Pork audit programs offer confidence

Pork audit programs offer confidence

Emily Erickson is no stranger when it comes to the common swine-industry auditing process and the Pork Quality Assurance Plus program. Erickson is the animal well-being and quality-assurance manager for New Fashion Pork based in Jackson, Minnesota. The company owns 60,000 sows and markets 1.2 to 1.3 million pigs a year from six states. She helps conduct internal audits at the company’s grow-finish sites.

“We try to get to all our sites once a quarter,” Erickson said. “We also serve as (Pork Quality Assurance) Plus advisors and work to get employees certified.”

New Fashion Pork markets pigs to three different plants; Erickson said each wants something a little different when it comes to audits.

“One might want a certain percentage of pigs audited, or they might base it on overall sales,” she said. “These audits are driven by the packers.”

Erickson served on the national task force that developed the common swine-industry audit, released in October 2014. The program allows audits to be consistent across the pork industry, with the goal of assuring customers that hogs are being raised and processed humanely.

She said one of the biggest challenges is the paperwork required for Pork Quality Assurance Plus and industry audits. Larger operations may have someone who is strictly responsible for the information, while smaller producers may do it themselves.

“We have to be consistent with our operations, and the paperwork is definitely one of the tougher parts of the audit,” Erickson said.

Pork Quality Assurance Plus requires an outside auditor to look at operations, and that keeps Anne Adkins busy. She is the director of swine animal-welfare auditing and training for Farm Animal Care Training and Auditing; she is based in Creston, Illinois. She conducted more than 300 audits around the United States this past year.

“These audits are mostly at the request of packers,” she said. “Some producers will ask us for an audit, but most of the time it’s the packers who contact us.”

Adkins says, for the most part, packers will randomly select operations they would like to see audited.

“They just want a certain percentage of the supply chain,” she said.

Operations are given some notice of an upcoming audit, primarily for biosecurity reasons, Adkins said. She said pork producers have a duty to assure their customers that pigs are treated well.

“There is some leeway when we schedule an audit, but this is what you should be doing every day,” Adkins said. “We hope that they are ready when we first contact them.”

She said an audit of a sow facility will take about four hours, while other buildings take a little more than two hours.

“If you have everything prepared, it will make it much faster,” Adkins said.

If problems are found at a site, the packer will give the producer time to make changes.

“We will notify the packer, and they will give the producer a timeline to make corrections,” Adkins said. “If they want us to do another audit, we’ll do that.

“We want producers to just be in the habit of following the program. That’s what their customers want.”

Erickson said it’s important consumers are confident in how pigs are raised and in the quality of pork products. Pork Quality Assurance Plus and the common industry audit, she said, are tools to do just that.

“I know the highs and lows, and it’s important for the entire industry to do the right thing 100 percent of the time,” Erickson said.

“At the end of the day, these are our pigs, and they need to be managed appropriately. We’re going to do all we can to make sure they are.”


Veterinarian finds perfect fit

Veterinarian finds perfect fit

Sarah Mills-Lloyd said she recalls vividly the accident that introduced her to veterinary medicine. She was 6 or 7 years old, living in her hometown of Sheldon in northwestern Wisconsin, on the day her family’s beloved Dachschund mix, Penny, suffered a broken leg.

“She always found a safe haven in the drooped-fabric back of our living-room recliner,” said Mills-Lloyd, a 2005 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-School of Veterinary Medicine. “Unknown to me, she was asleep in her favorite spot when I sat down and reclined the chair.”

Penny limped out from underneath the furniture with an injury that needed to be repaired with an external fixation device, but she was soon back to her old self. Mills-Lloyd, however, was changed.

Through this experience, she said, she learned the fulfillment that can come from caring for an animal. She also saw the patience, kindness and compassion of the veterinarians involved — not only toward Penny but the entire family. And what ultimately drew her into the field was the revelation that veterinarians can truly touch the lives of people.

“I realized the profession of veterinary medicine provides the opportunity and ability to speak into the lives of others and become a trusted source of knowledge,” Mills-Lloyd said.

She said she certainly felt this connection with her clients during her eight years of private practice in northeastern Wisconsin, and it continues today in her current role. As a University of Wisconsin-Extension agriculture agent in Oconto and Marinette counties, part of Mills-Lloyd’s job is to offer individualized consultations on agricultural issues for government agencies, youth and farmers. Although her primary role on the farm has changed, she continues to share her knowledge and make a difference for others.

