Ractopamine bans at fairs mean changes for many hog exhibitors
By Madi Kregel, Ohio Country Journal
February 6, 2020
As more fairs ban ractopamine — the active ingredient in products like Paylean or Optaflexx — some people in the show pig and 4-H community have questions about changes they will need to make in 2020.
Monty Alexander is not one of them. She is entering her last year as a Wood County 4-H exhibitor and has been no stranger to success with her livestock. She has only shown 4-H pigs for a few years, but she knows the stock show world well. She has won multiple market hog classes and the lightweight market gilt division in past county fairs. She has also done well in showmanship. Alexander credits her success with multiple factors, but she has never fed ractopamine to her pigs. Alexander instead relies on good feeding, good genetics and a unique
advantage over most of her competitors in the flatlands of Wood County — a hill in her backyard — for her success.
“I definitely think picking them out is a big thing. Our breeder comes over and helps us feed and that really helped us out,” Alexander said. “And I’ll be out there walking my pigs for two to three hours. We have a pond that has hills so I walk them up and down the hills to build muscle.”
Ractopamine hydrochloride is a feed additive used to increase lean muscle tissue and growth, and decrease fat in livestock. It is not a steroid, hormone or antibiotic, and has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its safety. While it is legal to use, and has been commonly used in feeding commercial and show pigs, packers and export markets have been asking for ractopamine-free pork to comply with a ban from China and other countries on imported hogs that have been fed ractopamine. With huge export potential for U.S. pork, the commercial hog industry has been quick to phase out of ractopamine use. Packers do not want to jeopardize international marketing opportunities because of 4-H pigs.
For this reason, the Ohio State Fair just released the details of the hog ractopamine ban. The Wood County Fair, along with numerous other county fairs in Ohio, already made the decision to ban ractopamine in 2020. Sorting out the details, though, will be an ongoing process. Kyle Culp, the Wood County Fair Swine Department superintendent, explained their board looked at two options: come up with a plan to meet the needs of J.H. Routh Packing Co. out of Sandusky, or to not provide a marketing outlet for exhibitors.
“If it’s tough for the fair to find a buyer, it’s tough for the 4-H’er to find a buyer,” Culp said...