News from the National Pork Board
Research Review Newsletter

Evaluating effects of transport conditions on weaned and feeder pig performance: Weaned pigs require more care in transport

In this Checkoff-funded project, Jay Harmon, Iowa State University, and his fellow researchers reviewed data from more than 7000 loads of weaned and feeder pigs, looking for possible mortality relationships and the long-term impact of transport stress on piglets and the environmental characteristics within the trailer.

Researchers found that weaned pigs had significantly greater death loss during transport than did feeder pigs (0.0333% versus 0.0243%), likely due to the combined stress of weaning and transport. In addition, weaned pigs were more susceptible to transport stress during hot weather (above 77°F) than feeder pigs. More specifically, the longer the travel distance, the higher mortality was in weaned pigs. Elevated death loss was highest in feeder pigs that traveled the longest distances. For both classes of pigs, mortality rates during shipping were lowest in mild weather (59°F to 77°F). Therefore, greater measures to reduce heat stress for weaned pigs may be necessary.

There was a holdover effect, as weaned pigs that faced transport stress tended to have higher death loss in their second week in the finisher. During the first week, mortality rates were 0.050%, 0.050%, and 0.045% for cold, mild, and hot weather transport, respectively. In the second week, mortality rates were 0.354%, 0.300%, and 0.272% for cold, mild, and hot transport. This may be due to starve-out of pigs that failed to thrive in the first week, but succumbed in the second week. Researchers noted the cause-effect linkage to transport environment is not clear-cut and other effects are certainly involved. For more details, find all past editions of “Research Review Newsletter” at

Latest productivity report card shows progress, hiccups

Continuous progress is a hallmark of US pork production, and keeping data is its centerpiece, according to Chris Hostetler, director of animal science for the Pork Checkoff. To that end, he points to the work that the Checkoff’s Animal Science Committee had funded that gathers and disseminates productivity data.

Each year, a data collection company and Ken Stalder, swine extension specialist at Iowa State University, compile and analyze production data from about 35% of the US sow herd and offspring. All production phases (sow farm, nursery, wean-to-finish, and conventional finisher facilities) are included. Highlights of the results are published annually in the “Industry Productivity Analysis.”

The latest industry report card (Table 1) shows both progress and hiccups. “While there have been gains in the overall production efficiency of the US swine herd, the analysis points to areas producers can tweak for additional improvement, such as pre-weaning mortality,” Hostetler said. With the latest data set, he noted, producers must take the impact of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus into account. Porcine epidemic diarrhea began in 2013 and affected herds more broadly in 2014 and 2015.

Table 1: Productivity data compiled from approximately 35% of the US sow herd and offspring, including all production phases*

Average sow farm productivity
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Pigs/mated sow/year 24.1 23.9 23.7 22.2 23.4 23.6
Litters/mated sow/year 2.33 2.31 2.30 2.26 2.27 2.28
Total born 13.4 13.4 13.6 13.5 13.5 13.7
Number born alive 12.1 12.3 12.4 12.3 12.1 12.4
Number weaned 10.2 10.3 10.2 9.7 10.0 10.2
Pre-weaning mortality (%) 15.5 15.5 17.3 20.5 17.4 17.3
Weaning weight (pounds) 13.1 13.2 13.4 13.6 13.9 13.9
Weaning age (days) 20.9 21.5 21.9 21.7 22.0 22.1

*   Full report available at

“Producers need to compile and analyze their farm’s data and then compare it to the national database,” Hostetler said. “That is how you really get a feel of where you stand and how much progress you need to make to stay competitive today.”

For the full report, go to or contact Chris Hostetler at or 515-223-2606.

National Pork Board adds funds for secure pork supply, creates checklist

The National Pork Board recently approved an additional $1.6 million in funding to help support the USDA in creating a “Secure Pork Supply Plan” to help America’s pig farmers respond quickly and successfully to a major threat, such as a foreign animal disease. The plan will enhance communication and coordination of all pork chain segments to help producers keep their farms operating and all related business activities functioning.

“We’re thankful that our country has not experienced a disease such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) since 1929,” said Terry O’Neel, National Pork Board president from Friend, Nebraska. “However, if we get the news that FMD, African swine fever, or another FAD has arrived, the Secure Pork Supply Plan will pay big dividends by getting pork production back to normal much faster.”

Basics of the plan that will help producers achieve this include implementing sound biosecurity, using premises identification tags, keeping detailed production records, and maintaining all necessary health papers and certificates. Producers can find all of these steps and more in Checkoff’s new FAD Preparation Checklist available on by searching for FAD checklist.

For more information, contact Dr Patrick Webb at or 515-223-3441.

Checkoff’s Pig Welfare Symposium coming in November

The National Pork Board is holding its first-ever Pig Welfare Symposium on November 7-9, 2017, in Des Moines, Iowa. The objectives of the symposium are to improve the well-being of pigs by disseminating recent research findings and recommendations, raising awareness of current and emerging issues, and identifying potential solutions. To accomplish this, the symposium provides a forum for sharing ideas, learning from other segments of the industry, and fostering dialogue on pig welfare-related issues.

The dynamic program is intended for producers, veterinarians, academicians, packers, processors, and allied industry partners. To register for the symposium and optional interactive workshops, visit or contact Sherrie Webb at or 515-223-3533.

Repositioning pork for changing audience

With the consumer market for pork and other protein sources shifting rapidly, the Pork Checkoff is putting the final changes on a plan to capitalize on those changes by repositioning pork marketing, Terry O’Neel, president of the National Pork Board, told an audience at World Pork Expo in June. “The Pork Checkoff has embarked on a journey to determine how best to market pork today,” O’Neel, a pork producer from Friend, Nebraska, said. “The direction may be drastically different than we’ve seen in the last quarter century.”

The National Pork Board’s chief executive officer, Bill Even, said the big changes that require a new marketing plan are driven by “the three Ms:” Millennials: America’s largest generation has increasing buying power and makes buying decisions differently than its predecessor generations; Mobile: The speed of communication and access to information fuels demand, requiring constant attention to new means of communication; and Multicultural: Currently 36% of the US population, the newest arrivals to the US and their families, will make up 50% of the population by 2050.

Even said that responding to those drivers in a way that assures pork demand remains strong prompted the National Pork Board to spend the past year conducting extensive research to define the critical needs of pork marketing. The research has included in-depth discussions with producers, packers, processors, retailers, food service, and consumers.

For more information, contact Jarrod Sutton, vice president of domestic marketing, at or 515-223-2766.