PEORIA, Ill. — There may be a light for U.S. pork producers
at the end of a long, costly, deadly tunnel.
“We know that if we load and close that herd and create
exposure, they’ll return to productivity if we clean them up,” said Bill Hollis,
swine veterinarian with Carthage Veterinary Services in Carthage.
He spoke to an audience of pork producers gathered at the
2014 Illinois Pork Expo.
The acronym on the lips — and minds — of producers attending
the event was PEDV — shorter for porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, a
diarrhea-inducing coronavirus that has swept through 25 states in the U.S.,
wiping out litters of baby pigs less than 10 days old.
“Get exposure. Clean, clean, clean. Prepare the load and
close. Take care of your weaned pigs. Work together,” Hollis said.
He outlined two separate procedures, one that could save
10-day-old and older pigs and one that could help create resistance to the virus
Identifying the virus, both visually and then through
official testing, is vital, Hollis said.
“We don’t see other things cause watery pipestream diarrhea,
so it should be somewhat evident to the farm staff or to you if you’re looking
for this virus,” he said.
For those who do spot the telltale discharge in their barns,
including the growing, finishing and show pig and exhibitor sectors, Hollis had
a less-than-desirable assignment.
“Recognize the virus, look regularly for the virus. If
you’re seeing watery, pipestream diarrhea, capture it in a Ziploc bag and send
it off to the lab quickly because we can identify it tomorrow through a PCR
test,” he said, referring to the polymerase chain reaction test. “At least we
can work on minimizing exposure if we know we have it.”
While pigs under 10 days old succumb to the virus, pigs over
10 days old may be saved if producers identify the disease and act quickly,
“If you are farrowing baby pigs and you’ve got the ability
to move the older baby pigs off the farm, you have a much higher likelihood of
saving more pigs so you want to know as soon as possible,” he said.
Saving older baby pigs requires some basic knowledge of how
the PED virus works.
Hollis said the virus destroys the intestinal villi, causing
the villi to slough off. The pig then becomes unable to absorb nutrients through
food and starves to death. Pigs under 10 days of old that are nursing don’t have
the ability to develop villi fast enough.
But pigs older than 10 days can survive, Hollis said.
“If you get positive identification, you have to move the
oldest pigs off the farm. The diarrhea is going to infect all the pigs on the
farm, and it’s going to move rapidly through the farm. The pigs that are 10 days
of age or older, we believe, can take on solid food and digest it and, we
believe, won’t navel suck to kill each other, get those pigs off the farm,” he
Hollis said a link on Carthage Veterinary Service’s website,
provides tips and tricks for getting young pigs started on solid food.
“The most important thing is you’re trying to get solid food
in their gut. Get these pigs to eat feed. Get them to work to take food
routinely. They’re coming off a sow where they’re used to nursing every hour,
and if they’re 10 days old, they’re still looking for mom. You’ve got to
encourage them to get something in their mouth every hour — get them up, get
them to take on gruel, get them to take on something other than liquid milk,” he
Hollis said milk replacers are not an option since the milk
replacer won’t induce the production of good bacteria in the gut and keep the
“If you can get that pig to eat, to take on solid food and
get solid good bacteria growing in the gut, they’ve got a better chance to
live,” he said.
He also said that producers may want to keep water nipples
dripping so the young pigs can take on more water. Keeping the recovering young
pigs draft-free also is important.
“If you’re pulling too much air through and these pigs are
cold, wet and naked, they’re going to pile already so you don’t want drafts. You
want to check the wind speed, the air speed, coming out of your inlets and
reduce it if possible or deflect it to the back. But don’t create a draft on
these pigs because they’re going to be wet. It just takes them time to recover,”
After those pigs are moved, he said the next thing producers
need to focus on is load, close and expose and described the block-and-tackle
approach to building immunity.
“We have to build immunity at the sow farm. Block the
activity of movement through the sow farm. Build immunity through exposure. Take
action. Clean it up, we’ve got to clean up that site. It’s constant re-exposure
that creates the ongoing diarrhea,” he said.
Hollis advised producers to work with their veterinarians to
develop a program to expose sows to the virus so they can build immunity that
will be passed on to future litters.
“Work with your vet. Identify the virus. Identify some
method to expose the whole herd. Identify feedback exposure to those sows so
their milk is protection for the pigs,” he said.
Hollis said that both avenues of attack are not without
risk, risk from moving animals during that time, risk of further spreading the
disease through trucks, trailers and people and risk of exposing sows to the
Hollis urged producers to reference materials and checklists
available on www.pork.org to review a farm’s biosecurity procedures, from
hauling manure off the farm to hauling feed and even pigs onto farms.
“If you’re hiring somebody to haul manure and you haven’t
had this discussion, go to the website, print off the checklist. Same thing with
trucks. If you’re hiring somebody to haul pigs or you’re running trucks, go to
this website and there are pages on transportation and biosecurity. It can help
walk you through the checklist of what can I do to minimize exposure,” he said.
Hollis said veterinarians and researchers are looking at all
the ways PEDV moves from farm to farm, even to the snowy undersides of grain
“Sow farm barriers are all in place and the frustrating
thing for us in the PED explosion has been systems that already had these in
place that are still breaking,” he said. “There’s something we’re moving through
these systems that we haven’t figured out yet.”
Hollis gave the example of a hopper-bottom grain truck
hauling DDGS to a mill that feeds several sow farms in west-central Illinois.
“The bottom of that truck is getting covered in snow and
slush and ice this time of year, and it drives right over the grain dump. They
open that up, and it all falls right in there, into the auger system, and when
it’s frozen, it stays frozen the whole time, all the way out to the bin where
the finished product goes into the sow farm,” he said.
“What I’m telling you is the degree we’re trying to evaluate
to minimize risk. We found virus in that material, so it’s not unexpected that
some of the avenues we haven’t worked on protecting are now going to be avenues
of risk for us today,” he added.
Hollis also urged producers to participate in a PED survey
on the www.aasv.org website and to include their premises ID so researchers can
know where the virus is and can look at more factors of how it moves.
“We can do a much better job if we know where it’s moving
and where we have activity before we get there. Filling out a survey through the
(American Association of Swine Veterinarians) website that’s going to ask you
about all your different supplies, ingredients, your vet, all these types of
things, which help us identify risk so we need that information,” he said.
Hollis applauded the National Pork Board for spending on
research and identification of PEDV.
Hollis said a big reason that producers need to help
researchers identify where the virus is and where it has been is to prepare for
possible future illness events. The virus that has been identified in the U.S.,
which was first identified in the country in April 2013, is 99 percent similar
to a strain found in China.
Hollis said there are currently two strains of the PED virus
circulating in the U.S., the second is a less-virulent, less-deadly strain.
“The bad news is whatever brought this virus to us can bring
us something else, so that’s why we want to work together and identify how best
to prevent it,” he said.