Her influence can be seen in the experience of the Finger Family Farm in Oconto, Wisconsin. Phil and Laura Finger contacted Mills-Lloyd after noticing a chronically elevated somatic cell count among their dairy herd — a sign of mastitis and a potential drop in milk quality. Following a diligent review of herd records, protocols and treatments, she connected the Fingers with Pamela Ruegg, professor of dairy science in the UW–Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Ruegg recommended reestablishing an on-farm culturing system.

Mills-Lloyd then made multiple trips to the farm to help implement the system and teach the Fingers how to interpret results. Today they are able to monitor cases of mastitis more carefully and establish treatments sooner, all to the benefit of the herd and the milk it produces.

“Now, looking back, it has all come together and feels so easy to figure out what pathogens we are fighting so I know what class of antibiotics, if any, should be used,” Laura Finger said. “I credit Sarah for her patience and technical expertise in developing our ‘lab.’”

In addition to consultations, Mills-Lloyd teaches workshops on dairy science, livestock and agri-business management for general audiences. She also conducts applied research in collaboration with faculty at UW-System campuses. Her teaching abilities have earned her a spot as an instructor in calf and young-stock health with the Nestlé Dairy Farming Institute, a program created by UW–Madison dairy scientists to bring best practices in dairy management to China. In addition, she recently used her knowledge, skills and education to develop an innovative on-farm research project, the Calf Sanitation Audit program, which dairy farmers can use to test the effectiveness of their cleaning programs.

It comes as no surprise that Mills-Lloyd excels in these many roles given her wide variety of experiences beyond large-animal veterinary medicine. Those include working on dairy farms as a youth; completing internships focused on epidemiology, food safety and veterinary diagnostics; teaching high school science; and serving on veterinary medical mission trips to Asia and Central America.

“It’s truly a blend of my knowledge and education as a veterinarian,” said Mills-Lloyd, who credits the School of Veterinary Medicine for preparing her for a range of careers. “In this position, I not only have the ability to educate people, but I have the ability to influence others. During my extension career, it has been my privilege to get to know many agricultural families on a personal as well as a professional level.”

The Fingers are one such family. Since her initial farm visits to address the mastitis issue, Mills-Lloyd has been back to troubleshoot other problems.

“Sarah’s overall knowledge and personality are simply amazing,” Laura Finger said. “She is so farm-friendly … combined with being academically skilled and mixed with her worldly experiences. Sarah can also ask the right questions to get people to open up and help troubleshoot answers to get our industry to where we need to be.”


U.S. pork, beef exports solid

U.S. pork, beef exports solid

U.S. red-meat exports ended the first half of 2016 on a positive note; June export values for both pork and beef were the highest of the year. June also marked the second-consecutive month of solid year-over-year volume growth, according to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Pork exports reached 187,939 metric tons in June, up 8 percent from a year ago, while export value increased 11 percent to $505.4 million. For the first half of the year, pork export volume was up 2 percent to 1.1 million metric tons, but value was down 4 percent to $2.77 billion.

Exports accounted for 26 percent of total pork production in June and 22 percent for muscle cuts only – each up 1 percentage point from a year ago. For January through June, those ratios were 25 percent and 21 percent, respectively, up slightly from 2015. Export value per head slaughtered was $52.83 in June – up 10 percent from a year ago. First-half per-head value was $48.34, down 5 percent.

June beef-export volume increased 2 percent from a year ago to 98,920 metric tons, while export value was $545.4 million, down 5 percent. First-half export volume was up 3 percent to 541,547 metric tons, while value fell 10 percent to $2.91 billion. Exports accounted for 13 percent of total beef production in June and 10 percent for muscle cuts only – each down about 1 percentage point from a year ago. For January through June, these ratios were also 13 percent and 10 percent, respectively, steady with last year. Export value per head of fed slaughter was $250 in June and $249.67 for the first half – each down 14 percent from a year ago.

Pork exports strong to China and Hong Kong

June pork exports to China and Hong Kong remained well ahead of the 2015 pace, increasing 84 percent in volume to 50,374 metric tons, and 73 percent in value to $98.8 million. But June volume was the lowest since February, reflecting some cooling of the market. Exports to China and Hong Kong finished the first half 80 percent higher than a year ago in volume at 284,900 metric tons and 63 percent higher in value at $540.5 million.

“New opportunities for U.S. pork were developed in China-Hong Kong over the past year, and the inroads we made with importers and other key buyers in the region will pay long-term dividends,” said federation President and CEO Philip Seng. “But it is important to recognize the shift in market conditions in China, which means growth in other key markets is essential to achieving a successful second half in 2016.”

