CME: ASF in Russia; Canadian Hog Inventory

US - A follow-up to last week’s item regarding African Swine Fever in Russia — the big issues are location and spread of the disease to feral pig populations, write Steve Meyer and Len Steiner.
calendar icon 2 November 2010
clock icon 4 minute read

Those factors, according the Iowa State Extension Veterinarian and loyal DLR reader Dr James McKean, are the most troubling aspects of these recent developments. According to Dr McKean, Russia’s ASF problems were originally near its border with Georgia. Some months ago a new outbreak started in the areas further north near the Ukraine border. It has apparently become established in feral (ie. wild) swine populations and continued to spread in both regions. The presence of ASF in feral swine is what makes it endemic to Nigeria where Dr McKean believes there is little hope of removal given the extensive nature of swine production practices. Dr McKean characterizes Nigerian production as “semi-feral“ which allows constant interaction of different pig populations. The situation in Russia is more manageable that that of Nigeria but having the disease in feral pigs is a big, big challenge that must be overcome if Russia is to reach its goal of pork self-sufficiency.

There are two lessons here. First, biosecurity at the local and national levels is paramount, not only for swine but for other species as well. The Georgian and Russian ASF outbreaks are thought to have resulted from feeding ship food waste in and near port communities with following local spread of the introduced disease. Ships from all over the world cock dock regularly on our shores and many of those ships have food products from countries where “foreign animal diseases“ are commonplace. It would be easy to get an infected piece of meat ashore. In addition, some meat products get past the sniffer beagles at ports of entry and visitors can bring in diseases either knowingly or innocently. Korea’s latest foot and mouth disease outbreak is suspected to have been brought from China by a visiting farmer.

Second, feral pigs are not just an issue in other countries. There is an estimated 4 million feral pigs in the US The heaviest concentrations are in Texas, Florida, the Southeast and California but we are seeing more and more movement into swine dense areas of the Cornbelt. Missouri and Michigan have significant populations and feral pigs have been found in 39 total states. They are a reservoir for diseases such as brucellosis and pseudorabies otherwise controlled in the US pig population.

Another follow-up to last week — The smaller declines in Canada’s pig inventory figures imply some stabilizing of imports of pigs into the US As can be seen in the top chart below, the year-on-year declines for every weight class are trending back toward zero after being significantly more negative since 2007. The fact that market pig inventories are down by a smaller per centage than is Canada’s breeding herd is driven by two issues: Rising productivity and, at least for the first half of 2010, lower imports, on a year-on-year basis, of Canadian feeder pigs.

Note, however, that imports of all three classes of pigs from Canada have been quite stable since about 1 March. Cull sow and boar imports have been very consistent for several years. Market hog imports fell to a relatively stable 8,000-12,000 per week with the advent of MCOOL in 2008. Feeder pig imports peaked in late 2007-early 2008, the result of rapid growth of Canada’s breeding herd. But the Canadian dollar reached par with $US at almost that exact time, and the economic pain of that equality as well as MCOOL has driven feeder/weaner pig imports lower ever since. They do appear to be stabilizing with average weekly shipments from March 1 to October 2 being 86,686 head.

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