A new, broad information resource for pork producers was rolled out at World Pork Expo.

Nearing its first anniversary, the U.S. Pork Center of Excellence (USPCE) announced a new information network focused on answering pork producers' questions and providing extensive information on all facets of pork production.

Dubbed the Pork Information Gateway (PIG), the Extension component of the USPCE is an interactive tool providing information on a wide range of subjects related to the production of pigs and pork, explains Director David Meisinger. “It's a web site that is all-virtual and dynamic.”

The PIG database includes nearly 200 new or revised fact sheets categorized in the format developed for the Pork Industry Handbook (PIH), produced by Purdue University. Through a cooperative agreement with the university, USPCE has recruited industry and Extension specialists to update fact sheets in 16 categories.

In addition, the database lists over 2,100 frequently asked questions about pork production, with answers provided by Extension specialists and advisory group members.

“Producers can submit their question and these experts will answer them,” Meisinger explains. These exchanges are posted as part of the ever-growing database.

The PIG also includes about 250 other references — pig-related books, seminar proceedings, a glossary of about 550 definitions, and a pig events section, which is under development.

Producers can log on to the site via www.usporkcenter.org, www.usporkcenter.com or www.porkgateway.com.

A new Pork Industry Handbook will be published annually, including current fact sheets. Copies of the 2007 edition will be available in October 2006 through Purdue University Extension. The hardcover volume (PIH-150) costs $90; the DVD (DVD-PIH-5) version is $45. The pair is available for $115. A 20% discount is available for orders received before Aug. 1, 2006. To order, call 1-888-398-4636 or e-mail: media.order@purdue.edu.

The entire contents of the Pork Industry Handbook are also posted on the USPCE web site, free to registrants.

Slim Budgets

The formation of the USPCE rose out of a series of workshops held in 2003, where university administrators recognized that budget constraints would require greater collaboration with other universities, government agencies and allied industry.

“The Pork Center of Excellence is all about partnerships and collaboration between universities, allied industries and pork producers,” explains Wendy Wintersteen, USPCE board chair and dean and director of the College of Agriculture at Iowa State University (ISU). “The goal of the center is to bring value to the pork industry by facilitating a coordinated effort in research and information distribution, so that we can help all producers bring value to their operations and the industry as a whole.”

The USPCE office is located at the National Swine and Information Center on the ISU campus in Ames.

The USDA Cooperative State Research and Education Service and the USDA Agricultural Research Service joined the National Pork Board in providing seed money for the center. In addition, 20 land grant universities pledged support through a funding formula based on the number of hogs marketed in their respective states. Several state pork producer organizations and the National Pork Producers Council also contributed. A 15-member board of directors governs the center.

Targeted Areas

The USPCE is focused on research, teaching and Extension.

The Extension portion of USPCE is the Pork Information Gateway.

The research segment will focus on air quality. The USPCE board considered 10 potential research themes. After objectively evaluating each in terms of the size of the challenge for pork producers, the amount of coordination needed and funding availability, air quality ranked highest.

“We've identified 19 institutions in the country, and 48 researchers, that do air quality research,” Meisinger says.

In the teaching area, USPCE plans to develop the concept and curriculum for a series of regional swine schools.

“Five years ago, there were 40 institutions in this country that taught swine production,” he notes. “We're now down to 20, and five of those have less than 10 students.”

Noting that budget restraints have hampered the filling of faculty positions necessary to maintain a comprehensive educational and research programs, Dean Wintersteen adds, “We want to get ahead of the consolidation curve and be very proactive in serving the industry.”