EARLY reaction from pork producers and their veterinarians to the new Swine Health Information Center has been overwhelmingly positive, Dr. Paul Sundberg, executive director of the center, said.
He said producers are eager for the center to begin its work to help detect potential disease threats to their herds and to help avoid devastating losses from diseases.
Sundberg, a former practicing veterinarian and the former senior vice president for science and technology at the National Pork Board, has been working since July 1 to set up an office for the new organization and to arrange meetings with producers and others who have a stake in the health of the U.S. swine herd.
The center will be located in Perry, Iowa, in office space leased from the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV), one of many partners the center hopes to enlist to aid the effort, Sundberg said.
Another partner, the National Pork Board, has provided $15 million in pork checkoff funding over five years. Sundberg said although the center is an independent organization, it will work closely with veterinarians, pork producers, swine genetics companies, animal health product providers and organizations such as the Pork Board, AASV, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), land-grant universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, among others.
"The center is in its infant stages, and we want to make sure we aren't creating unrealistic expectations for our work," Sundberg said. "We are not going to prevent another disease such as (porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome), circovirus or porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV). What we can do is develop better diagnostic capabilities for earlier detection of high-risk pathogens and to provide data analysis to help producers and their veterinarians improve the management of the health risks for the pigs on their farms."
Sundberg said another key role of the center will be to develop an international swine health information network to identify and prioritize high-risk pathogens worldwide. He said he will be meeting soon with veterinary schools that have contacts at universities in other countries to get ideas for forming the international network.
He said such a network could have been helpful in managing the swine industry's most recent devastating outbreak of PEDV. He said in March 2013, AASV identified PEDV as an international threat.
"Everybody said (PEDV is) a terrible thing and a good thing we didn't have it here. Then, it showed up here in May," Sundberg said. "I think in a similar circumstance, (the Swine Health Information Center) will have a better heads-up from the international network and a better ability to improve management of the disease after it gets here through improved diagnostics that will be formed from the network and through producer-to-producer communication and coordination. It can help us save a lot of pigs that otherwise could succumb to the disease."
Sundberg said he and the center's board -- made up of representatives of the Pork Board, NPPC, AASV plus at-large pork producers and leaders -- are pleased by the early industry response and are eager to begin delivering results.
Animal research support
NPPC chief executive officer Neil Dierks was recently presented with the Distinguished Support of Animal Science Award from the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) at its joint annual meeting with the American Dairy Science Assn. in Orlando, Fla.
ASAS supports the careers of scientists and animal producers in the U.S. and internationally, fostering the discovery, sharing and application of scientific knowledge about the responsible use of animals to enhance human life and well-being.
Dierks received the honor because of his strong support for increasing agricultural research and education.
Among other efforts, ASAS cited Dierks's involvement in planning, developing and executing a legislative initiative by farm organizations to increase state appropriations for the Iowa State University College of Agriculture at a time when federal funds for the land-grant system were stagnant. That effort secured more than $10 million annually over a five-year period in new funding for the college.
Dierks also staffed the first pork industry research review, identifying and cataloging swine and pork research efforts being conducted by USDA's Agricultural Research Service and land-grant universities. The work led to formal pork industry policies supporting increased resources for swine and pork research and more formal interaction among producers, USDA administrators and scientists.
"Neil has dedicated much of his career to advancing research and education efforts that aid the animal agriculture industry," ASAS CEO Meghan Wulster-Radcliffe said. "His work has helped public- and private-sector scientists provide pork producers and others the knowledge they need to produce safe, nutritious, wholesome food while raising animals in a healthful, ethical way."
Dierks joined NPPC in 1990 and served in a series of senior executive positions, including vice president for research and education. He became CEO in 2002. A graduate of Iowa State University, he serves on the board of directors of the U.S. Pork Center of Excellence, which works to facilitate cooperation and collaboration among and between universities, the pork industry and government to provide pork producers with research, education and information related to pork production and animal well-being.
Sow housing website
A new website will launch next month to provide information for Canadian swine producers considering converting their sow barns to group housing.
In response to changes in requirements for housing gestating sows under Canada's new Pig Code of Practice, the Prairie Swine Centre, the University of Manitoba and an Ontario-based engineering firm, in partnership with Swine Innovation Porc, are working with selected producers to document their conversions to group housing.
Dr. Jennifer Brown, a research scientist in ethology with the Prairie Swine Centre, said the intent is to track four primary conversions and 10 secondary conversions across Canada.
"We do have one of those primary conversion sites that we've identified in Ontario, but we are still in the process of identifying other barn conversion sites," Brown said.
In terms of secondary sites, or barns that have already converted, Brown said four sites have been documented: two that have converted in Ontario, one in Alberta and one new barn site in Saskatchewan.
However, Brown said they are still in the process of looking for more farms that could participate in the project.
Producers that are in the process of making their decisions about group sow housing can get assistance in selecting their preferred feeding system and in designing a conversion that's going to optimize their barn space, she said.
Brown said the goal is to provide good examples of how the barns started and then show the conversions to completion.
She noted that information gathered through the project will be made available to producers who are considering converting to group housing through producer meetings across the country and will be posted to the new website, groupsowhousing.com, which is slated to launch in August.
Boar stud facility
Topigs Norsvin has formed a partnership, Skylab LLP, with AI Partners of Morris, Minn., to construct a 335-head, state-of-the-art boar stud. The investment by Topigs Norsvin USA will be more than $1 million. The stud will contain both terminal and maternal lines.
"Our business success and strong relationship with AI Partners and the continued demand for our products propelled our decision to make this strategic investment," Topigs Norsvin USA CEO Mike Terrill said.
The new boar stud will operate with the latest technology and expertise by AIM Worldwide, a global Topigs Norsvin organization that is responsible for the quality and production of more than 8 million doses of semen per year. Semen quality is controlled by CASA systems, and production is certified following the quality standards of AIM Worldwide. The stud will use air filtering and is fully air conditioned to assure high health and the best environment for the boars, according to the announcement.
Martin Bijl, Topigs Norsvin International CEO, said he sees the investment in Skylab as a logical step in the development of the U.S. company.
"We see a growing demand of Topigs Norsvin genetics in the market; especially the new parent sow line being introduced at this moment is creating a lot of new clients. With this (artificial insemination) stud, we are able to realize the growth in sales now and in the near future," Bijl said.