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Articles from 2016 In September

Over a Cup - October 1, 2016 : farm bills, political contributions, and Prairie Farmer

Over a Cup

Pork producers urged to batten down the hatches

The largerthananticipated market hog number is what we will try to digest and understand in the marketplace as we move ahead over the next three to five months says Jim Robb LMIC
<p>The larger-than-anticipated market hog number is what we will try to digest and understand in the marketplace as we move ahead over the next three to five months, says Jim Robb, LMIC.</p>

The forecast record pork production is now a reality, pressuring hog prices downward and tightening packing capacity further. U.S. hog inventory stands at 70.851 million head on Sept. 1, registering a 2% growth from last year and 4% increase since the previous quarter, according to the USDA Hogs and Pigs report. This record large hog inventory rose greater than pre-report estimate of 1.1% and most likely viewed as bearish in the marketplace.

For the U.S. hog producer, “It is just going to be a very difficult period for three to four months,” says Bob Brown, meat industry consultant from Edmond, Okla. “It is time to be batten down the hatches and do the best you can.”

Kevin Grier, president of Kevin Grier Market Analysis & Consulting in Guelph, Ontario, warns, “There is a lot of psychology entering in the hog market that is clouding pricing forecast. I keep ratcheting fourth quarter 2016 and first quarter 2017 hog prices downward.”

Demand is a vital component to the hog market fundamentals. Grier emphasizes pork demand is still positive. He says, “Demand in North America has been very good for the last few years. Domestic and export demand has been good. As long as a product, because of demand, is moving then packers will work through that like a hot knife through butter.”

Jim Robb, director of the Livestock Marketing Information Center, explains that although hog price erosion is occurring, the export profile is critical. He notes, “We are somewhat optimistic that exports will continue on tonnage basis to post a year-over-year gain.”

Still, Robb points out that total red meat and poultry supplies continue to increase. According to his firm’s calculation, total protein supplies in 2017 will be the largest since 2007. He further explains, “That is a quantity of product that has to find a home, and that is really key to the price levels in 2017.”

Diving into the numbers
Market hog inventory, at 64.8 million head, was up 3% from last year, and up 4% from last quarter. The number of pigs weighing 120-179 pounds accounts for the majority of the growth, climbing 2%. Pigs weighing 50-119 pounds remain unchanged from the previous year.

“The larger-than-anticipated market hog number is what we will try to digest and understand in the marketplace as we move ahead over the next three to five months,” clarifies Robb. “When you look overall at this report compared to expectations, the market hogs were 800,000 head more than we anticipated at LMIC. The source of that is rather continuous underassessment of farrowings and farrowing intentions in recent reports by USDA.”

For slaughter numbers moving forward, the LMIC estimates October daily barrow and gilt slaughter numbers to remain flat from September with largest weekly totals expected in November. Despite this, U.S. hog producers are keeping market weights lighter than normal overall. Brown contributes lighter market weights because extra pounds are a losing game for hog farmers.

As predicted by market analysts, the breeding inventory crossed the 6 million mark, standing at 6.02 million head. There are now approximately 167,000 more sows in the breeding herd compared to the actual inventory at the end of 2014. Breeding inventory was up 1% from last year, and up 1% from the previous quarter.

The June-August 2016 pig crop, at 32.0 million head, (up 2% from 2015) set another all-time high. According to Brown, this is a tough trend to fall into with each of the last four pig crops setting record highs for the particular quarter.

Sows farrowing during this period totaled 3.02 million head, up slightly from 2015. The sows farrowed during this quarter represented 51% of the breeding herd. The average pigs saved per litter was a record high 10.58 for the June-August period, compared to 10.39 last year. Pigs saved per litter by size of operation ranged from 8.20 for operations with 1-99 hogs and pigs to 10.60 for operations with more than 5,000 hogs and pigs.

