Cost/Benefits of Disease Eradication

Almost always, the long-term benefits of eradication outweigh the short-term costs but each producer must consider his/her return on investment, including a thorough risk assessment, writes JoAnn Alumbaugh for She uses a number of examples, including the success of eradicating hog cholera and the current problems with PRRS and PCVAD.
calendar icon 2 February 2009
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Pork producers have made tremendous strides in identifying and managing health issues in recent years. Coupled with best management strategies, better genetics, improved nutrition and updated building designs, modern pork production practices have allowed the US pork industry to become one of the most efficient in the world. Still, disease challenges remain. And with tight margins, whether or not to eradicate a disease – both on the farm and in the nation – is a business decision.

Hog cholera was the first major hog disease affecting pigs in the US. According to statistics, the disease was responsible for killing an estimated 7.5 per cent of the US herd annually. First diagnosed in 1833 in the United States, it was finally eradicated from this country in 1978 with the use of vaccines.

Following hog cholera eradication, Aujeszky's disease (pseudorabies) began appearing on farms. Control and eradication remain the goal for this disease and once more, vaccines have played a pivotal role.

An epidemiologic model of pseudorabies virus (PRV) in swine was developed to project future herd-to-herd disease transmission under alternative eradication or control programs over 20 years (1993 to 2012). With current PRV eradication program funding, it was projected that prevalence would be 23 per cent in higher-risk states in the United States, 10 per cent in moderate-risk states, and 1 per cent in lower-risk states. Increased funding for the PRV eradication program was projected to reduce PRV prevalence substantially.

Estimates of the value of economic welfare impacts under the current program with an assumed parallel supply-curve shift were determined: consumers gained $336.5 million; producers gained $35.9 million; government expenditures were $197.1 million; and the benefit/cost ratio of the program was 89:1. Once more, vaccines were, and continue to be, a vital tool in the national pseudorabies eradication program.

In the mid- to late 1990s, the world pork industry had a scare when African swine fever took a severe toll on pigs in Haiti. Prevention of this disease was also evaluated, with results indicating a benefit-to-cost ratio for the current prevention program of over 450:1. The net benefit of prevention efforts was estimated to be almost $4.5 billion at a cost of $10 million for the ten-year period considered. Fortunately, the disease seems to be under control following eradication in Haiti.

Without even a chance to breathe a sigh of relief, US producers were then faced with Porcine Respiratory and Reproductive Syndrome (PRRS) and porcine circovirus associated disease (PCVAD). Vaccines were developed for PRRS and with the help of veterinarians and animal health companies, producers have learned how to keep the disease under control.

Although PCVAD has been identified in swine for more than 30 years, it is now recognized as the cause of numerous disease conditions that can affect pigs suddenly and with devastating results. For a growing number of producers and veterinarians, PCVAD represents a major swine health and production problem.

Fortunately, animal health companies embraced the challenge to develop effective vaccines to minimize the effects of both PRRS and PCVAD.

"Almost always, the long-term benefits of eradication outweigh the short-term costs but each producer must consider his/her return on investment"

In a 2006/2007 field trial in the US, pigs vaccinated at three weeks of age (with Ingelvac CircoFLEX) had a significant decrease in mortality rate and an increase in average daily gain. All pigs were from a herd negative for Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) virus and Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae and had consistently experienced PCVAD exclusively in the finishing stage, starting at three to four weeks post-placement. All pigs were injected the same day with either the vaccine or placebo. Mortality rate was 75 per cent lower in vaccinated pigs than in non-vaccinated pigs. In addition to the reduced mortality, average daily gain and final weights of vaccinated pigs were significantly higher than non-vaccinated pigs. Considering reduced mortality, increased average daily gain and reduced cull rate, the use of the vaccine mentioned above delivered a return on investment of over 7:1.

Faced with chronic health problems that cripple efficiency, many producers look at disease eradication as an option to improve profitability. All eradication programmes incur direct and indirect costs that need to be recovered by increased efficiency; (lower cost of production and/or increased through-put) and/or increased product value (better premium at slaughter house or increased value of replacement animal).

The decision to eradicate a disease must be evaluated not only from a health aspect, but also as a business decision. Almost always, the long-term benefits of eradication outweigh the short-term costs but each producer must consider his/her return on investment, including a thorough risk assessment.


  1. Miller, G.Y., Tsai J.S., Forster, D.L. 1996. Benefit-cost analysis of the national pseudorabies virus eradication program. Department of Agricultural Economics, College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Ohio State University, Columbus.
  2. Rendleman, M.C. and Spinelli, F.J. 1999. The costs and benefits of animal disease prevention: The case of African Swine Fever in the U.S.
  3. Doane Market Research, 2006. PCVAD.
  4. Schwartz, J., Kolb, J. and Christmas, R., 2007. Injection site histologic lesions induced by commercial PCV2 piglet vaccines. Proceedings 5th International Symposium on Emerging and Re-emerging Pig Diseases.
  5. Cline G., Wilt V. and Diaz E. 2007. Efficacy of Ingelvac® CircoFLEXTM in pigs vaccinated at 3 and 6 weeks of age in a PRRS and Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae-negative production system, Leman Conference 2007.
  6. Dufresne, L. 2002. Financial Evaluation of Disease Eradication, Banff Swine Conference. 2002.

Further Reading

- Find out more information on the diseases mentioned in this article by clicking here.

January 2009
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