PED’s spread alarms piglet-exporting Manitoba

Winnipeg | Reuters — The deadly pig disease PEDv (porcine epidemic diarrhea virus) is spreading faster than expected in Manitoba, Canada’s biggest piglet-producing province.

The number of cases since the beginning of May, now at 10, matches the total from the past three years combined, although the outbreak is not comparable in scale to PEDv’s spread across U.S. farms in 2013.

The Manitoba government confirmed on Thursday the 10th case, within the same five-km zone as the two most recent cases but outside the same buffer zone as the previous seven.

“It’s not huge at the moment, but we are really worried about this getting to 10 this quickly,” said Andrew Dickson, general manager of Manitoba Pork, an organization of pig farmers.

Hog supplies to Manitoba processing plants run by Maple Leaf Foods and HyLife remain adequate, Dickson said.

Manitoba ships large volumes of young pigs, called feeders, to the U.S. Canada has exported 1.8 million feeder pigs to the U.S. in 2017 as of May 20, up two per cent from a year earlier, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

Canada is the world’s biggest swine exporter, mostly to the U.S.

A U.S. outbreak four years ago ultimately killed eight million pigs, and pushed retail pork prices to record highs. PEDv causes severe dehydration and diarrhea in pigs, and is generally fatal to young animals.

All of the infected Manitoba farms are in the province’s southeast, but it is unclear how the virus is spreading since it has been detected at farms without any obvious connections to each other, Dickson said.

The farms include mostly sow herds, which produce piglets, and finishing barns that raise pigs to slaughter weight.

One of Maple Leaf’s barns is among the confirmed Manitoba cases, spokesman Scott Bonikowsky said.

The next step will be regular sampling of 40 to 50 hog farms in southeast Manitoba, even those that do not have the virus, Dickson said.

The virus spreads best in cold, damp weather, but Manitoba’s weather has recently turned hot.

Next door in Ontario, the province has confirmed three PED cases this year, down from 14 in all of 2016, government spokeswoman Kristy Denette said. The most recent case was confirmed May 25 in the Chatham-Kent area.

— Rod Nickel is a Reuters correspondent covering the agriculture and mining sectors from Winnipeg.

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