U.S. hog producers intend to have 2.93 million sows farrow during the September-November 2016 quarter, down slightly from the actual farrowings during the same period in 2015, and down 2% from 2014. Intended farrowings for December-February 2017, at 2.93 million sows, are down slightly from 2016, but up 1% from 2015.

While market analysts agree that farrows and farrowing intentions are unaccounted in the recent reports, a readjustment in the USDA estimation will occur in the December Hogs and Pigs report. Robb explains, “We will be recalibrating for the Dec. 1 report.”

Welcome to 'Pork-tober'

Every month should be Pork Month, right?! But sadly, only October is designated as Pork Month, designated as such because of the time of year hogs were traditionally marketed. My, how times have changed!

With that in mind, here are some tidbits to give you motivation to keep doing what you’re doing as we kick off National Pork Month tomorrow. (I’ll also throw in some other facts to ponder. All info comes courtesy of your Pork Checkoff.)

If you are a pork producer, you are working on one of the 55,000-plus U.S. hog farms that support 800,000-plus jobs nationwide. That’s what they call bringing home the bacon.

Speaking of bacon, and who doesn’t always talk about bacon, today’s hog farmers produce 22 billion pounds of pork each year. That’s B as in billion and B as in bacon. You get the point, it only makes sense.

A 275-pound pig yields 16 pounds of bacon, and 62% of restaurants have bacon on their menus.

Did you know?

The pig dates back 40 million years, with fossils indicating the wild pig-like animals roamed forests and swamps in Europe and Asia. (Now, that’s some aged bacon.)

What you already did know is that there are no days off in pig farming. It goes on 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. You also already knew that every four years when Leap Year rolls around, pigs still need to be fed, watered, and cared for on Feb. 29.

There are no holidays, long weekends or vacation days when it comes to pig care. Animal care and the health of the pigs is the No. 1 priority for all involved in the pig care chain — owner, farm manager, caretaker, veterinarian and transporter.

As we all know, pork production has changed over the years. From moving hogs inside to enhanced genetics to better biosecurity, pork producers have been quick to adopt modern technologies all in the name of better animal health, production, comfort and safety. Adopting these technologies has not gone unnoticed by the unattached general public who are fed misinformation by certain activist groups looking to eliminate animal agriculture.

Did you know?

When Christopher Columbus headed to Cuba in 1493, Spain’s Queen Isabella insisted that he take eight pigs. However, Hernando de Soto is dubbed the “Father of the American pork industry.” In 1529, he landed in Tampa Bay, Fla., with America’s first 13 pigs on board. (What soon followed was America’s first “Bacon Bash.”)

Hog producers, livestock producers in general, need to keep telling their story of how these advancements are bettering swine production, and really the world in general.

In 1959, it took eight pigs (including breeding stock) to produce 1,000 pounds of pork. Today, it takes just five pigs. Not only are you producing more end product with fewer head, data also show that in the last 50 years producers are doing that with 78% less land, 41% less water and have a 35% smaller carbon footprint.

Just as care for hogs on the farms has changed over the years, so have the modes of moving the hogs between farms and from farms to market. Transportation of hogs is not taken lightly, and more than 33,000 swine transporters, farmers and handlers have earned Transport Quality Assurance certification, which teaches best practices on how to handle, move and transport pigs.

Did you know?

As pioneers started heading west after the Revolutionary War, pigs were of course brought along. A wooden crate filled with young pigs often was hung from the axles of the covered wagons.

The Pork Quality Assurance Plus program outlines best practices in food safety and animal well-being. Are your PQA+ and TQA certifications up to date?

This trip down pork memory lane and the accompanying pats on pork producers backs come at the right time. With the current market situation and many outside forces questioning your impeccable standard operating procedures, it can be difficult to stay positive.

Though hog prices have been coming down, so have the prices of feedstuffs, so there’s a sliver of silver lining.

It looks as though the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would benefit hog producers and the U.S. swine industry, will not pass before President Obama leaves office and both major party candidates are reportedly opposed to the measure. That is a definite gray cloud.

