NEW "tools" are now ready for pork producers to improve their productivity, profitability and professionalism, including revisions to the industry's PQA Plus program and a Sow Housing Calculator.
The tools were introduced June 6 at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa.
Pork customers and consumers are asking for better documentation of how pigs are grown, especially as production affects food safety and swine welfare, said Conley Nelson, a pork producer from Algona, Iowa, and immediate past president of the National Pork Board.
PQA Plus, an industry program, is "a tangible way to measure producers' success" in those critical responsibilities, Nelson said in announcing revisions to PQA Plus that he noted will make the program "a stronger tool" for meeting customer and consumer "expectations."
In one revision, producers, employees and others involved in production must pass a test related to 10 good production practices. Online recertification will be required.
Also, farms must submit a corrective action plan for noncompliance findings following site assessments.
PQA Plus aims to embrace pork quality assurance and swine care and well-being.
As of May 24, Nelson reported, 58,925 individuals were PQA Plus certified — a number that includes producers and employees — and 16,566 farm sites were assessed — a number that represents 75% of the U.S. swine inventory.
Pork Board chief executive officer Chris Novak introduced the Sow Housing Calculator, describing it as an online tool that can help producers "make important decisions" about facility management options for their farms, including remodeling.
He said the calculator will "model" the financial impact of making changes in facilities on sow farms, including the impact of changes in herd size and nutrition, conversion from gestation stalls to group pens or replacing existing stalls with new stalls.
He said the calculator is available now at www.pork.org.
Noting that there are advantages and disadvantages to both gestation stalls and group pens, Novak emphasized that the board's position on sow housing has not changed: The board supports the right of producers to choose housing that best fits their farms and management.
Also introduced were a benchmarking workplace safety system that will provide producers with industry-wide, quantifiable indicators of workplace safety to compare safety on their farms with other farms to decrease and prevent future accidents and injuries.
The system will be available beginning June 17 at www.pork.org.
The board also said a second-generation environmental impact calculator is now available for producers to help determine and improve their carbon footprint, as well as their environmental impact on air and water and on land use.
The calculator is available by calling the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-7675.
The board added that a "Swine Reproduction Guide," which offers producers "a decision tree" for identifying breeding issues with gilts, sows and boars, is also available at www.pork.org.
The guide was developed by the U.S. Pork Center of Excellence.