Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea, or PED, is a malady that has recently crossed the border from the United States into Canada. As the disease is 100% fatal to piglets within five weeks of birth, pork producers are doing whatever they can to contain the disease and prevent it from spreading any further.
To that effect, Alberta Pork is holding a number of workshops to inform farmers about the disease and tell them what can be done to prevent it. Will Kingma, a hog farmer in the Bentley area who represents the central zone on the Alberta Pork Board of Directors, said the object is to give pork producers as much information as possible.
Kingma said the goal behind the awareness campaign is to keep PED off of Alberta farms. He added the best way to do that is to closely monitor hog transport trucks coming into farms to make sure they have been cleaned and disinfected. Transport trucks pose the biggest risk of spreading PED. PED spreads among pigs mostly through contact with manure. If infected pigs have been in a transport trailer, it will be contaminated with feces carrying the disease. Even if the trailer is cleaned the virus can survive, said Kingma. He added that this time of year is the prime season for the disease as it can survive in sub-zero temperatures and spreads even in freezing temperatures.
Currently, the only instances of PED in Canada have been limited to Ontario, and Alberta Pork is hoping it stays that way. Luckily, there are few transport trucks that travel between eastern and western Canada, said Kingma.
However, there is traffic running north and south over the Canadian-U.S. border and there are many more cases of PED in the States, said Kingma. He added that PED coming into Canada has heightened awareness about the disease and created an environment to spread the message of prevention.
An ideal way to combat the spread of PED would be to have wash stations close to the border on the Canadian side where transports could be washed, disinfected, dried and audited soon after crossing the border from the U.S. PED affects adult and immature pigs alike, but it is most dangerous to piglets. PED poses no health risk to humans, but that doesn’t mean that humans will not suffer any negative impact should the disease continue to spread.
Kingma said the disease has the potential to devastate hog herds to the point where farmers may be forced to go out of business.
Alberta Pork will be continuing to host workshops in February and March. The next dates in Central Alberta are Feb. 20 and March 19. The workshops on both dates will be held from 9:30 a.m. until noon at the Holiday Inn.