Advanced Swine Course
June 29, 2004
  • /Agricultural and Consumer Economics
  • /Animal Sciences
  • /Crop Sciences
 
June 29, 2004

URBANA--While specialized workshops and courses are common on U.S. university campuses during the summer months, one at the University of Illinois that concluded in late June is unique for its history of international outreach. The 2004 Advanced Swine Production Technology course featured presenters and participants from Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, the United States, Canada, and Scotland and employed the full-time services of a translator. The participants were technical consultants that work for Elanco in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

"This course traditionally has been unique in the sense of its breadth of subject matter and the intensity of the work over a one-week period," said Vernon Fowler, a research scientist at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, who was one of the presenters at the course which ran from June 13 to June 19.

The study body for this year's course consisted entirely of Central and South American field representatives of Elanco, a firm engaged in pork production in those and other regions. It marked the first time one company provided all the students.

"We've been doing this course for about 10 years, offering it every two years," said Michael Ellis, a U of I professor of animal sciences and with Robert Easter, dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, a co-founder of the program. Gilbert Hollis, professor emeritus of animal sciences, assisted Ellis in organizing this year's program.

"We consider this course part of the College's international outreach and a way to build relations with U.S. companies that compete in the global marketplace," he said.

The theme of this year's course was to review all aspects of pork production that might affect the variability of the end product.

"Wide variation in product can mean an economic loss for producers," explained David Cobb, Elanco's manager for global marketing.

Variation is represented by such things as different weights among a group of pigs raised and marketed together and the time it takes the animals to develop.

Fowler referred to the pigs that lag in development as "tail-enders." These pigs bring a smaller price and, in some cases, with the tight margins in the pork industry, the reduced price can take away a good deal of the producer's profit.

Jose Cordero, an agribusiness consultant in Latin America and presenter, said the U of I's biennial pork production course provides an excellent opportunity to exchange information.

"You have an opportunity to get the latest information on what technology can offer to the industry. In essence, you get a transferable package of knowledge that can be used and applied in your environment," he said. "Plus, you see all the challenges the pork industry is facing on a global scale. This information helps you target your competitive focus."

2004's focus on variability fits with what Cordero views as the biggest challenge to the pork industry.

"How as a producer do you consistently produce a product for different consumers?" he said. "How as a producer do you react to the new competitive order in which the market is defined by the consumer rather than the producer in an open-trade environment?"

For a pork industry supplier like Elanco, answers to these questions are also important, said Cobb.

"We spend a lot of time helping our customers, the producers, solve problems," he explained. "The information we gain at this course will help us do a better job, especially considering the fact that the U of I is a leader developing and sharing information on pork production."

The 22 participants faced an intense schedule that began on a Sunday evening and concluded the following Saturday evening marked by days crammed with presentations beginning at 8 a.m. and concluding at 6 p.m.

-30-