PRRS Programme Steps up in Michigan

2 October 2012, at 8:33am

US - West Michigan porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) ARC Project is ramping up reporting and surveillance procedures.

In September 2008, local veterinarians and Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Staff introduced the concept of area regional control for the PRRS virus in West Michigan. With the help of local producers, allied industry, veterinarians and MSU Extension this project has continued to make progress and is making strides in the area of regional control. The West Michigan ARC project has been awarded two USDA funded grants through the PRRS CAP programme.

These funds continue to support the work being done towards regional control of the disease. The project has also garnered support from Boehringer Ingelheim, Hamilton Farm Bureau and the Michigan Pork Producers Association, along with strong collaboration with local producers, including a producer led steering committee. This committee was formed in 2010 and consists of producers who were concerned about the impacts of the PRRS virus in the area and wanted to give direction and guidance to the project, with hopes of stabilizing the Allegan/Ottawa County region. A critical concern to the producer group was to decrease the economic impact of the disease for area hog farmers.

This economically significant disease in swine herds was estimated in 2005 to cost the US industry approximately $560 million dollars a year. New studies done in 2011 by Iowa State University gave a higher price tag to the virus, estimating that the disease is costing the pork industry approximately $664 million per year, a per-sow cost of $114.71. In 2010, researchers began estimating costs related to PRRS outbreaks on farms, including veterinary and biosecurity expenses. These expenses added up to $477.79 million dollars annually. Between production losses and the cost incurred with a PRRS outbreak or prevention, the new information from Iowa State University estimates that the PRRS disease has annual price tag of more than $1 billion dollars. The combination of the cost to the industry, producer desire to produce high health pigs and the need to improve productivity has prompted Michigan State University Extension to work to coordinate a PRRS Area Regional Control (ARC) project in West Michigan, focusing on stabilizing the area and eradicating the virus.

As the programme moves into the control and stabilization phase, it is essential to have good participation from veterinarians, producers and allied industry members. In order to continue with forward progress, programme leaders have begun tracking the status of each farm and site on a regular basis. At this time each owner/veterinarian has been asked to report the status of each of their sites on a bi-monthly basis. This information will be compiled into a database and summarized for participants. The goal is to have a bi-monthly report from each and every site in the area, including non-changing status reports. Summarized status change reports and maps will be generated so that they can be sent to the participants. This information will allow producers to see when and where a status change takes place and have a detailed understanding of the health status of the region.

Herd veterinarians have been asked to assist producers and the site managers with accurately reporting the status of herds in the area. They will also help producers determine if the status of a site has changed or if clinical signs are present using a visual assessment process. If clinical signs are expressed, veterinarians will then work with producers to complete diagnostics by using either a blood or saliva test. Testing will only be needed if the herd is exhibiting signs of an outbreak. This information will also be compiled and tracked by the project leadership. Funding is available through the steering committee to assist with expenses incurred with diagnostic testing.

Once this information is reported and compiled it will be distributed to program participates. The expectation is that producers and veterinarians will use this information to make production management decision such as deciding whether they need to vaccinate, sell early, or take no action. The collective sharing of this information will strengthen producer’s ability to fight the spread of the virus. It will also allow the program to track the movement of outbreaks which will generate baseline data for producers and improve the understanding of the virus and how it travels through the region.

As the West Michigan ARC PRRS project continues to gain momentum and becomes more focused on the goal of stabilizing the PRRS virus in the Allegan and Ottawa County, participation by all producers and veterinarians in the area gains greater importance. Emphasis on increased biosecurity education and the development of regional protocols are areas in which the project will focus on.

The project is also committed to gaining a better understanding of the trucking routes, production methods and issues for the area and increasing knowledge about aerial transmission of the virus. With the increase in surveillance, monitoring and reporting of PRRS activity in the area, program participation will see a growth in information and gain a better understanding of the severity of the virus in the area. Communication between program leadership, participants and practitioners will remain important as the project progresses and producers work to stabilize and eliminate the virus in their herds.

Further Reading

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