Pig farms are recovering from virus — meat prices may drop — so they say


What a clean pig farm can look like

A virus that killed millions of baby pigs in the last year and led to higher pork prices has waned thanks to warmer weather and farmers’ efforts to sterilize their operations. And as pigs’ numbers increase, sticker shock on things like bacon should ease.

Already, hog supplies are on the rise, with 5.46 million baby pigs born between June and August in Iowa, the nation’s leading producer — the highest quarterly total in 20 years and a record 10.7 surviving pigs per litter, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

It’s a significant turnaround from a year ago when the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus was wiping out entire litters. Since the virus first showed up, the federal government rushed to give conditional approval for a vaccine and those in the industry began taking precautions, such as disinfecting trucks, equipment and clothing…

It’s clear the industry is managing the virus, but it’s far from eradicated. Two new cases were confirmed by South Dakota veterinary officials in the past week, bringing the state’s total to 38 farms. And there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic, Lear said, as the virus thrives in colder, wetter environments like those found in fall and winter…

Also – too bad it took the death of 10% of the young hogs in the United States to nudge a bit of activity by farmers and the USDA alike to invoke more sanitary conditions for the pigs they raise for food. Anyone wonder why so many nations keep a weather eye out for meat from the United States – how it may endanger their own consumers?

It takes about six months to raise a pig to market weight, so the increased supply could mean a slight drop in consumer prices this winter and a more noticeable decline in the spring…Many in the industry are optimistic that the worst of the PED virus is behind them, but there is still concern among producers.

Dale Norton — a livestock farmer in Bronson, Michigan, and president of the National Pork Board — lost 1,500 piglets over 2½ weeks in March, but said his barns are now free of the virus.

There may be additional outbreaks, Norton said, but he doubts they’ll be as severe, since hog farmers have learned more about the virus and how it spreads and have taken precautions.

This clown show – producers and regulators alike – are still astounded that cleaner living conditions make a difference. Scary as ever.

Thanks, Mike

Tech firms adopt warrant canaries — the Feds try to shut them up!

Warrant canaries — which tech companies are using to tell people that the government is NOT using secret orders — are the new frontline in the legal fight over surveillance.

Tech companies from Apple to Tumblr, faced with a growing number of secret orders from the government, have resorted to a clever legal tactic known as a warrant canary: the “canary,” popularized by libraries in the wake of the Patriot Act, is a sign that tells the public that an organization is not being investigated by the FBI. If the canary disappears, well, you can assume the worst:

Now, the federal government is trying to snuff out the use of canaries altogether, telling Twitter that it is forbidden from using “zero” when it reports on security demands in its Transparency Reports, the semi-annual documents used by Twitter and other tech companies to report on FBI and NSA demands.

The fact this there is a fight over “zero” and warrant canaries is revealed through a close reading of the lawsuit that Twitter filed against the Justice Department this week. The lawsuit, which claims the government security demands violate Twitter’s free speech rights, repeatedly asks the court to declare that it may use “zero” when stating whether it has been subject to various secret legal orders from the government…

Through its lawsuit, Twitter claims it has a First Amendment right to use warrant canaries to say whether or not it has received various categories of so-called NSL letters and FISA requests — secret orders that can subject the companies to criminal prosecution if they even disclose the existence of the letters in the first place…

I feel no need to sit around and discuss whether or not our government has the right not only to limit speech but ban your right to tell anyone it’s happening. This is as corrupt as anything attempted by dictators in any epoch in modern history. It is the polar opposite of transparency.

We sit here facing such limitations under a so-called liberal administration, one which campaigned for transparency in law and governance. I hate to break it to True Believers in the 2-party crappola; but, just as American foreign policy since the inception of the Cold War is indistinguishable between Democrat or Republican – attempts to shut down free speech, freedom of thought and inquiry are just as likely under administrations controlled by either wing of our corporate electoral police.

It doesn’t matter whether the donations and control come mostly from Wall Street and Silicon Valley – or Big Oil and the Military-Industrial Complex. We get screwed, our rights are under attack and transparency is a myth.

IBM “sunflowers” designed to supply off-grid energy, water, and cooling

Looking rather like a 10-meter tall sunflower, IBM’s High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal (HCPVT) system concentrates the sun’s radiation over 2,000 times on a single point and then transforms 80 percent of that into usable energy. Using a number of liquid-cooled microchannel receivers, each equipped with an array of multi-junction photovoltaic chips, each HCPVT can produce enough power, water, and cooling to supply several homes.

Swiss-based supplier of solar power technology, Airlight Energy, has partnered with IBM Research to utilize IBM’s direct warm-water cooling design (adapted from use in IBM’s SuperMUC supercomputer), water adsorption technologies, and leverage IBM’s past work with multi-chip solar receivers developed in a collaboration between IBM and the Egypt Nanotechnology Research Center, to develop and produce the system…

“The direct cooling technology with very small pumping power used to cool the photovoltaic chips with water is inspired by the hierarchical branched blood supply system of the human body,” said Dr. Bruno Michel, manager, advanced thermal packaging at IBM Research.

The HCPVT system can also be adapted to use the cooling system to provide drinkable water and air conditioning from the hot water output produced. Salt water is passed through the heating conduits before being run through a permeable membrane distillation system, where it is then evaporated and desalinated. To produce cool air for the home, the waste heat can be run through an adsorption chiller, which is an evaporator/condenser heat exchanger that uses water, rather than other chemicals, as the refrigerant medium.

The creators claim that this system adaptation could provide up to 40 liters (10 gallons) of drinkable water per square meter of receiver area per day, with a large, multi-dish installation theoretically able to provide enough water for an entire small town.

All of these factors, – waste energy used for distillation and air-conditioning combined with a 25 percent yield on solar power – along with the setup’s sun tracking system that continuously positions the dish at the best angle throughout the day, combine to produce the claimed 80 percent energy efficiency

Estimations on the operating lifetime for the HCPVT system are around 60 years with adequate maintenance, including replacing the shielding foil and the elliptic mirrors every 10 to 15 years (contingent on environmental conditions) and the PV cells, which will require replacement at the end of their operational life of approximately 25 years…

Everyone is so cautious about operational life of photovoltaic systems. It cracks me up. There are homes here in New Mexico with 20 to 30-year-old PV solar panels still running at 90-95% efficiency.

OTOH, the photo-tracker design is one long-accepted by those who can afford the original cost. The National Guard Armory just outside Santa Fe is a site with such an installation.

I look forward to checking out costs and payback when the critters are in production.