Industry Working Toward a PRRS-free Minnesota

MINNESOTA, US - The Minnesota pork industry is on the path to eradicating Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) disease.
calendar icon 15 February 2010
clock icon 5 minute read

Stevens County in western Minnesota has been almost “cleaned up,“ said Dr Scott Dee, University of Minnesota swine veterinarian. The swine industry is working diligently and cooperatively to end PRRS that causes reproductive failure and respiratory tract illness.

The clean-up of Stevens County is viewed as an example for cleaning up other counties.

“This is an ideal situation to see if producers can work with each other to create negative PRRS areas,“ said Dr Dee, speaking at Minnesota Pork Congress on 20 January. The process of eradicating the disease in Stevens County started back in 2004, and involved identifying and mapping all swine facilities.

According to Minnesota Farm Guide, Minnesota Ag Statistics said Stevens County housed 161,000 hogs and pigs as of 1 January 2008. Many of the operations are secluded, have high health standards and focus on raising breeding livestock.

The producers all cooperated with testing and identification of their farms.

“We needed to know the PRRS status on the farms,“ said Dr Dee. “We wanted to apply new knowledge as it came forward for regional controls.“

Dr Dee's swine group proved that the PRRS virus travels at least 6 miles in the air. The risk of re-infection in swine is reduced through air filtration technology. If the caliber of the filter is high enough, the PRRS virus can be kept out of swine facilities.

To prove this, Dee and others worked with a set of 10 barns with filters and 21 barns without filters in 2009.

Two of the 10 filtered barns became infected due to personnel transport breeches, reports Minnesota Farm Guide. There was no evidence of filter failure.

Seventeen of the 21 non-filtered barns became infected. Some of the barns were infected multiple times with PRRS virus.

Now, research by Dr Jeff Zimmerman at Iowa State University, suggests that hanging ropes in barns could provide an easy way to collect oral fluids for antibodies and virus testing.

Until the research is completed, blood samples still have to be collected to determine the presence of PRRS.

“It's possible that we are getting to the point where we can monitor our populations quite well without having to bleed pigs,“ said Dr Dee.

In their efforts to eradicate PRRS from Stevens County, Dr Bob Morrison, University of Minnesota swine veterinarian, Stevens County veterinarians and producers held conversations about cleaning up the facilities.

Now, blood testing, mapping and cleaning up facilities that test positive for PRRS is being conducted in counties surrounding Stevens County.

Dr Dee and others want to find out if they can create a PRRS negative status area in four or five counties.

“We were thinking about using Highway 212 as an imaginary border - similar to what was done with pseudorabies, to have a southern zone and northern zone,“ said Dr Dee.

Veterinarians and producers are also working on similar goals in southern Minnesota.

“The good news is a lot of the practitioners in the southern zone also work in the northern zone,“ he said. “There is a lot of networking being done among practitioners. A lot of these farms are already fairly well understood about where they are and what their status is.“

Dr Dee added that other states are also considering regional “clean-up“ projects.

“I believe we can work together to develop a producer-driven voluntary plan for eliminating PRRS in Minnesota,“ he said. “I believe we can provide an example for the nation. I think we can turn a negative situation into a positive and be the first to do that.“

The Minnesota Pork Producers Association and the Minnesota Pork Board both passed resolutions in December calling for the eradication of PRRS virus in the state. The Minnesota Pork Producers Association's resolution focused on eradicating PRRS from the US swine herd. The policy would include identification of appropriate government resources and investments, but would not mandate producer involvement in PRRS eradication programmes.

The Minnesota Pork Board's resolution encourages the National Pork Board to prioritize research and education to eradicate PRRS. The resolutions will be brought to the National Pork Forum in March, with hopes of passing these resolutions on a national level.

In addition, the goal of the PRRS Eradication Task Force is to map of all swine facilities in Minnesota by the end of February 2010, Dr Dee said.

“We will develop a strategic plan that will be carefully thought out, scientifically driven, and again, voluntary,“ he said. “We're trying to understand where the positive farms are, and are there relationships or collaborative efforts that can be organized with veterinarians and producers throughout the state.“

Further Reading

- Find out more information on PRRS by clicking here.
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