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May 4, 2007

Table of Contents
Canada Reports More Slippage
Consider Weaned Pig Weight/Sow/Year
Livestock Marketing Bill Introduced
World Pork Expo Career Center
Swine Center and Feedmill Manager

Market Preview
Canada Reports More Slippage
Canada's Hog Statistics report, released late last week, indicates that the Canadian breeding herd continues to decline on a year-over-year basis. The April 1 inventory of breeding animals was 1.612 million head, 1.6% (25,600 head) lower than one year ago (See Figure 1). This is the smallest breeding herd in Canada since the fourth quarter of 2003.

The combined Canadian-U.S. breeding herd stands at 7.6934 million head, just 0.4% larger than one year ago. That herd will have to be much more productive to maintain exports and per capita consumption levels in the coming year. It is doubtful that productivity growth will be that high, given the pressure of higher feed costs on carcass weights. Per capita availability in North America will apparently be supportive to hog prices for the foreseeable future.

Canada's farrowings and pig crop also dropped back below year-earlier levels after having recovered somewhat in the fourth quarter of 2006. I had heard regular reports that Canadian producers had gotten a handle on the disease challenges of 2005 and early 2006, and that productivity was on the rise. These data suggest that while things may be better, they are far from good on this count.

Death and condemnations (a figure reported by Canada, but not by USDA) were estimated to be 629,000 head. That number is 14% lower than one year ago, demonstrating improvement. But it is over 70% higher than the average for the first quarter in the years from 2000 to 2004.

These numbers call into question whether Canada can sustain the higher level of pig exports to the United States for all of 2007. U.S. imports of feeder pigs from Canada have been smaller than one year ago in four of the last five weeks for which we have data (the last being the week ending April 22). And, the year-to-date growth number has fallen to just over 6% after being in double digits in January.

Market hog imports, however, are maintaining a double-digit growth rate vs. 2006, ending the week of April 22 at +11.3% for the year. Given reduction in Canada's slaughter rates and capacity, I fully expect this number to remain large at least until we approach the beginning of mandatory country-of-origin-labeling in September 2008.

Melamine Fallout
The melamine contamination issue in the United States still has some potential for damage, but it does not appear to be attracting much attention from export customers. USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have now determined that about 2.7 million broilers and 100,000 breeding chickens in Indiana, as well as roughly 6,000 pigs in seven states received feed that contained waste pet food that included vegetable protein to which melamine had been added. I fear that those numbers will grow, given that this practice of mixing melamine into feed is widespread in China. The melamine increases nitrogen content and thus makes protein content appear higher though the nitrogen is not digestible.

Unlike the original issue with pets, there have been no reports of pig or chicken deaths and there is still no proof that pigs or chickens even absorb the melamine. It has only been found in the feed and in the urine of the animals.

The problem now is that the melamine is considered an adulterant, and U.S. law forbids the federal agencies from allowing animals that have been fed adulterated feed from entering the food supply. The 2.7 million broilers had already been marketed when the contamination was discovered, but the breeding chickens and pigs are being held on farms awaiting depopulation. USDA has promised to indemnify the producers for the lost value, but the administrative methods of getting that accomplished are not clear.

I have to think USDA will move more quickly in the case of a contagious disease, but this would have been a pretty good practice run. Indemnification and swift action are critical in these situations to encourage producers to be forthcoming about problems and to encourage the proper treatment of the animals. It would be easy to cut one's losses by reducing or withholding feed in these situations. I hope I don't know anyone who would actually do that, but properly designed and quickly administered indemnification programs can certainly reduce the possibility.

Corn Planting Progress
Finally, corn planting is progressing at a very slow pace so far this year. Last Monday's Crop Progress report from USDA showed only 23% of corn acres had been planted as of April 29. That compares to 52% last year and an average of 42% over the period 2002-2006 (see Figure 4). We must also remember that this is a percentage of a much larger number (90.5 vs. 78.3 million acres) than last year, thus leaving far more acres yet to be planted. To be exact, these numbers imply that as of April 29, we still need to plant 69.7 million acres of corn! Things aren't critical yet, but each day gets us one step closer.

