Leman Conference: Q&A with Montse Torremorell

( Farm Journal's PORK )

The 2020 Leman Conference on Sept. 19-22 will have a different look this year, but participants can still expect great discussions revolving around science-driven solutions for complex challenges in the pork industry. Conference program chair Montse Torremorell, DVM, professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota, shares her thoughts on the changes in the 2020 conference and sheds some insight into what participants can expect. 

Q. How did the Leman Conference get started?
In 1974, Dr. Allen Leman, a University of Minnesota Extension veterinarian, and Dr. Hanson, director of continuing education at the College of Veterinary Medicine and a former practitioner from St. Peter, Minn., initiated an annual swine conference with the goal of presenting new, research-based information on issues important to the swine industry. The conference grew over the years to become an annual educational event for the global swine industry and evolved into the multisession it is today attracting nearly 1,000 attendees. The conference is internationally acclaimed for bringing science-driven solutions to the complex challenges facing the industry. After Dr. Leman's death in 1992, the conference was named in his honor and the swine faculty at the College of Veterinary Medicine continue to provide leadership in developing this program and remain committed to Dr. Leman's vision of excellence.

Q. Can you remember your first Leman Conference and what your first impression was?
I attended my first Leman conference in 1994 after just a few days of landing in the U.S. to pursue my graduate studies. Back then I didn't have a point of comparison, but I was impressed from the first moment I entered the sessions. I remember that there were lots of people and that everybody wanted to share information and wanted to talk. The conference impressed me, but back then, I didn't grasp the magnitude of what it represented.

Q. What makes the Leman Conference different than other swine industry conferences?
The Leman Conference is not just a bunch of presentations by experts. The Leman Conference has always been much more – it’s a gathering of a broad slice of the industry, from inputs to production to processing, with presentations that provoke further discussions. It attempts to be cognizant of the present circumstances of the industry, presenting diverse responses to challenges. 

Q. Why do you attend industry conferences? What’s the value for attendees?
Besides obtaining technical expertise, participants get exposed to well thought-out opinions by industry leaders that offer contrasting points of view. That in itself is important to help form your own opinion. In addition, we seek to have presentations that are based on data and science, and we strive for sessions that have clear take home messages that can be implemented right away. We have chosen a platform to allow interaction among participants to carry on conversations in a very dynamic virtual atmosphere.

Q. What can people expect from this year’s event in terms of speakers and opportunities to gain insight and knowledge?
The Leman Conference will follow its typical format with keynote speakers and breakout sessions on Monday and Tuesday. Pre-conference workshops are scheduled Saturday and Sunday. This year’s conference will include more keynote speakers than in previous years. The conference themes include markets, the impact of COVID and lessons learned, how to prepare for emerging diseases, and how to enhance your operation’s value-added strategy. 

The conference’s Monday keynote lecturers, Mark Greenwood of Compeer Financial, Bill Kaelin of McVean Trading and Investments, Paul Yeske of the Swine Veterinary Center and Dave Priesler of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association, will discuss the impact COVID-19 has had on the swine industry, how price discovery in the hog market needs to change to keep swine producers in business, the responses producers and veterinarians had to quickly adapt to during the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19 and, finally, what lessons we need to learn from all this so that we can come up with a more robust, vibrant and resilient swine industry. We will also have Lisa Saif, a distinguished professor of The Ohio University and world renown coronavirus researcher who will draw parallels between animal coronavirus and COVID-19, and the interspecies transmission of the coronaviruses. 

On Tuesday, we will have the HANOR Company leadership Myrl Mortenson, Dave Wade and Dr. Tara Donovan to present how their vision for change includes a strategy to bring added value to their business. From multiplication to environmental stewardship, from being at the forefront of implementing technologies to improve health and productivity to strategic partnerships that add value in final processing—all strategies are designed to capture value from the farm to the table.

