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Report on Iowa Pork Congress

16 April 2013

A report on the Congress by Doug Richards, Swine Grower-Finisher Specialist with Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), published in its 'Pork News and Views' newsletter.

In January, reports Mr Richards, he travelled to the 41st annual Iowa Pork Congress in Des Moines Iowa. The two-day trade show/seminar/state pork association meeting is one of the largest gatherings of pork producers and industry in the US, surpassed only by the World Pork Expo held in June. He spent two days talking to industry exhibitors, producers, taking in most of the educational seminars and attended the Iowa Pork Congress Awards Banquet. Below are some observations from his trip.

Among the areas in which Iowa ranks first are all hogs and pigs inventory, all hogs and pig value, commercial hog slaughter, sows farrowed, corn for grain production, soybean production, capacity of on-farm storage and egg production.

The lack of moisture was evident in the city of Des Moines. They had only one major storm in December, leaving about one foot of snow that was all but gone by mid-January. The city pulls water from rivers that run through the city which are very low so they are using a local reservoir for the first time.

Iowa is the heartland of the US pig industry. This show attracted over 500 industry exhibitors that have products, software, feed/supplements, machinery, pharmaceuticals and genetics that are of value to hog producers. There were lots of innovative products to help with all aspects of raising hogs.

The mood of the show was positive and upbeat. The crowds were good and the exhibitors seemed pleased with the numbers.

The pride of being a pork producer and being honoured by your fellow producers was evident at the Iowa Pork Congress Awards Banquet, sponsored by Iowa Pork Producers’ Association (IPPA). They gave out one Environmental Steward Award to a family with a 7,200-head wean-to-finish barn (on contract), plus 480 acres of crop-land. Some of the unique features were a 50-kW turbine to help offset power use; wet-dry feeders, water cups and pre-soakers to reduce water consumption. Vertical conservation tillage to reduce soil compaction and a nitrogen stabiliser was used to preserve nutrients in the soil, improve crop yield and protect water quality. They also planted grass waterways to limit runoff and provide refuge for wildlife, along with windbreaks to reduce dust and odour from leaving the farm. They are active in their community by donating free pork to numerous area events, providing free pork to all neighbours with one mile of the barn site, and communicating with those neighbours prior to applying manure.

IPPA presented 10 Master Pork Producer Awards to producers throughout the state along with Master Seedstock Producer and All-American Award.

The IPPA does an excellent job at getting the youth involved in pork production through their Iowa Pork Youth representatives programs that had 17 youth vie for Pork Queen/Princess/Ambassador Program. The winners of these awards will spend the year promoting their industry and the use of pork products to consumers. The Congress also held a Youth Swine Judging Contest off-site.

Producer Seminars Highlights

Swine health update: Porcine Reproductive Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) control measures

Dr Cameron Schmitt, Pipestone Vet Clinic

  • Need to have good biosecurity protocols on all farms. Sow barns need good isolation barns for incoming gilts along with proper testing standards.
  • Biosecurity in the transport sector needs to be improved
  • PRRS is still the number one issue in Iowa
  • Filtered barns do help reduce PRRS infection, but the weak link is air leakage in the barns
  • One study showed a 61 per cent reduction on PRRS infection in filtered barns but the cost for filtering ranged from $130 to $260 a pig space
  • PRRS challenge/infection is highest between October and mid-December in the upper mid-west US.

Future of antibiotics

Dr Jim McKean - Iowa State University

  • US government is looking at the use of antibiotics in livestock with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) becoming more involved
  • In future, expect more restricted/limited use of currently used products
  • Need of a prescription for some current over-the-counter products
  • Drugs will be for treatment only and not for prevention
  • Producer will be facing more regulations
  • Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) which is part of the USDA, is using an new quick test for drug residue detection in meat plants which allows for the checking of 52+ chemicals
  • If carcasses are found with reportable residue levels and can be linked to producers, those individuals may find inspectors visiting their farms
  • Producers in the audience were not in favour of government inspectors on farm
  • National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and producers lobbying on the change to drug policy and the on-farm inspections
  • This may become a large issue for US pork producers and meat processors

Evaluating sow housing decisions

Panel Discussion

  • Several studies on sow stalls and loose sow housing looking at different criteria were presented
  • Producers presented on the different types of sow housing that included electronic sow feeders (ESF) and loose sow stalls with trickle feeders and sorter. The pros and cons of the different systems were outlined
  • Producers presenting made a point of saying it was their choice to raise sows in that system and no one system is better than the other
  • NPPS staff talked on the issue of 40-plus food companies signing on to remove pork products from their product line that are raised in stalls. They had two companies wanting to source only gestation free pork products.
  • NPPC was now meeting with many of those companies to look at the implications of their decision. Many did not really know what the issue was and NPPC was now working with them to help better understand the science behind current pork production practices.
  • My take home message was the US producer pork does not want to be told how to raise sows. They want the choice to choose the system they feel is best suited for their operation. They see the stalls and loose housing being equal and will use science and not public opinion to decide how they raise sows.

Progress on pit foaming

Drs Chuck Clanton, University of Minnesota and Steve Hoff, Iowa State University

The results from the 2012 producer survey from four states, with 18 participants, 102 rooms, 80 pits comprised 71 per cent grow-finish, 29 per cent wean–finish. 15 producers had foam in 39 pits or 49 per cent, of those three had flash fires while pumping/agitating or while doing repair work.

  • This is a problem which is not going away.
  • IPPA has put $1 million towards the study of pit-foaming. They would like to find the cause that leads to foaming in deep pits.
  • Multi-state effort - Iowa State University, University of Minnesota, University of Illinois involving 20 plus academic professionals with expertise in manure management, chemistry, microbiology, feed rations and digestibility - and multi-year project to work on the different areas of pit foaming.
  • They are conducting a producer survey to help get more information on the problem in barns with deep pits.
  • Will have extensive manure testing and dietary feeding trials.
  • They have found a cattle feed additive that will help reduce or eliminate the foam from pits but it is not the solution to the problem.
  • The University of Minnesota will soon have a factsheet out on using the product to reduce pit foaming.

Further Reading

Find out more information on Porcine Reproductive Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) by clicking here.

April 2013

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