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April 12, 2010
In this issue:
  Modern-Day Sow Count Hits New Low
  Cull Sow Plan Can Lower Per-Pig-Weaned Cost
  Bill Calls for More Meat Safety Accountability
  Hog Farmers Back on Track to Making Profits in 2010

Modern-Day Sow Count Hits New Low
It is amazing how quickly things change. Just a few months ago we were all wondering how low the breeding herd would go and how many producers would leave the production sector. That concern has now shifted to: “How quickly will producers respond to the promise of profits?”

I suppose we just need something to worry about – or at least we economists do. Figure 1 shows the two trends that I think are most important at present. The U.S. breeding herd has continued to set records for the lowest modern-day total. I have checked USDA data back to 1900, and there has not been a smaller breeding herd on record, although the further back you go, the records are pretty spotty. Sometime back in the 1800s, or at least at some point since DeSoto walked off the boat in Florida with the first few pigs from Europe, there were fewer breeding hogs on this plot of land we now call the United States. It is safe to say, however, that no one alive remembers that day.

The U.S. breeding herd has fallen from 6.233 million head on Dec. 1, 2007 to 5.76 million head on March 1, 2010. That decline of 473,000 breeding animals amounts to 7.6%. The question is whether the herd will continue to decline. The answer depends on what kind of decline you are considering – actual numbers or year-on-year?


Cull Sow Plan Can Lower Per-Pig-Weaned Cost
Swine Management Systems (SMS) defines genetics cost on a cash flow basis as the purchase of breeding animals, breeding animal development expenses, purchase of semen, purchase of artificial insemination supplies, payment of genetic royalties and sale of cull breeding stock.

The SMS financial database has an average genetic cost/weaned pig of $3.01. The top one-third averages $2.12/weaned pig and the bottom one-third averages $3.76/weaned pig.

A key driver in the genetic cost is cull breeding stock income, which averages $2.79/weaned pig, with the top one-third averaging $4.15/weaned pig and the bottom one-third averaging $1.91/weaned pig. On most farms, cull breeding stock income is not considered a key driver, but our data shows it can help lower the weaned pig breakeven by over $2.00/pig from the bottom one-third to the top one-third.

Wiechman Pig Company and SMS developed a training program for owners and employees on how to determine which cull females to market at weaning and which to feed to maximize their value and income. Cull sows are broken down by weight category and body condition. The weight range categories are: 300-450 lb., 450-500 lb., 500-550 lb., and 550 lb. and up. Body condition classifications are: Boner 1 – wet sow, clean, lean and without multiple abscesses or major defects; Bone 2 – very lean, emaciated, multiple abscesses or poor quality and no value or a downer sow.


Bill Calls for More Meat Safety Accountability
Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) has introduced the Meat Safety and Accountability Act which would mandate quicker, more extensive actions by USDA inspectors to trace meat products back to their point of origin when they are either adulterated or contaminated with pathogens, such as E. coli and salmonella. The bill would require the federal meat inspection program to identify all sources of original adulteration and contamination of enteric foodborne pathogens in meat, including the slaughterhouse source, when either lab samples test positive for pathogen adulteration or contamination or when adulterated or contaminated meat is found in commerce, including foodborne outbreaks. Senator Tester said, “This bill puts more common sense and fairness into the equation as our food travels through the supply chain to the kitchen table. This bill will make our food safer to eat by ramping up accountability. And it will help small meat processors in rural America that too often get blamed for contamination that didn’t begin with them.”


Hog Farmers Back on Track to Making Profits in 2010
Cash flow statements are finally reflecting a positive return for struggling hog farmers.

“Producers have lost a lot of money in the last two years in the hog business, but right now it looks like 2010 will turn out to be slightly profitable, with some very good profits in the summer months,” reports Ron Plain, a University of Missouri agricultural economist.

“We’re back into profitable ranges for hog prices, right around $50 per hundredweight, or a little bit better, and with carcass prices in the $70s. These are the highest hog prices since the fall of 2008,” he says.


April 28-29, 2010: Animal Agriculture Alliance 9th Annual Stakeholders Summit, Westin at the Westin Arlington Gateway Hotel, Arlington, VA; For more information contact: (703) 562-5160 or

April 30-May 2, 2010: Go 'Walking In Memphis' at the NJSA National Youth Leadership Conference, Memphis, Tenn; For more information contact: alan Duttlinger at (765)-463-3594 or

May 16-19, 2010: Alltech's 26th International Animal Health and Nutrition Symposium, Lexington, KY; For more information contact:

Our breeding technology is delivering what your operation demands, high production results across a wide range of environmental conditions. Count on the industry leader. Go to the trusted source.Click here for more information.


The news reports announcing the discovery of the H1N1 Flu Outbreak Virus on April 24, 2009 increased the urgency for proper biosecurity measures in hog operations. Producers continually face the challenge of managing the biosecurity of pigs, people, packages and pests as they redouble efforts to stave off costly swine diseases and retain their access to pork markets in this age of economic uncertainty. Click here for the complete Blueprint archive.

NPPC and the National Pork Board have launched a program, We Care, to promote pork producers' commitment to responsible pork production. From animal care and the environment to food safety and quality, pork producers demonstrate best practices daily. For more on continuing the tradition of doing what’s right, click here.


This Month's Focus: Air Quality
Peeling Away the Layers of Pork's Carbon Footprint
Pork Checkoff's Life Cycle Assessment of greenhouse gas emissions is entering the final phase and the outcome will be a producer-friendly, greenhouse gas prediction tool.
Evaluating Biosecurity Risks During Feed Transport
Links in the feed processing and delivery chain identify disease prevention challenges and opportunities.
Food Safety Expert Counters Katie Couric's Claims
Key facts discount comments made on antibiotics segments aired last month.

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National Hog Farmer offers 10 posters targeting key production areas, offering guidance in critical areas such as feet and leg soundness and reproduction traits soundness in replacement gilts. Others include pig anatomy, heat detection, sow condition, etc. All posters are in English. Select posters are translated to Spanish, Chinese and Japanese.


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Our breeding technology is delivering what your operation demands, high production results across a wide range of environmental conditions. Count on the industry leader. Go to the trusted source. Click here for more information.

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