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 at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa, on June 6.
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 is "a tangible way to measure producers' success" in those critical responsibilities, he said in announcing revisions to PQA Plus that will make the program "a stronger tool to meet (customer and consumer) expectations, he said.
The revisions include testing in which producers, employees and other individuals involved in production must pass a test related to 10 good production practices.
Also, certification and recertification will be required, the former by advisors or trainers and the later via on-line.
Also, farms must submit a corrective action plan for non-compliant findings following site assessments.
PQA Plus is the industry's program to embrace pork quality assurance and swine care and well-being.
Nelson reported that, as of May 24, 58,925 individuals were PQA Plus certified -- a number that include 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 changes in facilities on sow farms, including the effect on herd size, nutrition, conversion from gestation stalls to group pens or replacement of existing stalls with new stalls.
He said the calculator is available now at www.pork.org.
Novak emphasized that there are advantages and disadvantages to both gestation stalls and group pens and 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 industrywide, quantifiable indicators of workplace safety to compare workplace safety on their farms with that on 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 producers determine and improve their carbon footprint, as well as their environmental impact on air, water and land use.
The calculator is available by calling the Pork Checkoff Service Center at 1-800-456-7675.
The board also said a "Swine Reproduction Guide," which offers producers "a decision tree" for identifying breeding issues with gilts, sows and boars is available at www.pork.org.
The guide was developed by the U.S. Pork Center of Excellence.