Didn't have time to make it to the 1999 World Pork Expo? That's okay because National Hog Farmer put together a panel to walk the floors for you. The panelists reviewed 45 new products released over the last year and nominated by exhibitors.

The new product review panel included: Gary Cromwell, swine nutritionist at the University of Kentucky; Steve Hoff, agricultural engineer at Iowa State University; Dale Holmgren, pork producer from North Mankato, MN; and Steve Patterson, veterinarian, Shelbina, MO.

What follows is a list of the 11 products, in no particular order, our panelists thought producers would find most interesting.

Faaborg, based in Denmark, introduced its Tube-O-Mat 3-in-1 feeder. The design is based on research showing that a combination of dry and soaked feed and easily accessed clean water are key for optimal piglet growth, says Faaborg's Hans Jorgensen.

Most of the innovation comes in the trough design. Constructed of a polymer concrete, the trough has three distinct areas. Directly under the tube is an "island" that slopes down to the trough. Dry feed is always available on this slope. A circular area surrounding this island provides an area where feed and water can mix. Off to both sides of this area are troughs designed for water only.

By moving the water pipe up or down, you control the amount of water in the trough (and the consistency of the mix).

Benefits Jorgensen cites include access to three distinct areas from day one with no training. He says Faaborg designed the feeder to make the conversion from milk to dry feed as painless as possible, providing "water, water and more water."

Two simple but interesting designs were molded into the polymer trough. One is a channel to let water flow away in case a waterer sticks. Another is a wall by the drinker to keep a pig's leg from triggering the drinker.

Jorgensen says they recommend 40-60 piglets on a feeder. Faaborg anticipates a retail price around $200.

Producer Dale Holmgren thinks the cost seems competitive, but notes that the design is for wean-to-nursery, not wean-to-finish. A 3-in-1 feeder sized for finishing is also available for $250.

Engineer Steve Hoff thinks the feeder would be durable, citing the attention to detail in construction. He wanted to know if independent trial data was coming. Jorgensen notes that in the Danish cooperative system, performance data is centrally collated and will be available to all producers.

The "RiteRate" Application System from Balzer Inc. allows manure applicators to have better control of the volume of manure applied per acre.

The system features an in-cab controller that lets the operator change rates on the go. RiteRate monitors the ground speed of the tractor and manure tank via ground radar. A flow meter measures the volume of manure coming out of the tank. The controller combines this information and adjusts flow by adjusting the tank gate up or down, and adjusting the speed of the slurry impeller.

Steve Hoff wondered whether the system could be coordinated with Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology. Balzer's Curt Aalderks says the system was designed so that it could be upgraded to a fully variable rate application system using GPS.

Aalderks says that RiteRate, listed at $13,000 retail, is a good alternative for the producer who doesn't want to spend the $20,000-25,000 needed for a fully variable rate GPS system.

With many states already requiring manure management plans to be filed and the federal government developing national guidelines, Hoff says that it's possible some type of monitor like this may be required in the future.

Dosmatic featured a new design for its water medicator at this year's show. Called the Advantage, panelists noted it looked easy to maintain and easy to adjust.

The new Advantage design includes quick disconnect inlets and outlets, so that the medicator can be taken in and out with no tools. Another design feature allows a quick, no-tools change of the pump seals and the dosage piston.

Other features highlighted by Dosmatic's Sam Chandler were a lockable ratio adjuster on the outside, mounting brackets, a bypass that allows fresh water through and a bleeder valve for easy purging of air in the line.

Chandler says the Advantage was constructed out of a chemically resistant material to make it compatible with liquid medications, vitamins, chlorine and sanitizers.

Chandler showed the panel two models of the Advantage. The A-10 has "outlet injection" with chemicals mixing in the outlet chamber, not in the motor. The A-20 has a built-in internal mixing chamber, ensuring complete mixing of all chemicals.

The benefit of the chamber is to have the medication thoroughly mixed with the drinking water before it leaves the medicator, ensuring that each drink of water has the correct level of medication.

Despite adding features, Dosmatic held the price in line with its old model, retailing at around $199.

Ingelvac M. hyo is the first and only USDA-licensed, one-dose vaccine to protect against pneumonia caused by mycoplasma. Released by Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc., Ingelvac M. Hyo uses a new adjuvant featuring a water-in-oil emulsion. The new adjuvant results in a 120-day duration of immunity (DOI).

This extended DOI is key, says veterinarian Steve Patterson, as pigs are provided protection not only through the nursery stage but through the so-called "18-week wall" in the finishing barn.

It's that stage of production where otherwise healthy herds experience challenges.

Patterson says producers in his practice are very pleased with products that require giving fewer shots. In addition to the one-dose feature, Patterson says the product has been priced competitively with other two-dose mycoplasma vaccines on the market. The product has been on the market since November and many veterinary clinics have seen supply outpaced by demand, notes Boehringer's Bruce King. He expects supply to improve by July.

