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National Hog Farmer Weekly Preview
January 10, 2011
In this issue:
  Keep an Eye on Chicken, Lean Hog Futures
  Heat Detection, AI Skills Impact Farrowing Rate
  New Food Safety Shifts FDA Focus to Prevention
  EPA's Overreach Threatens Agriculture

Keep an Eye on Chicken, Lean Hog Futures
Aside from the always-present, yet unlikely, possibility of a catastrophic occurrence, such as foot-and-mouth disease or some unforeseen food safety issue with pork, my biggest concern for livestock and poultry markets in 2011 has for some time been whether the chicken companies would produce us all right out of a good year.

These outfits had understandably moved back into expansion mode in early 2010, as feed costs fell and the restaurant trade, though still far from good, picked up a bit. Their difficulties with exports to Russia took some luster off of 2010, but it was good enough to start the broiler breeder flock growing again and push chicken output up by 2.5% for the 52 weeks that ended Jan. 1.

But the road to recovery and expansion became rocky for the broiler companies just like it did for pork producers when grain prices began to climb last summer. Figure 1, which comes courtesy of Karl Skold of Westside Economics in Omaha, shows the steady decline of broiler margins from mid-June onward. They became negative in mid-November.

My concern, of course, was that broiler companies may either see these negative returns as temporary or may see them as just the price to pay for market share. The former is obviously not the case, at least for this grain marketing year. The latter sounds shaky as well, but it is the mindset that dominated broiler companies for many years when broiler demand and consumption were growing steadily. A “damn the torpedoes” approach this year could be bloody indeed for the broiler sector, but would also drive broiler prices lower and very likely put a lid on the level of prices that might be achieved this year by pork and beef products.


Heat Detection, AI Skills Impact Farrowing Rate
For this week’s column, we will focus on 22 farms where the artificial insemination (AI) staff records key reproductive performance indicators. This information was then run through two of Swine Management Services’ (SMS) specialized reports – the In-Depth Breeding Analysis Report and the Breeding Technician Report.

These reports look at farrowing rate by AI technician, semen batch code, sow parity, number of matings, days-to-first estrus, days-to-estrus return, day of the week bred, time of the day bred, lactation length, etc. Data was run on the most current 52 weeks of breeding results to ensure records were updated and all bred females had farrowed. Farms in the database vary by size, genetic lines and geographical locations.

We will focus on farrowing rate by AI technician and wean-to-first-service day by AI technician. We narrowed our analysis to 30 AI technicians who had over 500 services during the time period, which represented a total of 98,792 services.


New Food Safety Shifts FDA Focus to Prevention
President Barrack Obama signed into law the recently passed Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Reform bill. This new law provides the most substantive changes to food safety laws since the 1930s. FDA will now focus more on preventing contamination rather than interceding after outbreaks. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates an additional $1.4 billion will be needed by FDA over the next five years to implement the law. Much of the new money is needed to hire 2,000 additional inspectors to conduct more frequent inspections of facilities. Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA), likely chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee, has expressed concerns about the new law and additional funding. A spokesman for Congressman Kingston said, “While no one wants anyone to get sick, and we all want a safe food supply, the case just isn’t there right now for a $1.4 billion increase in spending.”

Health Care Repeal — The House Republican leadership has announced the House of Representatives will conduct a vote this week to repeal last year’s health care bill. The action is mostly symbolic, since the vote to repeal will pass the House but fail in the Senate. It is expected there will be numerous attempts this year by the Republican leadership to modify and/or downsize last year’s health care bill or limit funding for implementation. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated repealing the health care bill would raise the national debt by $230 billion.


EPA's Overreach Threatens Agriculture
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is locked in a power grab that threatens the future of U.S. production agriculture, fueled by poor congressional oversight that has allowed the agency to contrive policies that lack both scientific peer review and common sense.

If left unchecked, the enormous costs will affect not only agriculture, but consumers and taxpayers will also pay a big price, say Bryan Shaw, chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and Charles Bronson, who served as Florida’s commissioner of agriculture from 2000 to 2010. They spoke at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 92nd annual meeting today in Atlanta, GA.

Shaw says EPA has devised its own requirements into the Clean Air Act, “trying to be creative, making their own rules.” He predicts more stringent air emission regulations proposed by the EPA for Texas will set a threshold for most internal combustion engines used on farms and ranches including relatively small machines with 20 hp.


Jan. 19-20, 2011: Minnesota Pork Congress, Minneapolis Convention Center, Minneapolis, MN; for more information contact: Minnesota Pork Producers Association by phone (507) 345-8814, e-mail or go online

Jan. 25-27, 2011: Iowa Pork Producers Association Annual Meeting and Iowa Pork Congress, Iowa Events Center, Des Moines, IA; for exhibitor information, contact Doug Fricke by e-mail: or call (515) 225-7675; for seminar information, contact Tyler Bettin by e-mail: or call (515) 225-7675.

Jan. 31, Feb. 7 and 14, 2011: Employee Management Workshop for Agricultural Operations (three-part workshop), Hardin County Extension Office, Iowa Falls, IA; for more information contact: Russ Euken, extension livestock specialist by phone (641) 923-2856 or e-mail or Mark Storlie, swine field specialist, by phone (563) 425-3331 or e-mail

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The October 15 Blueprint edition of National Hog Farmer provides guidelines for building a sound replacement gilt program, including nutritional considerations to maximize genetic potential and the importance of an effective herd health management program. In addition, the issue offers a special section on screening replacement gilt candidates for skeletal and reproductive soundness.



The Dec. 15 edition of National Hog Farmer features our annual roundup of swine research conducted at universities in the United States and Canada this past year. Presented in six primary categories – swine health, nutrition, meat quality, manure management, genetics, animal welfare – you will find reports from 23 trials. Those and additional research reports are posted at .

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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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