Visit to Shandong Whiteshire

This past week I had the opportunity to visit Shandong Whiteshire, a joint venture partner of Whiteshire Hamroc, LLC. The farm is located near the town of Wudi, in the Northwest part of the Shandong province and is about a 3.5 hour trip by car from Beijing.

Picture with Dr. Mike Lemmon outside of the AirWorks™ wean-to-finish barn at Shandong Whiteshire.
In January of this year the farm was stocked 1,034 head of U.S. purebred breeding stock from Whiteshire via a shipment coordinated by Clayton Agri-Marketing.

Crates of Whiteshire breeding stock waiting to be loaded onto the airplane.
Crates of Whiteshire breeding stock being loaded onto the airplane bound for China.

After going through the process of the on-farm quarantine procedures that are in place for newly built farms, they began matings in April. The first litter was farrowed July 18, 2012.

First litter of purebred Yorkshire GGP pigs farrowed at Shandong Whiteshire.
As an international member of the National Swine Registry and an America's Best Genetics farm located in China, the Shandong Whiteshire farm is a full participant in the STAGES™ global genetic evaluation. As a user of STAGES™, Shandong Whiteshire has access to one of the world's largest global purebred databases and years of research and technology. During my visit, I had the opportunity to present the staff of Shandong Whiteshire with a plaque that commemorates the first litter recorded with the National Swine Registry by the partnership's second GGP Herd - Rongchang Whiteshire.

Pictured (l to r): Mr. Ma, Salesman, Shandong Whiteshire; Joyce, President, Shandong Whiteshire; Dr. Justin Fix, V.P. of Global Technical Service, National Swine Registry; Dixie, Farm Manager, Shandong Whiteshire; Mr. Zhou, Director of Sales, Shandong Whiteshire.

Stock Marketing: Mixing It Up

So you want to advertise – great! Now, the next question is where. There where can be a tricky decision, especially when you have a limited budget. This month in “Stock Marketing,” we’re going to talk about some advertising options and ways to mix up your marketing.

  •  Put it in print – Regardless of the rumors you may have heard about print advertisement being dead, rest assured print media is very much alive and well. In fact, I would argue it is still one of the very best venues to advertise your livestock. Not only do livestock publications provide a way to get your message to a very specific group of livestock enthusiasts, but they also have a long “life.” How many of you still have the last Seedstock EDGE Showpig issue riding around with you in your truck or sitting on your coffee table? Print publications can’t be deleted from inboxes and are often used for reference, sometimes even months later.
  • Get online – The World Wide Web offers countless ways to spread the word – many of which are very affordable. In today’s fast-paced, digitally-driven world, people expect to get information NOW, and the Web can help you do that. Look into starting a website. Too expensive? Look towards social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, or study some of the free blog sites, such as Wordpress and Blogger. Many blogs will let you have multiple pages, meaning that you can essentially form a functional website for free. So log-in, send a “tweet” about the latest champion you bred, post some sale photos and blog about your upcoming litters. If you don’t think it’s effective, just look at MattLautner’s (and other's) success in the cattle industry.
  •  Be a sponsorSponsorship is often thought as a kind gesture, but the fact is, sponsorship can also be a great way to spread your message while supporting a cause that you are passionate about. The NJSA, for example, offers great opportunities for sponsors to get exposure and align their business with youth involved in the swine industry.
  •  It’s in the mail –  Direct mailing is sending a very specific message to a targeted group of consumers. Whether it's "snail mail" or an e-Blast, direct mail is a great way to attract new buyers.  If you don’t have your own mailing list, you can buy them from different companies. The National Swine Registry offers opportunities for producers to purchase one-time rights to both their mailing and emailing lists. I would also suggest starting your own list of past buyers or people who’ve come to your farm and expressed interest in your stock. Then, you can keep them up-to-date by sending sale flyers, catalogs and even Christmas and thank you cards.
  • Word of mouth – Even with all these marketing tools, you can’t overlook the power of networking. Get out and talk to people at the shows. Call folks up when you have a good set of pigs for sale, and just make time to talk to your fellow breeders.

I hope you learned some new ways to mix up your marketing. Remember that the NSR Marketing & Communications Department offers many ways to help you market your animals – not just the Seedstock. Give us a call, and we’ll help you find the best mix for your marketing.

The "Crate Debate"

There is no doubt - it’s an election year. Even if you wanted to, it would be nearly impossible to escape the seemingly endless political propaganda making its way into every media channel out there. But, even as the presidential race heats up, there is another debate going on – one that has an effect on pork producers across the U.S. – the crate debate.

In recent months, major retailers and restaurants, including McDonalds, ConAgra Foods and Kroger, have announced plans to move toward sourcing their pork products from suppliers who raise their pigs without the use of gestation crates. This push for crate-free pork is a major concern for producers, who must not only decide if a shift to group housing is the right decision for their animals, but if it is even economically feasible for their operation.

Like any good debate, there are two sides to consider. Animal rights activists, among others, claim that gestation stalls are inhumane and unacceptable. Producers, as well as industry processors, can be found on both sides of the debate.
Some, like Tom Dittmer, originally made the shift from group housing to crates because of aggressive animal behavior. When Dittmer began farming in the ’70s, his sows lived in pastures with huts for shelter – but he eventually transitioned to indoor housing and gestation crates.

“The reason the industry switched to crates wasn’t because we wanted to harm our animals…We did it because we thought it was best for the animals.”
On the other side of the fence are individuals like Paul Willis, who oversees a group of farmers raising pork for Niman Ranch, which rebukes animal confinement of any kind.

Read the rest of this New York Times story with Dittmer and Willis here.
For further debate on the topic, visit this page from CNN’s eatocracy site.

At the end of the day, there are a few important lessons here. First, as producers, we need to inform ourselves on both sides of the debate and know not only where we stand but why. Often what consumers are really looking for is an open line of communication and a genuine interest from producers who not only listen to their concerns, but respond to them. It is also important that we recognize there are several approaches to animal production, and one is not necessarily better than another. This point was emphasized in the National Pork Board’s response to McDonald’s announcement last February that the fast food giant plans to transition away from conventionally raised pork:

“…the National Pork Board maintains the position, supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, that there are numerous ways, including sow gestation stalls, to provide proper care for sows. Each housing system, including gestation stalls, open pens, free-access stalls and pastures, has welfare advantages and disadvantages that must be considered by an individual farmer. Regardless of the type of system used, what really matters is the individual care given to each pig – a mainstay of our industry's Pork Quality Assurance Plus program.”

If group housing is something you are considering, two swine researchers from Minnesota offer management tips for that transition here. 

As with political propaganda in an election year, the amount of available information on sow housing can be overwhelming – and the information you do find will likely be conflicting. Although at times it can be exasperating, it is our job to be informed. Take time to read all sides of the debate, and make a decision that you can support with a mix of reliable information and practical experience. You, after all, are the pork producer.
Look for more industry insights to come!

Learn About Industry Careers

Purdue University Animal Sciences Department shared videos from recent speakers at their annual Fall Pork Career Night that was held on Monday, Oct. 3.

The career night gave students interested in the swine industry an opportunity to hear company representatives talk about potential careers and internships involving commercial production, seedstock, feed sales, processing, pharmaceutical sales, nutrition and production. 

To view the videos and learn more about careers within the industry visit the Purdue Animal Sciences Vimeo channel.