28: Summer 2021 Highlights
Hello there. This is Dr. Casey Bradley and you’re listening to The Real P3 podcast, a podcast dedicated to the real pork producers around the world. I hope you enjoy.
Well, just when you thought you understood The Real P3, we’re gonna change it up on ya. We’re gonna do a summer highlights about all the different challenges we’ve been working on across the globe, and that includes the founders of The Real P3 and get some insights of what we’ve been dealing with the last few months. From the use of Zinc to free access stalls to free farrowing stalls to shortage of ingredients because of natural disasters or riots. It’s gonna be really exciting, but it’s also a sneak peak into, hopefully, a new type of episode that I’m gonna bring you. We’re gonna start debating. We’re gonna have some really good debates in the future about some of these topics and get some different perspectives on zinc oxide, free access stalls, Prop12, you name it – we’re gonna bring in some different opinions and see what we have to say about the different challenges we face in the industry. So, this is sneak peak of what’s to come a little bit here in the future for The Real P3, so I hope you enjoy!
Casey: Well, good morning, everyone! How are we doin’ today?
Vincent: Morning. Morning, Casey. Good morning, team.
Willem: Morning. Morning as well. We’re doing great. Thanks. How ‘bout you?
C: Well, I’m doin’ good. It’s Friday, it’s a hot day here in Arkansas already, and so it’s definitely summer! Which is why we’re here today. We wanted to have a special episode discussing some summer highlights. A few of us have been working through some problems as well for swine producers. So, I think we’ve got a great discussion ahead of us, and so I’m gonna let Vincent pick where we go.
V: Well, I usually cover a lot of African Swine Fever topics, so that’s been on top of my mind because the virus hasn’t been exactly sittin’ still.
C: That’s no joke.
V: No. We’ve seen recently the jump across the ocean to the Dominican Republic.
C: It’s scary.
V: It is. It is. Now, although in neighboring Haiti, you don’t have to be surprised that that’s going to be an issue as well. It’s one of the poorest countries in the world, so biosecurity’s about the last thing they think about there.
C: Yeah, and all the other problems Haiti’s having, I foresee it goin’ over there as well, but I’m wondering if the government even in Haiti would be able to control it – is my opinion because… You guys had a great article in Pig Progress last year about the historical presence of ASF in that region, and that’s just what concerns me with the political unrest is will Central-South America and some of those islands be able to stop it. And that creates more pressure on Brazil and the US for sure keeping it out.
V: Yeah, well, I think that’s what they did 40 years ago. I think Canada and the US and Mexico together, as it’s a big program, basically to kind of depopulate the whole island of swine, and with that the virus disappeared. I think that’s the approach they chose about 40 years ago. I already read here and there some articles that they are thinking of doing the same again, so…
C: Well, that’s good.
V: Yeah, well, not if you’re a pig there.
C: Well, not if you’re a pig there or a farmer in the Dominican Republic, but the grander scheme of things, we need to keep the larger populations safe, so…
W: Ok, Willem here. Any idea how it got there, Vincent?
V: No, it must have been traveling with humans, I suppose? Either by boat or by plane, but how is the big question, I think. I’ve been thinking, because [04:00] there was 40 years of absence of the virus, whether it was possible that the original virus kind of was harbored somewhere and kind of resurfaced. But in the big scheme of things, I don’t think that would be very logical. But I don’t know if this is the strain 1 or the strain 2 of African Swine Fever. I couldn’t kind of figure out in the reports so far.
C: Yeah, so far I haven’t gotten that information. Curious, what’s going on in Germany and stuff with now we’re not just in the wild pig population, we’re on some farms?
V: Yeah, there are some farms who have for a long time, I think, kept their animals outside. I think of hobby farmers who have 1 or 2 pigs. I think the majority understands that the pigs need to be indoors and I think the government is doing as much as possible to try and get them indoors. Yeah, but there seem to be some farmers who kind of, yeah, say ok, we’ve got organic pigs and they need to go outdoors, but my guess is that… I see that the virus hasn’t moved too much westward into Germany; it kind of stays close to the borders, so even though it kind of… it moves in a strip north and south toward the border, but I have the feeling that in the longer run, Germany will be able to control it. I mean, it’s a very organized country and if there’s fear, I would guess that they would manage. The only thing that they have to fight is the fact that in Poland the virus doesn’t seem to be very good under control, so it’s like there is always fresh supplies across the border. That’s the main problems with Germany, I think.
C: How has that impacted their export market and the pigs coming in and out of Germany? I mean Germany finishes out a lot of pigs for Netherlands.
V: For instance, yes, but what happened was that I think the motion of the pig trade changed, because of regionalization policies, you’ll find that a lot of pigs are still… it’s possible for Germany to transport their pigs within Europe, so it’s basically other countries that [06:00] are still able to export. For instance, Spain, they kind of take over the role of exporting everything to outside Europe whereas German exports have to confine themselves to within Europe.
