Not the Winter Type


Born, raised and living in Wisconsin, you’d think I enjoy the snow and cold. Nothing could be further from the truth. Don’t get me wrong, I love Wisconsin and particularly enjoy the change of seasons, with late spring and early fall being my favorites. I’m just not a big fan of high heat and high humidity in the summer, sub-zero temperatures in the winter, and shoveling mountains of snow. When the opportunity arises to go south for a few days during this time of year, I certainly look forward to it! I am not the “winter-type”.

It had been a few years since I attended the Winter Type Conference in Perry, GA. The last time I went, I was accompanied by my oldest daughter Chelsea, my wife and my youngest daughter Kristina. We hauled three boars to the show, driving through the night and arriving in Perry in late afternoon. There had been an ice storm in Atlanta the day before and we were amazed to see dozens of cars just abandoned alongside the interstate as we drove through. Expecting a nice little warm mini-vacation, we were extremely disappointed. The weather was cold and wet. The barn and pigs were cold. We all got very sick and I developed a sinus infection and high fever. On top of that we didn’t sell a single one of our boars at the show, despite them placing pretty well. When the sale finished we had to turn around and try to drive home with all of us running fevers and being really sick and miserable. It left a lasting impression. In fact on the drive back, Chelsea made me promise that we were NEVER going back to that show!

Fast forward a few years. The Winter Type Conference has continued to grow in conjunction with the Southeast Regional. More breeders are attending. More boar studs are present. The sale numbers look a little better. We take a hard look in our barn and see the number of real quality hogs that need to be shown to the public. Yes, they are young, but nobody puts their eyes on them just sitting in the barn in Wisconsin. The decision is made to sign up for the Winter Type Conference and give it another shot. Chelsea, being busy with her teaching job, would not be able to attend this year anyway. I would be busy running the Cerdos, LLC booth at the Iowa Pork Congress and wouldn’t be able to haul the hogs to Georgia. Our farm manager, Savanna, instead met a couple friends from Iowa and they all traveled together with our hogs, their hogs and tack all in one trailer. I finished my work in Iowa and flew to Atlanta with Kristina in time for the show and sale.

Arriving in Atlanta and driving down to Perry with the sun shining and our jackets off, we were already off to a much better start than our last visit to this show! We got to Perry to find Savanna and our friends exhausted from the long drive with little sleep, but the hogs all in good shape. As usual, some of the boars didn’t want to eat normally, but for the most part everything was looking good. We spent Friday afternoon watching the junior gilt show and catching up with other hog breeders back in the barn. We always enjoy the camaraderie at hog shows!

I was surprised with the size of the show. There were two barns full of hogs, mostly for the junior show. The quality was also very good with the top end in particular being really competitive. The show started early and ended late both Friday and Saturday with the sale beginning Saturday night and ending around midnight. The show was exceptionally well-run, despite the long hours and I must say the NSR staff did an outstanding job in working tirelessly and making the show run smoothly. I honestly don’t know when those folks get any sleep. Our hogs did ok. We were fortunate to win a class with our Duroc boar entry although we were a little disappointed with the placing of our York entries. Being much younger than the rest of the youngest class didn’t help their case, but we got an honest evaluation from the judge and that’s all one can ask for!

The sale didn’t get off to a great start with the Durocs and Hamps selling pretty poorly. Once the Yorkshires began, however I felt like the sales picked up a bit. Several of the York and crossbred entries sold pretty well, despite the very late hour with those breeds selling last. If you’re a buyer, it makes a lot of sense to come down to this show. There is some real quality in the top half of the sale and many of them sell quite reasonably.

There are a couple of things I would change about the show if I could. First of all, something should be done about the long nights before the show ends each day. Running two rings at the show as they do in Louisville would seem to make sense in order to move things along. Showing the open breeding stock on Friday and then having the sale Saturday morning would also be a welcome change as most (or maybe all) of the other national shows are run this way. Trying to have the show and then the sale just an hour or two afterward doesn’t leave much time for potential buyers to study their notes, gather their thoughts, reassess potential purchases back in the barn and then put a plan together. Typically at this type of show, Friday night is spent showing hogs to prospective buyers back in the barn. There are also several of us who head for home after the sale finishes. It would be nice to get on the road early Saturday afternoon rather than 1am Sunday. It also would allow buyers a more comfortable time of day to attend the auction, not having to wait around until midnight with their worn-out children to try to buy the gilt they’ve had their eye on.

The sale finished for us with our crossbred gilt going through the ring driven by Kristina, who was thoroughly tired by that time of night. Savanna and our friends already loaded up and headed for home before the crossbreds finished selling. We did buy back our best Yorkshire boar and took him back to a small boar stud close to our farm. Kristina and I drove back to the hotel and got to bed around 1:15am. A few hours of sleep and we were packing up and driving back to Atlanta to catch our flight home. A delay at Atlanta had us arriving later than planned in Chicago, then the 90-minute drive back home. We only beat Savanna back by an hour or so!

If you’re a breeder, this is a great place to add some pieces to your herd! If you’re breeding to farrow in July, August and September for the Southwest and then have a second parity in December, January, and February for the Midwest, this is the place to buy those mature gilts born in June and July that you can breed for those target dates without too many farrowing problems. The quality is good and the prices are affordable. You can also find some really good boars as more of the boar studs are already discovering. If you’re not the “winter type” and want a chance to get away to some warm weather, great people and see a really good hog show, do yourself a favor and plan on attending the Winter Type Conference next year!