Leading pork-value market Japan showed renewed momentum in June, with exports up 1 percent from a year ago in volume, to 32,879 metric tons, and 6 percent higher in value at $138.1 million. First-half exports to Japan were still down 13 percent in volume at 192,862 metric tons and 10 percent in value at $749.6 million, as record volumes of chilled U.S. pork entering Japan – 109,665 metric tons, up 19 percent and valued at $485 million, up 14 percent – were offset by lower imports of frozen product.

After a strong May performance, pork exports to Mexico took a step back in June, falling 13 percent from a year ago in volume, at 54,335 metric ton, and 5 percent in value at $105.4 million. First-half export volume to Mexico was 324,745 metric tons, down 8 percent from a year ago, while value fell 9 percent to $566 million. A spike in ham prices, compounded by the weak peso, significantly impacted June export results. But with ham prices moderating by mid-July, the U.S. Meat Export Federation anticipates a rebound in demand.

June results were better north of the border; pork exports to Canada totaled 16,731 metric tons – up 11 percent from a year ago and the largest of 2016 – while export value increased 13 percent to $69.5 million. That pushed first-half exports to Canada slightly ahead of the 2015 pace at 96,582 metric tons, while value was steady at $381.6 million.

U.S. beef reclaims market share

in Japan

June beef exports to Japan were the largest in nearly two years at 25,836 metric tons, up 29 percent from a year ago. First-half exports climbed 12 percent in volume to 122,316 metric tons and 5 percent in value to $707.2 million. Showing strong demand for high-quality cuts, Japan’s first-half imports of chilled U.S. beef surged 51 percent from a year ago to 50,795 metric tons. The shipments were valued at $369 million, up 32 percent. Japan’s first-half import data also show a strong rebound in market share for U.S. beef at 38.5 percent – up from 33 percent in 2015 and about 1 percentage point higher than in 2014. Australia’s market share, which was nearly 57 percent in the first half of 2015, fell to 52 percent.

“U.S. beef faces a significant tariff-rate disadvantage in Japan, and this gap will grow larger unless and until the Trans-Pacific Partnership is ratified,” Seng said. “But rather than dwell on the challenges we face in this market, the U.S. industry needs to capitalize on its opportunities. And (the U.S. Meat Export Federation) is doing so by educating retail and foodservice buyers about the wide range of U.S. beef cuts that appeal to their customers. We’re pushing well beyond the forequarter cuts traditionally marketed in Japan, and consumers are responding in a very positive way.”

Beef exports to Mexico remained strong in June, increasing 14 percent from a year ago to 20,021 metric tons, though value was down 13 percent to $76.2 million. First-half exports to Mexico were up 3 percent in volume to 111,834 metric tons, valued at $475.4 million, down 11 percent.

Lamb exports slump

Visit www.usmef.org/news-statistics/statistics for complete first-half export results for U.S. beef, pork and lamb.


Tech Days tent reflects market, public curiosity

Tech Days tent reflects market, public curiosity

Despite some tough economic times for the agriculture industry as a whole, the beef market seems to be staying fairly strong; it continues to attract consumers. The beef tent at this year’s Wisconsin Farm Technology Days in Walworth County, sponsored by the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association, did well, with 10 cattle breeds exhibited – including Shorthorn, Simmental, Angus, Buelingo, Scottish Highland, Belted Galloway, Wagyu, Normande, Hereford and Pinzgauer.

“We exhibited the Normande breed in the beef tent,” said Mike Mueller, a member of the beef-tent coordinating committee. “Our purpose was two-fold: to show the consumer there is a wide variety of beef breeds in the beef industry and to expose other beef producers to our breed of cattle.”

Mueller said conversations with visitors to the beef tent centered on two general areas: sharing information with people who weren’t familiar with agriculture and sharing information with people who are familiar and involved with agriculture. According to Mueller, consumers who weren’t involved in agriculture wanted to discuss the breeds themselves, their origins, why breeders preferred those specific breeds and beef production in general. Those involved in agriculture wanted to know more details about the breeds, how specific carcasses compare to other breeds, where they can buy semen, animal costs and breeder locations.

He said he believes the Wisconsin beef industry is starting to reflect the expansion of the beef herd overall, creating a sense of uncertainty due to declining prices. But he believes the industry will continue to expand as small dairy farms go out of business and those farmers transition into beef production. Beef producers nationwide continue to move forward with expansions but are using caution, he said.