C: But they can still market within Europe,
C: …not just within Germany. I know there’s been a lot of talk with planning and that’s kind of like what would happen in the US from that standpoint that we could hopefully shut our borders by state. But if you look at our pig flow dynamic, depending on what state would get it or county, that could be absolutely devastating, as you know our highways move pigs quite frequently, either wean pigs or slaughter pigs.
V: Mmmhmm, yeah.
C: It’s definitely, I put out an alert to say, “Hey, it’s time to reconsider biosecurity!” I was talkin’ to somebody in Canada and they said well maybe it’s a refresher to remind ‘em. He thinks people have gotten really relaxed in their biosecurity and buying ingredients and that kind of doing their homework and understanding where their feed ingredients are coming from and different things. So, devastating for the Dominican Republic pork producers. It’s a strong product there as I understand in that culture, so hopefully they can get over that quickly and get it under control. And the same with Haiti.
V: Yeah. What I’ve seen from outbreaks in the Dominican Republic is that they reported one outbreak on the first of July and one the 14th, so there was definitely two weeks difference between them and also the farms were not geographically close to each other. They were about 120 mile difference between them, so looks like there’ll be more to come. I think.
C: Well, let’s switch gears. Let’s talk about South Africa!
W: [laughter] You’re saying summer highlights! I’m sitting here in my jacket and it’s freezing cold weather from the arctic hitting South Africa this moment, so [08:00] it’s very difficult to talk about summer highlights when you’re sitting here in a big jacket! But I understand where it’s coming from, and then in a few months it’s our turn again and then you guys have to deal with the cold weather, so…
C: Yep. So, riots. Shortages. Can you give us a brief update?
W: Yeah, it’s interesting times here. I visited a client yesterday in our Natal province and I thought that the riots are bad and causing a lot of havoc, but in this moment Natal there’s a big – especially northern Natal – there’s a big craze zone for foot & mouth disease that these guys are dealing with, and it’s causing a lot of uh… riot and those guys cannot move pigs outside the province and most of the abattoirs are outside the province. So, it’s causing a lot of havoc at this moment there. One, the guy especially if you’re a compartment, you can move pigs, but a lot of the smaller guys are not compartments and they can only slaughter inside the province, so it’s causing a lot of pig movements or changing in slaughter, which is putting a lot of pressure on the industry in general. Cause guys have to take pigs that’s not normally taking pigs and or moving pigs, and that’s causing a bit of opportunistic behavior as well between the abattoirs, if you can say it like that, because it’s like ok, I’ll take your pigs, but I’m gonna pay you less, and if I’m gonna pay you less I’m most likely gonna pay my other clients also less. So, that’s forcing the price to go down heavily at this moment. We’ve seen huge price drops. I think a big part of it is because of it, there might be other reasons for sure, other reasons as well, but in times like this with high ingredient prices, the higher pork price really helped us, but now the pork price been down with 4-5 rands just in the last 2 weeks, which is for us quite a lot. So, these guys have to deal with that, and then the guys especially in Natal – those abattoirs, their primary market is down in Pietermaritzburg and Durban where all this looting happened in the last 2 weeks. Talking to these guys, [10:00] especially where they are, they have the ability to kill the pigs, but the meat and the finished products are mostly done in the urban area of Pietermaritzburg and Natal, up in Durban. So, these guys are all looted. Millions and millions rands of equipment stolen out of the factories and not sure how they’re even going to recover after this, so it’s causing a lot of havoc. That’s just on that side, that end of the spectrum.
If you look at all the shortages that we had to deal with the last couple of weeks; all the roads were closed. I mean if you look at Durban, if you look at the harbor of Durban, I think mainly 80 or tune of 80% of our agricultural products are coming into Durban. So, if the harbor is blocked and the roads are blocked, it affects the whole country. Especially the agricultural sector. So, guys couldn’t get their imported soya, we couldn’t get our additives, minerals and amino acids. Everything just completely shut down, which is a huge issue. So, we’ve just been dealing the last couple of weeks guys who were reformulating diets and… the big advantages to guys down there is a lot of my clients, a lot of the pig guys are producing their own maze; not all, but most of them. That’s a bit just how the industry is set out. Guys producing their own maize to feed their own pigs. So at least it just came after harvest season, so most of the silos are nice and full of fresh maize, so at least if you cannot feed anything else, I guess you can feed maize, and that happened.
C: Well, that’s really interesting because I’ve had a conversation in Western Canada this week and then even here looking more at some regional customers having issues getting GMO-free grains, which is more of a specialty market, but in Canada they are really struggling to find energy sources.
C: Speaking to ‘em, they can get soybean meal, is about the only product that’s readily available, so with that massive drought they’re having, it’s created some grain issues as well, and [12:00] you know maybe I’m a little buffered from it, but it seems to be impacting more than Northern Western pig production. So, you know there’s quite a few sows in that part of Canada and a lot of those weaned pigs do come south, but yet it sounds like it’s not just South Africa struggling…
W: No! You are 100% correct. We do have a couple of clients around Winnepeg that we feed a couple of Hutterite colonies which is also big time producers, which primarily are using their own cereals to feed the pigs and it’s an absolute disaster! These guys are struggling to find raw materials. The prices are going through the roof. It’s bad. It’s really bad.
