US Producers Join Regional Groups to Control PRRS

24 November 2011, at 12:00am

The long-term vision of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) is to eliminate porcine reproductive respiratory syndrome (PRRS). As traditional methods have not been effective in all cases, regional, voluntary programmes have been developed to control PRRS, writes Carla Wright for ThePigSite.

Producers have a choice when considering how to solve the PRRS problem. A producer can use strict biosecurity measures, including wind barriers and living with PRRS, filter the sow herd with the highest biosecurity, or join a regional programme to decrease risk.

There are at least 20 regional projects currently in the US.

"The concept of regional, voluntary groups working to control PRRS is now taking off," according to Dr Bob Morrison of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota. "A lot of projects are in the early stages."

Dr Morrison presented this unique and fairly new programme during this year's World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa.

There are four important components of a regional effort:

  • It is completely voluntary – The strength of this approach is that it is inspired, directed and led by producers. A major challenge is that by nature of being voluntary, not all producers will participate.
    "Therefore, patience and acceptance is required," explained Dr. Morrison.
    Typically, each project will have a coordinator and small group of producers who direct the project.

  • The project needs to be regional – The producers in each area have unique needs.

  • The challenges are many and significant – While the prospect of achieving regional PRRS control – and possibly even its elimination – is very exciting, the challenges presented are the participation rate, the risk for the producer of disclosing the farm's PRRS status, managing confidentiality and funding the project.
    "Being part of a PRRS regional group infers a risk to the business. There is the threat of being sued if others know your farm has the virus and then they get it. Services may be discontinued, as other producers will not want service providers on your farm and then on their farm," stated Dr Morrison.

  • Projects require funding – There are a least 20 regional projects in the US in various stages of progress and each has developed its own funding. Seven of these projects have received partial financial support from a USDA sponsored grant called PRRS CAP.

Producer Concerns

"The best response when disclosure occurs is: I'm really sorry that happened, what can we do to help and what are your plans to control this?"
Dr Bob Morrison

According to Dr Morrison, working as a lone producer to solve the PRRS issue can bring up the following legitimate concerns:

  • "I have a small operation and feel very vulnerable."
  • "If I'm pressured, the problem will get pushed underground."
  • "I might not disclose, because others might ask me to 'eliminate' my herd."

Dr Morrison reiterated several times that "Groups need to learn that the best response when disclosure occurs is: I'm really sorry that happened, what can we do to help and what are your plans to control this?"

To reduce fear of being sued, as producers share location, PRRS status and intentions, the regional group asks members to sign a participation agreement, often a letter of consent, and in some regions a hold-harmless agreement. These measures prevent one producer from suing another producer if pigs get the virus. The producer should be reminded of the risk of disclosure ahead of time but also, that to know the neighbour's PRRS status is a privilege and an opportunity to help.

Focus: North East Illinois Group

One of the seven PRRS CAP Regional Projects partially funded by a grant from the USDA is found in Dekalb, Illinois. This North East Illinois PRRS group project includes 80 sites, 45 producers, five to six veterinarians/clinics, farrow-to-finish herds, independent producers, and use of PRRS-MLV as a control and elimination tool. There are 27.8 sows and 194.6 pigs per square mile. The area borders the Chicago suburbs and includes 230,000 head total with 20,000 sows.

There is high participation, at 85 per cent of producers and 90 per cent of pigs in the region. The group is willing to share their knowledge with other regional projects, sees forward movement of the project and has had unique learning opportunities, including the use of MLV and continued participation after an outbreak.

Dr Noel Garbes, a regional coordinator of the North East Illinois group, offered insights during the International PRRS Symposium in Chicago in December 2010.

Funding Opportunities

As a result of the complexities and challenges offered by PRRS, the PRRS CAP has taken a global view in developing a strategy to integrate community resources to lessen the impact of PRRS and its eventual elimination, to include regional elimination projects highlighted in this article.

Further information on elimination funding opportunities can be found at online [click here].

Further Reading

- Find out more information on porcine reproductive respiratory syndrome (PRRS) by clicking here.

November 2011