Virus Costing Farmers Thousands Of Pigs
by Rachel Skytta, Reporter
March 18, 2014 5:11 PM
A virus sweeping across the country is causing hog farmers to lose thousands of pigs, and could soon lead to higher pork prices at the grocery store.
The Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PED) has already affected 27 hog farms in South Dakota, and right now veterinarians and farmers don't see any sign of it slowing down.
"It's a coronavirus that lives on the inside of the intestinal track and causes a little ruckus there," said Monte Fuhrman, Sioux Nation Ag Center Veterinarian.
The virus first popped up in the U.S. in Apr. 2013. Less than a year later, 27 states have seen cases including South Dakota.
"The old pigs that have a lot of reserve are able to get through the disease pretty well and just go on like normal," said Fuhrman.
The piglets aren't as lucky.
"For about two to three weeks they have times where they lose all their baby pigs, because they just can't survive because they get diarrhea," said Steve Schmeichel, Hurley, SD hog farmer.
Schmeichel says he's never seen a virus like this.
"I've got friends in the industry today that have had full blown cases of it," said Schmeichel.
While humans are immune to the virus, and there's no effect on food safety, the virus could become an issue for grocery shoppers.
"You're probably going to have to pay a little more for pork chops in the future," said Schmeichel.
Schmeichel says pork prices could reach record levels.
"If there is a positive side to it, it is that the price of pigs will be made up," said Schmeichel.
Veterinarians say warmer weather on the way could actually prevent the virus from spreading.
As the weather starts to warm up the virus could die down, but until things improve, farmers have to be extra cautious.
Fuhrman has been working to keep the number of cases down in South Dakota.
"Trying to educate and train on extremely aggressive bio security practices to keep the virus away from a sow farm, or away from any farm," said Fuhrman.
"Being extremely careful with where we've been. We don't wear the same shoes and clothes that we do when we go other places," said Schmeichel.
Enhanced security seems to be working for Schmeichel, but new cases continue to turn up on other farms.
"There's some hope that there may be some vaccine that comes available that might help deter the disease," said Fuhrman.
Fuhrman says there isn't much hope of reaching that point anytime soon.
Fuhrman says there is also the possibility that pigs will eventually become immune to the disease.