by SUSAN MANN
Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea’s status as a non-reportable disease means if it came to Canada, farmers would have to voluntarily quarantine their farms but wouldn’t receive any compensation, an Ontario pork industry official noted during a province-wide telephone meeting today to discuss the disease.
Ontario Pork chair Amy Cronin says even though the virus, often referred to as PED, is not reportable in Ontario the new Animal Health Act considers it “a serious risk” and veterinarians will report it to the provincial agriculture ministry. “If a case of PED is confirmed it would be up to that producer to voluntarily quarantine his or her farm. No compensation is expected at this time,” she says.
The disease was first detected in the United States last spring and Canadian industry groups plus government are working hard to keep it out of Canada.
Marty Misener, a veterinarian with the South West Ontario Veterinary Services, says clinical signs of the disease that have been noted in nursery and finishing operations in the United States range from explosive, watery diarrhea to less severe, lower prevalence diarrhea, “which means that it may be more difficult to detect an early case in growing pigs.”
There have been no reports of the disease in Ontario, Misener says.
If an outbreak were to occur here this winter, he estimates the cost of piglet mortality alone would be $150,000 per 1,000 sows infected. The total cost of an outbreak to the Canadian industry in the first year of its occurrence would be much higher -- $45 million, he estimates.
Cronin says “all of Canada is watching this disease carefully.”
Cronin and Misener were among several speakers during the one-hour Ontario Pork telephone meeting. The call’s peak attendance, defined as the number of people who stayed on the line the longest, was 289, says Mary Jane Quinn, Ontario Pork communications and consumer marketing manager. The call was a follow-up to a telephone update on PED Ontario Pork did for industry in November.
Last week, California and Wyoming announced their first cases of PED, bringing the number of states with confirmed cases to 22 since the disease was first detected in the United States last spring.
The states with the most reported cases are: Iowa, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Kansas. Randy Duffy, research associate and economist from the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus, says the five states have 82 per cent of the cases. Iowa has 37 per cent of them.
Those five states account for more than half of the U.S. breeding herd and 63 per cent of the American market pig numbers.
The disease’s impact is showing up in declines of the number of pigs weaned per litter, shrinking inventories and, ultimately, a drop in hog marketing numbers in the United States. In 2013 alone, hog marketings were 1.3 million pigs below initial estimates, with “pretty much all” of the drop coming in the last half of the year, he says.
Animals available for sale will continue to be lower than normal in the second and third quarters of this year, Duffy says, but he estimates the impact “on U.S. pork production will be offset somewhat by heavier hog weights.” Prices are also expected to increase by US$5 to $6 per hundredweight in this year’s second and third quarters.
The Ontario agriculture ministry continues working with industry groups in prevention and preparedness if the virus is diagnosed here, including working with Ontario Pork in public outreach.
Ontario agriculture ministry veterinarian Janet Alsop says, “Ontario is the most advanced province nationwide in lab preparedness, industry exercise, public outreach, and industry engagement.”
In December, the agriculture ministry handed out biosecurity kits to all swine transporting companies in Ontario. The kits had buckets, disinfectant and boot brushes. The ministry also offered funding for boots to ensure “all truckers will be able to clean their footwear between farms,” Alsop says. The ministry’s kits complement biosecurity kits recommended by the Ontario Swine Health Advisory Board in its tip sheet on loading and unloading protocols.
This week, the ministry is distributing bilingual signs to all 88 abattoirs that slaughter swine in Ontario for their unloading areas to remind transporters biosecurity is important in preventing the transmission of PED, she says.
Ontario Pork national biosecurity coordinator Mike DeGroot says the Canadian industry’s main area of concern has been the contamination threat posed by unwashed trailers returning to cull assembly yards from the United States.
As a short-term solution started last summer, these trailers were segregated to an offsite location and covered with Stalosan drying powder disinfectant. But a recent Iowa State study found the treatment is ineffective.
DeGroot says the alternative strategy now being explored is to have all of the trailers washed after pig shipments to the United States.
For its part, Ontario Pork has provided $100,000 to the provincial PED working group (made up of Ontario Pork and Ontario Swine Health Advisory Board representatives) for a trucker wash station. The money is also earmarked for a cull assembly yards retrofitting project.
Truck washing is occurring in Ontario now. It does add a lot of cost, notes Misener.
“High marks to the folks that have to do this work; they’re stepping up to the plate,” he says. BF