March 2, 2020

2020 Midwest Annual Meeting - Gary Allee Symposium Notes

Tags: Swine | Sow | Nursery Pig | Conference

2020 Midwest Annual Meeting - Gary Allee Symposium Notes

Hello everyone! Long time no see~ I'm back finally! 😜

Earlier this week, I attended my very first Midwest Annual Meeting, and enjoyed it so much! My company, DDC Nutrition, was also proud to be a first time sponsor & let's hope for many more to come!

There were a lot of great talks and valuable information shared. I particularly enjoyed the Gary Allee symposium --- I had the pleasure to meet Dr. Allee through his close interactions with the China animal nutrition industry, and also had the privilege to visit him at his home together with other students during my internship with Novus several years ago. After many years in poultry, it feels so nice to see many familiar faces and names in the swine world.

I get asked a lot --- "You started your own company! Why? " or "You were poultry...and now swine?? ".

You know, sometimes it just feels "meant-to-be"! :)

Without further ado, here are my notes from the Garry Allee Symposium.

📖 Dr. Steven Kitt (First Choice Livestock)

How to Drive Efficiencies in Pork Production: What are the gaps in knowledge and obstacles?

1. Define efficiency
In Merriam-webster, "efficiency" is defined as "capable of producing desired results with little or no waste (waste being materials, time, or energy). Dr. Kitt thinks that we should delete "capable of".

We've already made tremendous improvement in efficiency --- according to a 2018 National Pork Board report (Link: here), weight adjusted FCR improved from 4.61 to 2.73 from 1960 to 2015. That is 188 points! And it translates to 170 kg less feed and $30 more in profit per pig produced.

What can be sources of inefficiency?

Unpredictable ingredients would be one...For instance, different DDGS has different lysine digestibility, which may be related to color. And lysine digestibility would then have significant impact on performance, e.g. a recent study from PIC showed that higher lysine level increased G:F by 3.5% from 361 to 374.

Another source is particle size...It is know that reducing grain size can improve digestibility and therefore improve FCR. We can achieve 1.2% improvement in digestibility for every micron reduction in complete feed. However, if we communicate with feed mill staff on "micron", it probably won't ring. Instead, we should use units people care about, for example, talk about $/week earning or lost by every micron reduction, to motivate people to change.

Source: NPB report 2018

2. Identify priorities in pork production
Livability. Livability. Livability.

And pork per sow per year is the net metric highly associated with profitability.
Based on a 2018 NPB report, from 2015 to 2018, Wean-to-finish mortality in the U.S. hasn't really improved, averaging around 27%.  That is a lot of loss in efficiency.

Now to research how to improve livability, a lot of replications will be required. Based on a power test, to identify a 2% difference in mortality, we need at least 119 pens. To identify 0.25% mortality, we will need more than 7574 pens...which is way beyond what research institutes and producers could normally do.

Some novel and cross-discipline research that may shed a light on livability includes gut microbiota research --- for instance, a recent study showed that fecal translation between healthy and PCVAD-challenged pigs resulted in reduced mortality in the challenged pigs.

3. Hoe can we influence efficiency & how can we motivate people to influence efficiency?
Human capital is key. Some areas to work on include:

  • Lack of training- Onboarding new hires adequately
  • How to measure employee success and make sure everyone understands the measures
  • Making part of the employee's work time devoted to personal improvement
  • Lack of communication or transparency in the workplace
  • Improve leadership

All of these may require interdisciplinary effort from social science x business.

#Highly recommend this episode on Marcio's SwineIt podcast: Dr. Larry Coleman: Thoughts on Pigs and People

4. Identify gaps in knowledge, expertise, or resources to capture efficiency.
Dr. Kitt discussed 2 examples here.

a).Ventilation. What are the ventilation demands for modern pigs? We really don't have a fully understanding (#WhenTechnologyOutpacedScience). This will require more collaboration with and funding for Ag Engineering.

b).Mycotoxin. Undoubtedly mycotoxins contribute to inefficiency. A recent study from Dr. Patience's lab (ISU) showed that really low levels of mycotoxins (0.1 ppm DON + 1.0 ppm FUM + 1.9 ppm ZER) increased weight adj. FCR by 14% from 2.8 to 3.19, and reduced ADG by 52% from 1.06 to 0.51 in pigs.

In Summary...
On one hand, efficiency metrics must be associated with profitability (e.g. kg pork/sow/year). And major drive here is livability . On another hand, as technologies seem to have out-paced science, we need more collaboration to drive and define influencers of livability. Many threats still exist, such as mycotoxins, and we will need to pay more attention on employee engagement.

