Pork sector calls for washing station changes

Manitoba Pork argues a return to domestic wash stations will allow greater control over variables that might contribute to the spread of PEDv

Manitoba Pork wants to see the return of Canadian-based wash stations for hog transport trailers coming back from the United States.

If implemented, it would be an echo of a 2014 pilot project, one of several emergency measures by the pork sector following the first Canadian outbreaks.

News of the virus’s spread to Canada in 2014 was met with a flurry of activity as the industry rushed to avoid the devastating losses seen in the United States. In 2013 and 2014, PEDv had killed millions of pigs in the U.S. and was said to increase pork prices as U.S. supply ran thin. By the time the virus had spread across the border, Canada’s pork industry had clamped down on biosecurity and expanded resources, including high-tech wash stations located in Canada.

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Those wash stations were central to the pilot project, which tagged pig transports returning from the United States and directed them to be thoroughly disinfected at designated stations. Trucks were sealed in the United States after the animals were delivered, to limit interaction with the U.S. environment and the inside of the trailer, Manitoba Pork Council general manager Andrew Dickson said.

The practice hasn’t been in place since 2016, when the Canadian Food Inspection Agency withdrew its emergency exemption that allowed trucks to be washed in Canada after crossing the border.

“The CFIA currently requires pig transport trucks returning from a specific type of location in the United States to be cleaned and disinfected before entering Canada. This requirement reduces the risk of pig diseases being brought into Canada, including PED, which is widespread in the U.S.,” said Harpreet Kochhar, CFIA Chief Veterinary Officer for Canada and acting vice-president of operations.

As of June 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported 3,239 confirmed PEDv cases in the United States since 2013.

The issue was highlighted during an emergency briefing of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food June 15 in Ottawa. The committee heard from a full complement of Manitoba’s pork sector as it was briefed on the province’s PEDv struggle, including Dickson, Maple Leaf vice-president of animal care Glen Douglas, HyLife president Claude Vielfaure, Quintin Pearce, general manager of livestock dealer P. Quintaine and Son, and Bill Rempel, chief operating officer of Steve’s Livestock Transport.

Manitoba is in the midst of its worst recorded PEDv outbreak. As of June 15, 21 cases had been confirmed in southeast Manitoba, over twice the number of the previous three years combined.

Dickson called for a return of the 2014 program, or another similar to it. Manitoba Pork protested removal of the emergency measure in 2016, arguing U.S. wash stations are not as highly regulated, some may use recycled water, and the Canadian pork sector has little impact on or knowledge of sanitation practices at U.S. wash stations. Canadian stations, by contrast, Dickson argued, would allow better control over wash station environment, effectiveness and certification.

“The disease is endemic in the United States,” Dickson told the committee. “It’s in all of these wash stations.”

Manitoba Pork has said the loss of the pilot is directly linked to the upswing of PEDv in the province.

Kochhar said there was no solid evidence that linked traffic across the border to Manitoba’s current outbreak. The CFIA is still analyzing if there is connection between transport truck washes and PEDv’s presence in Manitoba, the committee heard.

Barbara Jordan, CFIA acting vice-president of policy and programs, said Canadian-based wash stations could be reinstated quickly, but was wary of the concept as a method of fighting PEDv.

“The regulations for cleaning and disinfection at the border are there so that we can really, at the furthest point — the first available opportunity — reduce risk as much as possible, so that’s the purpose of the regulations,” she said. “That requires transporters to present clean trucks at the border. We can move quickly to change that, but we would want to make sure that such a change wouldn’t be, in fact, reducing our management of risk.”

As well as trailer washing policy changes, Dickson said Manitoba Pork hopes to partner with the CFIA to bolster Manitoba’s Chief Veterinary Office and secure financial assistance from the government for farm cleanup.

The aftermath of a PEDv infection may cost $200,000 per operation, Dickson said, plus resources for long-term recovery. Dickson also estimated that the sector will have to manage 60 million gallons of infected liquid manure as a result of 2017’s infections.

About the author

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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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