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World Pork Expo 2006 - Signs Of Returning Confidence

by 5m Editor
14 June 2006, at 12:00am

DES MOINES - Discernible improvements in margins over the last two years have allowed producers to feel a little more confident about investment in the future. As a result they came to Des Moines in numbers not seen for many years to find out what progress is being made, and where.

The 'bulls', who have been predicting upward trends on global farm commodity prices, will point to strong demand in emerging economies set against supply side constraints. These constraints include the slowing of rain forest destruction, rising energy costs and political momentum for the ceasing for production subsidies. This has given rise to a new breed of farmer less willing to produce without understanding their costs and their marketplace.

If this is so, and there is no doubt that we have been grossly under pricing food for the last twenty years, then can we hope that these signs will herald in an era of sensible margins and price stability? Well, we need it if we are to be able to invest in the new requirements of our ultimate end customers: stronger guarantees of food safety, reduction in environmental foot print and an intense focus on animal welfare. These may not always add greatly to the cost of production but there is no denying that they will add to the need for long term investment - and agricultural investors like any other investors need to see stability and margin to give them confidence in their pay back.

Announcements at WPE gave cause to believe that there could be more than one reason for a return to confidence following technical developments on the battle against PMWS and PRRS. With Boehringer Ingelheim announcing US$75,000 in new research grants for Circovirus research to add to their substantial programme and FDAH also announcing that they are close to launching a PCV2 vaccine, it may be that these new products will provide the key to turning back the progress of the disease that many now believe presents the greatest health threat to the industry.

The announcement from MJ Biologics and Newport Laboratories could prove to be an astounding break-through on PRRS utilising a new approach to vaccine manufacture invented by Dr HanSoo Joo at the University of Minnesota. The technique is built around the seemingly simple idea of harvesting the viral antigens from the infected tissue culture prior to assembling an intact mature virus with an external envelope thereby exposing more antigenic material to dramatically increase the development of immunity.

Field trials in commercial herds are showing exciting results with remarkable reductions in sow deaths, days off feed, abortions, still births, and early piglet death. This, together with evidence that piglets from vaccinated sows do not contract disease when intermingled with virus carrying controls, suggests a level of protection that many whose herds have been blighted with PRRS would hardly have dared dream of until now. If this vaccine fulfils its potential we have seen the light at the end of a very long tunnel.

Maybe it is still too early to claim a return to a happier environment for pig farmers but we can at least report from World Pork Expo that there is cause for optimism.

Editorial Staff