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Hog producers increase biosecurity measures to control deadly PED virus

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By Wes Nelson

Farm Service Agency

WILLMAR — Our nation’s hog producers are being encouraged to follow strict biosecurity measures to control a deadly and highly contagious pig virus called porcupine epidemic diarrhea, commonly referred to as PED.

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As the name implies, the virus causes severe diarrhea and occasional vomiting, resulting in severe dehydration that can, and quite often does, result in death, especially in little pigs.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, infected piglets less than 7 days old may have a mortality rate of about 50 percent. The mortality rate in suckling pigs may reach 50 to 80 percent, but then typically declines to 1 to 3 percent in larger pigs. Most growing swine recover without treatment unless secondary infections occur.

The PED virus was first recognized in the United Kingdom in 1971. Since then, the virus has been found in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Korea, the Philippines, China, Italy, Thailand, Germany, Spain and Japan.

The first USDA-confirmed diagnosis of PED in the United States was in Iowa on May 17. By mid-December, more than 1,500 additional cases had been confirmed in 20 states, including Minnesota.

Scientists have determined that fecal-oral transmission is the main, and perhaps only, mode of transmission. Therefore, strict biosecurity measures need to be followed, especially for the trucking industry as transportation vehicles are considered the most likely means of spreading the virus.

Contaminated personnel and equipment can also transmit and introduce PED into a susceptible herd.

The incubation period for PED is 3 to 4 days. Clinical signs of PED may occur within 4 to 5 days following the introduction of infected swine to farms with susceptible animals.

The PED virus is closely related to a more familiar disease called transmissible gastroenteritis. The only way to differentiate between the two is through laboratory testing. Therefore, producers should alert their veterinarian if pigs exhibit any of the clinical signs of PED.

There is no effective treatment for PED other than following good biosecurity practices. Vaccines do exist in Japan, South Korea and China, but not in Europe or the United States as economic losses have not justified vaccine development.

Because PED is not a listed disease for either the World Organization for Animal Health or the USDA, no quarantines or movement restrictions are in place either internationally or within the United States.

Scientists have also confirmed that PED is not transmissible to humans and thus poses no danger to human health. In addition, there is no health risk in eating pork or pork products.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is working closely with veterinary diagnostic laboratories, veterinarians, swine producers and state animal health officials in monitoring PED. For more information, visit www.aphis.usda.gov.

USDA predicts limited water supplies in western U.S.

In recent months, much of the western and especially southwestern regions of the United States have been experiencing severe drought conditions. And unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s first water supply forecast for 2014 indicates the amount of water provided from the spring snowmelt will do little to help alleviate the dry conditions in those regions.

Monitoring the snowpack of 13 western states, the USDA’s National Water and Climate Center is predicting a limited water supply west of the Continental Divide. However, the center does predict normal water supplies east of the Continental Divide.

The mission of the National Water and Climate Center is to help the western United States prepare for the spring snowmelt and its resulting stream flow by providing periodic forecasts. The information provided is used by farmers, ranchers, water managers, communities and recreational users to make informed and science-based decisions about future water availability.

Although the stream flow forecasts do not predict drought, they do provide information about future water supplies in states where snowmelt from accumulated mountain snow accounts for the majority of seasonal runoff.

Since 1935, USDA scientists have conducted snow surveys. Since the late 1970s, USDA has been installing, operating and maintaining an extensive high-elevation system that is designed to collect snowpack and related climatic data in the western United States and Alaska. The data collected are then used to develop the water supply forecasts.

USDA to purchase fruit, vegetables for emergency food assistance

The U.S. Department of Agriculture intends to purchase up to $126.4 million worth of fruit and vegetable products that will be distributed to needy families under the Emergency Food Assistance Program. The products to be purchased include tart cherries, processed apples, cranberries, fresh tomatoes, wild blueberries and raisins.

The foods are provided to states for distribution to local agencies and regional food banks. These local agencies further distribute the food to organizations, such as food pantries and soup kitchens that provide communal meals or distribute foods directly to low-income families.

The purchases are part of USDA’s surplus food removal program, which allows the government to purchase excess supplies of certain foods in order to help stabilize market prices for specific agricultural commodities by balancing supplies with demand. In addition, the purchases provide healthy food to low-income households.

In fiscal year 2013, Congress appropriated $311.34 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program — $265.75 million for food purchases and $45.59 million in administrative support for states and local agencies.

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, which officials claim now touch the lives of one out of four Americans over the course of a year.   

Wes Nelson is executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County.

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