Easy Systems Inc. is now selling Easy Feed, a PC-based Windows program. Used at the front end of the feed mill operation, it enhances the batch controller capabilities of Easy Systems and Weigh-Tronix Inc. feed processing systems.

The software tracks usage, inventories, stage feeding, costs and more. Data can be transferred into other software packages such as PigChamp and Farm Business Systems. Custom reports can also be prepared.

The software package requires an Intel Pentium PC or 100% compatible, 8 MB RAM memory, 100 MB available on disk drive, 1.44 MB, 3.5 in. floppy drive or CD ROM drive.

Gary Cromwell says the increase in the use of multi-phase diets and requirements on producers to track usage of feed additives makes a good recordkeeping system a must.

The Staco Division of Chore-Time introduces its new Easy Wash Hog Feeder design. Easy wash-out and preventing feed waste are contradictory goals when it comes to trough design, says Staco's Bryan Shive. In attempts to eliminate feed wastage, all feeders are designed to keep feed from getting out of the trough. But this also prevents easy removal of water and feed during cleaning.

Feeders are best cleaned by removing them from their operating positions, tilting, turning and rolling them in attempts to remove all contaminants and debris during clean-out, says Shive. In this process, feeders are damaged, parts are lost and pens are cluttered with rods, pins, drop tube holders and feeders. In addition, injuries are possible.

So, Chore-Time re-designed the feeder, changing the slope of the trough. The last inch and a quarter before the lip, actually a reverse incline, tilts towards the feeder, making it next to impossible for the pig to drag feed out of the trough. This design change eliminates the need for a catch lip to be folded toward the trough.

Instead, the fold is now turned outward, a design change that Dale Holmgren applauded.

"You practically have to pick away with a putty knife to get feed out of that lip (on most feeders)," says Holmgren. He says it's so frustrating that he's considered designing a curved tip for a pressure washer to access under the lip. "With this open to the front, cleaning will be a lot easier," he commented.

Chore-Time also added a gate at the end of the trough which slides up, allowing the trough to be washed clean while remaining stationary. The gate is lifted up and locked down from the top of the feeder. The control used is the same design as that used in Chore-Time's easy-set feeder adjustments, which have been on the market for more than a year and have proven next to impossible for hogs to access, says Shive.

Chore-Time also added a floor bracket that keeps the feeder 3/4 in. off the floor, allowing a pressure washer access under the feeder.

Shive says the new trough is actually stronger with two welds from the trough to the end cap instead of one in the old design.

Fort Recovery Equipment Co. Inc. introduces its new building designed to eliminate liquid manure. The design includes features of a traditional hog building and a high-rise chicken layer barn.

Ft. Recovery's Greg LeFevre says to imagine a traditional deep pit design built completely above ground. The fans are mounted in the pit sidewalls and pig-level sidewalls are solid instead of curtains, says LeFevre.

Wood shavings or corn stover are spread on the pit floor prior to stocking. This is to absorb moisture.

Air is forced through the waste material via air plenums and small holes drilled in the pit floor, a patented ventilation system that dries the manure.

Also, all the air in the barn is sucked downward from ceiling inlets through the slats and out the pit sidewall, also helping dry the manure.

The manure is held and hauled in a dry state once a year. Manure is loaded out through ground level access doors. A loader is driven into the pit and the manure/stover compost is loaded into a box spreader or other type of transport vehicle. There is no liquid manure.

Steve Hoff was very interested in the design and eager to see the results of an on-going study by Ohio State University. Early results indicate improved air quality and pig performance, says LeFevre.

Noting that lumber, cement and labor vary from area to area, LeFevre says the building costs about $180/pig space vs. $155/pig space of a standard, deep pit, naturally ventilated barn.

The Danish company, Ikadan System, introduces a new farrowing pen design that allows sows to move and turn around freely.

One of the key innovations in the Ikadan VIP-system is the use of a stool-like structure, what our panelists dubbed "mushrooms" (see photo). The four spring-mounted mushrooms are spaced throughout the pen to create a controlled laying area for the sow.

Developed in response to concerns in Europe about animal welfare, Ikadan claims early test results are showing increased weaning weights compared with a standard farrowing crate, and no increase in baby pig crushings.

"I think it may show that allowing the sow to exercise increases her appetite, which improves milking," says Greg Swain of Ikadan System USA.

Swain also thinks improved conditioning of the sow coming out of the farrowing room is likely. "Conditioning is key in getting the sow re-bred," says Swain.

The VIP-system incorporates a totally separate creep area where pigs can have their own microclimate and safety from the sow. The area can also be used to contain pigs for easy access during processing.

