Missouri pork producers are stepping up biosecurity measures in their state to keep the porcine epidemic disease virus (PEDV) from spreading. University of Missouri Extension swine nutrition specialist Marcia Shannon said these efforts have helped keep Missouri numbers lower than national figures.
The USDA's quarterly report released March 28 shows that the disease is still spreading, but at a slower rate than last quarter. Nationally, reported cases increased by only 3 percent. Missouri pork producers saw cases double during the last quarter to 96, which is still far lower than most of the nation. “Hopefully, we have hit the peak,” Shannon said.
Missouri’s 96 cases compare to 1,646 in neighboring Iowa, 407 in Illinois, 214 in Kansas and 331 in Oklahoma. The disease has been reported in 27 states.
Shannon said the term “cases” could mean a farm, a barn, a pig, several pigs or hundreds of pigs, depending upon the reporting entity.
PEDV remains a major threat to the pork industry. “A thimble full of fecal material can contaminate thousands of pigs,” she said.
She credits improved biosecurity measures taken by pork producers such as Scott Hays, a partner in Two Mile Pork, a family-owned operation near Monroe City. Hays is past chairman of Missouri Pork Producers Association and current board member of Missouri Corn Growers Association.
One farm's biosecurity experience
Two Mile Pork created a PEDV plan to supplement an existing biosecurity plan for its 4,400-head sow operation. Meetings are held regularly to talk about ways to prevent the spread of the disease to the 300 pigs born there each day. If the disease hits the sow barn, Hays stands to lose 7,500 pigs in three to four weeks.
The farm is closed to tours and delivery trucks. Deliveries are made to an off-site office, fumigated with a disinfectant and taken to the farm in a vehicle that has been washed and dried thoroughly before entering the farm. Employees wear clean disposable booties that have not touched the ground to create a line of separation.
As another precaution, Two Mile Pork quit using starter feed containing porcine plasma for weaning pigs. The plasma comes from the dried blood of slaughtered hogs. The high-protein feed is fed to pigs that have quit nursing but aren’t eating grain yet. A March 30 Wall Street Journal said scientists and regulators are scrutinizing the plasma as a possible pathway for PEDV.
Two Mile Pork has been a shower-in, shower-out facility since opening in 1994. “You can never be too cautious,” said Hays’ daughter, Acacia Hagan.
Hagan checks nursery pigs at growers and contract feeders. New protocol calls for her to carry bins of clothing, one for dirty and one for clean. She puts on fresh coveralls and booties in her car before each farm visit. Her feet never touch the ground until she puts on disposable booties. She places used clothing in a “dirty bin.” She sprays the vehicle’s interior with disinfectant, concentrating on the floor mats, handles and steering wheel.
Employees avoid places where fecal matter might be carried in on someone’s shoes. They make fewer trips to town to shop and attend school and social events. They also avoid a convenience store with a parking area large enough to park hog trucks. A driver might carry fecal material into the store on his shoes.
Hays said it has been hard to discourage employees from patronizing local businesses as often. “Being a local business, we like to support local businesses,” he said.
Shannon agrees that social isolation of pork producers is difficult. “They have restricted where they go and how they do business,” she said. “It’s very traumatic for the workers and the owners.”
Hays worries about the emotional toll an outbreak will take on employees. “This disease is really ugly,” he said. “To walk in and know that every pig born that day is going to die takes an emotional toll on the help.”
Hagan echoes his concerns and adds her own. “If farmers aren’t cautious and we let it sweep the whole nation and lose all of our pigs, we’ve got a lot of hungry people out there. We want to feed the world.”
“The U.S. raises the lowest-cost and highest-quality pork in the world,” Hays says. “We do it better than anybody else. There are a lot of people around the world that rely on our meat production.”
Shannon remains optimistic that USDA’s latest numbers indicate a slowdown of the disease and that Missouri pork producers will continue to feed the world.
The MU Extension publication “Biosecurity for Today's Swine Operation” (G2340) is available for free download at extension.missouri.edu/p/G2340.