Spring weigh-ins for 4-H pig projects are being waived throughout much of Missouri, including Texas County, to slow the spread of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV).
University of Missouri livestock specialists, 4-H specialists, fair board members and agriculture teachers discussed suspending weigh-ins on a recent conference call, said Marcia Shannon, MU Extension swine specialist and animal science professor in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.
Since last spring, PEDV has killed 4 to 5 million pigs in 25 states. Missouri, however, has had only 48 confirmed cases.
“Missouri’s very fortunate to have a low numbers of disease cases,” Shannon said. “Suspending weigh-ins is one way to help keep those numbers low.”
No state mandates have been issued for noncommercial operations regarding PEDV, which does not pose a health risk to humans.
Weigh-ins take place in April of each year for livestock in 4-H fairs held in counties around Missouri and are used to document ownership of the livestock and evaluate growth performance. The weigh-in date for this year’s Texas County Fair is set for April 27, and sheep and goats will be handled as usual, but fair board officials have released a statement indicating that on that day no hogs will be allowed on the fairgrounds but exhibitors will still be required to register their animals.
For purchased hogs, registration requirements will include a bill of sale (including the signature of the seller and a date of birth), two photos of the animal (a frontal view and a side view) and an ear notch number or tag number. For farm-raised hogs, requirements include date of birth, two photos (front and side views), a photo of the sow with the hog as a piglet and a feed receipt.
Texas County Fair Board President Darren Ice said he can’t recall a similar situation in the past.
“I’m hoping nobody makes a mistake and brings pigs,” Ice said. “There’s always big diseases that can be pretty bad, but it doesn’t seem like there’s been anything this widespread, as far as I know.”
Shannon said exhibitors often purchase livestock in March and April. As they shop for livestock, they may visit several farms, sale barns and auctions. Because PEDV is carried through the feces of pigs, someone who has visited multiple facilities can easily spread the disease.
MU Extension specialists recommend that youth visit only one place per day, with a maximum of three, to prevent the spread of the disease through vehicles, people and materials. Shannon said this presented a good opportunity to educate youth about the disease and biosecurity practices.
“We want the youth to be a good example for the swine industry,” she said.
Any new pigs brought home should be isolated from existing swine for 30 days. Most pigs are shedding the virus for 21 days.
Some producers have suggested that PEDV may be caused by feed, but Shannon said that’s unlikely. However, she noted, it’s possible that feed delivery trucks could spread the disease as they travel from farm to farm. Because of this winter’s extreme temperatures, trucks may not have been washed as much as usual, resulting in conditions to spread the disease via vehicles.
She said some producers are taking extra biosecurity measures such as keeping disinfectant spray and wipes in their vehicles to wipe down floor mats and door handles, two of the places where the disease is transferred. Some may keep an extra set of boots in their vehicles or wear disposable coveralls.
Shannon recommends frequent washing of vehicles, especially floor mats.
“Biosecurity measures require extra time and effort, but it is worth it,” she said.
Symptoms of PEDV include projectile diarrhea, vomiting, difficult breathing and lethargy. Tests are available to diagnose the disease, but there is no cure at this time.
“I hope there’s somebody at a chemistry outfit somewhere working on a vaccine for next year,” Ice said.
For more information about the PEDV outbreak, Shannon recommends exhibitor guidelines on the National Pork Board website at www.pork.org and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians website at www.AASV.org.
I’m hoping nobody makes a mistake and brings pigs (on weigh-in day). There’s always big diseases that can be pretty bad, but it doesn’t seem like there’s been anything this widespread, as far as I know.”
For more information about Texas County Fair swine procedures, call Fair Board President Darren Ice at 417-260-0471 or fair board members Tony Bieller at 417-763-5568 or Russell Gaither at 417-217-0894.