Researchers are hoping the province’s manure pits will hold some clues to controlling the porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus.
The council, the Manitoba Livestock Manure Management Initiative and Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development are asking producers to submit manure samples to help assesses where the virus could be lurking and how long it survives.
The study aims to first identify undiagnosed farms and then assess the virus’s survivability and the effectiveness of current disinfection strategies.
“We want to determine how long the virus is surviving in the pits, in the lagoons, in the soil when it’s applied and then on manure application equipment after it’s been used to spread manure,” said Mark Fynn, an animal care specialist for the Manitoba Pork Council. “And then to test our cleaning and disinfection protocols, for the manure application equipment, to see that it’s actually effective at eliminating the virus.”
The pork council has monitored 18 high-traffic facilities in the province since February. Federal packing plants, provincial abattoirs, assembly yards and truck-wash stations throughout Manitoba have submitted a total of 2,700 samples. Eight facilities have tested PED positive at some point. Of those, four are currently negative, while four are working towards containing or eliminating the virus.
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So far, two on-farm cases of PED have been detected in Manitoba, according to the latest PED virus bulletin from the Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer. The same report confirmed 62 farms across Canada have tested positive for the virus, 58 of which were in Ontario.
The virus is not dangerous to humans, but is often fatal for piglets. Mortality rates are confidential in Canada, but an estimated seven million piglets have died as a result of the virus in the United States.
“We’re in a unique situation where we have two positive farms, so we can undergo some of the research. But it’s at a manageable level as compared to Ontario,” said Fynn.
Producers who participate in the study are encouraged to follow biosecurity protocols to ensure they do not track the virus to or from their farm.
“There’s always a risk if there are positive barns,” he said, “but we don’t suspect there to be many positive barns out there based on our surveillance program results.”
Robyn Harte, a business development specialist for swine, will help co-ordinate the government side of the project. She says there has been a push to conduct research on PED because the fast-acting and often fatal virus has been so devastating to the hog industry.
“Research is running the gamut because it is a new virus in North America and as such there isn’t a large body of work to reference,” she said in a telephone interview. “And so lots of research in a huge number of areas is required.”
Producers interested in participating in the study can call Darlene Meakin at 204-897-0622.