*Krissa Welshans holds a bachelor's degree in animal science from Michigan State University and a master's degree in public policy from New England College. Welshans has long been involved in agriculture and has worked with numerous agricultural groups, including the Animal Agriculture Alliance.
As the number of states with the virus continues to increase, the pork industry has been working vigorously to organize efforts for managing current and preventing future outbreaks.
The National Pork Board's board of directors had initially designated $450,000 to battling the outbreak but recently committed even more funds. A total of $800,000 is being used for research, education and coordination of efforts to better understand PEDV. The goal is to contain and eliminate PEDV from the U.S.
There's no timeline, but veterinarians and producers are concerned about the potential impact colder weather may have on the severity and spread of PEDV.
A special task force has been assembled to work on this specific issue. The National Pork Board, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) and the National Pork Producers Council are all working together to review and direct the overall effort.
This task force is comprised of representatives of the three groups, in addition to numerous members and advisers with particular expertise or involvement with the disease.
PEDV working groups, under the direction of Dr. Hans Rotto, are concentrating their efforts on three key areas:
1. Packing plant biosecurity. The goal is to keep from transmitting PEDV in packing plants and sow consolidator sites. The group has met with representatives from market hog processors, sow plants and consolidators. All have been very willing to participate and explore opportunities to minimize the risk of viral spread through their facilities. A number of action items have been discussed.
2. On-farm biosecurity, including transport biosecurity. The objective is to keep PEDV off the farm if the farm doesn't already have it.
3. On-farm biocontainment. The objective is to prevent the virus from moving off a PEDV-positive farm.
"Since the swine population has never been exposed before to this virus, they're very susceptible," said Dr. Bruce Brodersen, assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Veterinary Diagnostic Center and School of Veterinary Medicine & Biological Sciences. "The disease outbreaks are very severe because there's no immunity to it at all, so it has been devastating as far as pig mortality is concerned."
Because no vaccine is available in the U.S. yet, Broderson said swine producers can take certain precautionary steps to reduce the chances of outbreak.
"You should always follow very strict biosecurity steps," he added.
The animal health company Zoetis is also working diligently to help find a solution to the PEDV outbreak.
"As a veterinarian, I am committed to finding a solution — including quick-yielding diagnostic tools and efficacious vaccines — that can control this devastating virus," said Dr. Michael Senn, manager of pork technical services at Zoetis. "We are drawing upon our global research and development resources as well as working with health authorities and veterinary centers of excellence worldwide to identify effective solutions and help the pork industry achieve results."
Until a solution is found, the pork industry is advising producers and veterinarians to remain on high alert.
"While we continue our efforts to determine the best solution to PEDV, it's important that producers remain vigilant to their herd's health and contact their veterinarian if they suspect abnormalities," Senn said.
"Producers should heighten their biosecurity awareness. This outbreak serves as a good reminder to review biosecurity practices with your employees, truckers and consultants who have regular contact with your farm," he added.
Senn suggested these AASV-recommended biosecurity practices:
* Label and use chutes for loading and unloading. Use the loading chute only for animals that are leaving the farm, or else healthy animals unloaded using the loading chute could be exposed to the virus.
* Wash and disinfect all unloading chutes and driver areas as often as possible. Use a 2% phenol-based disinfectant in the areas where drivers walk to enter the chute, from the point of entry to the top, and all areas where the chute contacts the truck.
* Require that all trailers used to pick up animals be cleaned and disinfected before arrival. Be sure to allow enough time for the disinfectant to dry completely before use.
* Provide coveralls and boots for employees to wear while on the farm. These materials should stay on site and be washed routinely.
* If your farm allows guests, provide clear direction for where they should report upon arrival. Also, provide guests with coveralls and boots before they enter any facilities.
Piglets infected with PEDV experience diarrhea and vomiting violent enough to kill them. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed more than 400 cases of the disease in the lab, but its toll has already been estimated in the hundreds of thousands. According to AASV, 17 U.S. states have the disease.
As a result, pork price futures have risen to historic levels, with pork going for about $105/cwt. in recent trading at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. USDA reported that the same amount of pork went for $78 in March.
Pork belly prices have risen particularly fast, with the wholesale price of 100 lb. of fresh pork bellies topping $189, at or near all-time highs.
While bacon prices don't typically follow pork belly prices, they, too, have risen. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the price of a pound of bacon in urban supermarkets at $4.92 in June, up 14% from June 2012 and another all-time high.
In the meantime, AASV continues to lead the investigation into how PEDV was initially introduced into the U.S. swine herd.
Given the findings of the initial veterinary survey, one area of concentrated investigation has been associated with the manner in which the pigs are fed. The feed industry has been very cooperative and has participated fully with all requests for access and samples for testing, according to AASV. To date, the actual source of PEDV introduction has not been determined.
PRRS research proposals
With porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) costing U.S. swine producers more than $664 million annually in lost production, collaborative scientific research continues to be the industry's best hope for finding new ways to mitigate this devastating disease.
For the past 11 years, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc. (BIVI) has contributed $75,000 annually through its Advancement in PRRS Research Award to fund three selected research studies.
According to Dr. Michelle Sprague, president-elect of AASV, results from more than a decade of BIVI-funded research studies have contributed significantly to the industry's understanding of the disease and how to more effectively manage it.
"After more than 20 years, PRRS continues to be a major disease challenge for swine veterinarians and producers. While we still do not have all of the answers, we have learned a lot about the virus during this time, including how it is transmitted and how to better control it," Sprague said. "I believe collaborative, practical field research will provide valuable information and insight to help us achieve our goal of eradicating PRRS."
For its 2014 PRRS research award, BIVI is again seeking study proposals from swine veterinarians, diagnosticians and public and private veterinary researchers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Selected research studies are designed to investigate new ways to diagnose, control and eradicate one of the world's most costly swine diseases.
BIVI encourages individuals interested in submitting PRRS research proposals to do so by Jan. 1, 2014. Complete details can be found at www.prrsresearch.com.
Texas feral hog abatement
Seven Texas counties will benefit from $55,000 in feral hog abatement grants recently awarded by the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA).
According to the department, $25,000 was awarded to Bell County, Texas, in partnership with Coryell, Falls, Hamilton and Milam counties.
The counties will reportedly use the funding to invest in public education workshops discussing feral hog abatement. A portion of the grant money, with matching funds from the counties, will be used to supplement trapping and hunting initiatives.
The remaining $30,000 in funding from TDA was awarded to Caldwell and Hays counties for their feral hog abatement programs.
TDA awards the grants to low-cost, high-return projects that are designed to combat the growing feral hog population in the state.