C: Well, and it’s just gonna be worse. Because you know their harvest is not gonna be anything here this fall.
W: No, it is. They’re gonna cut their barley off. They’re gonna use it for bedding. I mean that’s how bad it is.
V: How do you keep your spirits up, Willem?
W: That’s the nice thing about being South African and African. And I think, we have a client in Zimbabwe, and if you think someway in South Africa things are tough, then you have to go over to Zimbabwe. I love visiting them; they are very big pork producer – the biggest pork producer in Zimbabwe, and there’s nothing more encouraging to visit those guys. And I ask them the question, I mean, despite all the things that we have to deal with to stay afloat… to spend a week with those guys in Zimbabwe and see how they have to do it, and I’m very strict on quality, so we had a big quality meeting with these guys yesterday, and the guy that – the MD there of the company, said that’s very nice and he understands everything that I am saying, and it makes a lot of sense that we need to focus more on quality. He said his biggest concern at this moment is to get mates. And to get wheat bran. And he would be happy to get anything at this moment. So, then that’s a bit of an eye opener. And then you look at those guys production results and it’s incredible! I mean those guys are weaning 32 piglets in one of their farms. They are part of [14:00] the South African record keeping system. We always around March-April, we get all of the production results, and they were 2nd this year! Despite all of that, then, it’s absolutely incredible. So, I think you asking that question with us being in it, it’s just another day and dealing and handling things, and I think that’s why maybe we South Africans are good in it. We’re normally good at problem solving because that’s what… it’s a big part of our day. In the end we come through and I think that’s… if it’s not like that, it makes me nervous, because then I don’t know what I’m going to do. So, a big part of our day is problem-solving and finding solutions, and I think that’s part of our character as well. It’s been like this over time that we like finding solutions, and we always – in some way – we always do.
P: Always look on the bright side of life, then.
W: Yeah, no for sure. Philip knows it well. He’s been traveling here with me in South Africa. For being Dutch, know the situation in the Netherlands, and me spending time there. It’s uh… also have their challenges. Everywhere you go, you have your challenges. It’s just the color of the how it’s present itself is different. Then we’re talking a little bit about welfare, and we want to chat about farrowing crates and free-farrowing and all of that. Then, that’s something that if you just look at the total welfare discussion, then yes, it’s here, and we have those discussions. We have the zinc oxide discussions and it’s there, but it’s not something that we have to face at this moment. Which I think, if we at least listen to what Philip is saying and what’s going on all over the world, and at least in his side of the world, it’s for sure completely different discussions than we have here, and challenges that we have to face. Not saying that you don’t have challenges, it’s just different.
C: No. I love that! Everyone just in case you were wondering where Philip is; he is here with us, but he is [16:00] summer holiday on his way on vacation, so we’re trying to wait until he gets to the rest area to join us. So, I’m gonna skip around. We’re gonna hold that topic on zinc oxide, because I think that’s an important topic to talk about from South Africa, Europe, and the US and Canada, so we’re gonna hold on that until we know that Philip can jump in. But let’s drop down to somethin’ on the US that Vincent kinda wanted to hear more about around Prop12. So, obviously, Hyatt Frobose is the expert on Prop 12 and he’s been speaking to a lot of different groups on that, but from my standpoint Prop 12, Hyatt went in with me on a sow farm and I’m looking at remodeling it and telling me how many sows I’m gonna have and telling him well it’s not gonna cost a whole lot…
V: Casey, just for all those people listening outside the United States, Prop 12 is not something self-explanatory. Could you just briefly explain for them what it is?
C: Yeah, so Prop12 is a California law. Basically, it’s got a whole bunch of animal welfare parameters in it, but one of the main things is I think it’s 20-24 square foot, something like that, per sow needed. And it has to be group housed. Nothing yet on the farrowing stalls, so we haven’t seen a lot of legislation on that. But Prop 12 is one that we could probably manage. There’s some other crazy ridiculous bills trying to be passed in Colorado and Oregon now I heard, on no artificial insemination. You know, you can’t slaughter ‘em until they’re older. Weird things like that. So, we have some radical legislation, but I was gonna say on the Prop 12 from a producer standpoint, there’s been a lot of conversion. I’ve seen it a lot – mostly in the JBS system, so it seems like from that company that seems to be their growers and stuff are doing the most conversions and stuff that I know of. [18:00] But anything new goin’ in, remodels… everybody is building toward the Prop 12. But, as I said, from my standpoint doing the math, I was gonna have a hard time cash flowing something like that. Looking at a new unit and that investment.
V: One more question, Casey. I’ve been to the United States a lot. I’ve been to Minnesota, I’ve been to Iowa, I’ve been to Michigan, uh… all these places where they have swine farms. Why is Californian rule important for the whole country? I think this is self-explanatory for everybody in the US, but outside the US it’s not. Could you explain that?
