Weekly livestock news: November 27, 2023

USDA begins reporting numbers of hogs raised in compliance with animal confinement laws like Proposition 12

The USDA for the first time is reporting how many hogs are being raised in compliance with animal confinement legislation (ACL), such as California’s Proposition 12. Until now, ACL hogs have been listed as “other.” But the volume of ACL-compliant hogs under federal livestock reporting laws has become large enough to be listed separately, said the Agricultural Marketing Service. The new classification will appear in the National Weekly Direct Swine Non-Carcass Merit Premium report, effective November 20. “This addition will provide pork industry stakeholders with the information necessary to make informed production and marketing decisions relating to ACL-compliant hogs,” said the USDA agency. The National Pork Producers Council said it “advocated for and remained engaged with USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service throughout the process.” California has set January 1, 2024, as the date for producers to be in compliance with Proposition 12. Successful Farming has more.

China’s African swine fever outbreak casts long shadow on world pork market, report says

Although recovering from an epidemic of African swine fever by late 2021, China’s domestic pork market remains volatile, potentially leaving lasting impacts on the global pork market, USDA economists say in a new report. Pork output fell an average of 18% below normal levels for the 30 months of the epidemic. Consumer pork prices doubled for 14 months and didn’t return to pre-epidemic levels until September 2021. While record amounts of pork were imported, they replaced only a fifth of the lost production. The epidemic led to consolidation of hog farming into large-scale operations. The cost of constructing the new large hog farms and the expense of stricter biosecurity practices has meant higher production costs for China. The country in 2022 was the world’s largest pork importer for the fourth year in a row, but its share of the world market was less than a third of its peak during the epidemic, Successful Farming reports.

New cases of avian flu reported across the country

The USDA reported several cases of avian flu in commercial poultry operations across the country. Since the beginning of the month, the total number of birds affected during the 2022-2023 outbreak has been increasing by approximately 1 million birds per week as cases rise, Feedstuffs reports. The number is currently at 64.2 million birds nationwide. Maryland has reported its first case since 2022, and Oregon also reported its first two cases in commercial operations this year. South Dakota, Minnesota and California have also reported new cases. “It is important for commercial and backyard poultry operations to monitor their flocks’ health closely,” said Oregon state veterinarian Ryan Scholz.

Selling continues even as cattle markets decline

Cattle markets continue to decline from September levels, but cattle producers are still taking advantage of much stronger prices. Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist Derrell Peel said producers have indicated to him in numerous meetings this fall that the majority of steers and heifers they are selling is to capitalize on higher prices but also because of ongoing drought and pasture and hay limitations. Peel relayed that reported national feeder cattle volumes (auction, direct and video/internet) are up 5.6% year-over-year since Labor Day, with the majority in September, which contributed to the large September feedlot placements. The total volume in October was up 2.4% but down year-over-year at the end of October and beginning of November. Another month of large placements may be revealed in the next Cattle on Feed report, Peel told Feedstuffs.

California rancher trains others to use farm animals for wildfire prevention

Sheep and goats are naturally equipped with the tools to mitigate wildfires: They’ll eagerly chomp down dry vegetation and are adept at navigating tough terrain where machines can’t reach. Their small hooves help aerate hardened soil, while their stool offers fresh fertilizer that helps native plants flourish. But prescribed grazing requires a more surgical application. Shepherds work closely with dogs, which both protect and direct sheep and goats to the right areas. They also must understand which plants are most palatable and when, how to time grazing with weather and seasons and the careful mix and number of animals needed for particular parcels of land. Britany Bush, the founder of Shepherdess Land & Livestock, a ranch in the California Ojai Valley that uses grazing animals to reduce the risk of wildfires in southern California, hopes to train a new generation of nontraditional practitioners. She spoke about her work with The Guardian.