“I think it is safe to say there will be a demand for more meat as third-world economies improve, with a resulting increase in demand for foods high in protein, with meat being one of them,” Mueller said. “The past has shown us that as the middle class grows, so does the demand for meat as a source of protein.”

Arin Crooks, former president of Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association and President-Elect of the Wisconsin Beef Council, said the association’s mission is to promote all the state’s beef industry through advocacy, leadership and education. Through the booth at Farm Technology Days this year, held July 19-21, the association hoped to provide a one-stop learning experience on the Wisconsin beef industry.

“We hoped to provide a wide array of learning opportunities for all segments of the public – whether that was learning more about cattle, beef products, or other affiliated businesses and organizations that are part of the Wisconsin beef industry,” Crooks said.

He said he believes the state’s beef industry is still strong despite declining cattle prices from the all-time high prices of a few years ago. Crooks believes the nationwide beef outlook is similar to Wisconsin’s. He said the primary focus of the beef industry is to show consumers that beef is a highly nutritious product worth the investment to feed their families.

“Feed and other input prices still allow for profitability raising cattle for beef, and our state’s herd numbers are continuing to grow for the near future,” he said. “The beef industry strives to let consumers know that beef producers take care of their cattle and environments around their farms and ranches. We strive to do our best and are always looking for ways to improve our management and operations.”

During the next five years Crooks believes all markets will level out, including beef, and provide producers with a chance for better profitability across the board. Though he hesitates to predict the future, he said he believes the beef industry 20 years from now will be similar to what it is today. There aren’t enough viable, long-term replacements for beef cattle that use forages off land that’s unsuitable for other purposes, he said.

“Beef cattle do a great job in producing valuable food for our growing world’s population from areas that otherwise would be much less productive,” Crooks said. “Technologies like genetic testing, feed byproducts and other feed additives will continue to be incorporated to improve the efficiency of production, but will need to meet the expectations and comfort levels of consumers as they will continue to want to know where their food comes from.”

The association will again offer a beef tent at next year’s Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, to be held July 11-13, 2017, in Kewaunee County. Visit www.wifarmtechnologydays.com for more information.


Meuer Farm has it all — Conservation, agritourism, grains, berries

Meuer Farm has it all — Conservation, agritourism, grains, berries

August 15, 2016 1:00 am  • 
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CHILTON, Wis. – Calumet County farmer Dave Meuer describes Meuer Farm LLC as a working farm that’s all about educating the public and conserving natural resources. He and his wife, Leslie Meuer, are hosting Wisconsin’s Conservation Observance Day Aug. 26, when farming, education and conservation are rolled into one big day for dignitaries and the general public.

The Meuers were named 2016 Conservation Farmer of the Year by the Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association, a membership organization supporting the efforts of 450 county Land Conservation Committee supervisors and 350 conservation staff in 72 county Land Conservation Department offices around the state. The state winner typically hosts the state Conservation Observance Day. They were also named Calumet County Conservation Cooperator of the Year for 2016.

Meuer Farm overlooks the eastern edge of Lake Winnebago and will likely draw 25,000 or more visitors by year’s end to vicariously experience farming and to pick strawberries, sugar snap peas or pumpkins, or to purchase a myriad of other foods produced on the farm and available in the on-farm Busy Bee Country Store.

“People want to get out and experience a farm,” said Dave Meuer, who is in his first term as president of the Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association. “In the last three years alone, we’ve had visitors from 38 foreign countries and 37 states.”

The Meuers also shepherd children on 3,000 school field trips each year. And because the agritourism aspects of their farm are handicapped-accessible – including their corn maze, farm-animals exhibit and wagon rides – they attract many folks in wheelchairs. Meuer said wheelchairs are easily accommodated directly from a special barn deck onto the wagon, providing first-time experiences of a hay ride for many individuals. There are 2 miles of trails on the farm.

The Meuers are collecting awards about as fast as their agritourism farm-business is growing. They received the Governor’s Tourism Stewardship Award in 2016 and the 2016 Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association Member of the Year award, one they’d also received in 2013 and 2015. They received the 2015 Leopold Conservation Award from the Sand County Foundation, and the Wisconsin Honey Producers’ Education Award in 2014.

As producers of each commodity, the Meuers belong to both the Honey Producers and the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers associations. Dave Meuer is president of the Wisconsin Berry Growers Association and has hosted berry-grower field days at Meuer Farm, which was one of the first strawberry operations in the state in 2009 to rely exclusively on drip irrigation with buried lines.

