Valdosta Daily Times


May 3, 2014

Hog farmers live on edge with deadly virus



Their trucks are washed at least once a day now.

“We were washing our trucks basically weekly at best,” said Marlin McCormick, the facility’s general manager. “You could say this is only because of the pig virus.”

What’s happening in Monroe City is pretty much the norm these days in the state’s pork industry, said Marcia Shannon, a professor with the University of Missouri-Columbia’s division of animal sciences.

Shannon, who routinely consults with farmers about pig nutrition, said producers are doing everything they can to limit the potential for tires and shoes to spread the virus. She knows of at least one farmer who bought his own grinder and mixer to make pig feed — eliminating one of the reasons trucks visit his farm.

She’s even noticed a difference in the way farmers interact with her.

Before the virus came along, half of her consultations were done in person. Today, everyone wants to talk by phone — fearing contact with anyone else from the industry.

“That’s the anxiety,” Shannon said. “Nobody’s safe.”

It’s difficult to say where things go from here.

The good news, experts say, is that the disease spreads much more slowly during warmer months. So the number of outbreaks should fall substantially in summer. But, they caution, that doesn’t mean the virus is gone.

“We expect it to return in the winter,” said Sundberg, with the National Pork Board. “The question is: To what degree?”

There’s also hope for a vaccine, though some are skeptical, considering the type of virus that causes the disease. Initial efforts by veterinary medicine companies to develop a vaccine have produced limited results.

In Monroe City, Hays has a rather sobering view of the situation and what it portends for the future.

Even if this particular virus is defeated, he figures it’s just a matter of time before something else works its way into the country. There are, after all, a lot of nasty livestock diseases lurking outside the nation’s borders.

“The world’s just a smaller place,” Hays said. “And there’s so much stuff moving around.”


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