📖 Dr. Ashley DeDecker (Smithfield)

Research Topic Prioritization in a Commercial Production System

(I really enjoyed Ashley's talk as she outlines nicely how a giant system like Smithfield approach research. She also recently talked on the SwineIt podcast on this topic, highly recommend! (Link: here).... Marcio - free ads for you, haha!)

At Smithfield, the Science and Technology Department (where Ashley works at) is responsible for conducting innovative, future-focused, and strategic research. To do that, they have assembled a research committee that meets quarterly, and the committee is consisted of people from nutrition, vet, production, genetics, behavior and welfare, feed mill, employee training, meat science, and purchasing.

The goal for this committee is to establish annual research priorities and decide what projects to do.

1. Smithfield 2020 Research Priorities
The 2020 short-term (0-18 months) research priorities at Smithfield include:

  • Feed and feeding (improve feed cost of gain, feed quality and consistency)
  • Improve production processes and management strategies (sow performance, suckling pig performance, wean-market pig performance)
  • Animal health (controlling mycoplasma, managing bacterial populations, managing PRRS, biosecurity)

And long-term (3-5 year) research priorities include:

  • Brand Enhancement (responsible use of antibiotics, pain mitigation, enrichment, traceability, lowering green house gases)
  • Sow lifetime productivity (gilt development and selection and improving retention)
  • IoT, big data, artificial intelligence, and robotics (improve animal health, improve production efficiencies, improve pig performance)

2. Smithfield matrix to determine what research to do
At the committee meeting, everyone will need to score a given project on a 15-score worksheet, and the total score needs to >11 to be considered.

Questions on the matrix worksheet include:

  • Does it fit the priority? (no score, has to be a Yes)
  • If implemented, would capital be necessary? If yes, what is the ROIC, if no, what is ROE? (2:1 = 1 score, 3:1= 2 score, etc...need at least 2:1)
  • Cost reduction/margin generation opportunity... < 0.5 million/year = 1 score,  0.5 to 2 million/year = 2 score, etc...
  • Determine ease of implementation (this is the most subjective score but a very important one)...1 = very difficult, 5 = easy.  E.g. euthanasia = very difficult, may take 2-3 years to implement. Feed additive = easy, may only need 6 months to implement)
    Now if it's gonna be a pilot study (for example, if there's no scientific data to calculate ROE, if hard to calculate ROE like brand enhancement related research, or novel concepts of products), then answer the following questions
  • Is the concept practical and promising?
  • Minimal resources necessary (animal, time, labor)?
  • Would the conclusion determine if worthy of continued assessment

3. Principles of Project Development
The principles that Smithfield follow during a project development process include:

  • Define a focused research objective (don't try to answer too many questions within one trial...)
  • Sample size calculation is critical (need to performance statistical power test, back to Dr. Kitt's point) --- For example, to detect a 0.1% difference in born-alived, 15000 sows are required. In a typical Smithfield sow study, at least 600 sows per treatments are used.
  • Determine appropriate experimental design
  • Important questions are rarely answered with one several trials may be required.

4. Final thoughts

  • Research and tech will continue to drive enhancements with an accelerated pace of change.
  • Answers to address concerns related to how modern Ag impacts the environment, affects antibiotic resistance, how animals are housed and raised, will require innovative solutions.
  • Impact of new areas of tech in animal Ag will be increasingly important - computing, remote monitoring, big data, IoT.
  • New opportunities will require a willingness to collaborate, openness to new ideas, and a culture that allows/rewards risk.

📖 Dr. Clayton Johnson (Carthage System)

A Personal Perspective - ASF

"Since the initial report of African swine fever (ASF) in China 18 months ago, the global swine industry has been monitoring the predictable spread of ASF throughout China and Southeast Asia with great fear and anxiety"...Dr. Johnson started out with his rich & first-hand experiences in China and discussed the current ASF situations & indications for the U.S. swine industry.

1. ASF Overview
It is an old, incurable disease from an unique virus... (my previous blog on ASF virus can be found here)

For diagnosis, validated methods here in the U.S. include

  • PCR (blood, spleen, tonsil, lymph node)
  • ELISE ab testing ELISA
  • Virus isolation.

Everything else is non-validated samples! E.g. oral fluids, processed fluids, and even serum are not validated tests.

2. Current China situation

Repopulation of farms with early outbreaks was generally unsuccessful due to poor hygiene and sanitation, trying to repopulate too fast, or poor farm and transportation biosecurity. Then, there was minimal repopulation from May-August 2019 mainly because of summer heat concerns and also extended downtime.

Now, recent repopulations have been much more successful --- Why?