Click to view graphs.

Steve R. Meyer, Ph.D.
Paragon Economics, Inc.

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Production Preview
Consider Weaned Pig Weight/Sow/Year
In a recent North American Preview column, Stephanie Rutten, DVM, discussed the value of pounds of pork/sow/year as a good measure of efficiency. Todd See, Extension swine specialist at North Carolina State University, suggests that pounds of weaned pigs/mated female/year could also serve as a good measure of reproductive efficiency.

Many elements contribute to productivity and profitability. For your enterprise to operate at peak efficiency, several key production targets are commonly established, but they may not give you a complete picture of your operation's true potential.

For example, consider pigs weaned/mated female/year. Obviously this factor is an indicator of reproductive efficiency and overall profitability. Pigs weaned/mated female/year most accurately reflects a herd's efficiency measured as non-productive sow days, litter size and preweaning mortality. Non-productive sow days reflect the success of heat detection, insemination technique, pregnancy detection and, possibly, sow condition. However, when observed from the perspective of your goals for number of pigs produced efficiently and marketed at full value, pigs/mated female/year is only a small piece of the profitability puzzle.

On the other hand, pounds of weaned pigs/mated female/year offer a clear indication of not only reproductive efficiency, but also its impact on your operation's overall throughput. According to See, "To truly measure the impact of reproductive efficiency on throughput for the entire operation, pounds of weaned pigs/mated female/year is a more complete statistic. Not only are numbers of pigs produced by each female tracked, but also the size and viability of the weaned pigs is considered, which affects future performance and variability in growth."

"A reasonable goal would be 275 lb. of weaned pigs/mated female/year," he suggests. "This can be achieved with 2.3 litters/mated female/year, 11 pigs born alive/litter, 9% preweaning mortality and weaning 12 lb. pigs at an average age of 18.5 days. These components then become areas of opportunity."

JoAnn Alumbaugh Director of Communications,
To learn more about pig production go to For all your agricultural news, markets and commentaries, go to

North American Swine Reproductive Practices Survey.
Sow farm and boar stud managers, we need your help. Please complete the survey outlined below.

The University of Illinois and its cooperators are conducting two surveys for an Update of Reproduction Practices for the North American Swine Industry. One is for BOAR STUD and the other for SOW FARM managers. All responses are intended for a single site and responses are confidential and anonymous. Those businesses with multiple sites should either respond for a single unit of their choice, or request unit managers perform the survey. Your participation will help to create this important and unique database that will help define the swine breeding industry, its labor profile, limits to reproductive performance, and use of reproductive technologies and practices. Each survey will take ~15 minutes. The outcomes will be summarized and shared with the industry in the future for helping to create a comparative reference source to aid in business decisions for opportunity, improvement, labor, and systems operation. The survey results may also help to prioritize the needs of the pig breeding industry of North America. Thank you in advance for your participation and feedback. Please email Dr. Rob Knox at with any questions of comments.

To access the BOAR STUD Survey click the following link :

To take the SOW FARM survey click the following link:


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Legislative Preview
Livestock Marketing Bill Introduced
Congressman Leonard Boswell (D-IA), chairman of the House Agriculture Livestock Subcommittee, has introduced the "Competitive and Fair Agricultural Markets Act of 2007." Boswell said, "The concentration in the livestock industry raises many concerns on what the future may hold for independent producers. Last month, we held a hearing on the market structure of the livestock industry. Many concerns were raised about anti-competitive and unfair practices that occur daily in the market place. It is my hope that this legislation will attempt to level the playing field for independent producers." The legislation establishes a special counsel on competition matters at USDA, whose sole responsibility will be to investigate and prosecute violations on competition matters. The bill also makes the following changes to the Agricultural Fair Practices Act:
  • "Prohibits unfair, deceptive, unjustly discriminatory and anti-competitive practices by a person who affects the marketing, receiving, purchasing, sale or contracting of crops.

  • Provides needed contract protections to ensure that the production contract clearly spells out what is required of the producer.

  • Prevents discrimination against producers belonging to an organization or cooperative by removing a disclaimer clause allowing processors, handlers, or contractors to refuse to do business with producers just because they belong to such organizations.

