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World Pork Expo buzz

06/09/2011 @ 2:48pm

Two topics were top of mind by producers attending World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa, this week.

The first is a given: Feed costs are high and corn supplies are tight. “I am very concerned there won’t be enough corn,” said Sam Carney, a pork producer from Adair, Iowa. “More flooding is expected, and these are the tightest stocks ever.” He said North Carolina got its crops planted early and could have an advantage in swine feed costs. That wasn’t the case on Carney’s family farm. “This is the first year in my life we didn’t plant any corn in April,” he said.

The second topic generating a lot of buzz, although in hushed tones, is the new drug from Pfizer Animal Health approved by the FDA in April that eliminates the need for surgical castration in pigs. Improvest is a protein compound that uses the pig's immune system to provide the same effect as castration. Pigs are given the drug in two injections starting at nine weeks old. The second dose is administered at least four weeks after the priming dose. Pigs are sent to market no earlier than four weeks after the second injection. Improvest is used now in Brazil, Australia, and many other countries.

“It works, but we have to be careful that we don’t scare consumers,” said one large producer who has used it on several farms. There is no risk to people who consume pork from pigs given Improvest, but special care must be taken to avoid accidental self-injection, as it can negatively affect reproductive physiology of both men and women. Only trained, certified technicians are permitted to administer the product.

“The efficiencies of raising pigs with it are huge,” said the producer, who did not want to be named. “At the end of the day it is good technology.” Intact males grow faster and stay leaner. Producers who use it need to follow new nutritional guidelines and best handling practices.

Pfizer is working with veterinarians and producers to gradually introduce the product to the industry. 

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