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September 26, 2019

African Swine Fever: Turning a Negative Into a Positive for Whey Exports

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

African Swine Fever (ASF) is devastating hop operations in southeast Asia and is reducing the amount of dried whey products from the United States and other exporters needed to feed pigs there. Nevertheless, this negative could soon be turned into a positive, say officials from the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC).

The disease has spread to eight southeast Asian countries, with South Korea confirming its sixth case this week. South Korea has already slaughtered 20,000 pigs and expects to kill another 30,000 as a preventative measure.

China’s pig herd is down one-third from a year ago. It has reduced its whey imports 10,000 tons per month as a result. U.S. whey imports are down 12,000 tons per month, a combination of lower feed needs and retaliatory tariffs due to the on-going trade war between the two countries.

So what’s the good news? It turns out that increasing the ratio of whey permeate in swine rations increases both faster growth in piglets and more pigs per litter when fed to breeding age females.

Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of USDEC met with Chinese officials in late August, pointing this fact out, and 11 days later, Chinese officials waived their retaliatory tariffs on U.S. permeate for feed. On Sept. 17, U.S. feed permeate tariffs reverted to their pre-retaliatory levels of 2%.

“Our permeate can now compete on a level playing field in a nation that produced and consumed roughly half of the world’s pork last year,” says Vilsack.

Analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) shows that the Chinese hog industry will likely restructure following the ASF outbreak, consolidating many small operations into larger, commercial-scaled farms. These farms, AFBF believes, will be better able to fine-tune rations using whey permeate.

Hog prices have also shot to record high levels. “[Chinese hog] operations have a strong financial incentive to restock as soon as it’s safe to do so,” says Alan Levitt, USDEC vice president of market analysis. “They should also be quite receptive to increasing whey permeate inclusion rates on piglets to bring them to market faster.”

USDEC will also be conducting two full-day seminars on the use and benefit of whey permeate in pig diets in Beijing and Nanchang at the end of October. “We trust that the information and perspectives shared during our events will help the Chinese swine industry during its herd-rebuilding efforts,” says Annie Bienvenue, USDEC VP of technical services.

“We believe that increasing the inclusion rate of permeate in nursery pig diets is a cost-effective strategy to help maximize pig productivity and offers a ‘win-win’ dairy solution for the U.S. and China,” she says.

For more information on ASF and the use of whey protein in pig diets, click here.