News from the National Pork Board

Distance learning survey results

Pork Checkoff LogoThe Pork Checkoff has six distance learning compact discs available for purchase. Recently, a survey was conducted to ascertain their use by producers. Results proved to be very interesting.

Trained professionals interviewed 112 of 639 potential candidates who had purchased or registered at least one CD-ROM. Half of the respondents were categorized as small producers (fewer than 10,000 hogs marketed per year), 35% as midsized (10,000 to 100,000 hogs marketed per year), and 15% as large producers (over 100,000 hogs marketed per year).

The survey revealed that 75% of employers have not used educational material other than that provided by the Checkoff. Other material has come mainly from universities and suppliers.

Although 75% of respondents thought the content was very basic and appropriate for people with little experience in pork production, most agreed that the information was of high quality. Users liked the flexibility provided by distance learning, saying that the format allowed them to set their own pace for learning. Ease of use and provision of video and graphics were also mentioned as some of the top reasons users liked these educational tools.

The three most ordered discs were Effective Handling of Pigs, Farrowing Management, and Breeding and Gestation Management. The best-rated discs were Segregated Early Weaning and On-Farm Euthanasia of Swine.

Fifty-five percent of employers shared the compact discs with their employees. The CD-ROM most viewed by employees was Pork Quality Assurance, followed by On-Farm Euthanasia of Swine and Effective Handling of Pigs.

Users suggested that future versions of the compact discs should include more advanced material for experienced producers, and that the discs should be translated into Spanish. Other topics suggested included herd health issues, biosecurity, use of antibiotics, manure management, nutrition and ration formulation, environmental regulation compliance, animal welfare, financial management, and marketing.

Demographics obtained from the study are also interesting. For example, over 90% of midsized to large companies hire employees with little or no previous experience. Thirty-three percent of small companies hire employees with good experience. Up to 73% of large operations employed Hispanic workers, but only 8% of small operations and 15% of midsized operations have Hispanics in their workforce. On average, 31% of workers at large companies are Hispanic.

Update: porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) and other research proposals

The Swine Health Committee will fund up to one million dollars in PRRS-related research and $250,000 in health-related research other than PRRS in 2005 (all currency in $US). PRRS research topics include new vaccine development, planned exposure (inoculation) research, management of persistent PRRS infection, and PRRS virus elimination. The committee closed its call for submissions in October 2004. Research proposals selected by the committee will be funded in 2005, pending US Department of Agriculture approval.

The deadline for complete swine health research proposal submissions for topics other than PRRS is January 24. Topics include porcine respiratory disease complex, diseases associated with circovirus, breeding herd syndromes, biosecurity, foreign animal diseases, epidemiology, weaned pig diseases, enteric disease, and emerging diseases.