But, at the end of day we still need to take care of the hogs under our care, and produce the best pork product possible to feed the population here and far.

Did you know?

Today, the United States is one of the leading pork-producing countries. In 2015, 24% of U.S. pork and pork variety meats was exported, and export value per head averaged $48.31. More than 100 countries bought U.S. pork last year.

Even without TPP passing, we have been and will continue to spread U.S. pork around the world. We also need to continue to share the pork message right here on the home front. There is plenty of work to be done to get U.S. pork on more U.S. dinner tables. Pork per capita consumption is on the rise, but it trails the two other big animal proteins of chicken and beef.

Many producers are doing a great job of telling their story — the story of their production system and the story of the wholesome product that that system allows them to produce. These times may call for all producers to step out of their comfort zone to start sharing their stories. It doesn’t have to be taking to social media, or making civic presentations. It can be as simple as assisting a fellow shopper at the meat counter. Bone up on your pork nutritional facts, because you already know all about the production end of the product.

What better time to start, or continue, telling the story of U.S. hog production and the wonderful end product. Let’s get “Pork-tober” off to a delicious start.


U.S. District Court dismisses HSUS lawsuit on regulating CAFO emissions

A U.S. District Court this week dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Humane Society of the United States and other activist groups against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, alleging the agency would not regulate confined animal feeding operations. The groups requested in 2009 that the EPA begin rulemaking under the Clean Air Act to regulate air emissions from CAFOs.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit threw out the case because the plaintiffs didn’t give EPA 180-days’ notice of their intent to sue, which is required by the CAA. In 2006, nearly 1,900 pork producers and other livestock and poultry farmers entered into a series of legally binding consent agreements with the EPA, settling what the agency believed were issues with air emissions associated with livestock production.

Part of the agreements was a study of emissions from farms. Purdue University conducted the study and gave the data to EPA, which has been reviewing it and working to develop a tool producers can use to estimate air emissions. That process was impeded by the same activist groups that brought the lawsuit when they opposed efforts by the livestock industry to help set up a science advisory panel of experts in animal systems to assist with the EPA’s effort. The agency’s existing science advisory board issued findings on the emissions data in 2013, saying they were “unreliable.”

HSUS indicated it would refile the lawsuit after providing the 180 days’ notice.

Feet and legs foundation to sow health

Dairymen have long known the importance of foot health care to provide a good base for their dairy herd. That same thinking is catching on in the swine industry, making sure that gilts and sows have healthy feet for a productive life in your operation. When pigs aren’t comfortable on their feet, they experience lower feed intake, and sows and gilts present decreased reproductive performance. When feet issues develop into lameness, producers are then left with little choice but to cull these sows and gilts from the herd.

Preventing feet problems from becoming lameness issues is a major first step to keeping females productive and performing in your herd for a long time.

Research studies calcium requirements for weanling pigs

Two recent studies from the University of Illinois have helped determine how much calcium growing pigs require, and illuminate the mechanisms by which they absorb it.

Calcium must be fed in adequate amounts and in the right balance with phosphorus to optimize pig performance. “We can use different measures to determine requirements for calcium,” says Hans H. Stein, professor of animal sciences at Illinois. “Different amounts may be needed to maximize growth performance, mineral deposition in bone, or calcium and phosphorus retention.”

Stein, in conjunction with other researchers from the U of I and AB Vista Feed Ingredients, conducted two experiments to determine responses to graded levels of calcium in diets fed to pigs from 11 to 25 kilograms. In both experiments, pigs were fed diets containing different levels of standardized total tract digestible calcium, ranging from 0.32% up to 0.72%. All diets contained 0.36% STTD phosphorus.

Pigs fed diets containing 0.48% or more STTD calcium had the greatest concentrations of bone ash, bone calcium and bone phosphorus.

However, on measures of growth performance, average daily gain started to decline at 0.54% STTD calcium, and gain:feed ratio started to decline at 0.50% STTD.

