Approximately 600,000 hogs are backlogged in Iowa right now after processing plant challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered or reduced operations at numerous plants in the region. According to official numbers from the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship, nearly 61,000 hogs have been euthanized.
Pat McGonegle, chief executive officer of the Iowa Pork Producers Assn., told Feedstuffs that producers continued to do everything they can to avoid euthanasia and disposal.
“I know a number of producers have found alternative markets, including selling live pigs direct to consumers,” he said, adding that other producers have found new and unique markets in other states and other places. “So, I think that’s part of what has helped manage the abundance of pigs that we have.”
McGonegle added that nutritional efforts to slow the hogs' rate of gain have been “very, very successful.”
Additionally, some producers have found innovative housing to keep the hogs, while others have changed stocking densities. “That’s helped us a lot,” he said.
Meanwhile, on the processing side, a couple of really positive signs are that the plants continue to grow their weekly daily capacity and have been running very large Saturday harvests.
He said everybody’s just trying to work together to remedy the situation.
“I think pork producers just continue to be hopeful to find ways to keep the pigs so they can head into the food channel,” he said. “It’s going to take us a little while to work our way through it.”
Iowa extends disposal program
Iowa secretary of agriculture Mike Naig announced June 9 the extension of financial assistance offered through the Iowa Disposal Assistance Program to pork producers who were forced to euthanize their animals due to COVID-19 supply chain disruptions before the program launched on May 26. Producers can start applying for retroactive funding today, which includes hogs that were euthanized between May 1 and May 25, 2020.
“COVID-19 is causing ongoing disruptions to the food supply chain. Pork producers are going to extraordinary lengths to find solutions, but it’s not enough to make up for the backlog happening on farms,” Naig said. “Euthanasia is a very difficult decision for producers to make and is always used as a last resort. The disposal assistance program is just one way the state is trying to help producers during this challenging time.”
The department is offering producers $40 per approved animal to help cover some of the disposal costs for market-ready hogs (weighing at least 225 lb.). Producers must provide documentation, including proof of proper disposal, and an affidavit from their herd veterinarian confirming impending welfare issues, to receive funding. Each approved applicant may receive funding for up to 30,000 animals per round, depending on the number of applicants.
To qualify for retroactive funding (Round 0), producers must submit their applications to the Iowa Department of Agriculture during June 9-22. Applicants will be notified of approval by June 24. To qualify for Round 0 funding, producers must have euthanized animals during May 1-25. Disposal claims must be received by the Iowa Department of Agriculture by June 29, and proof of proper disposal must be submitted by July 6.
Pork producers can also apply for Round 3 assistance during June 9-22. Applicants will be notified of approval by June 24. To qualify for Round 3 funding, producers must euthanize animals between June 9 and June 26. Disposal claims must be received by the Iowa Department of Agriculture by June 29, and proof of proper disposal must be submitted by July 6.