Bringing value to swine businesses also entails looking at other industries and learning from the challenges they faced, in particular, when responding to a foreign animal disease. Dr. Michelle Kromm, vice president of Jennie-O animal health and welfare and veterinarian for Hormel Foods, will share her HPAI (high pathogenic avian influenza) and COVID-19 response experiences, focusing on the importance of industry involvement in preparing for and effectively responding to an emergency to better position the swine industry to respond to new diseases, such as African swine fever (ASF).

In addition to the keynotes, we will have break-out sessions that will address timely health and production topics. The break-outs will cover disease specific topics such as Streptococcus suis, PRRS and ASF, production opportunities given the actions that needed to be taken as a result of COVID, public health issues due to antibiotics and pandemic flu, communication and labor issues, and strategies to improve productivity such as batch farrowing and technologies on precision pork production. 

The conference will also include pre-conference workshops on Saturday and Sunday on biosecurity, interpreting next generation molecular diagnostics, understanding between farm transmission, nutrition and pig survivability. The Research Highlight session will also include a diverse set of relevant research presentations on health and production topics, and DVM students will have an opportunity to compete for the Morrison Swine Innovator Prize. Lastly, posters will be available throughout the conference and presenters will be reachable for questions. 

Q. What is the “Hallway Conversation” session? 
We will end the conference with one last “Hallway Conversation” with two industry opinion leaders, 2020 Science in Practice awardee Dr. Clayton Johnson of Carthage Veterinary Services, and Dr. Gordon Spronk of Pipestone Veterinary Services. They will lead a lively discussion of key take home messages of the conference and the industry attributes necessary for success going forward.

Q. What kind of networking opportunities will Leman offer this year? 
The Boehringer Ingelheim Welcome Reception and Poster Session on Sunday evening will feature Chef Justin Sutherland from the Handsome Hog Restaurant in St. Paul and participant of the Top Chef TV program will share an exclusive pork recipe and know-how. During the reception we will fundraise to help feed those in need and for each participant attending the reception and poster session, Boehringer Ingelheim will donate $10 (up to $5,000) to Second Harvest Hartland.

The Zoetis Leman Science in Practice Reception will take place on Monday at 5:15 p.m., and will include a reception to honor Dr. Clayton Johnson, recipient of this year’s AD Leman Science in Practice Award. During the reception, it will be possible to engage in an insightful and vibrant conversation with Johnson about his path to swine medicine and production, key industry learnings and personal tips.

Lastly, the Merck Animal Health Morning Mindset – No Guts no Glory will be held on Tuesday at 7:00 a.m., and feature Dr. Auburn E. Ellis who will guide participants through a series of yoga exercises to create stress-reducing mindfulness as well as physically easing common gut health issues. Just like with animals, our gut can be a source of distress for overall health and this session will offer a few tips to get over those.

And..don’t forget to visit the Virtual Flu Clinic sponsored by Cambridge Technologies since this year more than ever, respiratory health is a No. 1 priority!

Q. What do people need to do to get registered? 
Given the difficult market situation due to COVID-19, we decided to reduce the fees for the virtual conference so that producers and veterinarians could still attend the conference. Both pre-conference workshops and the sessions at the main conference are included in the total price. For registration and conference details, visit https://ccaps.umn.edu/allen-d-leman-swine-conference.

Q. What is the most important thing you want people to know about this year’s conference?
Our aim is to welcome our customary guests and a wider community of both presenters and participants. Because the swine industry is truly a global industry, several of the sessions will be translated to Spanish and Portuguese. We want to give the opportunity to participate to the many out there that have always wanted to attend but have not been able to yet. Also, participants will be able to attend all sessions, even concurrent sessions, since all the content will be available on demand for five months after the conference. You can watch and watch again!

More from Farm Journal's PORK:

A Look Back: 2019 Leman Swine Conference

Clayton Johnson Named 2020 Science in Practice Award Winner

8 Quotable Quotes from Day One of Leman Swine Conference

Leman Conference Attendees Take Away More Than Science