Reducing traffic | Veterinarian optimistic spread of deadly virus can be contained
Pork producers should try to envision their entire barn and its contents covered in red paint. Then they should figure out how to keep that paint from touching anything else.
It’s a good way to consider biosecurity measures that can keep porcine epidemic diarrhea from entering hog operations and infecting pigs, said swine veterinarian Dr. Egan Brockhoff.
“A lot of us are going to have to recognize that the virus is likely going to come to your farmyard, but what can we do to keep that from moving into the barn,” said Brockhoff.
“We have to assume that our yards are contaminated.”
PED moves in fecal material and can easily travel on trucks, boots and clothing. It favours cold weather and can survive freezing and live for a week in water and manure and up to a month in slurry.
Even a small amount of virus-laden material can start an infection.
A connection to feed has been confirmed in some cases, but the fecal-oral connection is the primary way that PED spreads.
Brockhoff said keeping it out of barns will require constant diligence by hog producers, including strict controls on entry, showers by personnel entering the barn, limits on human traffic and protocols on suppliers, transport trucks and carcass and manure disposal.
He said he thinks PED-free operations can remain so if all that and more is constantly achieved.
“I think we have a really good chance of keeping it out,” he said.
“We haven’t had a case of TGE (transmissible gastroenteritis) in Alberta for 15 years and this virus behaves the same, similar rates of infectivity. So there’s a chance that we can keep it out. Realistically, it’s probably going to come into some herds. But that being said, I think … containment is realistic.”
Brockhoff has visited farms that have the virus and has also seen PED-free American hog operations that are surrounded by infected ones, which proves strict controls are effective.
PED presents no threat to meat quality, human health or other animals. Its damage lies in piglet losses and the resulting reduction in farm productivity.
Brockhoff said the first four weeks of PED infection result in death of all suckling piglets.
Sixty percent of production can be recovered by Week 14, but operations don’t approach normal levels until Week 21.
He estimated PED losses for one hog operation at $1,000 per sow, but figures vary by operation.
Brockhoff’s visits to numerous hog operations in Canada, the United States and Asia require attention to his own biosecurity.
He said he sometimes takes eight showers a day when going in and out of barns and carries antiseptic wipes and sprays for frequent use.
“I’ve found that I like the green apple scent,” he said with a smile.
It was a rare moment of levity in a meeting rife with talk about truck and vehicle cleanliness, locked and protected barn entries, effective antiseptics and advice on biosecurity that should become the new norm for hog operations.
“It is an every day process, so every day people are going to have to get up, look in the mirror and say, ‘today we’re keeping this disease out,’ ” he said. “And if we can keep everyone just doing the important, really simple things consistently, we will keep it out.”
Information on PED and biosecurity is available at albertapork.com, saskpork.com and manitobapork.com.