by SUSAN MANN
Listowel-area pork farmer Stewart Skinner says Ontario should temporarily close its border to pig movement in and out of the province so Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea currently sweeping across the United States doesn’t come here. But Ontario Pork isn’t in favour of that approach.
Skinner made the suggestion in a Twitter message posted on Ontario Pork’s website. In response, Ontario Pork spokesperson Mary Jane Quinn says “we wouldn’t close borders because that would affect international trade and that’s something that you certainly wouldn’t want to have happen.”
Quinn says the virus isn’t in Canada yet and industry and government are working to keep it out.
Skinner says “all it takes is one truck to go down (to the United States), get infected and have somebody cut a corner and not do things properly and then pick up a load of Ontario pigs and deliver them to an Ontario farm and then that disease has a toe-hold in Ontario.”
If the border was temporarily closed, he says there are only a small number of farmers that may have to change their production flow. “In my opinion, we’ve got to look out for the betterment of the industry.”
Skinner says it wouldn’t be difficult to implement a temporary border closure and the “assertion that you would have trade implications is false. It’s ill founded and it’s false.”
Another suggestion he has is to create a dedicated trucking fleet to only handle U.S. loads.
In an earlier interview, David Alves, Ontario’s deputy chief veterinarian, says the virus causing PED is easily transmitted through objects and people’s boots with pigs getting very watery diarrhea. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in a May 28 update posted on its website the virus is also transmitted from one infected pig to another.
PED isn’t a human health or food safety risk but it’s a production limiting disease causing vomiting and diarrhea in pigs, CFIA says.
Since PED has never been in Ontario, the provincial hog population doesn’t have any immunity to it. If it enters Canada, the disease could have a devastating impact. In its June 7 notice to farmers, Ontario Pork says mortality rates of 70 to 100 per cent are being reported in nursing pigs in the U.S. outbreak.
Skinner says there is nothing more disheartening than having a major disease outbreak in the barn. They had circovirus on their farm in 2006. “When you’re pulling sick, dead pigs out every day, when you’re having to euthanize animals, it is by far the most demoralizing thing a farmer has to do. If we can protect ourselves against that, why wouldn’t we?”
PED was first identified in the United States on May 16. The cause of the U.S. outbreak hasn’t been identified yet. Prior to May 16, PED hasn’t been in North America.
By email Quinn says the majority of live pigs coming to Ontario from the United States are boars used for AI (artificial insemination) studs. She didn’t supply a number for how many live pigs come to Ontario from the United States. The CFIA regulates live swine imports and all breeding stock is quarantined.
But they are concerned about livestock trucks possibly contaminated with manure and returning to Canada after delivering pigs to farms or abattoirs in the United States. “Empty trucks or trucks carrying cattle that have entered from the United States directly into Ontario or have gone into Manitoba or Quebec and that have come into Ontario would be our biggest concerns,” she notes.
The Canadian Swine Health Board and Canadian Association of Swine Veterinarians have sent notices to livestock transporters notifying them of the disease and advising them to wash, disinfect and dry all trucks and trailers returning from the United States before going onto a pig farm, assembly yard or food processor in Canada. Ontario Pork says in the June 7 update, the washing and disinfecting should include the truck drivers’ clothing, boots and equipment.
Marco Beghetto, spokesperson for the Ontario Trucking Association, says their livestock division members have received the notices from government and industry about cleaning and disinfecting their trucks and trailers before reentering Canada from the United States and they are complying. They take the situation very seriously, he adds.
For farmers, Ontario Pork says they need to ask their trucker if he/she has been in the United States and keep trucks off their property until they have verified cleaning and disinfecting has occurred. It’s also urging farmers to be vigilant with biosecurity protocols and report severe, watery diarrhea in their pigs immediately to their herd veterinarian. BF