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Weekly Overview: PED Crosses into Canada

27 January 2014

GLOBAL - Canada has announced its first outbreak of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PED), eight months after the United States was hit by the disease that has already affected 23 states and cost the lives of an estimated four million pigs. In the UK, changes in feed formulation have helped the pig industry there significantly reduce its climate change impact, while food security has returned to the top of the global political agenda.

The unwelcome although not entirely unexpected news came through at the end of last week that Canada has its first outbreak of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PED). The outbreak is in Ontario and has been confirmed after a farmer reported typical symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea in his pigs. The virus has also been reported at a pig processing plant in Quebec.

With so much trade in pigs between with United States - where the virus has caused outbreaks in 23 states since April/May 2013 and shows no sign of abating - and the challenges in eliminating the virus, especially from animal transport vehicles, it was probably only a matter of time before the PED virus (PEDv) crossed the border into Canada.

Speaking at the annual Banff Pork Seminar, which took place last week, a Canadian vet stressed the need to maintain high levels of biosecurity.

Dr Doug MacDougald of the Southwest Ontario Veterinary Service advised pig producers to work closely with animal transport companies and wash-bays to ensure that all vehicles entering their farms are thoroughly washed and disinfected.

Enhanced biosecurity will make it possible to keep PED out of Canada, he added (before the first outbreak was announced), and to contain the infection if it does enter the country.

On the economic effects of PEDv on the US pig industry, he said that between 30 and 40 per cent of US sows have been infected with the virus and that pig losses there have already reached four million "with more coming".

In other news, a new report launched last week in London highlights that, between 2008 and 2012, the UK pig industry reduced its climate change impact by 800,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The report, published by the British Pig Executive (BPEX) and entitled ‘Positive Progress: An Update on the Roadmap for the Environmental Sustainability of the English Pig Industry’, demonstrates that over this period, the climate change impact (per kilo of pork) has fallen by more than 26 per cent. There have also been significant reductions in measures of eutrophication, acidification and resource depletion.

Explaining how the reductions were achieved, BPEX's Environmental Programme Manager said that much of this progress had been achieved with the close co-operation of the feed industry and feed formulations have gradually changed. Further contributions to climate change impacts have been made by improved pig housing, reduced electricity consumption and in the management of slurry and manure.

And finally, food security has returned to the top of the global political agenda.

An international call has been made for closer links between agricultural and food policies in the fight against global hunger. Speaking at the agricultural ministers' conference during Green Week in Berlin, the German Federal Minister of Agriculture, Dr Hans Peter Friedrich, said that it was not enough to only look at the output volumes.

He called for the preservation of agricultural diversity and the conservation of resources worldwide.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

Top image via Shutterstock

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