New exports with growth potential position swine producers for market profitability, By Jeff Morris UW Madison

Modern-day swine production has faced numerous challenges over the years. From increased production costs, herd health concerns, ever-increasing regulations, and the ever-looming threat of a foreign animal disease outbreak (most notably African Swine Fever), one could understand why swine producers would feel down. However, during my travels this summer to World Pork Expo, national shows, and most recently the Wisconsin State Fair there is a notable optimism for success within the swine industry.

Over the past year, producers have at times been losing upwards of $40 per head on each market animal sold. Factors contributing to the losses have included a 9% increase in the cost of production during the past year. Those increases were upwards of 60% three years ago. Adding to woes, domestic demand has softened with inflation. This also includes a steep decline in purchases by China as they increase production after recovering from African Swine Fever.

On the bright side, exports largely driven by sales to Japan, Korea, and Latin America with growth potential in Central America and South America are up. This has led to increased market prices and moved most producers into a profitable position.

One thing is for certain, production improvements in a pork producer’s herd have never been more important. We have seen an increase of 1 to 1.5% each year in pigs weaned per litter. Keeping an eye on production costs along with adapting new practices and technologies to improve production efficiencies are also important.

Regulations such as California’s Proposition 12 and Massachusetts Question 3 will continue to change the way pork producers house and raise their livestock. These regulations are not going away, and we must stay diligent in understanding the ramifications on our operations. As I write this article it is too early to tell how markets, certification, and production will be affected. As your Swine Outreach Specialist, I will focus on putting educational programs together to best address these and possible new regulations from around the country.

Much of my time during the past year has been focused on Foreign Animal Disease Preparedness and herd health.  While an individual farm faces a disease outbreak, no doubt it is a stressful time for you and your staff. However, swine producers are winning the battle against PEDv and mycoplasma pneumonia.

Along with several herds continuing to test negative for PRRS, these are encouraging signs and can be attributed to producers’ improved production methods, enhanced biosecurity, improved vaccinations, and when-needed treatments.

As I write this article, the United States is still free of African Swine Fever. Working in cooperation with DATCP, Wisconsin Pork Association, and the USDA, together we are all prepared to assist swine producers if we ever face African Swine Fever or another Foreign Animal Disease.

In the event of an outbreak, swine exports would be halted which experts say would lead to a 50% drop in pork prices.  A mandatory 72-hour stop movement of all swine in the United States would be instituted. Afterward movement permits would become necessary.

There are tools provided by the National Pork Board that can help swine producers get back to business quicker.  Traceability of swine movements becomes a must and AgView ( is an excellent tool to keep track of animal movement.  A secure pork supply plan will also be needed as well as a farm biosecurity plan. To establish a Secure Pork Supply Plan, the website walks producers through the process step by step. Wisconsin Pork Association staff or myself are available to help swine producers implement traceability and biosecurity plans.

I am planning several educational opportunities based on every facet of production including breeding, farrowing, nursery, grow-finish, and show pigs. During the Corn Soy Expo we will also highlight the work being done at UW Platteville, UW River Falls, and UW Madison swine units.  Check our website for news and articles at or on Facebook at Wisconsin Livestock Extension.

Source: Wisconsin State Farmer