Thoughts from my first winter trade show

This past week I was a speaker at the Passion for Pigs conference and tradeshow in Columbia, Missouri. While freezing rain in the region reduced attendance somewhat, a good crowd was still present. After spending time with exhibitors and producers I have the following thoughts:

• While not wildly optimistic, the producers in attendance felt their future in pork production was solid. I got the sense that they feel the price of meat in the retail case will continue to rise to a level that will allow for a small profit with current and expected feed grain prices.
• Quite a bit of discussion on how the public views our industry, at least from the welfare front. Most owners of sows are looking at alternatives to crated gestation with the expectation that pressure to reduce usage of crates will continue.
• Euthanasia methods are coming to the forefront. Expect to see a variety of euthanasia tools exhibited at the winter trade shows. The National Pork Board is seeking research projects to fund that will examine alternative euthanasia methods. As an industry, we are getting better at identifying and euthanizing pigs. Good pig care people still struggle with timely euthanasia, but are getting better at recognizing that timely euthanasia is best for a pig that is obviously suffering or that will have no value at market time.
• Building companies are reporting an uptick in interest in building packages. While new buildings won’t be constructed at a pace anywhere close to the 2006-7 rate, there are enough people interested in new facilities that builders feel there will be a fair amount of construction activity this summer.
• Producers continue to innovate with regard to energy usage and manure storage. I talked with a producer who is constructing a facility to use exhaust air from a grow-finish facility to dry manure solids so they can be trucked a greater distance from the production site while the liquids can be irrigated. Also talk of solar systems on barn roofs and wind driven generators at production sites.
• Breed-wean sites continue to invest in filtration to reduce the risk of a PRRS outbreak.
• Some discussion of the proposed new GIPSA rules, but many feel that now that we are past the deadline for submission of comments, all we can do is wait to see what comes out of Washington. Many are glad to hear that USDA will do a more detailed cost-benefit analysis. Whatever the final rule looks like, I expect someone to file a lawsuit so expect the uncertainty to continue for many years on this.
• One of my presentations was on emergency alarms and emergency ventilation. I continue to be surprised by the number of growers and pig owners who don’t have an effective emergency plan in place. In many cases, they have equipment installed, but don’t routinely test it to verify that it is working.

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