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Sample International Clients article: Pig Progress is a magazine published in the Netherlands that bills itself as the portal on global pork production for farmers, veterinarians and other industry professionals.

Purpose: This article was designed to provide an overview of key information presented at the World Pork Expo to help producers operate their business more efficiently.

Feed Cost Dominate Discussions at the World Pork Expo

By Darcy Maulsby

From soaring feed costs to skyrocketing energy prices, pork producers who attended the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa, in early June were looking for ways to control their costs and survive the current profitability challenge.

“These are challenging times,” said Doug Hucka, a grow-finish pork producer from Lake City, Iowa, U.S.A., who stopped by the trade show, which featured more than 1,000 booths displayed by approximately 450 different companies. “I think now’s the time to sit back and be patient, and focus on the things you can control, like making feeder adjustments so you’re not wasting feed.”
The National Pork Producers Council’s (NPPC) 20th Anniversary World Pork Expo was held with slightly lower attendance than in years past– a fact that comes as no surprise, given the tough economic times producers are facing. NPPC reported that 17,756 pork producers attended the event, not counting exhibitors, staff and others who came through the gates. The number of international exhibitors increased, however, with companies traveling from Canada and Mexico as well as South America, Europe and Asia, to take part in the show. An estimated 10 percent of the producer attendees at the show were international visitors as well, coming from at least 45 different countries around the world.

Improve production efficiencies

While pork producers from around the globe were willing to look at some of the newer feeding technologies and other equipment on display at this year’s World Pork Expo, many agreed that staying in the swine business until better days arrive requires a renewed focus on the basics. “What you do daily adds up,” said Dr. Mike Brumm of Brumm Swine Consulting Inc. in North Mankato, Minn., U.S.A., who offered the following tips:

• Cut feed waste. Make sure that your employees are adjusting feeders properly, with 40 percent pan coverage.

• Control out-of-feed events. Human error—not the bridging of feed or equipment failure—is the number-one cause of feed outages. “Of-of-feed events clearly impact daily gain and appear to impact growing pigs in the 40- to 120-pound range more than finishing pigs,” Brumm said.

• Order full loads of feed. Fees are increasing for partial loads, so plan ahead and only order full loads, if possible.

• Conduct an energy walk-through in your barns. With propane prices expect to rise by 25 percent this fall in America, an energy audit can help you cut your power bills, no matter where you raise pigs. “Also, you need to learn how your barn’s electronic controller works, so you can get it set correctly,” said Brumm, who added that keeping your fans fixed will also maximize efficiency and control electrical costs.

• Be more aggressive with cooling. Simply blowing air over pigs won’t help if the air temperature is greater than the pigs’ temperature. In fact, higher air speeds will make pigs more heat stressed. “Cooling happens as the pigs dry, not when they are wet,” said Brumm, who recommends leaving the water on for two minutes at a time. Try using cone nozzles in curtain barns and flat-fan nozzles in tunnel barns.

• Consider an aggressive euthanasia policy. Since crowding always reduces daily gain, try limiting sick pens and making better use of your barn space so all pigs can grow faster.

Manage feed inputs

To reach these goals, you need to remain alert. “You’re going to have to be nimble when grain buying opportunities come along, because they won’t last very long,” said Steve Meyer, president of Paragon Economics in Adel, Iowa, U.S.A., who spoke at the Pork Checkoff’s Pork Academy. Meyer offered the following tips to control feed costs:

• Build a strategic reserve of corn. Grain availability will become an issue in some places. “Try to get a two- to three-month supply, if possible,” Meyer said.

• Consider long-term supply agreements with grain growers. Look for options that might work in your area.

• Streamline your operation. Consider pulling market weights down, and watch feed rations carefully.

These strategies become more even important when you consider that world corn usage has grown faster than supply, said Meyer, who added that the United States’ Renewable Fuel Standard calls for increased ethanol production through 2015, which will drive demand for corn. Currently, there are 148 ethanol plants nationwide in the United States, with a capacity of 9.4 billion gallons per year. By late 2009, 211 plants with a capacity of 14.8 billion gallons per year will be in use. “The ethanol plants can afford to bid a lot for corn,” Meyer added.

Compound this with the fact that the 2008 U.S. planting season has been one of the slowest on record. “Bad weather could be disastrous this year, and spot shortages of grain are very likely next summer,” said Meyer, who projects a trend yield of 151.9 bushels for corn in 2008. “I think we’ll be 3 or 4 million bushels short on corn acres this year, which will put us 258 million bushels in the hole.”

This could spell big trouble for corn utilization. Where will the market cut usage? Probably not in exports, since the weak U.S. dollar is making U.S. corn very affordable to foreign buyers, Meyer said. In fact, both Meyer and Glenn Grimes, a University of Missouri professor emeritus who spoke at the 2008 World Pork Expo, agreed that with the convergence of market pressures, the soonest pork producers will see some light at the end of the economic tunnel is by early 2010.

“In the end, realize that all the production technology and business strategies in the world will never replace a positive attitude,” Brumm added. “Be positive with your employees, and take the steps you can to cut costs and become more efficient.”

For more information on the World Pork Expo, visit

A veteran journalist, Darcy Maulsby has written about agriculture and livestock for more than 10 years. This Iowa State University graduate lives with her husband on an acreage near Lake City Iowa, U.S.A. You can visit her online at

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