Today’s Questions:


Paul from TX:

I read all I can the information you write. I am in North Texas, lot of trial and error. I have used the spirettes always. My question is are the foam type AI catheters any better? Will I have better results or ease? I’ve never used them so I’m somewhat apprehensive. I don’t have a lot, only 30 sows but if it would improve even a little I’d try. Just not sure if I would do it correctly. Thanks and I look forward to your articles.


Hi Paul,

Thank you for reading and for submitting your question. The foam catheters are easier to use than the spirettes. You just push them in until they can’t go any farther and tug back gently to make sure they are locked into the cervix. If done properly, either will give you the same end result. What makes the foam better is that you allow the sow to draw in the semen with uterine contractions (no squeezing the bottle) so there is less likelihood of backflow and semen loss.

I'll be writing a blog post soon about the different catheter types that hopefully will help answer more questions.

Thanks for reading and let me know if there's anything else I can help with!


Eric from Brookings, SD:

Regarding Fertify will this work on other species? Would like to try it on Lab dogs. Found a stud we would like to use but the owner says he has a low sperm count. If Fertify would work we would give it a try. Thanks. Also what’s the cost of DRYGIENE shipped to South Dakota enough for farrowing ten sows?


Hi Eric,

Thanks for your inquiry. Regarding Fertify™, it was developed to be fed to all species of livestock and in fact we have show-cattle producers and sheep breeders who are starting to feed it. I’m not sure how a dog would react to it but it certainly shouldn’t harm them. The main thing is if they will eat it. I am guessing they would. I would try a much smaller dose than the 1/4lb. however. 1-2oz. per day would likely be plenty if they will eat it.

Regarding DRYGIENE™, one bag would be sufficient for your needs. In South Dakota you can buy it from Sioux Nation Ag, or we can ship a bag direct. We can use Spee-dee to SD so the shipping cost should be $20 or less. You’d have the $40 product cost and about $20 shipping for a total cost of $60. If you want to get some let me know and we’ll get you taken care of. If you buy it from the online store it won’t give you the Spee-dee option (because they aren’t nationwide) and you’d have to choose UPS, which will cost more.

Thanks again for reading and let me know if there’s anything we can help with!


Garrit from Ohio:


I greatly appreciate reading your "Pig Pen" posts and your responses on other websites such as showpig.

I was looking for some info on Fertify, where I can buy it, cost, etc.

Also, I've had a few vets propose an Ovugel program for normally cycling sows where you administer it 24 hours after standing heat and then breed 22 hours later. Administer to gilts 12 hours after standing heat and breed 22 hours later. Wondered if you'd had an experience with this type of program?


Hi Garrit,

Thank you for the kind words.

Regarding Fertify™, at the moment it is only available directly through us, but we will be adding distributors soon. You can buy it through our online store or by phone, email, text, messenger or smoke signal. ;-) Just need a credit card and shipping address. The 20lb. buckets are $150 and 50lb. bags are $300. The feeding rate is 1/4lb. per day (1/2lb. for real problem animals) so it isn’t nearly as expensive as it sounds. You can read all about it on the website. Let me know if you have any questions that aren’t answered there.

Regarding Ovugel, it is labeled for use on sows after weaning and it works very effectively used as labeled. There are a lot of ideas about how to use it otherwise and we’ve used a lot of protocols in the past several years with Ovugel and other injectables like it. The problem is that it isn’t nearly as effective when used off-label. Having said that, I also think the protocol your vet is promoting has you administering the product too late. If I were to try using Ovugel timing it with a heat cycle rather than timing it with weaning, I would administer it at first standing heat and breed 22-24 hours later whether breeding a sow or gilt. Waiting too long in the heat cycle to administer it is probably a mistake.

Let me know if there’s anything I can help with.


Tina from Colfax, WI:

What is the difference between the PCR and ELISA PRRS tests in terms of collection methods and accuracy?


Hi Tina,

Thank you for the question. I am guessing this comes about because of the new PRRS-testing requirements now in effect in Wisconsin and likely coming soon to other Midwest states. We’ll be doing a new blog post here in the Pig Pen soon discussing these new testing requirements. To answer your question, the primary difference between PCR and Elisa testing for PRRS is that PCR is testing for presence of the virus while Elisa is used to detect antibodies which provides indirect evidence of infection based the animal’s immune response to infection. Elisa testing usually involves drawing blood, where PCR testing can be done on semen or oral fluids. The rope test is a popular method of gathering saliva for PCR-testing of PRRS. This involves placing a rope in a pen and allowing pigs to chew on it until it is soaked with saliva, then place the rope in a bag and send it off to the lab for testing.

Elisa and PCR both have their place in determining whether or not animals are PRRS infected. For example, boars that test positive (higher than .4) with the Elisa test are sometimes collected and have their semen PCR-tested for PRRS. If the semen comes back “clean” the boar is often considered safe to use. Dr. Darwin Reicks and others proved years ago that this is a dangerous assumption and that the odds of detecting PRRS virus by PCR testing semen are relatively low. If the Elisa test consistently shows positive, the boar may be shedding virus into the semen. Many commercial boar studs subsequently went to drawing blood from the boars from the ear or saphenous vein while they are on the dummy and having the blood tested prior to shipping semen to their customers. Consider that when you purchase semen from a showpig boar that is still in isolation.

Thank you again for the question and thanks for reading!


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