Hog barns urged to beef up defences against PED virus

Barn workers must be diligent, report any unusual behaviour among the pigs and pay attention to diarrhea

STRATHMORE, Alta. — Hog farmers need to accelerate their biosecurity plans to keep the deadly porcine epidemic diarrhea virus off their premises.

Four cases between Jan. 7 and March 18 have been found on farrow-to-finish operations in Alberta, said Javier Bahamon, quality assurance manager with Alberta Pork.

Barn workers must report any unusual behaviour among the pigs and pay attention to diarrhea that can be watery, green or yellow.

“If you see something off, call your vet,” he said at a producer meeting held in Strathmore.

“Any suspicion of disease needs to be reported to the chief provincial veterinarian,” he said at the meeting hosted by the Prairie Swine Centre.

PED does not affect humans. It has been found in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta. It is 100 percent fatal for young piglets. Older pigs may be sick and go off feed, but they usually recover.

The virus is spread via feces but it seems after the shedding period of three to four weeks pigs develop strong immunity to the strain and stop producing virus.

When a positive case is found on a farm, a stepped up biosecurity program is initiated and a controlled access zone, which is entry to the yard and a restricted access zone entry to the barn, is imposed.

“It is the producer’s responsibility to manage that,” said Bahamon.

A biosecurity risk assessment chart is available from Alberta Pork with a checklist and advice on hygiene and sanitation.

“You have to check it every day,” he said.

“The best thing you can do is check your risk.”

Biosecurity measures include restrictions on new animals, visitors, workers and their clothing, feed and sanitation of all vehicles.

PED is a reportable disease in Alberta and current investigations into the source of the disease are underway. So far contaminated livestock trailers, introduction of new pigs and contamination at the slaughter plant have been ruled out.

Investigators are looking to see if the disease may have arrived via a contaminated feed ingredient truck or contaminated ingredients.

Each farm is treated individually so disposal of dead pigs and manure is handled on a case by case basis.

“Each farm will be assessed on the best way to manage the disease,” he said.

Alberta Pork has designed a PED toolbox for a guide on working with feed mills, transportation, sanitation, hygiene and worker and vehicle restrictions.

The disease arrived in the United States in 2013 and spread to 31 states, killing about 10 percent of the commercial swine population at an estimated cost of $400 million.

For full details, visit www.albertapork.com.

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