Swine Health Issues Concern Producers and Regulators

TEXAS - The three little pigs may have built houses of brick, wood or straw to protect themselves against the wolf, but swine producers now work with pen design, housing construction and biosecurity measures to protect pigs against another wolf: wild (feral) hogs that can carry and transmit disease.
calendar icon 31 August 2007
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There’s no shortage of the wild pigs in Texas. Of the nearly 3 million swine in the state, more than two million are wild.

The US Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services in Texas submitted samples from nearly 700 wild swine from August 2003 through May 2007. Test results showed that more than 20 percent, or 142 of 697 pigs had pseudorabies, a highly contagious viral disease that can cause mild flu-like signs in sows and boars, or kill piglets. About 10 percent, or 66 of 676 of the feral hogs were positive for swine brucellosis, a bacterial infection that can cause sows to abort. Swine brucellosis also may be transmitted from infected pigs to handlers.

In a recent meeting with the Swine Health Committee of the Texas Pork Producer’s Association, TAHC veterinarians recapped Texas statistics from January 2003 through May 2007.

Forty “transitional” swine operations had been quarantined at one time or another, due to pseudorabies or swine brucellosis infection. Of the 40 operations, both diseases were detected in nine herds, and two had repeated infection. A dozen of the 40 operations had definite contact with feral swine, while 14 were reported to have had “possible” contact. The remaining herd owners said there was no contact with feral swine.

However, the TAHC said feral swine can transmit disease to domestic pigs. When these diseased or exposed domestic swine are moved, they start the disease cycle again. This is referred to as “feral-related” infection. In the report to the Swine Health Committee, the TAHC “zeroed in” on infection for 2006 and 2007, reviewing with the committee the testing and epidemiology conducted to confirm the source and/or spread of infection. In 2006, 13 Texas “transitional” herds were found to have pseudorabies.

In 2007, six infected herds have been found, as of late July. Fifteen Texas “transitional” herds had swine brucellosis in 2006, with one detected so far in 2007.

Also troubling is the transmission of swine brucellosis to cattle, which has occurred at least 17 times since January 2006. Swine brucellosis in cattle is not of concern in the bovine brucellosis program, because swine brucellosis is not transmitted from cow to cow. However, it will cause infected animals to test positive on brucellosis tests at the livestock market and at the laboratory.

Feral tactics
During the most recent legislative session, the TAHC was provided authority to regulate feral swine for animal health issues. For several years, the TAHC has approved the placement of the 75 or so TAHC-permitted feral swine holding pens and has allowed the captured wild hogs to go only to slaughter.

Furthermore, rules have been in place requiring the testing of feral swine captured for transport locations other than slaughter, such as a hunting preserve. To address feral swine health issues, the TAHC will establish a working group with the swine, hunting, and trapping industries to formulate more practical, effective, and enforceable regulations that protect swine production, while also benefiting the hunting industry. At the same, should new entry and intrastate movement requirements be considered?

Furthermore, the term “transitional” swine may be too broad, because it lumps together high-quality show pigs and production farms with all backyard operations and waste food-feeding complexes. An additional term may be needed for small herds that are not “commercial,” but are well managed and have swine health safeguards. More than 150 Texas “transitional” herds shipped swine interstate in 2006, and no infection was detected in pre-movement testing of animals

Source: Mexia Daily News

Further Reading

- Find out more information on PSEUDORABIES by clicking here.
- Find out more information on BRUCELLOSIS by clicking here.
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