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— Cargill plans to vaccinate 120,000 sows primarily in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma against the H1N1 virus, according to company spokesman Mark Klein.

Tyson Foods said it won’t vaccinate its sow herd because its pork segment is not vertically integrated - control of the product from embryo to edible pork products. While Tyson has a small sow herd it still buys most of its pork from independent producers.

The nation’s largest pork company, Smithfield Foods, is still weighing its options.

Klein said the vaccines given to swine are not to be confused with the human vaccine for H1N1.

“They are made by two different manufacturers,” he said.

Cargill made the decision to vaccinate its sows as part of its animal welfare program and said the shots should have a positive effect on the sows’ offspring in terms of increased immunity.

“We hope to receive the vaccines in time for our regular semiannual inoculations of our sow herd in December,” Klein said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture hasasked pork producers to consider using the vaccine as it becomes available.

The pork industry estimates it has lost $5.4 billion since September 2007 amid over supplies and weaker economic climate. Producers have lost an average of $23 per hog marketed in that time frame, according to the National Pork Producers Council.

The heavy losses prompted Tyson to downsize its local pork group in recent weeks, selling five company-owned farms in Benton and Washington counties.

Tyson said the sale of the farms was necessary as it navigates challenging conditions facing the pork industry and the company effectively manages its live hog business.

Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said this summer the pork group would reduce its sow herd by 20,000 head by October, leaving an inventory of 50,000 sows.

The latest cutbacks will reduce Tyson’s sow herd by 28.6 percent and rank the company 13th in terms of pork production, according to Steve Kay, publisher of Cattle Buyers Weekly.

Also this week U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced plans to buy up to $50 million of pork products for various federal food programs.

News, Pages 18 on 11/18/2009

Print Headline: Cargill to vaccinate sows

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