The banning of some antibiotic use is forcing European farmers to put extra emphasis on hygiene. In response, Ikadan has incorporated new design features into its equipment. The elimination of an iron crate with bars should ease the cleaning process. And, the new panel penning system is easily removable, says Swain.

Panelists voiced concerns about hyper sows jumping out of the pen. Swain says that at one trial farm in Denmark, the farmer actually suggested lowering the pen sides from the original 40 in. down to the displayed 30 in. The height of the panels, as well as the size of the penning, is easily modified, he notes.

Dale Holmgren wonders whether current ventilation and cooling designs would match up if you were trying to fit the VIP-system into an existing farrowing building with crates. Holmgren also suggests the Danish company develop white-colored panels, instead of the black and gray on display, to help keep the farrowing room bright.

MIK, a German-headquartered company, introduces its Thermo Oase, a water bed for piglets.

The design incorporates a plastic bottom, a layer of insulation and a black, flexible, nylon-like material that is filled with water.

MIK's Juliane Henn says the black nylon foil surface helps capture the heat from a suspended lamp and the water inside helps store and distribute the heat evenly throughout the mat. The result is a creep area that closely resembles the sow's belly, says Henn.

Research is ongoing at the University of Gieben in Germany, comparing growth and health to other alternatives.

The designs at the show were metric and convert to roughly an 18 in. x 45 in. design that may need to be modified to fit a U.S. farrowing crate. A 12 in. x 48 in. configuration is more standard, says Dale Holmgren.

Holmgren says keeping the mat away from the sow would be imperative. The cost quoted at the show was $75 each.

Swine Robotics Inc., Leola, SD, introduces the Boar Bot, a wireless, remote control, boar-moving device. It's designed for use in long alley gestation barns where a boar is moved in front of the crated sows for heat detection and stimulation during artificial insemination.

A harness is attached across the boar's shoulders and a rope is linked to the 20 in. wide Bot.

The Boar Bot has four-wheel drive and skid steering and can move backwards and forwards. It can spin in place and turn quite easily around corners in 2- and 3-ft. alleys. When stopped, the wheels lock and 375 lb. of low center-of-gravity weight means that the boar is stopped as well. Our panelists' best efforts couldn't move the Boar Bot from a stop or withstand its pull when started.

The Boar Bot is powered by two, 1/3-hp. motors and uses two, rechargeable, deep-cell batteries. A full charge lasts about eight hours, says Jerome Mack, the Leola, SD, 1,200-sow producer who came up with the idea and is marketing the Boar Bot. After use, the operator can plug in an easily accessed on-board charger.

Priced at $5,000 at the show, the Boar Bot carried quite a sticker shock for the panelists. Mack says the payback on a 1,000-sow farm would come in six months, figuring they can save four hours of labor a day.

Swine Robotics is offering a one-year warranty on parts, a free demonstration video and a two-week, money-back guarantee to help allay concerns about the new product.

Mack says unlike other employees, the Boar Bot will work seven days a week and is never late. He also points out any time a worker is kept away from a boar is a safety benefit.

Dale Holmgren asked how long it takes to train the boar to respond to the Boar Bot. Mack says while all boars fight the tug initially, all are eventually trained, some as quick as the third time they're hooked up.

Concerns about exposure to water and dust were voiced by Gary Cromwell. Mack says all parts are sealed, but that direct spray from a pressure washer is not recommended.

Other possible uses include dead animal removal or pulling a feed cart, says Mack.

The Boar Bot is geared to move 1.6 ft. per second, a slow walk for a boar. This gearing can be adjusted. A belt holster for the remote control is standard. The control incorporates a Remtron transmitter and has a range of 250 ft.

Steve Patterson, DVM, wondered what would happen if the Boar Bot tipped over. Mack says the prototype never has, but that if it did, leaking battery water would be his only concern.

The Boar Bot was actually engineered fr om Mack's basic idea by students at South Dakota State University as a senior design project. Steve Hoff was impressed enough with their work to try and recruit the students for graduate school in Ames.

Minitube of America displayed the US BAG with dispensing spout. Uniquely designed for collecting, extending and dispensing boar semen, the bag has a tear away, integrated, non-woven filter and a self-contained dispensing spout.

The spout drops down and away from the bag. When the semen has been extended, you simply cut away the tip and fill your bottles or tubes, regulating semen flow with a pinch clip or fingers.

Minitube's Todd Schaaf says the bag design improves hygiene as there is no need to handle the filter and no need to transfer semen to beakers for extending. He also says reduced semen and sperm loss is likely as the fluid remains in one bag throughout processing, limiting agitation or cold shock from a transfer. Plus, says Schaaf, you eliminate the labor required for washing lab glassware.

The bag with the dispensing spout is 45 cents vs. 33 cents for a standard bag.