Manitoba has several advantages in fighting the spread of porcine epidemic diarrhea among hogs, including limited entry points into the province, up-to-date biosecurity measures and the fact producers have been planning for an outbreak similar to the PED virus for years. (FILE PHOTO)
A second set of samples have tested positive for the porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus in Manitoba, according to the chief veterinarian officer.
The sample was collected from a high-traffic pig site, but the virus has still only been confirmed at one hog barn in the province.
The government tests manure samples at washing facilities, particularily from trucks moving to and from the United States.
Manitoba Pork Council general manager Andrew Dickson said he expected more samples to test positive, but what is critical is keeping PEDv out of hog barns.
"Things are looking good, and the key is if this disease comes in, it will really hurt the industry," Dickson said. "We could lose $100 million worth of sales."
The fast-moving virus, which is most commonly spread by hogs ingesting contaminated feces, has already been confirmed on 43 farms in Ontario and one farm in Quebec and Prince Edward Island.
It has also had devastating effects in the United States, where 27 states have confirmed cases of the virus as of March 12, according to the National Animal Health Laboratory Network. While there isn’t an official count on the number of American hogs that have died as a result of the disease, early estimates are between three and five million.
Similar to how the 2012 drought in the United States’ Midwest and Eastern Canada — which wiped out thousands of acres of farmland — was a boon for local grain producers, the elimination of millions of hogs from the supply chain will only benefit Manitoba producers and processing plants — provided they can keep the virus from spreading in the province.
"The virus has had a massive impact and it’s led to a lot of speculative pricing at the moment," Dickson said, adding prices are very strong right now.
"It’s created a certain hysteria."
Manitoba has several advantages to combatting the disease.
First, there are only so many entry points where hogs can be transported east to west or north to south.
"We can choke it off at border points and any trailers that go to the United States are being washed and disinfected when they come back," Dickson said.
Secondly, Dickson said the organization, producers and the federal and provincial governments have partnered to ensure biosecurity measures are up to date.
Furthermore, education and information has flowed freely to producers and Dickson said producers have been planning for an outbreak similar to this one for a number of years.
"When the virus hit, our producers understood what to do right away and how to keep it off the farm," Dickson said.
The one weakness is that trucks destined for American hog processing facilities only have to be scrapped before
re-entering the country. However, Dickson said that traffic is minimal and the organization is looking at ways to close the loophole.
The chief veterinarian couldn’t determine the source of the PEDv in the barn, which is near Morris, according to an employee working with Maple Leaf who wished to remain anonymous.
He said there has been a blackout on all ancillary services to all barns in the province.
"Outside of the essential staff at the barn, basically no one else is allowed in or out," he said.
All animal movement on and off the affected farm is also still restricted.
"Animals on the farm are no longer showing symptoms and mortalities are within the normal range for this type of operation," the CVO said, while samples from 60 premises that had contact with the infected farm have been tested and all were confirmed negative for the virus.
Dickson said the market should be strong for a number of years, and hopes it helps rebuild the hog industry, which bottomed out in 2009.
"The last five years have been very difficult for the industry and producers have lost a lot of equity," Dickson said.
The two main processing plants in Manitoba, Brandon’s Maple Leaf Foods and Neepawa’s HyLife Foods, are operating at about 80 per cent capacity right now due to supply issues, according to Dickson. For the long-term health of the industry, he said that number has to be in the upper 90s, requiring new producers to be attracted to the industry or current producers to expand operations.
However, a hog moratorium imposed by the province is a major impediment to that happening.
"It’s a huge stalling point," Dickson said, adding that in order to build a new barn or expand, producers are required to build an anaerobic manure digester or similar technology that is costly, scaring investment away.
The affects of the virus can also be seen this week at the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair.
PEDv prompted a redesign of how Pork Manitoba set up their display at the fair’s "Thru the Farm Gate" program.
This year, unlike year’s past, there will be no live animals on display to maintain the highest level of biosecurity possible.
» Twitter: @CharlesTweed
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 5, 2014