Four Hot Issues at This Year’s Swine Vet Meeting

The 49th annual meeting of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians covered lots of great topics. ( Farm Journal's PORK )

The American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) held its annual meeting this week in San Diego, Cal., and Farm Journal’s PORK was there. As always, there were many interesting and thought-provoking presentations. Here are four issues of interest that were highlighted, with much more to follow.

1.  Global Protein Consumption: Bill DuBois gave the Howard Dunne Memorial Lecture, in which he talked about how geography, culture and socioeconomic status affect global animal protein consumption. The availability of food is a key factor that is closely tied with urbanization, rural infrastructure and energy. “There are 1.1 billion people in the world today with no access to electricity,” DuBois said. This of course, impacts their consumption of animal-sourced foods. He also said the Japanese have “McDonalized” what they call “black pork.” This is Berkshire pork that’s darker red and has increased fat content – Japan has identified higher quality and is willing to pay for it. It’s something for the U.S. pork industry to think about. DuBois shared this important quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which set the tone for the meeting: “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”

2.  Get Social!: Before she came to the stage, Erin Brenneman with Brenneman Pork in Washington, Iowa, showed a video portraying a Millennial in all her glory. While the attitude of this age group seems fantastical to the primarily older audience, it was an eye-opener, and it spotlighted the need to portray agriculture in a positive light on social media. She shared these four “mingles”: 1. Work hard, have fun, make a difference; 2. Pick a channel that you like and stick with it; 3. Don’t try to do it alone – network with others; and 4. Focus on a hobby (“no, farming doesn’t count,” she says). As #sowmomma, Brenneman connects with her audience on pets, hobbies, kids, building a baseball field, and any number of topics, to build trust. “Raising pigs is the fun part; sharing that passion with others is a bonus,” she says, telling the pig vets, “Your expertise is a wonderful perspective to have.”

3.  Agriculture 2025: Lowell Catlett is always entertaining and interesting. The retired professor from Arizona State University shared his thoughts on where he thinks agriculture is headed. People want more meat protein, Catlett, said, but in developed nations, “we’ve become spoiled brats.” He means people can demand certain attributes because they have the money to buy these more specialized products, but it’s not that way everywhere in the world. He says technology and robotics will change agriculture – and so much more – as we know it. Robotic computers like Baxter can tell the difference between ripe and unripe peaches, and drones can pick only the bolls that are open and ready. “Computer capacity, for all intents and purposes, is infinite,” he said. “We’re literally blowing the doors off of robotics. Get ready for a data revolution – the likes of which we’ve never seen before.”

4.  Antimicrobial Use: On Tuesday morning, Locke Karriker from Iowa State University, and Mark White, a British veterinarian, talked about the range of perspectives on antibiotic use and control. “There has been a societal shift to peer-to-peer transfer of information and away from central one-to-many distributions,” Karriker said. “Get engaged with everyone, all the time, everywhere.” White said everyone has a different opinion on antibiotic resistance, and he is surprised by how little current, robust data there actually is. He also said, “The debate is no longer about science at the policy level, because that is not what’s driving policy.” He said the issue isn’t going away and animal agriculture has to deal with it. White believes a “worldwide approach” is needed, and the aim must be to improve pig health, rather than just reducing use for the sake of reduction. We’ll have more on this topic, too.

As you can see, we just scratched the surface of the excellent topics at this year’s AASV meeting, and there were many other concurrent sessions that we didn’t get to attend. We’ll do our best to share what we learned in future articles, both on and in Farm Journal’s PORK magazine.