Tuesday, January 28, 2014
CALGARY - Alberta’s 350 pig farmers are being asked to come out to a series of industry meetings to spread the word about the dangers of porcine epidemic diarrhea.
The deadly pig virus has already killed between 2 and 3 million piglets in the United States, costing farmers there an estimated $240 million. Officials announced Monday that a second Canadian case was confirmed this weekend on a farm in Chatham-Kent, Ontario, as well as a possible third case in the same region.
The first case in Canada, found last week in a farrow-to-finish farm in southwestern Ontario, heightened concern among the country’s hog producers — including here in Alberta.
“The real question is, can we keep it out of the Prairies?” said Frank Novak, a hog farmer in east-central Alberta and chair of Alberta Pork, the organization hosting the upcoming industry meetings. “Because the losses at the farm level are really disastrous.”
Porcine epidemic diarrhea, or PED, is usually fatal for young pigs, though older animals that come down with the disease can survive. Ontario’s chief veterinarian said hundreds of piglets — nearly 100 per cent of those between two and five days old — have died so far at the first farm, located near London, Ont.
There is no vaccine for the disease and if it takes hold in a barn, a producer could lose six to eight weeks’ worth of production. Novak said in his opinion, the experience would be traumatic for everyone who works on the farm.
“To be on a farm where you have to watch every single baby die for weeks on end, and know you have to let it run its course ... It would be devastating for people emotionally,” he said. “It would take a major toll on people and their staff.”.
Alberta Pork is recommending its producers follow strict biosecurity protocols to protect their farms from the disease, including limiting all outside access to their barns and monitoring trucks and trailers — which could carry traces of manure containing the pathogen — carefully.
“The really big risk is transport vehicles,” Novak said. “I think now you are going to see people going to the trucking companies and saying, ‘If your truck isn’t cleaned, disinfected, and dried, do not bring it to my farm.”.
The first Alberta Pork information session will be held Tuesday in Lethbridge, followed by a session in Red Deer on Wednesday and one in Grande Prairie on Thursday. Additional sessions will be held in February and March.
Novak said it’s critical that producers attend and learn more about what can be done to protect Alberta’s hog industry.
“This is our one chance,” he said. “As I’ve been telling people, we only have to get this wrong once. If this disease gets a foothold here, we’re in trouble.”.
PED does not affect food safety and is not a risk to human health. Ontario has stopped short of imposing a quarantine, saying farmers are co-operating and neither pigs nor animal products are leaving the infected farms.
There is also no plan to halt the transport of pork between Canada and the U.S., said Harpreet Kochhar, Canada’s chief veterinary officer. He said border officials are “very vigilant” and require certification proving the animals are healthy.
What’s more, Canada ships more pigs south than it takes in, he said, suggesting it would not be in the country’s interest to shut down pork trade.
(Source by: www.calgaryherald.com )