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Dale Miller, Editor,
National Hog Farmer
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May Test Slaughter Capacity
With the possibility of large numbers of hogs hitting
the market this fall, packing capacity could once again become a
critical issue for the U.S. pork industry. While the situation should
not be nearly as critical as in 1994, and especially in 1998, taking a
look at our ability to process hogs in a timely and efficient manner
seems especially prudent. I have spent several days calling pork
packers across the country to update the work I have done since 1995
tracking hog slaughtering capacity.
Every update has brought new knowledge and insight into the packing
sector and this year's is no different. With last spring's closure of
the Bryan Foods/Sara Lee plant in West Point, MS, and John Morrell's
decision to close a shift at its Sioux City, IA, plant, I fully expected
to see a reduction of U.S. slaughter capacity from the 420,875 head/day
that I had reported in last year's update. But just as pork producers
do the little things to maximize pig throughput, so pork packers have
found new ways to increase their efficiency. Those efforts have
resulted in an increase in slaughter capacity in spite of the two large
losses last spring.
Comparing Apples to Oranges
Figure 1 shows the top 15 pork packing companies in the United States
and their capacities. The total as of this past week is 424,835
head/day. That compares to 420,875 head/day last year -- but that
comparison is apples to oranges. Allow me to explain.
When I started this project in 1995, I knew I did not have all of the
plants accounted for in the United States, but felt I had enough of the
large ones to allow us to simply add a "pad" for those generally smaller
plants that I was missing. The "pad" then amounted to about 14,000
head/day and that worked well for awhile -- even through 1998.
However, as the business continued to consolidate, it became more and
more possible to list virtually all of the plants in the United States.
So in 2004, I added a number of plants to my list (See the footnote on
the table). With the help of several industry contacts, I added
another group of plants this year and have been able to confirm capacity
of 3,930 head in seven additional plants. I still have not been able to
confirm the capacities of 13 plants -- but believe they are small and
would add no more than 2,000 head or so to this total.
So, the apples-to-apples comparison would be to deduct the 3,930 head of
capacity from newly added plants to get a capacity of 420,905 head/day
that is directly comparable to last year's number. The net gain is 30
head/day, and that is not a bad result considering that the two large
losses amounted to 12,700 head/day.
Packer Growth Led by Smithfield Foods
Notable in this table is the growth of Smithfield Foods' capacity. That
growth is mainly the result of acquisitions -- first of Farmland Foods
in 2004 and then of Premium Standard Farms this year. Smithfield also
increased the capacity of its Tarheel, NC, plant in 2000 when it
received permits for increased wastewater treatment. A similar increase
was recently granted for that plant. It has no impact on daily
capacity, but does allow the plant to run full for six days/week.
Hormel's growth from 2004 to 2005 was the result of buying Clougherty
Packing of Los Angeles and Triumph Foods' 2005 entry into the business,
and rapid ramp-up of its second shift has added 17,500 head/day since
All of the other changes among these top 15 companies have been
accomplished through plant expansions, new technology such as blast
chillers or simply new operating procedures that allow higher
throughput. Sara Lee remains at number 15 in spite of the closure of
the Mississippi plant due to its large sow slaughter operation at
Will this capacity be sufficient for the larger slaughter runs I expect
this fall? I think so but it could be tight.
Figure 2 shows my early-July forecasts of weekly slaughter based on the
June Hogs and Pigs Report and my belief that we would see 1.0% to 1.5%
more hogs the remainder of 2007 due to effective vaccines for
circovirus. That increase is beginning to look a little low, but I don't
expect the extra pigs to push weekly slaughter totals much over 2.3
million head this fall.
My estimated daily capacity of 424,835 head could handle the 2.3
million/week slaughter projection using 5.42 full days/week. That level
of utilization has not historically put much pressure on hog prices
beyond the normal downward pressure of the large meat supplies. Much
more than that, however, could put producers in a decidedly
disadvantageous position in selling hogs, and cause hog prices to
decline more than would be suggested simply by the increase in meat
Look for a more detailed discussion of U.S. pork packing capacity,
including a full listing of the top 50 pork packers, in the Sept. 15,
2007 issue of National Hog Farmer magazine.
Click to view graphs.
Steve R. Meyer, Ph.D.
Paragon Economics, Inc.
Introducing the new PIC Camborough® Family
You asked for greater lifetime reproductive performance and longevity.
You asked for more pounds of pork marketed per sow. You asked for a
higher percentage of market pigs in the full-value pay box.
Take another look at our new Camborough family, we think you will like
what you see--after all, it is just what you asked for.