The optimal levels of dietary STTD calcium for retention of calcium and phosphorus were at or above 0.60 and 0.49% respectively.

Taken all together, the different measures point to an STTD calcium requirement of 0.49% or less for growing pigs from 11 to 25 kilograms.

“Based on these results, the requirement for STTD calcium for 11 to 25 kilogram pigs is likely around 1.35 times the requirement for STTD phosphorus,” says Stein, adding that further experiments need to be conducted to verify this value.

The researchers also studied the expression of certain genes involved in transcellular transport of calcium at the different levels of dietary calcium. Transcellular transport requires more calcium channel proteins, calcium binding proteins, and energy than passive paracellular transport, so the latter is preferred if enough calcium is available to be absorbed that way.

Research findings

• Requirements for standardized total tract digestible calcium in weanling pigs have not yet been determined.

• The requirement for STTD calcium for 11 to 25 kilogram pigs is likely around 1.35 times the requirement for STTD phosphorus.

• Pigs regulate calcium balance primarily in the kidneys, by downregulating genes for proteins involved in transcellular uptake.

As the calcium levels in the diets increased, the mRNA expression of genes for the calcium channel proteins TRPV5 and TRPV6, calcium binding proteins CALB1 and S100G, and the vitamin D receptor protein VDR decreased in the kidneys.

Expression of genes for TRPV6 and VDR, as well as plasma membrane protein ATP2B1, also decreased in the jejunum as dietary calcium increased.

“The main site for regulation of calcium balance appears to be in the kidneys,” Stein says. “When dietary calcium is adequate and luminal levels of calcium are high enough to allow for paracellular transport, transcellular uptake in the kidneys and jejunum is reduced.”

Funding for this research was provided by AB Vista Feed Ingredients, Marlborough, UK.

The paper, “Requirement for digestible calcium by eleven- to twenty-five– kilogram pigs as determined by growth performance, bone ash concentration, calcium and phosphorus balances, and expression of genes involved in transport of calcium in intestinal and kidney cells,” was published in the August issue of the Journal of Animal Science. It was co-authored by Caroline González-Vega, Yanhong Liu, Joshua McCann, Carrie Walk, and Juan Loor. The full text can be found online, but requires a subscription to access.

Tyson Fresh Meats to expand Council Bluffs plant

Tyson Fresh Meats Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Tyson Foods Inc., is investing $27 million to expand the production capacity of its case-ready beef and pork plant in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The project will include a 55,000 square foot addition for new production lines and warehouse space and increase the plant’s capacity to produce fresh ground beef, beef and pork cuts, and meal kits that are ready for distribution to retail grocers. The expansion is under way and scheduled to be completed in July 2017. It is expected to add 350 jobs, bringing total employment at the plant to more than 1,400.  

“Tyson Fresh Meats’ announcement is great news for the Council Bluffs community,” says Bob Mundt, president and CEO of the Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce. “Tyson Fresh Meats is not only one of the largest employers in the area, it’s a significant contributor to our local economy. We look forward to the jobs that will be created through this expansion.”

Tyson Foods operates three local plants. In addition to the case-ready facility, the company has a pepperoni plant in Council Bluffs and a bacon plant in Omaha. The company employs approximately 2,000 residents in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area.

“This project is great news for our plant, our community and our customers,” says Steve Friedrichsen, complex manager of the Council Bluffs case-ready plant. “We are committed to the Council Bluffs community and look forward to adding more jobs with this expansion, while also meeting the growing demand for case-ready products.”

The Council Bluffs case-ready plant generated an annual payroll of $37 million in 2015.

