Education kept PED at bay: veterinarian

Informing producers about the importance of biosecurity and correct livestock truck cleaning paid off

LACOMBE, Alta. — Canadian farmers may have dodged the catastrophic effects of porcine epidemic diarrhea because their biosecurity practices were exemplary, says an Alberta veterinarian.

The United States has lost eight million pigs on thousands of farms since May 2013, while Canada had only 109 cases, and half those farms are now considered negative for the PED virus.

“Statistically we should be at about 1,000 sites because we have a very similar pork industry to them,” said Egan Brockhoff of Prairie Swine Services.

The U.S. epidemic peaked in the winter of 2014 when more than 300 new cases per week were diagnosed. About 75 new cases still appear each week.

The first Canadian case appeared in January 2014, and producers adopted strict hygiene measures that worked.

“The biggest reason, without question, is probably education,” he said during a field day at Agriculture Canada’s Lacombe Research Centre Aug. 19.

“Canada had invested a great deal of money into producer education around biosecurity across all of the species, but the pork industry really took it to heart.”

Other livestock industries should follow the hog sector’s example, he added.

“Think about your industry and how you can mitigate these risk factors because every single risk factor I am going to go through is the same risk for all the farm animals.”

Brockhoff said bringing new animals into the herd is the No. 1 risk factor.

“Whatever it has, you now have.”

The next risk is transportation and movement of animals, he added. Transport biosecurity was not taken as seriously as it should have been in 2013.

While the hog industry has adopted meticulous standards for cleaning out trailers, that is not the case for other livestock sectors.

“Sometimes they are scraped out, but how often they ever had soap or disinfectant touch them, I think it is safe to say zero,” he said.

How to properly wash out a trailer became a huge issue during the outbreak.

Truck washes in Canada use fresh water rather than recycled water, which could be full of disease-causing viruses and bacteria.

Brockhoff said the PED virus continued to spread in the U.S. because the wash water was not clean, even though the trailers looked spotless.

Washing and disinfecting are effective, but thermally drying or baking for an hour ensures the viruses are dead.

Alberta has introduced a baking facility that raises the temperature to 70 C for 10 minutes to kill viruses. This is difficult in winter, but it can be done and is becoming an industry standard.

The cleaning process also needs to be audited. It takes about an hour and a half to properly clean a livestock trailer.

Brockhoff’s practice does weekly audits and takes six samples from a trailer to make sure the virus was eliminated.

As well, Canada has set up an effective veterinary alliance in which practitioners, producers and associations regularly share information and collaborate on surveillance and education.

“Early intervention is critical if we want to prevent this disease from being devastating,” he said.

“The key to this is communication and co-operation.”

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