Virulent pig bug slashing hog herds

ONTARIO - A virulent new strain of a common pig virus is wreaking havoc on Ontario hog herds.

Tens of thousands of hogs have been removed from farms by deadstock companies this winter and last year. They are victims of a new strain of porcine circovirus or other illnesses that the autoimmune disease brings on or makes worse.

"It's just terrible the number of animals that are dying from disease this year," said Winnie Linton, who has lost about half of the 2,000 hogs on the farm she and husband Dave run near Mitchell.

"We see the light at the end of the tunnel because our barn is almost empty," she added, managing a weak laugh.

Larry Skinner, chair of Ontario Pork's board, said provincewide mortality rates are running at 10 to 12 per cent — five to six times above the norm on affected farms. On the hardest-hit farms, the figure is 40 to 50 per cent or more and he sympathized with those struggling farmers.

Meat packers are also starting to worry about a pork shortage, he said. But for hog farmers, it's a double, or even triple, whammy. They're running up costs trying to treat the sick animals, losing revenue when the hogs die and don't make it to market, and feeling the emotional stress of seeing their animals suffer. At the same time, they face market prices of 20 to 30 cents below the break-even mark of roughly $1.50 per kilogram.

Porcine circovirus, or PCVII, is not new; in fact, it's a common bug found in pigs. But something happened to it 18 months ago: PCVII had previously been confined to hogs aged six to 10 weeks, but it began showing up in hogs aged 10 to 15 weeks and was resistant to traditional vaccines.

The circovirus epidemic was one of three major health problems to hit Ontario hog farms in the past year and a half.

For more information, visit our PMWS Technical Page

Source: The
calendar icon 27 March 2006
clock icon 2 minute read
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