Research ties sow vitamin D intake to progeny performance

Pork producers who want to get the most out of every ingredient in a sow diet can look to new research showing the value of supplementing vitamins at optimal levels. The most recent research, supported by DSM Nutritional Products and carried out at Kansas State University, shows that an optimum level of vitamin D3 supplementation in the sow diet can measurably impact the performance of sows and their progeny. Additionally, the research shows a higher level of vitamin D3 supplementation doesn’t always support more benefits. For some criteria, the sows and their progeny performed best when the sows were fed an “optimum” rather than a high level of vitamin D3

“We are seeing growing evidence that supplementing a sow’s diet with an optimal level of vitamin D3 can support her improved performance, as well as the lifetime performance of her progeny,” says Jon Bergstrom, Ph.D., senior technical support manager for DSM Nutritional Products. “It is important to note ‘optimal’ doesn’t mean ‘as much as possible.’ We have tested varying levels of vitamin D3 supplementation, and the data is showing a moderate level of vitamin D3 supports better performance and growth than a higher or lower level.”

The three levels of vitamin D3 supplementation compared in the study included:

♦ 363 IU/lb. (800 IU/kg), which is the vitamin D3 requirement recommended for sows by the NRC (2012) to prevent vitamin D deficiency.

♦ 907 IU/lb. (2,000 IU/kg), which is the upper level of the range DSM recommends for sow supplementation (1,500 to 2,000 IU/kg).

♦ 4,355 IU/lb. (9,600 IU/kg), which is a high level of vitamin D3 supplementation thought safe for sows.

Lactation and vitamin D3
A sow’s nutrient needs are three times higher during lactation than at other times in her production cycle. The research supported vitamin D3 supplementation as a tool to meet the sow’s nutrient needs.

Results showed sows fed the 907 IU/lb. of Vitamin D3 more successfully maintained body condition during lactation. In addition, the research showed sows fed the 907 IU/lb. of Vitamin D3 had the greatest average daily feed intake during lactation. The lowest ADFI was measured in sows supplemented with the highest vitamin D3 level.

“This research showed 907 IU/lb. of supplemental vitamin D3 supported greater lactation feed intake and reduced sow weight loss. Not only were the sows eating more to nourish their pigs, they were maintaining body condition, which can improve subsequent reproduction and the pigs produced in the sows’ lifetimes,” Bergstrom says.

Increased performance measures in pigs
The research also showed the benefits of supplementing sow diets with an optimal level of vitamin D3 extended beyond the sows themselves. Pigs produced by sows fed the diets with 907 IU/lb. of vitamin D3 experienced:

♦ Greater post-weaning average daily gain than pigs farrowed by sows fed the higher or lower level of vitamin D3.

♦ Greater than 8 pounds more weight gained from birth to market (176 days of age) when compared to pigs produced by sows fed the low level of vitamin D3, and nearly 3.5 pounds more weight gained than pigs from sows fed the high level of vitamin D3.

“These results show the importance of sow vitamin D3 supplementation goes beyond supporting the sows’ nutrition and performance,” Bergstrom says. “This research also demonstrates sow nutrition can have a measurable impact on the progeny performance from birth to market, and that optimum vitamin nutrition for the sow can help the progeny reach their genetic potential.”

Swine producers, veterinarians and nutritionists can learn more about the Feeding for 30 Program and access nutritional resources by visiting or

3 pivotal numbers in upcoming Hogs and Pigs Report

SeptemberNovember farrowing intentions prereport estimates are pegged to increase 04 which is not aligned with the expanding breeding herd
<p>September-November farrowing intentions pre-report estimates are pegged to increase 0.4%, which is not aligned with the expanding breeding herd.</p>

The volatility in the hog market this week illustrates the trade is nervous about the upcoming USDA Hogs and Pigs Report, set to be released Sept. 30. The tension over anticipating the numbers to be revealed is justified as recent hog slaughter numbers show production is outpacing packing capacity. Therefore, the highly anticipated report will indicate the U.S. hog inventory numbers moving forward.

In pre-report estimates, market analysts are conservatively predicting a slight bump in total hog inventory, breeding herd and market animals.

