Improving Quality of Slaughter Hogs as a Marketing Strategy for Small Producers

1995 Annual Report for FS95-031

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 1995: $9,150.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1997
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $17,300.00
Region: Southern
State: Kentucky
Principal Investigator:
Judy Williams
Bluegrass Pork Producers

Improving Quality of Slaughter Hogs as a Marketing Strategy for Small Producers


The Bluegrass Pork Producers Association in East Central Kentucky is devoted to improving swine production through education and marketing. Because of a change in the marketing structure of slaughter hogs and the closure of two Kentucky packers, smaller producers have been forced to contract with low-volume auction markets. The lower volume markets pay them less than direct-market truckload lots to larger packers. By improving carcass quality, the producers involved with the project hope to receive higher prices from the lower volume auction markets.

1.) Demonstrate the utility of ultrasound technology to improve carcass quality in slaughter hogs.
2.) Improve quality of slaughter hogs in the Bluegrass Pork Producers Group.
3.) Improve breeding consistency of swine in the Bluegrass Pork Producers Group.

Data were collected on fatback content and depth, loin depth and percent lean of each animal by extension personnel using ultrasound technology. The information was used to analyze the characteristics of participating producers’ hogs to improve breeding and marketing. The ultrasound technology was applied to the selection of breeding gilts in the project. In the first part of the project, 476 gilts were weighed. Fat and loin depth also were measured at that time.
Ultrasound technology is most accurate in predicting desired characteristics of offspring when it is used on young animals approximately 160 days old and that weigh from 230 to 270 pounds. Because of this, only gilts were used for this project. The boars used by all of the producer members of the Bluegrass Pork Producers Association who participated in the ultrasound breeding were purchased. The purchased boars were selected on the criteria developed and identified through the use of ultrasound technology. Consequently, all offspring are the result of selection for desired characteristics in both parents.
The ultrasound technician measured the desired characteristics of fatback content and depth, loin depth and percent lean over the tenth rib of each animal. The same technician operates the ultrasound machine for the program throughout Kentucky. This ensures no differences in readings due to different operators. Information from each animal is entered into a computer and used to develop an index which includes the age and weight of each animal. A final report on this project will be presented at project completion.

A field day was held in conjunction with the annual Bluegrass Hog Show in Paris, Kentucky, in January 1996. The ultrasound evaluation and computer program were demonstrated on the 143 hogs in the show. Thirty three area producers and more than 100 4-H and FFA youth took part in the demonstration and judging contest. Another field day will be held at the completion of the project.