C: They’re probably over 20% of our pork production because of population based. Most of our populations are on the East and West coast and that’s where a lot of this legislation’s coming in. But what I was really disappointed and getting to on that perspective was the fact that we knew this was probably gonna have to go to the Supreme Court, but there are some fair-trade laws that each state can’t pass laws to oppose trade from a neighboring state and things like that. And we’ve been trying to fight this. I’m not the government expert or the legal expert on this, but we got turned down by one of the cases we had in federal court, which upheld the Prop 12 being able to go through. The biggest problem we have all had with Prop 12 is that it’s not been clearly defined yet by the California legislation. So, you know, we’re all making assumptions and making these changes that we’re gonna fit the mold for ‘em, but yet, you know, they could change their mind again and we’ll have to remodel again or change our specs.
V: Yeah, in the most far-reaching consequences, what would it mean for swine producers throughout the United States? What would they have to change?
C: They’re gonna have to reduce their sow populations or add more space. So that’s been the biggest challenge this year with Covid, is our lumber and steel prices skyrocketed. They were three times the price. So, quoting the barns and [20:00] getting that kind of stuff really, you know, limited new growth, I think for one thing, but then, you know, it’s challenging that cost of remodeling even, when you think about that cost because of Covid constraints. Now my husband said he went to the store, because we need to fix our fence of all things, and he said well, at least the lumber’s back to being a reasonable price. So, I’m thinkin’ hopefully, you know from what I understand workin’ with builders and my stuff and my workin’ with Pig Easy, that there is some remodels going, there is some changes going, but it’s reducing your sow population. When you think about that, you have so many finisher barns and how do you flow that with reduced sow populations? Or do you add more space? The good thing is, you know, the advantage is if you reduce your sow population, you’re gonna be long on farrowing space, so you can increase wean age. That’s a positive. But if you have to add on to keep the same amount of pigs, then, you know, that’s where the cost comes from, and we look at a negative equity year of Covid and a lot of producers lost money. People are kind of gun shy about making some drastic investments, and I could speak on that on the equipment side, and I can also speak on that from a feed side, you know, that there’s not a lot of changes goin’ on right there. They’re watching to see what happens with the markets.
V: Is it a possibility for producers to say, “I won’t simply… not sell any pigs anymore to California.” Then you don’t have the problem, do you? Or isn’t that as easy?
C: Well, some people have taken that approach, but it’s like everybody says, everybody’s gonna try to do it, and the best one will win, and the rest will sell to different markets, so.
V: Fair enough. Fair enough.
C: Yeah, and if you look at Michigan, they’re not Prop 12 regulated from a population standpoint, but in 2020, they all had to go to group housing. So that seems to have all transitioned very well there. But yet it’s still the… they have a little more flexibility. If you look at Prop 12, we’re not gonna have to be doin’ [22:00] AI in pens, if you read it like it’s written. So, not even understanding what exactly that requirement’s gonna be, I think, is still yet to be determined and we do all know that we have to reduce our population. Working with Hyatt a little bit in Gestal, is what I’ve heard a lot of people are doing for their breed roles: they’re doin’ the free access stalls, and then they are using group pens and ESF systems for gestation. So, at least with the free access stall, they can, you know, get ‘em in that stall and breed ‘em there, and then during the rest of the day can open it back up. So, that is kinda the mixture of technologies and ways that I’ve heard most people are remodeling.
V: Yeah, I think especially with electronic sow feeding systems, that free access stalls have also given many producers new opportunities and they’ve kind of turned the whole challenge into an advantage, I think. And in Europe, it’s been mandatory since 2013 to keep the sows in group housing during gestation. I have the impression at least from what I see around, that in fact it’s given them a lot of new tools as well.
C: Yeah, definitely. I’ve been into a free access stall facility in Denmark, was really quite impressed. I think they’re even given…. I think they’re Prop 12 compliant, I would think, by bein’… I can’t remember, I didn’t ask the square footage when I was there… but they also had areas where they had straw and different enhancements, enrichment things there in Demark, and so I really see the US Swine industry going to what Europe is doing today. So, there’s a lot we can learn from Europe and the sows there, so.
We wanna take this break to thank our sponsors, The Sunswine Group, NutraSign, Swine Nutrition Management and Pig Progress. But we also wanted to remind you of our new Facebook group, the Global Swine Professionals. We’re gonna be doing something fun; some live interviews, some Q&A and we just wanna hear from our audience, so that’s a great place for you to take the time, leave us a comment, tell us what you wanna hear, or volunteer to be on our show, because we’re always looking for those awesome pork producers around the world. Well, that’s all I had, so let’s get back to that appisode now.
C: Philip, I heard you’re ready to speak. Any thoughts on free access? And that kinda goes into the next conversation. Europe’s really pushing – which will stream out around the world – is free farrowing.