Dave Meuer is a fourth-generation lifelong farmer who grew up across the road from where he now farms. His father had purchased the property as a second farm in 1969. Dave Meuer bought it from his folks, John and Clara Meuer, in 1994. The family dairy farmed until 1983, the year of the dairy-herd buyout program. Meuer switched to hogs and was at one point up to 1,200 head on feed. He also had a beef cow-calf herd and fed 150 steers. In 1996 he went back into dairying on his present farm, starting with rotational grazing and a small parlor for a 45-cow herd of mixed breeds.

In 2009, he diversified by planting 1.5 acres of strawberries and tapping maple trees. He planted a corn maze, which in its first year drew 6,500 people. In 2010, he added another 1.5 acres of strawberries and a pick-your-own operation launched. The weather cooperated and farm visitors more than doubled. In December 2010 he liquidated the dairy and returned to beef cow-calf pairs, which he still rotationally grazes.

The Meuers were married in 2013. Leslie Meuer, who is originally from Maine, was an architect who now co-manages Meuer Farm, shouldering farm advertising and financial recordkeeping. Dave Meuer has two adult children not involved in the farm, which consists of 150 acres owned and 40 rented.

Visitors peak during the corn-maze and pumpkin-patch season; the Meuers have about 25 part-time employees in the fall. Dave Meuer said he likes to hire retired farmers who want to drive tractor for hayrides. The 10-acre corn maze, for which Meuer plants non-genetically-modified corn, runs from Sept. 9 through Oct. 31 for the general public. Friday and Saturday nights families can go through the maze after dark, carrying glow sticks.

The Meuers grow non-genetically-modified sweet corn, cash-crop soybeans, soft red winter wheat – primarily for straw to mulch the berry patch but also for pastry flour, alfalfa, a half-acre of pick-your-own sugar snap peas and about 20 acres of specialty grains. The latter is a boom area for the Meuers, who are tapping into the public’s anti-gluten sentiment and interest in ancient grains. They grow oats, durum wheat, spelt and Emmer. The latter is a type of ancient wheat that’s planted in the spring.

The Meuers market virtually everything they can think of from their farm – maple syrup, honey, strawberries, sweet corn, pumpkins, squash, corn stalks, straw bales for various purposes including straw-bale gardening, grass-fed beef, pork, eggs and broilers. They have a wide variety of packaged specialty grains and products containing those grains, such as granola, bread and cookies. They pick on their property and sell black walnuts, hickory nuts, apples, elderberries, gooseberries and even puffball mushrooms.

Depending on the end use, specialty grains are dehulled on-farm and taken to a certified kitchen offsite, where they’re ground. Oats are made into flour or sold as fresh rolled oats or groats. Durum wheat, spelt and Emmer is made into flour or sold as berries. The couple sells specialty grains to bakeries, breweries and restaurants as well as in their farm store and online. They also sell pastas made with the specialty grain. Three years ago they launched farm-to-table dinners. Upcoming dinners will be held Aug. 18 and Sept. 15. They work with a chef to serve 80 people while providing demonstrations and farm education.

“People want to know what we’re doing and how we’re doing it,” Dave Meuer said. “Farming is new and different for them. They want to learn more.”

Meuer said the Aug. 26 Conservation Observance Day will be attended by county board members, as well as staff from the Conservation Department, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Also attending will be farmers and others interested in protecting natural resources. There will be speakers, lunch and tours of the farm. Guests will see a wildlife food plot, a spring-fed pond out of which the couple drip-irrigates strawberries, managed pastures, bee habitat on fencerows, stream management, minimum tillage, managed woodlands and more, including bald eagles that nested on the farm this year.

The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Aug 26 at N2564 U.S. Highway 151, Chilton. RSVP to Rose Faust at Calumet County Land and Water Conservation at Faust.Rose@co.calumet.wi.us or 920-849-1442. Visit www.meuerfarm.com or www.wisconsinlandwater.org or call 920-418-2676 for more information.


Record-large corn crop;

Record-large corn crop;

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in its Aug. 12 supply-demand report, projected the U.S. corn crop to be record-large at 15.2 billion bushels. The national average yield was also projected record-large at 175 bushels per acre. In addition, total corn demand was projected record-large, with corn use for feed showing a 175-million-bushel increase compared to projections just 30 days ago. Corn for feed use is now projected to be 5.675 billion bushels, or up 9 percent from feed use this year. Finally it must be noted that wheat for feed use was increased by 30 million bushels from July. Wheat for feed use is projected to jump by 144 percent next year compared to this year; wheat prices are trading at 10-year lows.