  • Develops rulemaking by requiring the Secretary of Agriculture to write regulations defining the term "unreasonable preference or advantage under the Packers and Stockyards Act."
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced similar legislation in the Senate earlier this year.

FDA Appoints Food Czar -- Dr. David Acheson, the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) chief medial officer at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, has been appointed assistant commissioner for food protection. As the FDA's so-called "food czar," Acheson will also serve as FDA's liaison to USDA, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and other federal agencies involved in food safety issues. This is the result of the fallout from the recent contamination of feed imported from China that has been fed to pets, pigs and chickens. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has asked the Inspector Generals from USDA and HHS to complete an audit on the U.S. food safety system. Senator Harkin said, "From human foodborne illnesses linked to spinach, tomatoes and peanut butter, to kidney failure in companion animals caused by the chemical melamine in pet food, the breakdowns in our nation's food and feed safety system are impacting consumers and producers alike. We must have a comprehensive assessment of the food safety system to learn how we can better protect the United States' food supply. I am asking the Inspectors General to evaluate how much oversight the agencies conduct on imported food products, how the agencies are implementing our nation's food safety standards, the adequacy of the response to recent cases of food adulteration, and whether the agencies have the resources and authorities needed to enforce standards throughout the food chain. This evaluation is needed now more than ever to determine how to remedy breakdowns in the system."

USDA Sends More Farm Bill Language -- USDA sent additional legislative language to Congress concerning the energy and rural development titles of the farm bill. In the energy title, USDA is proposing to establish a program to invest $25 million a year for four years for incentives to encourage the development and expansion of cellulosic ethanol production. In addition, USDA is proposing to reauthorize the BioPreferred Program and to provide $18 million over 10 years to expand the use of biobased products by the federal government and to "speed the development and adoption of these products to the private sector."

Horse Slaughter Bill Advances -- The House of Representatives passed H.R. 503, which would prohibit the shipping, possessing, purchasing, selling or donation of horses to be slaughtered for human consumption. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill in the near future. The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and other agricultural organizations have opposed the bill because it would "mandate unprecedented government authority over the animal agricultural sector without scientific justification." The other concern is the adoption of the bill could be the beginning of targeting other species and production practices. There are currently three horse slaughter facilities in the United States that have already been forced to close.

Canada Confirms BSE Case -- Canada confirmed its 10th case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in a 5-1/2-old dairy cow from British Columbia. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) indicated that no part of the animal had entered the human food or animal feed systems.

P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, D.C.

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Career Center
World Pork Expo Career Center
National Hog Farmer and the National Pork Producers Council are excited to announce the 2nd Annual Career Center at this year's World Pork Expo. Career Center will be held June 7 & 8 (9:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m.) at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, IA. You will have the opportunity to meet representatives from pork production companies to learn about career opportunities they currently have available. There will also be representatives from colleges that offer swine production programs for those interested in pursuing more education.

The May issue of National Hog Farmer will feature the companies who are participating in this Career Center. If you represent a company that would like to participate and/or have questions, please e-mail Lisa Peterson at for more information.

Help Wanted
Swine Center and Feedmill Manager
US Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC)
University of Nebraska

Manage feedmill and swine herd. Position located near Clay Center, NE. USMARC is a facility for research, development, and study of meat animal production in the US, making major contributions toward solving problems facing the US livestock industry. BS in Animal Science or equivalent experience. Education/experience must include nutrition management. Knowledge of feed manufacturing process and regulations related to feed manufacturing necessary. Knowledge of biosecurity issues/protocols related to producing swine in confinement facilities and feed manufacturing essential. Valid driver's license required. Preferred experience will also include experience with AI, embryo transfer, and progressive biosecurity management, operational responsibility for a commercial feed mill with specialty rations for cattle, sheep, and swine; and responsibility for cost containment, least cost rations, and knowledge of alternative feed-stuff utilization. Excellent benefits including staff/dependent scholarship program. Apply at: (Requisition # 060903). UNL is committed to EEO/AA and ADA/504. If you require an accommodation, please call Terry Madson at 402-762-4151.

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