Philip: Yeah, if you look at the pig topics going on here in Europe at the moment, then I would like to say most likely 3 big issues and one of them is for sure legislation on the environment and welfare. This also is what we’re already discussing. Farmers are really investing in that, have invested in that, but their biggest trouble I would say is that it doesn’t seem to end. So, actually, when you’ve invested, when your farm is ready, then there might be new legislation and you have to start again investing. That is actually where you see that a lot of farms have big trouble with, is that there’s no trouble actually investing money in the farm, but actually then in my opinion you should get a guarantee that for the next 10 years that you are actually really safe and done. There is not something like that in place, so I think that is one of the big concerns for farms. The thing as a nutritionist what really keeps me busy at this moment is actually preparing for next summer vacation. That sounds far away, but next summer vacation actually there is [26:00] legislation in the EU in place that zinc needs to go out of piglet feeds and if you look at that, then actually the time to prepare is actually now, in my opinion. Don’t wait until next summer vacation starts to do things in a different way, manage piglets in a different way. Discuss with your vet, discuss with your nutritionist, and really get it ready and done before actually next summertime because when you turns out that your farm is in trouble at that time, then you’re already too late and it’s going to be a disaster on a couple of farms. So, I think it’s time to prepare for that. Do your trials, do your work. It’s actually for sure after this summer vacation you need to get started on that one, in my opinion.
C: Well, you just brought up a hot topic. And we got to hear the story from South Africa, because…
W: What I wanted to ask you Philip is that you mentioned that Europe is banning zinc, but according to my knowledge in the Netherlands you basically have been zero zinc for many years now. So, in terms of your experience, it should not be a big challenge then because as the Dutch would be able to assist in terms of… I mean, because this has been common practice for you guys running without Zinc in the weaning barns for many years.
P: Yes, that is true, but it’s not an easy one. So, actually, if your whole farm is set up on that you are used to using zinc, then everything might be different. You might wean younger. You might not feed piglets in the farrowing pen in a certain way so that those piglets are not really prepared on digesting solid foods, vegetable proteins, starch. Their whole digestive system is differently [28:00] and actually if those piglets are not prepared and you put them on the high protein diet to really let them, try to let them, grow as fast as possible and you cover things up that are most likely not 100% in place on the management side, then you cover that up with 3 kilos of Zinc in the diet, and a high spec diet, then things are all in place right now, but actually if you only take the zinc out, then you’re also… on 9 out of the 10 farms, things will completely go wrong, and it’s not the matter of just putting an alternative in, it’s actually your management needs to be different. Your feed needs to be different. Your feeding needs to be different. To work together with the vet needs to be done from scratch again. All those things take time, and it’s not a simple take it out, next week you put something else in and then it’s back all ok again. So, it’s much more than that.
C: I love hearin’ that. I’ve always agreed. Zinc’s been our band-aid for bad management.
[laughter] W: Yeah
V: But listening to you as well, Philip, it seems to be more of a mindset. Because that’s the same that we experience here. It’s been a band-aid and it’s been so easy just to add it and hide all the other issues that’s part of a weaning barn. But listening to…
P: It’s the cheap answer, so it’s a easy way out. So, just put 3 kilos of Zinc in and it’s low cost and yeah, it makes life easy. And I think to have that different mindset, I fully agree with you. It’s a different mindset and there is also no combination. You go to antibiotic-zinc route, or you need to go the alternative route. The damage also really the alternative route. That takes time before everybody has that new [30:00] mindset.
V: What do you think, I’m putting you on the spot, Philip. Sorry, Casey, I’m taking it over, because I find it a very interesting topic. What do you think will happen with antibiotic use in Europe when you’re gonna pull the plug on zinc? I know there’s more control in it in antibiotic, the pressure on antibiotic usage before the zinc usage, but what do you think will happen? Because if I’m a pig farmer and everything is not in place and my pigs are sick, then that would be most likely the first alternative I will go for.
P: Yeah, but on the other hand, most countries are also realizing this. So actually – I just discussed this in Ireland, and from the first of January they have new legislation on antibiotic use – so actually the goal to use less antibiotics is actually put in place on the first of January of next year. So that is half the year, quicker than the ban on zinc, so and I think logically, this should be in that following order. Otherwise, I agree with you, actually. It’s taking zinc out and only putting a cocktail of antibiotics on and that can never ever be the goal of going to lower zinc.
C: Willem, what – speak about your topic, because I think this is interesting the situation that you had a problem in South Africa with zinc.