Market experts urge hog producers to watch the following key numbers in September’s USDA Hogs and Pigs Reports:

1. Breeding inventory 
The estimated size of the breeding herd and farrowing intentions are always numbers worth noting, however these figures will be especially important this time around. Looking at the pre-report estimate, market experts forecast the breeding herd to grow by 6%. If this is accurate, the U.S. breeding herd will reach over 6 million head or 167,000 more head than the inventory at the end of 2014, reports Steiner Consulting Group in the Daily Livestock Report.

Anecdotal evidence across leading pork-producing states signifies there are more sows on the ground. Some would say we are amidst of a “pork boom.” More sows coupled with low disease pressure and even lower sow slaughter rates this year only adds to the pork industry’s growing pains. As the Daily Livestock Report authors note, “So while the forward profit outlook has changed dramatically in the last few weeks, the question is what kind of supply we have inherited to this point.” 

2. Farrowings
Dennis Smith, Archer Financial Services Inc., warns that even a fairly stable breeding herd will still grow the U.S. hog inventory as hog producers make great strides in efficiencies. He says, “If the report should happen to show expanding breeding numbers, in tandem with improved efficiencies, the report could prove to be extremely negative.”

Analysts are taking the middle-of-the-road approach to farrowings and pig per liter forecasts. The June-August farrowing is estimated to decline by 1.5%, whereas pigs per litter are forecast to jump 1.3%. Moreover, the September-November farrowing intentions predictions are pegged to increase 0.4%, which is not aligned with the expanding breeding herd.

3. November-December slaughter
A year-over-year increase in hog slaughter obviously translates into a drop in hog prices. As Ron Plain, University of Missouri, explains the USDA June Hogs and Pigs Report indicated a 2.4% boost in September-November slaughter. Normally, a 2.4% increase calculates to an 8% drop in hog prices. However, this year the hog market is not following the usual rule of thumbs. Plain notes, “This year’s price decline could be much more. In September-November 2015 the Iowa-Minnesota negotiated base hog price averaged $63.97 per hundredweight. December 2015 averaged $50.83 per hundredweight. A drop of 8% would give a September-November 2016 average of $58.85 per hundredweight. Current cash prices are well below that.”

Noteworthy, the average of analyst estimates does not depart much from the June report. Market participants should tune in to two categories numbers — pigs weighing 120-179 pounds and 50-119 pounds. These inventory categories will challenge future packer capacity. Based on the pre-report forecast, hog slaughter in November and early December may only climb slightly.

Producers can maximize xylanase benefits through understanding its mechanisms

Recent swine trials have shown that xylanase introduction early in the nursery period and fed through to slaughter increases overall pig finisher performance.

Pete Wilcock, global technical manager at AB Vista, explains how the response may be potentially associated with three mechanisms in a new video, released by AB Vista. “The first mechanism is the ability to reduce digesta viscosity. The addition of xylanase breaks down the long chain arabinoxylans, which improves nutrient digestibility.”

“A second mechanism of xylanase is that it has the ability to breakdown insoluble arabinoxylans in the plant cell wall, allowing endogenous enzymes of the animal to breakdown starch and protein,” he adds.

The third mechanism which Wilcock discusses in the video is the ability of xylanase to produce potentially prebiotic xylo-oligomers through the breakdown of long chain arabinoxylans.

“Xylo-oligomers are fermented by microflora in the lower and hind gut of the animal, and can result in increased volatile fatty acids which could be used as an energy source. This can influence the gut bacterial population and, with an increased level of butyrate, could improve the epithelial integrity of the animal,” Wilcock adds.

Furthermore, Wilcock points out that this increased VFA production can lead to potentially a greater retention time in the stomach and an overall improved diet digestibility.

He adds that understanding the xylanase to be used is important and that certain characteristics should be identified when selecting a xylanase, including being assayable, gastro-stable, thermostable when pelleting and producing the appropriate xylo-oligomers.

The video (“Understanding xylanase mechanisms for maximum benefits”) can be viewed on the AB Vista website.

For more information, contact AB Vista on +44(0)1672 517 650 or [email protected].