Canada Rises to the
As reported by PigCHAMP, the Canadian sow herd appears
to be more productive than the American sow herd, a reflection of what
we've seen in the past.
There is a higher number of pigs/sow/year in Canadian herds in the
PigCHAMP database and each of the contributing variables is also higher.
Particularly significant is the difference in farrowing rate and the
number of nonproductive sow days per year.
Some attribute this difference to climate, though there's little
evidence of such a major effect. Some argue that the contrast can be
attributed to differing financial pressures, with a lower potential of
profitability within Canadian herds. This seems like a logical premise.
Another popular theory is that farms selling weaned pigs are more likely
to maximize their output. This may be due in part to the fact that they
do not face pressures to stabilize output, at least not at the same
level as some swine units, and, perhaps, because they can focus on a
very narrow range of technologies for specialization in reproduction.
Canada has a large number of farms that specialize in raising and
selling weaned pigs and these appear to be the leaders in reproductive
Click to view graphs.
Sukumarannair S. Anil and John Deen, DVM
Editor's Note: For all your agricultural news, markets and
commentaries, go to www.farms.com.
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Animal Health Preview
Swine Flu Presents Complicated
Life was much simpler a decade ago, when we had only one
strain of swine influenza virus (SIV) in North America -- a stable,
predictable and mostly seasonal H1N1 strain.
Influenza subtypes are categorized using a classification system based
on two surface proteins that are key components of antigenicity (the
ability to stimulate an immune response): hemagglutinin (H) and
neuraminidase (N). There are 16 known H subtypes and nine N subtypes in
the influenza A group.
Presence or absence of receptors for specific subtypes determines
whether an animal can be infected by a particular strain of influenza.
Mammal and bird species have different receptors for these subtypes,
limiting the range of species that can be infected with a particular
combination. Pigs have receptors for a mix of human and avian influenza
Just under 10 years ago, the swine influenza landscape changed
dramatically with the introduction and rapid dissemination of an
H3N2 swine influenza in 1998.
Since 1998, multiple subtypes involving variations of
H1N1 and H3N2 have emerged
that include gene segments from human and avian influenza viruses
The new subtypes have become the predominant influenza viruses
identified in North American pigs, with new subtypes characterized each
of the past four years.
These reassortant subtypes have complicated the diagnosis and control of
swine influenza because serology and PCR (polymerase chain reaction)
tests have to be updated to match the changes in the virus, and vaccines
using "old" subtypes sometimes don't provide immune protection against
the new subtypes.
SIV is cleared rapidly in pigs -- nasal swab or lung samples should be
taken from pigs showing early clinical signs, specifically pigs with a
fever and serous nasal discharge.
Serology using homologous virus is useful in cases where new subtypes
are present and cross-reaction with earlier subtypes is limited. This
requires isolation of the virus subtype involved and communicating with
your diagnostic laboratory for this specialized testing.
Control of SIV requires an understanding of the age of pigs affected,
the probable source (vertical vs. horizontal transmission) of the
influenza virus, and the subtype involved, to be successful in selection
of the proper tools from the repertoire of intervention strategies
Since SIV is known to spread within geographic areas, it is helpful to
keep track of subtypes circulating in the area.
Jerry Torrison, DVM
University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
Editor's note: Animal Health Preview is the
newest addition to the North American Preview e-newsletter. This
new column will feature insights on disease trends and alerts of
regional disease outbreaks. The column will appear monthly, written
alternately by Jerry Torrison, DVM, University of Minnesota Veterinary
Diagnostic Laboratory and Kent Schwartz, DVM, Iowa State University
Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
Control ileitis in as little as 10
Denagard® (tiamulin) 10 is approved to control ileitis in as little
as 10 days. The small dosage and less medication time make it the most
cost-effective feed medication on the market for ileitis.
on the Denagard logo to learn more.
Support Trade Programs
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and 10 other
senators have sent a letter to the Senate Agriculture Committee urging
the committee to increase the funding for the Foreign Market Development
(FMD) program to $50 million and the Market Access Program (MAP) to $325
million. The letter stated: "The MAP and FMD Programs effectively
leverage public and private resources to invest in activities that
overcome trade barriers, establish and build export markets overseas and
increase farmer profitability.
