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Protecting What You Have

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Prairie Swine Centre, Press Releases by admin on September 15, 2017

The reminders of the spread of PEDv across Manitoba the past 5 months remind us just how fragile our systems can be to external challenges. Current market prices and forward contracts have given us a well needed breather as an industry to rebuild/refurbish our farms and fix balance sheets. Is that current financial success holding us back?

What I mean – Are we taking threats seriously enough to actually change practices to protect our farms? This article is primarily health focused because we have had the opportunity to travel to many farms, conferences, open houses etc. the past 6 months and there is a disturbing complacency toward health threats emerging in our attitudes and practices in spite of the real threat PEDv represents. If you are reading this in southern Manitoba you are probably thinking that health is all we have thought about for months and yes we have changed and reviewed practices and everyone is on ‘high alert’. My concern is that outside of Manitoba we are not taking the same heightened awareness.

Two specific incidents come to mind. A packing plant tour is an excellent way to stay informed of how our product is transformed into food, this is particularly important for the students and staff at Prairie Swine Centre to help understand the larger industry. In 2014, several months after PEDv began wreaking havoc in the US, I was on a similar tour and everyone arrived with cleaned vehicles and were putting on plastic boot covers before they stepped out of their vehicle – in 2017 it was back to business as usual, farm vehicles in various states of cleanliness and not one pair of plastic boot covers to be seen. A second example was at a swine industry tradeshow, tractor trailers and goosenecks parked in the lot beside the passenger vehicles. It was not difficult to tell these trailers were swept out but not washed nor baked.

These two examples speak to my concern that we just aren’t using all the knowledge available to us to protect our farms.

At the same time I see headlines that tell us health challenges are all around us. Internationally Uruguay has identified PRRS for the first time in widely separated areas. The country undergoes regular testing so what happened? Closer to home, a PRRS virus variant previously associated with Minnesota is now in western Canada. Homegrown problems with Strep Suis seem to be on the rise. The Canada-West Swine Health Intelligence Network noted laboratories reporting an increase in positive cultures. Our own experience is that hot temperatures and extra movement and handling triggered a couple weeks of sudden losses that are not typical for this herd.

Our industry has enjoyed phenomenal growth in productivity and generally improving health status for several years. We know all too well that we cannot rely on continued access to antibiotics, and now additional scrutiny on zinc and previously copper in the EU promises to spill over and take yet one more tool from the troubleshooting toolbox. One editorial suggested 2.50 Euro per pig in reduced earning if Zinc Oxide became unavailable. These factors are all the more reason to keep the biosecurity high.
The following is sourced from the Canada-West Swine Health Intelligence Network Report July 31 regarding heightened biosecurity measures that should be considered as you review your biosecurity plan.

  • Managing Transport –wash and bake trucks
  • Managing any supplies, including feed ingredients and breeding stock coming from infected areas
  • Compost deadstock (to reduce rendering traffic to your farm)
  • Follow strict contractor protocols
  • Participate in the environmental testing programs

Our Centre is undergoing another internal biosecurity audit. We do this about every 18 months to 2 years, rotating between internal and external audits. Every time we find something. This is time well spent to protect what we have.

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