By Peter Shinn
Feed costs remain a worry to the nation's pork producers, even with this year's expected record-large 13.3 billion bushel corn crop. So says National Pork Board President Lynn Harrison, who finishes 10,000 pigs a year and farms around 600 acres near Elk Mound, Wisconsin.
Harrison is in Des Moines this week to continue work on the Pork Checkoff’s 2008 budget process. And Harrison told Brownfield as he looks toward 2008, he knows there's no guarantee next year's corn crop will be as big as this year's.
"We're still up in the air about feed costs I think, Harrison said, "still trying to learn how to use some of the by-products the ethanol industry's been providing us with."
In fact, the Pork Checkoff is helping generate research in that area right now through the Nutritional Efficiency Consortium. And Dr. Mark Boggess, Director of Animal Science for the National Pork Board, told Brownfield research into ethanol co-products is just the beginning.
"Using distillers' grains is the first step," Boggess explained. "Making pork producers and pigs biologically more efficient themselves may be even more important than just really attacking distillers' grains."
According to Boggess, research is being done right now to help capitalize on the progress being made in mapping the swine genome. He said as portions of the swine genome map are released, researchers are immediately using that information.
And while practical applications of some of that research may be some time coming, an issue many pork producers are confronting right now is dodging the weather when applying manure. Allan Stokes is Director of Environmental Programs for the Pork Checkoff. He told Brownfield, even though skies have cleared for now, it’s still wise to check the forecast before applying manure.
"Some of the rains we've gotten where we've gotten a couple of inches in a relatively short period time, those, you might still have some issues," Stokes advised. "So you always want to keep an eye on the weather.
And Stokes reminded producers it’s always a good idea to inject manure or disk it in as soon as possible after application to help control odor and limit the potential for run-off. Stokes noted the Pork Checkoff has been instrumental in funding odor control research. He added odor control remains a critical environmental issue, particularly in the ever-increasing rural urban interface.
Naturally, environmental programs and feed efficiency are just a couple of many initiatives overseen by the Pork Checkoff. And that means figuring out the budget can be tough. That’s why Harrison said over 200 pork producers have participated in this year’s budget process. And Harrison suggested he'd like to see that trend continue, as long as getting all those pork producers together doesn’t itself break the bank.
"We try and get as many fingerprints on the budget as we can afford," Harrison said.