A COMMON swine industry third-party audit standard has been finalized and is available for use by swine producers and the general public, according to the National Pork Board (NPB).
The new audit platform was developed with guidance from a task force of swine industry stakeholders that included producers, customers and suppliers.
Pork producers have embraced the concept and use of third-party, on-farm audits as a way to add credibility to their dedication to animal care while continuing to build consumer trust and confidence.
However, producer delegates at the 2013 National Pork Industry Forum voiced their frustrations that the multiple third-party audits created unnecessary administrative burdens for producers and were confusing to customers.
Additionally, they reported that having more than one set of standards made it difficult to benefit from and improve their operations using the auditor's feedback since the standards differed for each third-party auditor.
"The delegates passed a resolution encouraging the National Pork Board to work with a cross-section of industry stakeholders and create a platform for a common audit," NPB director of animal welfare Sherrie Webb explained. "The NPB did coordinate and facilitate those efforts. However, the Common Swine Industry Audit is not an NPB program."
The task force was charged with developing a credible, workable and affordable common on-farm audit system. Several goals were established, including the need to review and develop a consensus of consistent standards between and among the existing third-party audits. Another goal was to create a standard process that would protect herd health through biosecurity protocols and promote observer consistency.
"Producers create biosecurity plans with their herd veterinarian to protect the health of their animals. These plans are operation and site specific," Webb said. "That is why the task force spent a considerable amount of time on the development of a set of consistent biosecurity standards for third-party observers."
The Common Swine Industry Audit will also fulfill the third-party component of the existing Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) Plus program. First, producers become certified through the education program. Then, the farms can receive PQA Plus site status through an on-farm assessment with their PQA Plus adviser. Now, producers can complete the last component — third-party verification — through the updated audit program.
"The new common audit is designed to be outcome based, not prescriptive," Webb said. "The audit platform is objective; it provides guidance for improvement of the verifiable on-farm animal welfare practices."
A common industry audit tool is just one component of the total framework of the common audit standard developed by the task force. It includes instructions for auditors, biosecurity protocols and a platform that will allow audit results to be shared to prevent duplicate audits. The audit tool was academically reviewed, beta-tested on more than 100 farms of all sizes and types and certified by the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization Inc. (PAACO).
PAACO certification includes a third-party review by a specific panel of PAACO-appointed animal welfare experts. The group critiqued the audit for improvement and evaluated it to determine that it met all 12 of the PAACO minimum criteria to be a certifiable audit instrument.
"At this year's Pork Industry Forum, delegates will have the opportunity to learn more about the audit process and the resources available to guide them as they prepare and participate in the process," Webb said.
Pork stands out
The pork checkoff recently discovered that dietitians aren't interested in only pork nutrition but that they also want to know about pork production practices, sustainability and more.
"The conversations around pork have changed," said Adria Sheil-Brown, manager of nutrition communications and research for the pork checkoff. "We were reminded of this when we recently attended the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics Food & Nutrition Conference in Atlanta (Ga.)."
With more than 8,000 attendees, including registered dietitians, nutrition professionals, chefs and other key influencers, the conference created a prime opportunity to share pork's story. Pork checkoff staff and Alicia Pedemonti, a pork producer from New Hampshire, interacted with the audience.
"Having a pork producer there makes it more real for attendees," said Pedemonti, who tries to help bridge the disconnect between farmers and consumers. "People still imagine a farmer as a picturesque old man in overalls and don't realize that producers today are nutritionists, scientists, environmental stewards and so much more."
Pedemonti answered many questions about her background, her farm and how she raises her animals.
"I noted that farmers are the original environmental stewards," Pedemonti said. "I also emphasized that pork is a safe, nutritious product. We raise it to the highest standards because we feed the same product to our own families."
The pork checkoff also served attendees a pork quinoa salad, which Sheil-Brown said "was a huge hit. You do a lot of eating at this show, and protein definitely stands out in a sea of carbs."
Many attendees welcomed the pork checkoff's recipe cards and appreciated the breadth of materials the checkoff offered at its booth, covering everything from sustainability to nutrition and portion sizes, names of new pork cuts and more.
"Every year, we hear more questions about how pork is raised," Sheil-Brown noted. "We're excited to explain how pork producers are taking big steps to lighten their environmental footprint while providing a safe, healthy, nutritious product."
Feral hog trapping system
With recordable populations now present in 48 states, feral hogs have a financial impact exceeding more than $1.5 billion each year. With no viable control option, producers have been losing the battle against feral hogs. However, a new trapping system may change that.
The Noble Foundation recently signed a commercialization agreement to bring the BoarBuster trap system to consumers across the U.S. The new trap will be exclusively manufactured and marketed by W-W Livestock Systems.
"Feral hog populations have been expanding their zone of destruction for years," Jeff Moen, Noble Foundation director of business development, said. "Our wildlife researchers identified and created a solution to the problem."
Unlike any other system available, BoarBuster uses a rigid trap enclosure that is operationally elevated above a trap site. This arrangement allows feral hogs to freely enter and exit the trapping area in order to reduce trap shyness, an inherent condition whereby intelligent animals learn what a trap does and how to avoid it.
As a critical part of this system, BoarBuster relies on a newly developed camera system created by Tactical Electronics. Unlike other trail cameras, the camera system offers the ability to deliver real-time video of the trap site, providing a broad view of the trap and any animal activity around the site. The video is also optimized for daytime or nighttime viewing.
When the system detects motion around the trap site, it sends an activity alert to the user via a smartphone and web-based app. Users can then log on to the BoarBuster system and view the activity occurring at the trap site. Watching the live video eliminates the accidental trapping of any unwanted animals.
Most important, users can remotely activate the trap while watching the video whenever a desired number of hogs have entered the trap.
"The BoarBuster is the most advanced animal trapping system out there today," said Harlan Starr, a private land manager, owner of Chattokee Lodge LLC and Chattokee Farms LLC in Alabama and administrator of a BoarBuster test site. "The live-streaming video cameras make BoarBuster so simple to use. I no longer have to sit out there late at night in the freezing cold trying to catch feral hogs. I receive an email, log on, watch what's happening and spring the trap when I want. I have caught feral hogs while eating dinner, even at a ball game. It is a remarkable piece of technology."
The scientific research conducted with the BoarBuster trap system demonstrated its ability to provide feral hog population control.
Feral hog populations must be reduced 70% annually to achieve effective control. Over years of testing and evaluation on both Noble Foundation properties as well as 10 locations around the U.S., the BoarBuster trap system caught 88% of targeted hog populations.
The BoarBuster system, which is about 18 ft. in diameter and capable of capturing more than 30 feral hogs per drop, will be available in midsummer.