Hog sector deserves praise for keeping PED virus out

One truth about livestock production is that manure is easily spread.

We’re not talking about mechanical manure spreading, here. We’re talking about how manure can travel on boots, clothing, buckets, other animals, tires and trucks.

When microscopic amounts of it can carry a deadly hog virus, as is the case with porcine epidemic diarrhea, the risk of unwanted manure transportation looms large.

Nevertheless, hog producers in the three western-most provinces have managed to remain PED-free. It is a testament to the value of producers’ biosecurity protocols and to the communication and swine health support provided by Canadian hog associations, livestock transport companies and the veterinary community.

It has also fostered extensive research into vaccines against the virus, one of which is featured elsewhere in this issue.

PED was first identified in the United States in 2013 and has since killed millions of piglets in that country.

Canada had the benefit of advance warning after watching the U.S. experience, but given that thousands of pigs cross the international border every day, aboard trucks coming and going, infection on this side of the line was almost inevitable.


Ontario and Quebec have borne the brunt of PED’s scourge in Canada, and 10 Manitoba operations have also been affected. Most have fought back and rid their barns of the virus but more infection could ride in on the next livestock trailer or manure-laden boot that enters the country.

The magnitude of the risk has given rise to systems of disease surveillance and networks of people in the swine industry that communicate regularly about animal health, biosecurity and research.

By regularly sharing information on various aspects of swine production, the industry is able to better prepare and protect itself against all swine health threats, including PED.

Such careful attention isn’t easy and it isn’t cheap. But it has paid off.


For starters, it has potentially saved millions of piglets from suffering a painful death through malnutrition, dehydration and starvation, the hallmarks of PED.


It has impressed producers with the importance of biosecurity, allowing them to protect their herds and maintain operations. Steady supplies of pigs provide stability for the processing industry and the jobs it creates.

Most important from an economics perspective is the assurance of swine health that the Canadian industry can provide, by virtue of these networks, to more than 100 countries that buy Canadian product.

About 70 percent of Canada’s pigs and pork are exported. They were worth $3.4 billion in 2015.

So in one sense, the arrival and continuing threat of PED infection has allowed the Canadian industry to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, in a manner of speaking. It provided the impetus to create swine health and production networks that can alert and protect the industry, its producers, its animals and its trade position.

For that, it is to be congratulated, with every hope for its continued success.


Bruce Dyck, Barb Glen, Brian MacLeod, D’Arce McMillan and Michael Raine collaborate in the writing of Western Producer editorials.

  • John Fefchak

    Prevention is better than Treatment, for animal Protection.
    I am of the opinion that factory hog producers must change their method of producing animals, as even more serious outbreaks of diseases and virus outbreaks will take place and occur.
    But sadly,”logic doesn’t apply to human nature”.

  • John Fefchak

    Is it just a coincidence that three Manitoba hog operations have recently experienced
    out-breaks of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus.?
    As the hog Industry endeavours to wash away problems which they
    themselves, could possibly be the creators of in their method of
    raising pigs, it brings other situation to the fore-front; and that is our mismanagement of water!
    I have no idea of how many gallons of clean (not recycled water) is used to rinse
    those transport trucks that have returned to Canada,but would guess that it is a very high number.
    And what happens to that rinse water after?, for it is apt and likely contaminated
    with the PED virus. Has any one considered this.?
    For instance, research conducted on behalf of the Manitoba Livestock Management imitative has shown the virus responsible for PED is capable of surviving over Manitoba winters in earthen manure storages. That to me, only confirms that all this rinsing, as an effective tool, is only a limited, very temporary measure, of dealing with the virus for the short term. It does nothing to eradicate the virus. The virus remains,now spread about, ready to continue infecting when the time and conditions are appropriate.
    I am of the opinion that factory hog producers must change their method of producing animals or even more serious outbreaks will occur.
    But sadly, and it’s no secret….”logic doesn’t apply to human nature”.
    In this particular situation,Two rinses will not be enough

    • Harold

      As correctness is a basis for logic, ill-logic is with the absence of truth. Logic is within a human’s nature, as are lies, deception, greed, etc. In secrecy, is the truth spoken, when and wherever it is, and in Canada and the USA, there is abundance. It serves the corporate elite well, and they will never allow us to vote away their wealth nor power. If a system built for us is broken- it was created that way. Their mind control methods have created our acceptance. We cant expect the Hog producers to change, without Canadians being the reason to do so. “Opting out” in correctness, and therefore not purchasing product from 3 Ontario hog PED producers, is a direct threat; and is achieved without bullets or undue force, creating a correction, and not an eradication as preconceived, unless in due course.
      Moreover, We’ve been falsely taught that salvation comes from legislation, when in fact, correct information empowers us without further punitive legislative restrictions, to simply opt out instead.
      I’m not soothed that Agro-Biz is currently “educating the Public” on a “needs to know” basis, about where their food comes from.
      Corporations have no other “nature” than profit, and power of. and of this, is their logic. I’m sure you can predict the logic of human nature if the full topic of PED were on the lips of every Canadian. Who’s responsibility is it to tell them? I hear a great silence coming from that department.

  • Denise

    I have pretty well given up any hope of factory hog producers changing the way they handle pigs. More hog barns are going up in Manitoba without any consideration for neighbours and the proper diposal of hog slurry to prevent the continuing contamination of aquifers and waterways.
    The spreading of various diseases such PEDv in pigs and antibiotic resistant E-coli in humans are at critical stages now.The animals’ most basic natural needs are ignored which always lead to the proliferation of old and new diseases. Many health problems arise due to their unnnatural and unhealthy confinement.
    The hog industry will continue down this path until they have painted themselves into the tiniest corner imaginable. Disease will win. There will be no way out except starting over and doing it logically with Mother Nature as a major partner.
    This model of “making” cheap protein will prove very costly for everybody.
    Too bad.

    • John Fefchak

      Denise. You are so right! We can thank the previous Filmon Conservative government for all this and ‘His” added value promises. The opening of this Pandora’s, hog factory box has made Manitoba, The Manure Pile of Modern Civilization”

      • Harold

        There has not been a government in power who have not had a hand in the problems that we face today. Thanks can also be given to the previous Liberal government for paving the way for the Conservatives. The power above governments has never changed. Please consider in your thoughts that politicians are not suited to their jobs when facing many matters above their own expertise, yet they vote by the recommendations by whom they, or perhaps their peers, believe are authority. Some Politicians may even not have the expertise to choose between proper authority’s in which to believe. I can assure you that every politician is just as ordinary as we are, and not above our expertise, just because they wear our robe that we handed to them. Imagine that your man is going to face government on your behalf, for changes that benefit you, and that there are not 25,000 people standing with him in voice. (votes gives him the office; not your voice) That is what the problem is, and yet with our vacancy, we complain about empty promises that we did not fulfill. 25,000 people against the “salesmen” from the “authority”, is a no-brain-er decision for a politician. Everyone who can read and write, can send a e-mail or letter in the same time that it takes to complain on this forum, to their politicians instead. Second to this is our choices we live by. We get the government and the problems we deserve and so the children. Perhaps Earls Restaurant can explain this in fewer words.

        • Denise

          It’s true that nowadays it doesn’t seem to matter which government is in power, lobbyists and money get what they want most of the time. Look at how Obama is supporting TPP now.He appears to have succumbed or given up his core beliefs to the corporate controllers of government.
          No matter which way you vote the common man still loses. Some of us,in Manitoba, are living in areas that are similar to that of North Carolina’s powerless disfranchised populations.