W: No, it’s that we are very… it’s very common to use zinc and we use zinc quite a lot. I think the biggest challenge that we have with this is that the bigger systems you get – and I cannot tell you guys in the US about big systems, you know about it – but we also start to see bigger and bigger systems and what I do see is that it’s all been looped in isolation. What I mean with that is that you have a weaner guy and he’s in charge of the weaner site and the weaner buildings and he’s been evaluated on his performance on that site. Even it’s the same farm. And then they have the grower site and the sow site, so it’s multi-faced system, [32:00] which there’s nothing wrong with. We know the benefits of it, but that guy is responsible for his unit, so he will do what he needs to do to be able to reach his production and performance targets. And again, that’s what Philip says, zinc is so cheap, by adding 3 kilos of zinc from the beginning to the end in the weaning building, it seems to be a very good idea. There’s no limitation on zinc here. You get crazy good performance in terms of if you look at the production results of those buildings. What happens afterwards then those pigs are moving to the grower side and those poor grower side guys struggling really struggling to get the pigs going in the first couple of weeks because they’re just moving off of 25-30 kilos moving off 3 kilos of zinc. Then the answer is add more zinc in the grower diets, which I don’t think that’s where we need to go to, and we can discuss about that, but it seems to be a logic step. If zinc is such a good product, we don’t have limitations on zinc, our soils are quite poor in zinc, so it adds, it makes the maize grow faster, well what’s the problem here? And again, I also realize that the moral compass of people is not all the same, I mean we all want to do the right thing, but it’s also different between different people. That I also realize, but to go back to my point in terms of how our units are evaluated, I start getting into – it’s not just in South Africa, people are forgetting a little bit about the bigger picture here. If you are integrated, then it’s about kilos of meat that’s going through your abattoir. If you’re not an integrator it’s about the kilos of meat off your farm. It’s not the weight of your weaning piglet out of the weaning building, because we’re not selling piglets. It’s your piglets. I think it’s being evaluated in sections and that makes us do things, which in my opinion in most cases doesn’t make sense. And as long as it’s going to be like that, if you want to pull zinc out of a weaner diet here, and I know a bit about the performance in the Netherlands, and me and Philip always have this discussion – and Philip can tell you having [34:00] experience with one foot here in South Africa – is that our weaning performance and growing performance is incredible compared to the Netherlands. It’s really good. Our weights, our feed conversions, and the kind of results that we achieve. But the question is how do we do it. Therefore, I have a bit of a question mark on it. And although we might not see that as being that we are doing the wrong things, I’m just saying it’s not following the direction where the rest of the world is going at this moment.
C: Well, your debate in South Africa is the same in the US, because we are corn-based system here, so we grow a lot of maize corn. So, with that type of plant, you pull a lot of zinc out of the soil. So, Europe really pushing that legislation to remove zinc – well, it’s obvious, it’s because their grains they’re growing are different. They’re not removing the zinc like we can from the soil. But I liked your question about – obviously at every trial I run I can find a zinc oxide, usually, response, pretty effectively, and I’ve ran a lot of replacement trials. I think it goes back to good management and you know if you want good nursery performance, wean age is critical. Creep feed. We stopped doing creep feed because we’re scared of ASF, PED, labor issues. And we stopped being good managers. Constant conversation in the US and around the world is we don’t have enough labor. And my question is are we hiring the right labor? Are we making it – you know – doing the right things? I’ve always had this issue with zinc because everybody said unless I’m made to, I’m not gonna pull it out, and I’m like can you find strategies to be better? And when I look at zinc and I look at sustainability, it’s just not about soil health, runoff, it’s about – you know, we have to mine zinc and so there’s only a limited source of zinc, it has to be mined. When you start putting those in your sustainability model, finding alternatives makes a difference in my mind, and I don’t think a lot of people are [36:00] doing cradle-to-fork carbon emissions and things like that and considering that’s the same I could say even with electric cars and windmills is we’re not looking at the mining of those products in sustainability. So, I see that issue too.
V: Could I ask a question to Philip?
V: Philip, when I attended the Zero-Zinc summit, two years back in Copenhagen, I think one of the key takeaway messages was that there was no silver bullet. There’s no one ingredient that you can put into the weaner feed that can replace zinc oxide. If you could summarize what you know in one sentence what in your view, then, has the holistic approach so far been in order to replace zinc. It probably composes or consists of various solutions, but if you could kind of summarize that in one sentence, how has Europe found solutions so far?
P: I would really say in one sentence it’s all about finding the cooperation between the nutritionist, the vet, and the farmer. And that is actually where the solution really is. If you have good cooperation between those parties, I think it’s possible to find the solutions.
V: Thank you.
P: And I also really agree with what Willem said, is that he said that farms are often seen as separate things, and if you – I’ll give you an example – if you have a sow farm and somebody is responsible for pushing out as many as possible piglets on that unit, against the lowest cost, then for sure he’s not going to do creep feed, because it’s actually cost, you add cost and you add labor.
P: And actually, as a consequence of that, you wean actually really milk piglets. If that piglet is not prepared at all then, it’s also just impossible actually to really expect a good result if you are not covering up with medicines and zinc oxide.
C: How do we solve this? Because this is a problem around the world that we’re very silo’d or segmented production.
