Expanded staff to put hog disease in the crosshairs

Manitoba Pork says it hopes to fill the new swine health programs manager by early fall

Manitoba Pork hopes revisiting its disease management and prevention programming will help the industry dodge the next disease threat.

The council will be expanding staff to include a swine health programs manager as part of the process, chair George Matheson said during a recent interview with industry-run broadcast “Farmscape.”

The new hire will take on existing bio­security programs as pork producers continue to deal with the aftermath of PEDv (porcine epidemic diarrhea virus) in southeast and south-central Manitoba.

Andrew Dickson, Manitoba Pork general manager, said the council is using protocols passed down from the Canadian Swine Health Board to develop individual biosecurity plans for farms.

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“Based on the experience that we’ve had with PEDv, there’s going to be a big review of our whole biosecurity programs to see whether we need to make any changes,” Dickson said. “We may need to revamp some of the plans that were prepared, say, three or four years ago.”

Dickson says the new programs manager will also re-evaluate transportation and cleaning procedure for trucks and trailers, something that has been of particular note in the ongoing PEDv fight, and encourage proper sanitization for trucks crossing to and from the United States, where the virus is more common.

Disease management and emergency planning will also be covered under the position and the programs manager will be expected to liaise with other provincial organizations to plan against future outbreaks. The new staff member will also act as a point of contact for farmers, researchers and other stakeholders.

Similar connections will occur nationally through the Canada-West Swine Health Intelligence Network.

The network was formed in 2015 with co-operation from producers, veterinarians and researchers in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

“It’s a database that generates reports,” Dickson said. “It can be done on a weekly basis. It can be done on an instant basis. Veterinarians across Western Canada input information about what they’re seeing in terms of swine health on the operations that they work with. The aim is to get the whole sow base in Western Canada with their swine health status being reported.”

About half of sow herds currently report to the network, he added.

“We’re hoping that this will provide us with some early warning signals on emergent diseases because veterinarians will see something in a barn and it’ll inform all veterinarians in Western Canada that they’ve seen something and to be alert for it,” Dickson said.

The network hopes to tie into similar organizations in Ontario and Quebec.

Emerging issues

Outside of PEDv concern, the council intends to monitor emerging diseases, as well as international swine health issues, and introduce pre-emptive policy through the new position.

Dickson pointed to a “particularly virulent” strain of PRRS (porcine respiratory reproductive syndrome) — a double-edged pathogen affecting both respiratory health and resulting in aborted pregnancies, “mummified” piglets and infertility. Several cases of the strain have been reported in Manitoba in the last year, “Farmscape” recently reported.

“It has high mortality rates and is very hard on a particular operation,” Dickson said. “It can take months to try and get over it and there’s no guarantee that once you’ve cleaned up a barn that you won’t get the disease back again.”

The pork council’s new Manitoba Coordinated Disease Response program will also fall under the position’s purview, Dickson said.

The program was introduced in early July as a producer-based initiative against PEDv. The group shares disease status and management between farms and includes both in-person meetings and online resources. A website is in the works and Dickson said arranging access for producers will be among the program manager’s duties.

“We’re starting to put more information in there as we develop it,” Dickson said. “We’re putting in things like manure management plans now. We’ve got a lot of producers who aren’t affected by the disease who have signed up for it, so they’re able to see the information, and we’re making it available province-wide too.”

Manitoba Pork hopes to hire the swine health programs manager by early fall.

PEDv numbers stall

Dickson says he is “warily optimistic” about the fight against PEDv. At the time of printing, the last confirmed case was reported July 14 in a finisher operation west of Morris.

Only two new cases have been confirmed since July 14, a finisher operation July 27, followed by another five days later. Manitoba now counts 62 cases of PEDv this year, mostly in southeast Manitoba, although the virus passed west of the Red River for the first time when two facilities were confirmed infected in July.

“What’s helping us too is the hot, dry weather,” Dickson said. “It reduces the potential for moving the disease because it requires moist conditions, so the drier it is, the better.”

As of July 27, Manitoba’s chief veterinary office had tested 284 premises this year and about 964,000 animals were under surveillance within high-risk buffer zones.

A five-kilometre high-risk buffer is set around each infected farm.

All infected premises have begun cleanup, Dickson said.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Stockford

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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