A recent cost-benefit analysis of the MAP and FMD programs prepared for
the USDA found that industry contributions now account for 59% of the
program, up from 46% in 1996 and less than 30% in 1991. In addition,
the report estimates that increases in funding for the MAP and FMD
programs in the 2002 Farm Bill will result in a total of $3.8 billion
additional export activity through the end of 2008." Senators signing
the letter were: Durbin, Gordon Smith (R-OR), Barbara Boxer (D-CA),
Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Mel
Martinez (R-FL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Barack Obama
(D-IL) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Farm Payments to the Deceased -- The Government Accountability
Office (GAO) found that USDA has made farm payments to estates for more
than two years after recipients died without determining whether the
estates were kept open to receive payments. In the study, GAO found that
USDA did not conduct any eligibility determinations in 40% of the cases
reviewed. For 1999 through 2005, USDA paid $1.1 billion in farm
payments in the names of 172,801 deceased individuals. Of this total,
40% went to those who had been dead for three or more years, and 19% to
those dead for seven or more years. The GAO recommends that USDA
conduct all required annual estate eligibility determinations.
The study said, USDA should "implement management controls to verify
that an individual receiving program payments has not died and determine
if these payments have been made to deceased individuals or to entities
that failed to disclose the death of a member." USDA agreed and has
started implementing the GAO's recommendations. The House of
Representatives passed an amendment during the farm bill debate that
directs USDA to investigate which estates have been fraudulently
receiving farm subsidiaries payments from the federal government and to
recoup the funds paid in the name of deceased farmers.
Top Congressional Farm Payments -- The Environmental Working
Group in analysis of farm payments found that the districts represented
by members of the House Agriculture Committee received 42% of farm
payments from 2003-2005. The top 10 congressional districts were:
Nebraska, 3 (Congressman Adrian Smith), Kansas, 1 (Jerry Moran), Texas,
19 (Randy Neugebauer), Iowa, 5 (Steve King), South Dakota -- at large
(Stephanie Herseth Sandlin), North Dakota -- at large, (Earl Pomeroy),
Minnesota, 1 (Tim Walz), Minnesota, 7 (Collin Peterson), Illinois, 15
(Tim Johnson) and Nebraska, 1 (Jeff Fortenberry).
Summer Recess -- Remember Congress is in recess until after
Labor Day. Members will be in their districts, and this would be a good
time to visit with them on key issues concerning the farm bill and
agriculture. Contact your senator or congressman's offices and ask for
their schedule for town hall meetings.
P. Scott Shearer
Hermitage NGT offers their North American clients:
- Breeding Stock (GGP/GP/Parent stock)
- Semen-fresh & frozen
- Closed herd breeding programs
- Genetic monitoring through the Hermitage BLUP recording system
Talk with our team of specialists in genetics, reproductive physiology,
nutrition, veterinary medicine, pig production management and A.I. to
design a program to allow you to take advantage of these exciting
Are you seeking a professional position in
pork production management, and an excellent
family environment? If yes, look at Texas
Located in the Texas Panhandle counties of
Ochiltree and Hansford, Texas Farm LLC is
currently producing pork from 33,500 sows,
and we are growing.
Texas Farm is constantly searching for highly
motivated self starting individuals who want
to excel in pork production and in company
Benefits: Competitive pay; Excellent medical,
vision, dental, and prescription drug benefits;
401K; paid vacation, holidays, and sick leave;
Texas Farm, LLC.
4200 S Main, Perryton, TX 79070
Corby Barrett * (806) 435-5935
EXCELLENT SWINE MANAGEMENT
Seeking skilled candidate to manage a 2,500
breed-wean unit in Southeastern South Dakota. The successful candidate
will have a minimum of 3 years documented production
success as well as excellent supervision and leadership skills.
Responsibilities include implementing personnel procedural policies,
enforcing strict biosecurity protocols, controlling operating costs, and
meeting production goals. Salary commensurate with experience, unique
bonus plan, and competitive benefit package. Interested candidates
should e-mail resume and cover letter
Growing Swine Production Company has an opening for a
Research Coordinator. This person will be responsible to oversee
implementation of research protocols and to ensure integrity of research
data. Also, responsible for data entry and statistical analysis of
research data and reporting of results. Applicants must posses BA/BS in
Animal Agriculture with knowledge/experience in trial design,
implementation, data analysis and extensive knowledge of Microsoft Excel
and Word. Must be willing to reside within commuting distance of our
Ames, Iowa corporate office. Ideal candidates must be self-motivated,
organized and be able to work in a team atmosphere. Provide top pay
along with excellent benefits package which includes health, dental,
vision insurance and 401k. Interested candidates please mail your
resume and cover letter to M2P2, attn: Tracy Rogers, 1615 Golden Aspen
Drive, Suite 104, Ames, Iowa 50010 or email resume and cover letter to
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