W: And it’s interesting guys, because I do really see that this performance- and again don’t take it that I’m against performance targets: I’m against the wrong performance targets. I’m not putting it out there and people have their targets. I’m just saying I’m seeing too many of those which is driving the wrong behavior. And that’s exactly what Philip said as well. And that’s what I’ve come across so many times – if I visit the grow-finishing barn and I’m pitching for new business, I’ll always ask the guy – the manager – what do you want? What do you want to achieve here? He said, I don’t care what you do, but my bonus is paid based on feed conversion ratios. Then it’s so difficult because for me as a nutritionist to formulate your diet where you get better feed conversion is not that difficult, but it’s not going to be the best course option for where you’re most likely gonna make the most money at this moment. Because energy in South Africa and fat is crazy expensive! We’ve done the trial, we’ve fed a really nice, high fat diet, and we got great feed conversion ratios. But if you look at margin of a feed cost in our situation – I’m not saying it’s the same for all over the world – in our situation here at this moment, I mean you didn’t make more money by doing that at this moment. But you don’t care about making money or not, that’s the owner’s problem, but he is a manager that’s being paid a bonus on feed conversion ratio, that’s what he wants! So, I’m gonna formulate a very expensive diet and he’s gonna be very happy to get his bonus, and he’s at the end of the day making the decision, but it’s not to say that the farmer’s gonna make more money. And that’s a little bit the same with my zinc story. It’s not [40:00] difficult and nobody prevents us from adding 3 kilos of zinc until finishing if that’s what you want to do. But we all know that this is not the way how to do it. We know that it’s gonna cause a lot of negative effects down the line, which maybe we don’t see today, but there’s a bloody good reason why the Europe is banning it. There’s’ a lot of good research and backup to say this is why we’re doing it. So, it’s… but that’s why I’m saying is a lot of the time my feeling is that our production targets and what the guys are set to do is just driving the wrong behavior and is driving the wrong decisions and formulations in most cases, in my opinion.
C: 100% agree. You know, the biggest problem in the US is mortality. Let’s look at sow mortality. Let’s look at pre-weaning mortality. Let’s look at post-weaning mortality. The breeder manager gets bonuses on conception rate. The farrowing manager gets bonuses on number of pigs out the door or a mixture for both departments. The nursery manager gets maybe feed efficiency, number of pigs, average daily gain. Wean-to-finish, you know, same thing. Slaughter. A lot of people forget where the problems start, and if we’re trying to start in the middle of fixing things, that’s never the right approach. And we look at feed costs today, everybody – it’s high feed costs again, so what’re you gonna do to save me money. And I’ve seen so many people – right or wrong – take the approach that we can feed cheaper nursery diets. We’ve learned to reduce that, but my question is what are we doing in the farrowing house to set them up for success all the way to slaughter. And it starts before even the nursery on problems in the segmentation – and like you said if we all were working on the same common goal, I think we’d see a lot of different management changes.
W: I fully agree with that. And I think if that’s gonna be the case, then taking [42:00] zinc out of the diets is not gonna be that difficult. If you realize, if I can have well prepared, well developed piglet with great gut integrity, weaned at 10 weeks, yes it’s gonna be 2 kilos lighter, and maybe the feed conversion is a little bit higher because I’m not using all the right medicines and zinc oxides, it’s ok, because in an integrated system I’m not sending a 10-week old piglet. Integrated systems might be looking at it differently, and that’s probably where the bigger mindset should be, but would I be happy as a contract guy to receive it 2-3 kilos lighter. But if you know it’s well-prepared and that piglet will flow over to your grower-feed strategy much better without having a lot of issues and need to deal with now suddenly going to a diet with no zinc or no stimulants or any of those, then it might just have been better anyway. But as an integrator, as I said, you need to realize that you don’t have to be a 30 kilo piglet at 10 weeks. A 28 or 29 or 27 piglet which is well prepared and ready for the weaning barn will even do better that those 30 kilo piglets in my opinion.
P: And that’s also what really we see, huh? If we look at diets with a lower spec fed immediately after weaning to better prepared piglets, maybe they are not growing as fast on that high-spec diet, but if you look at uniformity, it’s for sure better. But uniformity, who is getting paid for uniformity? That is actually nobody, so actually you really need to look at with a different pair of eyes actually to piglets and to data. And if farms are run only on data and performance, and not on looking at piglets anymore, yeah then I think it’s going to be a difficult game.
C: [laughter] Well, we’ve sure covered the gamut. Vincent, are we missing anything you wanted to touch on from your global perspective on the list?
V: Well, [44:00] I think over here in Europe, I think they’re continuing movements towards also fair housing, uh, free housing during farrowing, so like taking the next step as well and you see that this kind of legislation is coming through bit by bit. I think Germany’s thinking about it in not too long and I think also European legislation is moving in that direction. I think New Zealand has already opted for it. And yeah, what I’ve seen over the last 15 years is that usually these kind of initiatives start in Europe and then kind of go over across the world. So, I think that where producers around the world think, “Augh, yeah now these silly Europeans have another idea as well.” That may be the situation for now, but it’s good to know what’s going on there, because maybe not now, but maybe in 5 or 10 years it will come to other countries across oceans, so it’s always good to keep an eye on that.
