25 Years of NSIF History

Dale Miller

National Hog Farmer Magazine


Swine improvement programs underwent considerable change from the mid ’50s through the early-’70s:

·        Varying degrees of performance testing were used as a selection tool from the time research indicated the heritability of economically important traits was sufficiently high.

·        In the early-’50s interest in performance testing expanded through central testing stations (Ohio Evaluation Station was the first in 1954), followed by the development of performance and carcass standards set by breed associations (certification programs).

·        From 1954 to 1971, 36 central testing stations in 26 states initiated programs – each state setting their own set of testing guidelines.

·        Concerns about the collection and reporting of performance data were being voiced by research and extension staff, purebred breeders and commercial pork producers and the test station managers. More uniform standards were needed.


By the mid-1970s, pork producers, purebred breeders and extension personnel had spent nearly two decades working towards the development of a more modern, “meat-type” hog.


This evolutionary period led to an ad hoc meeting of swine testing station managers and administrators during the 1974 American Pork Congress in Des Moines.


This group of approximately two dozen central test station managers, supervisors and extension personnel met on March 6, 1974 and formed the National Association of Swine Testing Stations (NASTS). The group’s mandate was as follows:


·        “to develop a formal organization focused on coordinating swine performance testing rules and indexes,

·        “to develop acceptable standards (for these processes), and

·        “to serve as an aid in guiding the improvement of the swine industry through testing.”


The National Association of Swine Testing Stations (NASTS) was to have 6 board members. Elected to the first board were:


J. Delmar Gerdes, SENEK Swine Testing Station, Wymore, NE (chairman)


Gene Isler, Ohio Swine Evaluation Station, Columbus, OH (vice chairman)


R. Keith Leavitt, Missouri Swine Testing Station, Columbia, MO



Kenneth Drewry, Purdue Evaluation Station, West Lafayette, IN


Dave Huinker, Iowa Swine Testing Station, Ames, IA


Charles J. Christians, Minnesota Swine Evaluation Station, New Ulm, MN

(Christians represented test stations conducting progeny tests, the rest

managed or supervised boar testing stations.)


A few highlights from that first organizational meeting:


Keith  Leavitt commented: “My idea of the purpose of this group is to get a coordinated effort to promote tested swine.”


Those attending the meeting were reportedly divided on a suggestion that the test stations should develop a standard index and synchronized rules for entries and rations.


The consensus offered by Chuck Christians was that some uniformity could be achieved, but he cautioned that figures could not be meaningfully compared from station-to-station, or test-to-test, because rations, environment and other factors are different.


Delmar Gerdes proposed that the station managers develop a “ratio system” which would allow all stations to express backfat, feed efficiency and average daily gain figures on an equivalent basis, expressing deviations above or below the group averages.


Gerdes also appealed that performance figures on all boars should be reported, not just those qualifying for sale, so that commercial pork producers could have access to information on all pigs tested.


The membership was reminded that test stations were owned and operated differently – some had land grant college connections, others were producer-owned and operated, still others were owned and operated by feed companies.


The new organization (NASTS) agreed to meet semi-annually – at the American Pork Congress and the National Barrow Show.


Membership was open to swine testing station managers, supervisors of testing programs, representatives from testing station boards, and extension swine and livestock specialists. In addition, it was suggested that a breed secretary be named to the board to serve as a liaison with the National Association of Swine Records.


The next meeting of NASTS was held during the National Barrow Show in Austin, MN where standardization of testing procedures and guidelines to more uniformly collect and report data from central test stations were the primary topics of discussion. Over 20 test station managers attended.


Seven committees were formed and chairmen appointed:


·        Data Reporting (Dave Huinker, Iowa Testing Station)

·        Testing Procedures (Keith Leavitt, Missouri Swine Testing Station)

·        Guidelines/Index Standardization (Ken Drewry, Purdue Swine Evaluation Station)

·        On-Farm Testing (Charles Christians, Minnesota Swine Evaluation Station)

·        Rations & Nutrition (J. Delmar Gerdes, SENEK Swine Testing Station)

·        Education & National Reporting (Gene Isler, Ohio Evaluation Station)


It was at this NBS meeting that considerable discussion was raised about testing to heavier weights.


The NASTS group agreed – 220 lb. was the “most appropriate” off-test weight to report. If stations chose to test beyond that weight, they should still report data at the standard 220 lb.


Also at this meeting, a $50 annual membership fee was established. Fee-paid members were entitled to one vote per organization concerning all NASTS decisions and courses of action. A $25 fee was set for  associate members.


The test station managers’ group also voted to expand its board of directors to include representatives from the National Association of Swine Records and the National Pork Producers Council.


