With feed prices nearing all-time highs, government regulations on the rise and production challenges increasing, pork producers’ margins are being squeezed like never before. At such a challenging time, most producers will appreciate sound advice and good recommendations to increase their chances for success.

A bounty of information from professional and knowledgeable sources is just a click away. Many resources are free while others are available at nominal fees. All can help you navigate these challenging times.

Leading off the extensive list of resources for pork producers is the wealth of information provided by the National Pork Board. NPB’s website provides a bounty of information on pork production topics, farm safety, environmental regulatory updates, animal well-being and human resources.

One of NPB’s latest tools that will soon be available to producers is the ‘Live Swine Carbon Footprint Calculator’ -- a tool to help producers identify and quantify the greenhouse gas emissions at their operation.

The new tool, designed to be used by producers on their computer, is set to be launched at the 2011 World Pork Expo in Des Moines and is free to producers. To get your free copy of the Carbon Footprint Calculator, call (800) 456-7675 to request your copy.

On the same subject, the National Air Quality Site Assessment Tool is a free, web-based tool that can be used by pork producers to conduct an on-farm evaluation of their production units to determine their risk potential for air emissions. Link to the NAQSAT tool or to a brochure  

Another must-have for producers is the Pork Industry Handbook. This indispensible how-to guide for pork producers is available through Purdue Extension. The guide covers everything in swine production, from reproduction to artificial insemination to business management and personnel. The two-volume guide comes in both print and DVD versions.

“It's really the best reference book out there on how to manage a swine operation from start to finish,” according to Brian Richert, Purdue Extension swine nutrition and management specialist.

The Pork Industry Handbook was produced by swine experts at Purdue and 18 other land-grant universities, nine state pork boards, and NPB, in cooperation with the U.S. Pork Center of Excellence and pork checkoff program. Nearly 500 editors and reviewers were involved in the creation of the handbook. You can order the handbook online   or contact The Education Store at (888) 398-4636.

The Pork Information Gateway, or PIG, is another bountiful resource for producers. PIG is a free resource and provides extensive information on nearly every aspect of pork production.  The PIG Library provides the industry with factsheets, references, and a place to ask questions of swine extension specialists.

PorkBridge and SowBridge education programs offer on-line learning opportunities for producers and their employees. The programs explore a wide range of topics crucial to successful swine production operations. Plus, you have the added benefit that no travel is required.

Information on growing crops is also available. Purdue University Extension's 2011 Corn and Soybean Field Guide provides information on planting strategies, nutrient requirements, insects as well as other crop issues. The pocket-sized reference guide allows farmers to quickly analyze troubled areas in their fields. The 324-page guide is color-coded for quick reference and can be used from planting through harvest. Guides can be ordered online or by calling (888) 398-4636.

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange offers the pork industry a wealth of learning tools on risk management The CME Daily Livestock Report is published by pork industry consultants Steve Meyer and Len Steiner. To subscribe, click here.

Many universities offer swine production and marketing information through their Extension offices. Producers can take advantage of extensive information prepared by leading authorities on many aspects of pork production. Among those universities that offer extensive information on swine production are:

Iowa State University

Kansas State University

University of Minnesota

University of Nebraska

Purdue University

University of Illinois

University of Missouri

North Carolina State University

By utilizing these vast resources, you can increase the efficiency of your pigs as well as your operation. Digging into these resources can pay off and add to your bottom line.