C: No, and I liked you asking me about that, because you know, I think in our last discussion we made a point that we used to be scared of going to group housing, but we’ve learned how to do that. We used to be scared of free farrowing, and some of the free farrowing or the bigger crates – farrowing crates – that I noticed at World Pork this year; there’s one I would love to have but you’d need a lot of space, and I don’t know if a retrofit would really work. But that’s been the biggest question I’ve had. I went on to Dave Klocke’s farm this summer and he’s got a room – a couple rooms, I think – of just wider farrowing crates, and narrower, and I’ve had a conversation with a producer in Ohio about this. You know, he’s got farms struggling to get his pre-weaning mortality under 10% and this one farm is, you know, rocking at 8% and he asked me… he goes, “Do you think it’s the farrowing crate size and did I make this big mistake in not [46:00] make a bigger farrowing crate?” And I think when we think about this and creating the right zones in free access stalls – even in farrowing – I think we can get it right. And I think it’s gonna be better for the sow. If she’s moving around and she’s already in group housing, why not let her move around in farrowing a little bit more? And I always like to say I think sometimes some of these decisions were made by men and not women, and I know what it was like being pregnant. I know what it was like having a baby. I couldn’t imagine having 14-16 babies on me, I think I’d go a little insane. But I think if we get things right from an engineering standpoint, a design standpoint, an environment standpoint, I’m really lookin’ forward to this. But it goes back to Philip’s point he made – can we guarantee a 10-year moratorium on changes because it’s a massive investment. It takes a lot of equity, and the producers need time to pay it back! We’re not getting paid better. It’s just… we’re having to make these changes to stay in business, so when we talk to legislation and stuff, you know, I’m in agreement with better welfare – I’ll be the first one to tell you we can do a better job, we need to do a better job – but it has to be a profitable decision. Everybody always asks me – bottom line, no matter if I’m selling ‘em a feed additive or a piece of equipment – what is my ROI? And that’s the dilemma we’re gonna have in agriculture of feeding the world and all these changes people want us to make and be able to do it cost effectively still.
V: I think what you see is that there where the demands for producers are getting increasingly high. You see that numbers of farms eventually will drop. I think we’ve seen quite a lot of dairy farmers in the past from the Netherlands move to Canada, for instance, because there was plenty of space over there, a lot fewer regulations, so they could simply kind of continue to run their [48:00] farm without being endlessly interrupted. I think in the Netherlands you see a bit of a tendency in the same direction because that is becoming so much and too much that… yeah, in combination with all kinds of other movements in society, they at some point think, ok this country is just getting’ so full, there’s no space for me anymore as a swine producer.
C: And then we become the stereotype that our consumers and our activists don’t like us – we’re factory farms. Because we all have to get bigger and there’s less of us. There’s less of that people component and there’s less ability to be creative and think differently, manage differently and come up with new solutions. And when you get large like that, I think innovation slowly dies, right? The ability to change. Cause now some of these smaller producers can change quicker than the larger guys, but you know there’s a catch-22 with all that. I do not want to see the small independent farmers go out of business. That will be an absolute disaster for food supply. Maybe not in the short term, but the long term. If you start putting food control – I know we’re running out of time, but this is a great debate – but some of the issues we have with obesity and things in the US I think it’s related to these massive food companies and their marketing and pushing, you know, cheap, easy food onto people and now you’re gonna do it all the way through the system. To me that’s really scary of the future of the human population and maybe not for my generation, but for the future of the world.
P: There’s also very logic economical reasons behind it. If you want to put more effort on welfare and more effort on environment, all those things comes at a cost. And there’s a consequence. If you don’t pay extra for kilo meat, or [50:00] for a piglet, then actually the only way out for a farm is actually that they grow bigger. And if you look at the politics, actually, and the public opinion, that’s also not the direction that they would like to go. So, I think yeah, that is we need to think about solutions on that side. And it’s not that everything goes hand in hand. Some things are really contradictory.
C: Well, I think this is a good time to stop it. Great discussions. I think this episode may lead into some new ideas for some future episodes, and maybe some – what I’m gonna call debate type style with the different problems we get different perspectives of people on our podcasts. So look forward to maybe a few of those fun things coming out. I think we need to revisit Prop 12, sow housing – how that carries over into the farrowing house. I think we need to revisit the zinc effect. I think we need to revisit talking about wean age. We need to revisit talking about creep feed and getting this misconceptions out of producers’ minds – that how can we feed the pig right? Philip, there’s a lot we can learn from you of… you know, the Swinco piece was very effective here in the US and they’re like wanting to learn more. Watching the equipment, I think there’s still a lot of things people can learn from the each producers around the region. So, I think this podcast has been very effective. I thank our listeners for following us – and please share with other producers, because this is what it’s about to get you to think about your problems and how to solve them and what can you learn from other producers around the world. So, thank you gentlemen for joining me and thank you listeners.
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