The NASTS committees next met on March 2-3, 1975 in Des Moines with a primary goal of determining the feasibility of establishing uniform swine performance testing standards.


The consensus was that they could and should.


All agreed that a broad-based federation should be formed that encompasses all organizations involved in swine performance testing and recordkeeping.


The NASTS Education & Coordination committee undertook the challenge of preparing by-laws for this new organization. This occurred at the Holiday Inn of Des Moines-South, 2101 Fleur Drive, where the first draft was banged out on an old  Royal typewriter borrowed from the Holiday Inn business office.


The starting document was “borrowed” from the Beef Improvement Federation. BIF by-laws were re-tailored to fit the swine industry. Through a fairly liberal cut-and-paste exercise, the first draft of a new swine performance testing federation was born.


The driving forces behind this concerted effort were really USDA Researcher Roger Gerrits and USDA Animal Scientist Dixon Hubbard (also Program Coordinator-BIF). Both were involved in the formation of the Beef Improvement Federation. Other committee members included: Gene Isler, J. Marvin Garner, Gary Cowman and Dale Miller.


This document was readied for the next official meeting of NASTS scheduled during the 1975 American Pork Congress (March 19-21) in Kansas City.


The meeting drew a much larger crowd.


Leo E. Lucas filed the organizational report.


The first order of business was to assign “temporary” president and secretary responsibilities so the annual meeting could proceed. Gerdes and Lucas received the assignments, respectively.


The second order of business was to accept the new by-laws of the National Swine Improvement Federation. A motion for acceptance was offered, seconded and passed.


So, it was there – at the 1975 American Pork Congress in Kansas City, MO – on the 1st anniversary of its founding – that that the National Association of Swine Testing Stations was dissolved – and a new organization – the National Swine Improvement Federation – was formed.


The new NSIF by-laws were adopted. The defined purpose of the new group was “to establish the structure for studying, evaluating and implementing scientific data which would prove practical for improving performance of swine, with a purpose defined to work toward establishing accurate and uniform procedures for measuring and recording data concerning the performance testing of swine.” (Gerdes, “Evolution of Swine Improvement, Dec. 7, 1975)


“NSIF will assist in developing guidelines for new testing stations or organizations developing a program, and will cooperate with the industry in reporting and setting up educational programs for proper utilization of the information gathered by existing programs.” (NHF, May, 1975, page 30).


Five NSIF Purposes were listed:

1.      Uniformity – to work for the establishment of accurate and uniform procedures for measuring and recording data concerning the performance of swine which may be used by participating organizations.

2.      Development – to assist member organizations and/or their affiliates in developing their individual programs consistent with the needs of their members and the common goal of all recordkeeping programs.

3.      Cooperation – to develop cooperation among all segments of the swine industry in compilation and utilization of performance records to improve efficiency in the production of swine.

4.      Education – to encourage members to develop education programs emphasizing the use and interpretation of performance data in improving the efficiency of swine production.

5.      Confidence – to develop increased confidence of the swine industry in the economic potential of performance testing.


Membership was broadened to include both central and on-farm testing programs, plus NASR and NPPC representation. Non-voting or associated memberships were available to organizations not actively involved in conducting performance testing programs but with an interest in such programs.


A 17-person “charter” board of directors was organized.


Directors were elected from each of the four USDA Extension Regions, and they included:


·        Earl Peace, swine extension specialist, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT

·        Joel West, area swine specialist, Tifton, GA

·        Grant Sherritt, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

·        Bob Perry, Duroc breeder, Bethel, MO


And, four Directors-At-Large were elected from the Central Test Station and On-Farm Testing programs’ roster, including:


·        Dave Huinker, Iowa Swine Testing Station, Ames, IA

·        Gene Isler, Ohio Evaluation Station, Columbus, OH

·        J. Delmar Gerdes, SENEK Swine Evaluation Station, Wymore, NE

·        Charles Christians, Minnesota Swine Evaluation Station, New Ulm, MN


Five breed association directors were named:

·        Larry L. Rus, Hampshire Swine Registry, Peoria, IL

·        John Weber, Spotted breeder, Fowler, IN

·        Bill Funderburg, Yorkshire breeder, Greenville, OH

·        Bruce Henderson, United Duroc Registry, Peoria, IL

·        Wayne Yake, Berkshire breeder, Carmel, IN


Two board positions were earmarked for appointment by the National Pork Producers Council. Those positions were officially filled by:


·        Dave Stevens, Northwood, IA,

·        John Beckett, Gillespie, IL


Ex-officio board memberships were granted to:


·                                Dr. Dixon Hubbard, Federal Extension Service, USDA (and served as the NSIF Committee Coordinator for several years).

