Bad times for pigs are en route again, as infections of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) are expected to be re-established in the fall, as the cold and damp conditions in which the virus prospers return.
The virus has already set the world back about 8 million pigs, which represents about 10% of the U.S. herd. Not surprisingly, this helped raise pork retail prices to what is considered an all-time high of $4.10 a pound since the PEDv was first found in U.S. swine in April 2013. Prices could continue to rise to upward of $4.75 by year's end, meaning consumers will be bringing home the bacon at greater expense.
It is feared if the virus returns in strength in the fall that another 2.5 million pigs may be casualties.
However, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the availability of a new vaccine that was approved by the USDA this week. It remains to be seen if the vaccine can be distributed effectively or if it will be able to fight the virus in colder weather. According to the USDA, the vaccine will be given to sows with the intent that they build antibodies, then transmit the antibody through their milk to newborn piglets with the hope that these piglets are then protected against PEDv.
The virus usually spreads via feces-oral transmission. As such, veterinarians believe that better control over means of transmission could be just as effective as a vaccine. Certainly the combination of methods will limit the damage.
Problems within the U.S. market include restrictions on live pig importation in nations that include South Africa, China, the European Union, El Salvador, Guatemala, Russia and Japan. The financial impact will be felt as last year's $6 billion pork export total will most certainly take a hit.
The good news -- the PED virus does not threaten humans, pets or food safety, says the United States Department of Agriculture.
More good news -- on June 5, the USDA announced new funding measures and a federal order to fight PEDv. A total of $26.2 million will be used in a variety of ways that include; $3.9 million toward vaccine development; $2.4 million for states to support management and control activities; $500,000 to veterinarians for herd management monitoring and sample collection; $11.1 million in funding for producers of infected herds to support biosecurity practices; $2.4 million for diagnostic testing; NS $1.5 million to the National Animal Health Laboratory Network diagnostic laboratories for genomic sequencing for herds that test newly positive.