World Pork Expo: Diarrhea, sow stalls, smoke and steam

UPDATED 4:30 P.M. WEDNESDAY

If you want to see what’s going on at the World Pork Expo, follow me on Twitter at @EdWhiteMarkets

And I’ll update this post a few times today.

But Twitter’s the best way to see what’s happening. So if you don’t have a Twitter account, today’s a good day to get one. They’re free and fun. And you never have to Tweet if you’re shy. But you can follow people like me who Tweet about ag and farming.

WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON:

SAY GOODBYE TO THE NOTION OF TREND YIELDS AND STEADY GROWTH

Iowa State University Midwest weather expert Elwynn Taylor reiterated his view that we have entered a 25 year period of weather volatility that will lead to large swings in production, from huge to badly diminished. That will require farmers to take risk management much more seriously.

He also said we’re in a period in which there is a high chance for La Nina weather systems to recur. That’s bad for Midwestern production, but good for northern U.S. plains and Canadian Prairie production.

PEDV MYSTERY IN THE MARKETS

Steve Meyer of Paragon Economics said there is still a great mystery about the size of the U.S. market hog inventory, because seven to eight million piglets have been killed or prevented by the disease, but USDA has been finding only a tiny impact. However, U.S. packers are slowing production and saying they’re having trouble finding enough hogs, so the dearth of market hogs is likely only beginning now, six months after the worst of the outbreak occurred and at the age when piglets reach market weight, so the truth will soon be known.

Meyer doesn’t expect futures prices to rise above the peaks hit in the early spring during the “panic buying” that occurred, but he thinks they’ll pop back up to the $120s this summer. And if the Midwest and rest of the world produces anything like an average crop, break-evens will drop with the new crop year and profits should be excellent.

PEDV SUMMIT

Senior veterinarians coordinating PEDv control spoke this afternoon.

A key point a couple focused on was using this outbreak to prepare better for the next outbreak of a disease that isn’t reportable but could be economically devastating. Because PEDv isn’t reportable and the OIE isn’t too worried about it, when it appeared in the U.S. there was no clear plan of control. That allowed the disease to quickly get out of hand.

Canada was commended for keeping PEDv out of the country for about a year, and then for controlling the spread better than generally seen in the U.S.

NPPC president Howard Hill said he thinks Canada might be able to eradicate the disease.

WEDNESDAY MORNING

WHAT’S BEING TALKED ABOUT AND THE GENERAL MOOD

It never seems relaxed and complacent in the hog business, I’ve gotta say after covering this event for about 12 years and seeing crises and issues and disputes always dominating each year’s focus.

This year it’s lots about Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, trade negotiations with Japan, and other real issues to fret about. But let me point out here, before I spend the rest of my posts and Tweets and stories writing about problems and disasters, that this is actually a happy year for most in the hog industry and people are making lots of money. If you don’t get struck by PEDv, you’re probably making lots of money to start paying back all the money you borrowed during the bad years of low prices. So there’s actually a positive and cheerful mood here, even if we’re all going to be talking about PEDv and other anxiety-inducing issues for the next three years.

PEDv

Apparently the number of outbreaks is noticeably declining. This is not a surprise, because the virus hates warm weather, but it’s nice to see and allows farmers a chance to catch up on preventive measures before the fall’s cool weather comes and brings the virus back on.

Leading veterinarians said that sow immunity is still not well known, and that for some reason infected herds have been harder to get back up to full productivity since January. Lots of new funding is going into research and money from Genome Alberta and Ontario Pork were acknowledged in the press conference held this morning.

U.S. hog industry is trying to track and wants to know how the two strains of PEDv got into the U.S. and wants to know how to better control the entry of diseases like PEDv from foreign countries.

NOT BIG ON JAPAN

The National Pork Producers Council was a big supporter of allowing Japan into the Trans Pacific Partnership trade talks. But it is getting furious about Japan’s demand to have its farmers and agriculture and food markets protected from most foreign imports. The protection the Japanese are demanding makes any deal impossible now, NPPC’s Nick Giordano said. Randy Spronk, former NPPC president, said “it would rob U.S. farmers” of billions of dollars in sales that they should be getting.

TALKING TO GROCERS AND FOODMAKERS

The gestation stall debate has made the hog industry a lot more interactive with the grocery and food industries. If food makers and sellers don’t know how and why farmers raise pigs the way they do, they can become subject to activist claims and campaigns. So farm and ag groups need to get out to talk to the retailers and manufacturers.

“It’s not their job to reach out to us for these questions,” said Dallas Hockman of NPPC.

Hockman said some of the big grocers are now anxious that the gestation stall deadlines they set might not be easy to reach. NPPC has suggested those kinds of companies talk to the pork industry first before making public statements and taking positions that are hard to modify afterwards.

“Prior to making these (deadline announcements), let’s have some discussion,” said Hockman.

“We’d rather not hear about this through some press release.”

About the author

Ed White — Ed White has specialized in markets coverage since 2001 and has achieved the Derivatives Market Specialist (DMS) designation with the Canadian Securities Institute.

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