·                                Dr. Roger Gerrits, DRS Swine Research, USDA Research Center.

·                                Dale Miller, (then) associate editor, National Hog Farmer, representing swine industry periodicals.


(The 17-member NSIF governing board has been reorganized over the years and now includes representation by artificial insemination companies, testing organizations and breeding companies.)


Footnote: It is interesting to note that during the 1997 board of directors meeting it was proposed that the central test station representation be reduced to one seat as there were only two stations still testing boars.


Newly elected officers during the 1st NSIF annual meeting in 1975 included – J. Delmar Gerdes (president); Bob Perry, Duroc breeder from Bethel, MO (vice president); Keith Leavitt (treasurer), and Leo Lucas, director of the North Platte, NE experiment station as executive secretary.


The original standing committees (NASTS) were reviewed, revised and expanded to eight, each focusing on their relationship to performance testing and swine improvement:


·        Record Standardization and Utilization

·        Merchandising and Performance Testing

·        Central Testing Station Procedures

·        On-Farm Testing procedures

·        Carcass Evaluation

·        Nutrition and Health

·        Reproductive Performance

·        Membership


Next meeting was scheduled for June 4, 1975 at the Holiday Inn, Springfield, MO (the day before the National Feeder Pig Show, in West Plains, MO). It was there that the first revisions of the by-laws were undertaken.


Also, during that meeting, it was decided that the committees had considerable work to do so a meeting was set for December 7-8 in St. Louis. The primary task at hand – to develop the “Guidelines for Uniform Swine Improvement Programs.” The goal for the first draft was to be able to print them in 1976.


The last order of business at the Springfield meeting was for NSIF Secretary Leo Lucas to pursue “the incorporation of the National Swine Improvement Federation as a non-profit organization in the state of Nebraska.”


The next meeting was set for March 8, 1976 during the American Pork Congress in Indianapolis.


Dr. Irv Omtvedt took over the Secretary-Treasurer reigns during the summer of 1976.


The first “Guidelines” were, in fact, printed in November 1976, the first of many milestones achieved by this group.


And, it was in 1976 that the annual meeting dates were moved to December. The 2nd annual meeting of NSIF was set for Dec. 6-7 at the Holiday Inn-West, St. Louis. Membership stood at 29 members, 3 associate members.


The theme for the meeting was: “On-the-Farm Testing.”


The main order of business was to encourage feedback, reactions from the field, to the newly published guidelines.


Charter President Delmar Gerdes challenged the membership to “get the Guideline procedures adopted in their respective programs……the NSIF Guidelines will be worthless unless they get to the field and are utilized in on-going programs,” he noted.


The “Articles of Incorporation” were filed with the Nebraska Secretary of State, ratified and approved on September 29, 1976. Members of the NSIF executive board put their signatures to the document during the annual meeting, Dec. 5, 1976.


Jump to 1978….


Irv Omtvedt announced his resignation as secretary-treasurer during the 1978 annual meeting in St. Louis. He shared these thoughts:


“The real challenge,” he said, “(is to encourage) free and open communications between all segments of the industry. If you don’t agree with something, here is the place to iron it out. “NSIF provides an opportunity for all segments of the swine industry to sit down and talk with each other. Listen to each other, and, keep an open mind,” he urged.


Charles Christians succeeded Dr. Omtvedt as Secretary-Treasurer at the 1978 annual meeting.


It was also in 1978 that the NSIF board adopted the Ohio Sow Productivity program as a national program for testing and compiling data on sow productivity.


Other Hallmark dates…….


1985 – Development of the STAGES program was underway at Purdue University; a call for appropriate adjustment factors was a key challenge on the NSIF membership agenda.

John Mabry and Daryl Kuhlers were asked to submit guidelines for utilizing estimated breeding values for within herd use. Guidelines were also sought for across-herd and central test station data for predicting EBVs. These guidelines were to be submitted to the technical committee in March 1986.


1985 – A report on the U.S. Swine Evaluation Stations, reported by Farmland Test Station Supervisor Bob Casey, noted there were:


·     31 active test stations with a total pen capacity of 1,757 pens (used twice/year) – for a total capacity of 10,800 animals for the ’84-’85 test season.

·     It was estimated the test stations were operating at 74.2% capacity – or 8,011 pigs tested (6,041 boars and 1,970 market hogs).

·     Of the 6,041 boars tested, 50.7% were sold for an average of $483 each.