Who or what are we going to feed all of this corn and wheat to? Obviously animal numbers can increase only so fast. It’s important to realize the poultry industry has the ability to increase production in response to cheap and plentiful feed dramatically quicker than either the pork industry or the beef boys. From the time the decision is made to increase production it only takes from six to eight weeks for increased broiler production to begin hitting the market. That compares to about one year for hogs and about 16 months to 24 months for beef animals. However, what the beef industry and pork industry can do, almost immediately, is bring feeding animals to heavier weights.

The livestock producer needs to be fully aware that current projections for record-large pork and poultry production and rising beef production will most likely be revised upward during the course of the next several months. Rising production will most likely occur through flat-out higher production in the poultry industry and mostly through heavier weights of market animals in beef and pork.

Addressing pork, specifically, the only salvation lies in the export market. Pork exports in the first half of 2016 were up 1.8 percent compared to the first six months of 2015. While that’s positive, it’s not good enough to absorb the huge production coming down the pipe. Exports to China have been higher this year. But the magnitude of increased exports to China has not measured up to expectations. It’s a fact that the European Union has increased pork shipments to China. World trade is very complicated. Currency relationships come into play. Trade bans and embargos mean politics come into play. And disease problems around the world come into play. There is not enough time or space to discuss these trade issues in detail. Let’s just say that pork exports need to increase by far more than 2 percent to keep up with expectations for rising production.

Narrowing the scope of this discussion, dramatically, let’s take a look at the October lean-hog chart. In the middle of June the October hog contract topped out just above $74. The recent low, also a contract low, was established this past week at just under $58. That’s a $16 break in prices during about six weeks. The market does appear to have bottomed out, although for reasons totally unknown or understood, it appears a 50-percent recovery is possible. A full 50-percent recovery would take prices all the way back to $66. It appears that would also coincide, approximately, with the 50-day moving average. That upside recovery should actually develop rather quickly, perhaps by the time folks read this column. The next major low is not due until the end of August to perhaps the end of the first full week in September. I recommend watching the October hog contract closely into the monthly cold-storage report due out Aug. 22. If that contract is not trading above $64, by this time that would be a negative indication. If the contract is trading above $64 into the time frame, but not above $66, that would also be negative and suggest that the downtrend will remain intact. If the October hogs are trading above $66, into Oct. 22, it would be a bullish indication and suggest a major bottom has been achieved.

Information contained herein is based on what is believed to be the most reliable resources available at the time of publication. Trading commodity futures or options involves risk, and past performance does not indicate future results.

Dennis Smith

has been a commodity broker for 26 years; he works extensively with livestock and grain producers. Contact him at dennis.smith@archerfinancials.com or 877-377-7905 for more information.


Dung beetle death on flies

Dung beetle death on flies

Flies are a problem for cattle, but the answer to controlling them could lie with another insect.

South Dakota State University graduate student Jacob Pecenka of Mitchell, South Dakota, is studying the role of the dung beetle in breaking down manure and controlling flies. The dung beetle can disrupt the life cycle of the fly when it breaks up the manure pat where flies lay their eggs. The beetle rolls away chunks of manure to bury. The manure dries, and with it, fly eggs dry and die.

“They’re doing this enormous service for free,” Pecenka said.

Pecenka is working at Blue Dasher Farms, a research farm started by former U.S. Department of Agriculture entomologist Jonathan Lundgren. The student is looking into different ways of managing cattle and how the changes affect insects that live in cattle droppings.

“That dung pat is a really neat resource,” Pecenka said.

But without help breaking them down, dung pats can become a breeding ground not only for flies, but for parasites that attack cattle.

“We’re creating our own parasite problems,” Lundgren said.

Pecenka has been doing his studies on farms near Hayti, Gary, Milbank and Flandreau, South Dakota, plus an organic farm near Sioux Falls, Iowa. He said he’s hoping to learn the best sort of grazing system to help beneficial insects, whether it’s season-long or rotational grazing.

One of his efforts looked into how quickly dung beetles break down manure pats. He placed dung on a grid and covered some pats with small screens to keep bugs out but allow other elements in. Other pats were left in the open.

The open pats broke down quickly with the help of insects – sometimes in a matter of days. The faster they break down, the less chance flies have to reproduce.

