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Weekly Overview: Counting the Cost of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea

14 April 2014

GLOBAL - With piglet losses from Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PED) at around five per cent for the six months to February, it's hard to make sense of the sky-high pig price in the US when farrowings and slaughter weights are up, writes Jackie Linden. The virus is also affecting the pig industries in other countries, particularly in Canada and Japan, while Brazil, China and the UK have announced renewed efforts to keep the virus out of their territories over the last week.

For the six-month period September 2013 to February 2014, piglet losses in the United States from Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PED) have been estimated at 2.7 million or just under five per cent.

Basing his calculations on the latest USDA 'Hogs and Pigs' report, Chris Hurt, Extension Economist at Purdue University, summed up the situation saying "PEDv losses were not as large as expected". Previous forecasts from other sources had put the losses much higher.

Based on the the actual number of pigs per litter compared with the adjusted trend, Professor Hurt calculated piglet losses of about two per cent for the September-November quarter and seven per cent for December-February, confirming that PEDv had its greatest impact during the winter months, which were exceptionally cold this year.

Losses have not been were not consistent across all states, according to Professor Hurt. Hardest hit have been Ohio, Missouri, Colorado, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Michigan, with losses between 10 and 21 per cent. PED appears to have brought more moderate losses of two to six per cent in Iowa, Kansas, Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska.

Looking ahead, he forecasts April and May hog supplies down three per cent and summer supplies down about four per cent. Higher winter farrowings and heavier slaughter weights have mitigated the losses to some extent.

Hog and pork prices are still so high that they seem unjustified by current USDA inventory numbers, according to Professor Hurt. He predicts hog prices and lean futures to remain unsettled and potentially very volatile over the coming months.

Also in the US, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota has urged the USDA to step up efforts to prevent further PED outbreaks, particularly in helping producers to detect the virus in their herds and to develop countermeasures such as drugs and vaccines to battle the virus. He also called for relief to producers already hit by the virus.

The first PED outbreak has been confirmed in the state of Virginia.

From South Dakota State University comes advice on pig manure handling to reduce the risk of spreading the PED virus.

In Canada, three new outbreaks of PED have been confirmed in Ontario in the last week, bringing the total to 50 in that province.

PED fears have spread beyond North America. China has suspended imports of live pigs from the United States.

In Japan, PED outbreaks have been confirmed in 21 prefectures. The price of pork there has not been affected.

The agriculture ministry in Brazil has announced further sanitary measures on imported pigs to keep PED out of the country. These include new regulations of pig imports and a recently opened quarantine facility. A ban on pigs and porcine plasma from the US is not currently under consideration.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

Top image via Shutterstock

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