Farmers can’t assume that boosting biosecurity levels is enough to protect against the threat of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, an Ontario government veterinarian told the Manitoba Swine Seminar.
The disease can grow silently and suddenly burst out if not identified.
“Just raising your biosecurity might give you a false sense of security,” Tim Blackwell said during a PED panel discussion.
“You should be doing the environmental sampling at high risk areas where you raised your biosecurity because you’re concerned.”
PED has been moving relentlessly through the North American hog herd for almost a year, hitting hundreds of farms in the U.S. Midwest and eastern hog production zones. The disease is generally fatal to piglets but relatively minor for older pigs.
It has been dangerously close to Canada since it first appeared in the United States, spreading through herds in Iowa and Minnesota and other areas to which hog trucks from the Prairies often travel.
Some hog trucks tested in Manitoba have been found positive for the disease, but herds have not yet been infected.
Southern Ontario was similarly free from PED for most of last year, but multiple cases of infection have been found in the last few weeks and the virus has appeared in many places, such as assembly yards.
There is little hog traffic between Western and Eastern Canada, but Ontario is an example of an area connected to the U.S. finally succumbing to the threat.
Blackwell said Ontario’s hog in-dustry immediately responded to the U.S. outbreak by raising biosecurity standards, but many producers left it at that and did not test to see if they were remaining PED-free.
This lack of vigilance can allow the virus to grow and multiply and then suddenly burst out in a lethal outbreak, he added.
Blackwell said PED produces masses of infection, far more than many similar ailments. This makes each sick animal the source of huge amounts of disease to other pigs.
Farmers who don’t test might be oblivious to the disease getting a foothold in a herd. Testing could flag an infection before it has spread too widely.
“If it doesn’t cost you anything to test, anywhere you think you should raise your biosecurity you should be testing,” said Blackwell.
Biosecurity is essential, he added, but it’s not necessarily effective without monitoring to see if it’s working.