Hog profits expected if virus stays out

The longer hog producers can prevent porcine infectious diarrhea virus from infecting their barns, the greater the possibilities for short-term profit.

Alberta and Saskatchewan barns are PED-free and Manitoba has had only two cases of the deadly virus, which has killed millions of pigs at American hog barns in 30 states.

Swine delta coronavirus, a new virus that is also deadly to young piglets, had been found in 14 U.S. states as of May 27.

Mortality and lower production from those viruses are among the reasons hog prices have increased in recent months.

“Really, PED has given us a big opportunity here in the short term to fill in part of that great big hole we have, and if we can keep it out, I think that will extend the length of time that we have our good run,” Alberta Pork chair Frank Novak said at a hog producer meeting in Lethbridge.

The “great big hole” is the financial loss hog producers have suffered after five years of low prices, high feed costs and export pressure from U.S. country-of-origin labelling rules.

“We are still PED free thanks to the hard work of a whole pile of people,” Novak said. “That’s really, really big news for us. We do not want to live the experience that our American friends and our colleagues in Ontario are going through right now.”

Fifty-nine Ontario barns have been infected with PED. A lull throughout May ended with confirmation of one new case in early June.

No cases of delta coronavirus have been found in Canada, and the virus has been designated as a reportable disease in Alberta.

Dr. Egan Brockhoff, an Alberta hog veterinarian, told producers the U.S. has no hope of exterminating PED, but it remains a possibility for Canada.

The number of PED cases in the United States continues to grow, with 7,111 confirmed cases as of June 6.

There are also reports of U.S. barns becoming re-infected with the virus. Brockhoff said 70 to 80 percent of herds in infected U.S. operations are now back to normal, but three out of 10 remain chronically infected.

Biosecurity will remain key to keeping PED from infecting barns, said Brockhoff. It spreads primarily through fecal-oral contact and can be carried on trucks, footwear and clothing.

He encouraged audits of the truck washing process and said producers should avoid using dried porcine plasma in rations. The feed ingredient is considered to be the carrier in Ontario’s initial cases.

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