1985 – I have a letter from Chuck Christians, addressed to the “Directors” and dated May 22, 1985 congratulating the “logo committee” (David Meisinger and Bob Naylor) for their excellent work in developing the new logo which incorporated the NPPC (pig) Symbol into the NSIF theme. Chuck says the pyramid symbolizes the three levels of production – seedstock (elite level), the multiplier herds (center portion) and the commercial pork operations that serve as the base where pork improvement programs anchor the pork industry. I editorialized there a little Chuck.


1985David Meisinger planned a “Pork Value Seedstock of Tomorrow” workshop, July 22-23, hosted by Lauren Christian and Iowa State University.


1987 – Guidelines for Uniform Swine Improvement Programs revised – O.W. Robison was appointed editor.


1987 – First Pork Challenge Test in conjunction with World Pork Expo


1987-88 – Three breed associations (Hampshires, Spots and Yorkshires) committed to a trial run of a new sire-ranking program under the direction of University of Georgia swine geneticist John Mabry (based on gain and backfat data on over 20,000 boars tested in 26 test stations between 1984 and 1988.)


1988 – Swine Genetics Handbook, containing 8 fact sheets, published


1990North American Swine Improvement Conference assembled performance testing enthusiasts from the U.S. and Canada in Toronto on Dec. 2-3.


1991 – A Central Boar Test Backfat Survey (29 stations):

·        17 stations read backfat depths at the 10th rib,

·        6 at the last rib,

·        2 at the last lumbar, and

·        4 read backfat at either the 10th or last rib

·        Machines used – 9 Scanoprobe; 9 Real Times; 4 Renco; Ithaco, 1 sonoray, 1 steel ruler, 2 unidentified); and,

·        26 reported off-test weights at 230 lbs.; 1 at 240 lbs., another at 250 lbs.


 1991 – NSIF also sent out an extensive survey to 5,000 pork producers in 29 states to collect their opinions about, and attitudes toward, genetic improvement programs and central test stations; 1,149 surveys were returned; Coordinated by Clair Fralick, Cenex Land O’ Lakes, a report was filed at the ’91 annual meeting.


1993 – NSIF sponsored the first “Program for the Standardization and Certification of Live Pigs” (Ultrasound Training and Certification Program for technician certification), organized by Ron Bates, then at the University of Missouri. The program was conducted June 2-4, hosted at Iowa State University under the supervision of Lauren Christian; eight certification programs have been conducted to date.


1994Chuck Christians resigned from as Secretary-Treasurer and Charles Stanislaw was appointed to fill the position. Chuck stayed on as proceeding’s editor for 5 more years, resigning that position just last year.


1996National Swine Improvement Federation Conference and the Ontario Pork Carcass Appraisal Project Symposium was co-hosted by the Canadian Centre for Swine Improvement and NSIF, Ottawa, Ontario, Dec. 5-7


1997Guidelines for Uniform Swine Improvement Programs, 3rd edition, published; Swine Genetics Handbook expanded to 17 fact sheets.


1999Charles Stanislaw held the secretary-treasurer post until his untimely death in October 1999. Ken Stalder has served in that position since.


1999 – The NSIF Distinguished Service Award renamed the “NSIF Charles Stanislaw Memorial Service Award” and the graduate student award was named the “NSIF Lauren Christian Memorial Graduate Student Award” in honor of two of the organization’s significant contributors.


1999 – NSIF Annual Conference held jointly with the NPPC Quality Lean Growth Modeling Project in Des Moines.


2000 – NSIF celebrates it’s Silver Anniversary in Nashville, TN, and that makes you all a part of NSIF history.


The past decade – many seminar presentations and a good deal of attention has been paid to:


·        lean growth deposition,

·        stress gene influence,

·        factors affecting pork quality and composition,

·        pig gene mapping,

·        molecular genetics and biotechnology,

·        lean growth modeling,

·        segregated early weaning,

·        semen sexing,

·        artificial insemination,

·        fat-free-lean prediction equations, and

·        quality lean growth modeling.


Is it any wonder that this organization faces a seemingly never-ending challenge to update the NSIF Guidelines?


This historical review and prospectus of the National Swine Improvement Federation has been a fascinating – and at times, nostalgic – journey for me. The names encased in 24 years of NSIF proceedings and my working files reads like a “who’s who in the swine industry.”  My acknowledgement of the contributions by many is admittedly incomplete … and I apologize for that.  But, the lists include the best and brightest scholars, entrepreneurs, and just plain, all around, wise hog folks that know, understand, and are devoted to ….making pork better.  Hundreds have shared their thoughts and concerns during endless hours of discussion, debate and compromise at the 25 years of annual meetings and conferences.


I salute them – one and all – and each of you for being a part of this great organization.  Congratulations!!!


2000 NSIF Proceedings