One problem though, according to Pecenka, is that treatments producers use to remove flies also cause the beneficial beetle to disappear. Many producers treat their cattle with a medicine to control parasites called Ivermectin. It can be used for intestinal worms and also to kill fly larvae in the manure.

Traces of the medicine are in the manure pat; Pecenka is finding it affects the number of insects living there.

“It’s good to keep the flies from laying their eggs in the pat, but you lose the other bugs, too,” Pecenka said.

He said it’s necessary to treat for fly control sometimes. Cattle won’t be comfortable if they’re always battling flies. It might be best, though, to administer more targeted treatments when needed. Pecenka said treating cattle in the fall is a better option than treating in the spring before sending the herd to pasture. In that case, relying on natural methods of controlling flies might be better than chemicals, he said.

“I think we often forget just how important insects are in rangeland and biodiversity,” Lundgren said.


New fescue non-toxic to livestock

New fescue non-toxic to livestock

A new tall fescue variety that is non-toxic to grazing animals has been developed at the University of Kentucky. Called Lacefield MaxQ II, the variety was developed through selections made from endophyte-free Kentucky 31 and related lines. University of Kentucky plant breeder Tim Phillips named the variety for Garry Lacefield, University of Kentucky professor emeritus, to honor Lacefield’s numerous contributions to the forage industry and to the college.

Lacefield MaxQ II contains an endophyte developed by AgResearch in New Zealand. While active, the endophyte does not produce ergot alkaloids that can cause fescue toxicosis, a disease that primarily affects cattle but can also negatively impact pregnant mares and milk-producing goats. The active alkaloids in the variety give it drought tolerance, insect resistance and help with vigor, according to the University of Kentucky.

“It has the persistence and performance of the endophyte found in Kentucky 31, but doesn’t have the bad qualities of that endophyte,” Phillips said.

The variety has been tested for 12 years in on-farm trials at the university’s research farms, as well as on private farms in Kentucky and other states. The variety has tested well in all locations for seeding vigor, high yield potential, grazing tolerance, live weight gains by stocker cattle and resistance to winter injury, Phillips said. Lacefield MaxQ II is expected to be commercially available in 2017.


Pork producers must adapt

Pork producers must adapt

MERRILL, Iowa — Marketing hogs was once fairly simple, Joe Rotta said.

The Northwest Iowa producer would haul hogs to the John Morrell plant in Sioux City, Iowa, about a half-hour drive from his Plymouth County farm. It cost him about $400 per load, Rotta said. But after the Morrell plant closed in April 2010, Rotta was forced to look elsewhere to find the bids he wants. Often hogs are trucked to the Triumph Foods plant in St. Joseph, Missouri, at a cost of $1,200 per load.

“We had a very good relationship with the Morrell buyer for many years,” Rotta said. “Now it’s more difficult to find a bid.”

He said Triumph will take heavier pigs. The Hormel plant in Fremont, Nebraska, is also an option, but Rotta said that plant favors pigs in the 280-pound range.

“If you can fit their box, it’s going to pay better,” he said.

Rotta said there are other packers in his area, but the bids are not as good as he can get elsewhere.

“You don’t get as many calls as you would hope,” he said.

He is part-owner of a sow unit near Newell, Iowa, and finishes pigs on his farm. He markets about 12,000 pigs annually.

Having access to several markets is valuable to hog producers, said Steve Meyer, vice-president for pork analysis with Express Markets Inc. Analytics. He said Iowa is fortunate to have so many packers in the region, which should result in competitive bids. Other states are not as fortunate. But losing a plant is never good, he said.

“You aren’t just losing another bidder,” Meyer said. “Your costs are going to go up because of the increased transportation expense.”

Packer capacity in the Midwest has been able to handle increased numbers of hogs, Meyer said. This fall could be another story.

“We are going to be very tight for capacity in November and December,” he said. “We are getting some help in the Midwest with more hogs being killed at facilities in Pleasant Hope, Missouri, and Windom, Minnesota, but that’s just 6,500 per day. That won’t be enough to handle what’s coming late this fall.”

Larger plants are scheduled to open next July in Sioux City and Coldwater, Michigan, and Meyer said that will help a great deal. Because of the reduced capacity and large supplies, producers are more interested in risk management.

“We are seeing some very aggressive risk management the last few years,” Meyer said.

He said the hog industry is moving ahead with expansion, creating a strain on current capacity and putting a dent in market access.