  • Improved transportation biosecurity
  • Significant investment in diagnostic monitoring.
  • Different population strategy --- finisher gilts from multiple sources and health status, purebred gilts were possible (from internal multiply), significant investment in compartmentalization.
  • Massive biosecurity investment --- even shower-in-shower-out feed mill!
  • Major production changes --- no animal movement, heat checking and breeding without boars

Currently, "Tooth extraction" is a common practice in China, meaning that individual pig to be removed without depopulation. This might be a difficult to monitor though in a vaccinated herd (because don't know whether it's vaccine sheds or disease sheds). Also, monitoring piglets in farrowing house are a challenge as piglets generally do not show symptoms.

3. What about vaccines?
At this point, There is NO licensed vaccine yet in China, so all vaccine use is illegal. But many fake vaccines exist with high cost..

Some small scale field trials with ASF vaccines are being conducted ---- these are government sanctioned, gene-edited MLV vaccine. Feedback on the vaccine safety and efficacy has been inconsistent.

It is till unsure of timeline of government approval. There are many barriers still to overcome --- e.g. ability to grow vaccine candidates at scale (locations capable to grow/increased cost of managing this virus), understanding the demand for ASF vaccine from country to country, uncertainty of licensure and approval...

4. Is the U. S. Prepared?
Bottom Line ---- we have to eradicate it immediately if ASF appears in the country. And we do it by depopulation, quarantines, and testing to verify negative status.

Likely progression of eradication events look like this: 72 hour national standstill (no pigs move) --- control zones established around positive sites --- monitoring to prove status --- permitted movement of feed and animals --- depopulation & carcass disposal --- continued monitoring.

We can expect multi-focal and dispersed outbreak --- Federal confirmatory diagnostics only allowed at NVSL and/or plum island. It is important to note that current diagnostic plan is not practical, because of lack of supplies, lack of trained personnel, and potentially lack of testing capacity.

Also, current disposal options are not practical for large sites --- significant regulatory interagency collaboration will be required, many options pose ricks for predators, feral hogs, vultures, and other wildlife service as fomites.

Another important point is that show pigs and niche producers pose high risks, yet they are not active in national pork board or other commercial industry programs.

Take home message

  • Prevention is key to our business
  • We have to improve the pace of ASF test and sample validation
  • We need better options for mass euthanasia
  • We need site specific plans for carcass disposal
  • ASF-free zone is getting smaller and smaller every year
  • Disease is a global problem, country-specific solutions will always be short sighed and self-serving.
  • Need global industry collaboration, planning and shared resources to have any hope of turning the tide of the war.  (Really like these two points)

📖 Dr. Laura Greiner (Iowa State University)

Understanding today's sow and preparing for the future

1. Today's sows

Our sows today are leaner, with a reduced feed intake, especially for first-parity females (who consume consume 0.5 - 1.0 kg less per day than a mature sow)

The sow must mobilize body issues to meet the demand of milk production when feed intake cannot meet the demand of the mammary gland --- 72% of the energy consumed goes towards milk production; and at peak milk production, 95% of the nutrients consumed go to milk.

If sow feed intake is limited, piglet ADG is less (e.g. 3 kg /d FI in sows translates to 0.22 kg/d ADG in piglets, while 9 kg/d intake translates to 0.27 kg/d ADG.

From 1985 to 2012, although improvements are seen in # of pigs born, # of pigs weaned, litter gain (mostly due to longer lactating period), and some improvement in ADG.,  However, milk production per pig weaned (kg/d) didn't change much.

Today's PSY for the U.S. is around 24, while it's about 28 for the E.U., so there is still great potential.

2. Estimating requirements complicated, especially for amino acid requirements.

For example, multiple factors in early lactation may change requirement (transfer of immunoglobulins, remodeling of adipose tissue, regression of the uterus), and some amino acids are being used for other purposes besides milk production, so it cannot be measured simply by milk amino acids composition. And the order of limiting amino acids would change depending on whether a sow is mobilizing tissue or not.

3. Other opportunities in sow production

  • High mortality of piglets...especially for IUGR piglets.
  • Prolapses...which is the primary cause for mortality in sows, and this is more related to water quality, body condition, bump feeding strategy, and perineal score based on a recent collaborated research led by ISU, KSU and Purdue (Report can be found here)
  • Sow longevity...culling rate in the U.S. averages 47%. Need more understanding on what happens to the female before first breeding on mammary development, joint health, and ovarian development.
(Prolapses is a major cause for sow mortality. Source: Ross, 2019)

Dr. Greiner continued to discuss many foreseeable changes in the industry that we need to be mindful about, such as labor issues, legislation control, and production issues, and ended the talk with Dr. Allee's wisdom: " The sow is so important and we need to better understand her and what she does".


2020 Midwest Meeting Proceedings, Omaha, NE.

Have a wonderful weekend!Until Next Time😊

Disclaimer: The blog has no affiliation, sponsorship, or partnership with any products or companies mentioned in this post.