Visitors to the next World Pork Expo held in the US are being offered the chance of visiting a Midwest American feed mill that belongs to one of the country's largest pork producers. This visit is included in an industry tour option called Midwest Ag Highlights that will go also to a plant where maize is converted into ethanol.

The tour starts on Monday, June 1, 2009, in Des Moines, Iowa, and continues the next day before returning to the city in time for the show. World Pork Expo itself begins this year on a Wednesday, June 3, and runs until Friday, June 5 a departure from its former profile as a Thursday/Friday/Saturday event. While the timing may change, the venue remains the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.

The organisers at the National Pork Producers Council say they expect 18,000 pork producers from around the world to attend the show. About 500 supply companies will be represented on trade stands at the showground. Trade show hours are 8am to 5pm on the Wednesday and Thursday, with the Friday session opening at 8am and ending at 1pm.

Specialised feed plant

Pre-show industry tours have become a feature of the annual event that is locally known as WPX. This time, one tour's schedule includes calls at Iowa-based ingredients specialist Kemin Industries and plant genetics company Pioneer Hi-Bred International as well as the animal science department of Iowa State University.

Another on the same Monday/Tuesday dates will check on pork processing from plant design and equipment to supermarket shelves and national promotion.

But the Midwest Ag Highlights tour starts by visiting animal health products distributor Ivesco, before going on to ethanol producer Hawkeye Renewables.

The final stop is at the feed mill of Christensen Farms, which calls itself the largest family-owned swine producer in the US and is in the top three nationally for production size.

Christensen Farms controls about 175,000 sows producing some three million pigs per year at units in six Midwestern states. In addition, it is the largest shareholder and owner of Triumph Foods, ranked second in the US for sow numbers and annual output.

Feed is also strongly in focus at the show. World Pork Expo 2009 will see the launch of the National Swine Nutrition Guide a collaborative project between American universities, agribusinesses and the US Pork Center of Excellence that is housed at the National Swine Research and Information Center on the campus of Iowa State University.

Practical guidance

The guide's developers emphasise that it does not seek to replace the Nutrient Requirements of Swine publication from the National Academy of Science (formerly the National Research Council and, therefore, still recognised among livestock nutritionists internationally as NRC). The express purpose of the new National Swine Nutrition Guide is to provide nutrient recommendations in practical form on the basis of the 1998 version of NRC and subsequent research results.

American pork producers used to have access to bulletins from their state extension advisory services that explained the basics of nutrition, feeding practices and related management issues, the guide's developers comment. However, most such bulletins have ceased to exist after cutbacks in the number of qualified extension swine nutrition specialists trained to write or update such documents.

More information about the Nutrition Guide project will be made available during World Pork Expo but the main output is already becoming clear. Fact sheets will be published electronically and in print by the US Pork Center of Excellence, for the use by personnel who work with pork producers.

The WPX set for June 3-5 will be the 21st edition of the annual show. It was held for the first time on the Iowa State Fairgrounds in 1988 and has laid the claim of being the largest pork-industry trade show and exhibition in the world. In recent years it has drawn more than 30,000 pork producers, exhibitors and visitors from across the country and around the globe.

Discussing the new-look timing, away from a Thursday start and mid-Saturday finish to the Wednesday/Thursday/Friday profile, WPX general manager John Wrigley said: "it is what our visitors and our exhibitors want, a show that is 100% professional and which no longer tries to have an additional audience by inviting the general public at the weekend.

"We have moved away from the original concept of also drawing in townspeople and consumers from Des Moines and the surrounding area of Iowa to see the pork industry's largest trade show. Our focus now is exclusively on the attendance of producers and their advisers from the swine sector, domestically and internationally."

Visitors can register online through the show's worldpork.org website to purchase entry tickets in advance. When attendees register, they will be sent a name tag that serves as their admission pass for all three days of the show.