“Even with losses in the fourth quarter, it will be a profitable year and marginally profitable in 2017,” Meyer said. “There are a lot of sows being added out there.”

Closing a plant can be devastating to the community, said Ed Wallace, deputy director of Iowa Workforce Development. He said the impact works its way down through most parts of a community.

“Any time you have a large facility close, the supply chain and the residual elements are going to be affected,” Wallace said. “But we’ve also seen communities become resilient and work to bring a new business into these plants and keep the plant’s employees.”

He said tens of thousands of Iowans are employed in packing and processing plants. The plants also bring people into the state, and while some are seasonal employees, others stay and make the state their home.

“The workforce is very mobile today, but we are seeing a lot of those employees stay in those communities,” he said.

When a plant is closing, Wallace said, it is important that the community work with the owner to help find a replacement.

“We need to have that communication,” he said. “In Denison, (Iowa), the community was able to work with Tyson when they closed the beef plant, and now Quality Food Processors is expanding and looking to hire some of those workers.

“It’s important that communities look to be thoughtful and innovative when there is a plant closure.”

Rotta said he is looking forward to the opening of the new plant in Sioux City, owned jointly by Triumph Foods and Seaboard Foods. The plant is expected to employ more than 1,000 people.

“I think that is going to be a really nice option for us and other producers, because we’re hearing they are going to buy a large percentage of hogs on the open market,” Rotta said.

He said with large hog numbers expected and less packer capacity, marketing alternatives may need to be pursued.

“I think this fall, I’m probably going to give a broker a call since they have the contacts,” Rotta said. “It sounds like there are going to be a lot of hogs out there, and we want to make sure ours have a place to go.”


Sheep quintuplets beat the odds

Sheep quintuplets beat the odds


SHOREVIEW, Minn. – Many shepherds can relate to the joy of new lambs on the ground. But each shepherd has his or her unique stories of newborn lambs and individual strategies for giving lambs a solid start. Kathy Chinderle’s story is one for the books and can be learned from.

Chinderle lives in the small town of Ash Grove, Missouri. She woke up early one day this past spring to feed and take care of her animals just like any other day. Little did she know it was going to be a day to remember.

That day Chinderle went to the barn and noticed one of her ewes lambing. She watched the first lamb be born. Then, every five minutes, another lamb was born. In 20 minutes, she had four lambs. Chinderle said she was pleased and excited because she had never had quadruplets. Then the seemingly impossible happened — her ewe gave birth to a fifth lamb.

Only one in 1 million ewes will give birth to quintuplets, and it has never been reported that all five survived. To beat the odds and help the five lambs thrive, Chinderle looked to proven lamb-nutrition and -management practices. She ensured the lambs received colostrum and selected a lamb-specific milk replacer to provide the nutrients they needed. The choices she made helped start the lambs toward a productive future.

Just like all lambs, the first few days were the most challenging for the quintuplets. In fact industry estimates suggest that 20 percent of lambs die before weaning, with most of the deaths happening before the first 10 days of life. Tom Earleywine, director of nutritional services for Land O’Lakes Animal Milk Products Co., said that early stage of life is when lambs are most vulnerable, having not fully developed their immune systems.

“Colostrum, or the first milk of lactation, is an essential step in providing this first protection to newborns,” Earleywine said. “We compare colostrum to ’liquid gold,’ because it is the only method by which lambs can receive protective antibodies at birth.

“Not all colostrum is created equally, though. Colostrum quality can be impacted by the age and health of the ewe, environmental conditions and many other factors. To ensure lambs receive the quality colostrum they require, be sure to test colostrum with a colostrometer or refractometer, or feed a high-quality colostrum replacer labeled for lambs.”

After Chinderle ensured the quintuplets had received enough colostrum her next step was to find a quality milk replacer.

“This distinction is important, because, when scientifically compared, the nutrient levels in ewe’s milk are distinctly different than cow’s or goat’s milk,” Earleywine said.

Early nutrients are important because they set the stage for long-term performance. For instance, in the dairy-cattle industry, feeding quality nutrition to calves from day one has been shown to impact lifetime milk performance. Researchers have found that calves fed to a higher plane of nutrition calve 22 days earlier on average and produce 1,700 pounds more milk in their first lactation. Eight university trials show that calves fed a higher plane of nutrition from birth to weaning had higher milk production in their first lactation than those that were not.

“This research shows that solid nutrition paves the way for a productive future,” Earleywine said. “This is great news for both the miracle quintuplet sheep in Missouri and dairy-sheep producers across the country.”