executive Officer

The National Pork Board on Sept. 3 named Chris Novak, a state commodity association executive, as 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.

Murphy became the National Pork Board’s first CEO in October 2002. Previously, checkoff-funded programs were handled under a contract with NPPC.

Novak holds a bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University, a law degree from the University of Iowa and an executive master’s degree in business administration from Purdue University.

Novak first served as a legal assistant to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and joined NPPC in 1990 as director of public policy. In 1992, he became NPPC’s first director of environmental services and was actively involved in the development of the Environmental Stewards recognition program co-sponsored by National Hog Farmer and Pork Checkoff.

Novak was executive director of the Terrene Institute, a nonprofit environmental education group. He was also an executive of the American Soybean Association and was science communication manager for Syngenta, where he directed biotechnology communication activities.

Novak and his wife, Julie, have three children.