Vet lists swine health concerns for Ont.

Vet lists swine health concerns for Ont.
Feb 24, 2020

PRRS and PED face testing and reporting challenges, and there are new diseases threatening Ontario herds

By Jackie Clark
Staff Writer

Pig farmers have had no shortage of swine diseases, both old and familiar culprits and new players, to address over the last year. Dr. Ryan Tenbergen, a Tavistock-based swine veterinarian with Demeter Veterinary Services, discussed the major swine health challenges affecting the industry in 2020.

“For us, number one is always PRRS (porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome),” Tenbergen told “PRRS continues to be a big issue in Ontario. We’re just struggling to find ways to control it; it just seems to spread more easily.”

Another concern for swine producers at the beginning of this year is porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED).

“All of last year in Ontario we had 10 (cases of PED reported), this year we already have seven,” Tenbergen said.

“It’s all been in farrow-to-finish operations right now, so you’ve got to think about people movement and truck movement, but definitely not a good start to 2020,” he added.

To combat the spread of PED, farmers should avoid complacency with their biosecurity, Tenbergen said.

“Generally finishing biosecurity is a lot less (stringent) than in a sow barn, so the fact that (PED cases are) happening all in finishing barns right now, it’s a common link to biosecurity to me,” he explained.

Workers at Quebec slaughterhouses have been monitoring and testing trucks going to slaughter plants for diseases, and “finding a lot more PED as well, and most of that is from Ontario trucks,” Tenbergen said.

He has heard reports of contamination in Ontario transport truck wash ways, thereby contaminating trucks that use the bay.

To maintain vigilance on the farm, producers should review their biosecurity protocols. “Talk to (your staff) to see where they find it difficult and where the gaps may be,” Tenbergen said.

Later on this year the swine industry will need to find solutions to continue to test for and report PED.

“OMAFRA has funded testing for suspect cases of PED up until April of this year, so (after April 2020) they’ll no longer do that, and they’ll also no longer report cases,” Tenbergen explained.

“Someone needs to take over the role of at least the reporting of these cases, but I fear that when testing isn’t covered, it might not be done as much,” he said.

For swine diseases with the capacity to spread like PRRS and PED, testing is essential to prevent other barns from becoming infected.

“If (producers or veterinarians are) suspecting a case, I think it’s important to test it. Take the initiative just for the better interest of the entire industry,” Tenbergen said.

Previously, swine health institutions in the province ran Area Regional Control & Elimination (ARC&E) programs that farmers could opt into, to help fund testing and track positive cases of disease.

“We have (ARC&E programs) for PRRS and PED but there’s actually been a bit of gap in the reporting for that. It’s something we need to look at and just make sure we find out where the gaps are and fix them so that we can accurately report. Because the most important thing to do is accurately report,” Tenbergen said.

Each year, influenza is also a health concern for pork producers to keep an eye on.

“The amount that the strains change and we move pigs around the province, influenza definitely moves around,” Tenbergen said.

Aside from those standard year-to-year swine health priorities, there are also some new diseases to watch for.

In the past year “we had our first case of Senecavirus in a commercial herd in Canada,” Tenbergen said.

Updated test results are negative, so it looks like “we’ve gotten rid of it and we didn’t seem to have any new cases. There are still lots of unanswered questions about where that came from,” he added.

“Ontario had its first confirmed case of something called Sapelovirus,” which is a neurological disease, Tenbergen said. The virus seems to “show up and then resolve in a couple months and then you don’t seem to see any more cases.”

Swine health experts also identified a few cases of tracheitis, a disease that causes severe coughing and may be mistaken for influenza and PRRS, this year.

“We don’t really know what causes (tracheitis), so there’s actually quite a bit of money going into” research around understanding and diagnosing the condition, said Tenbergen.  

These three diseases are still relatively new to Ontario swine herds and not fully understood. They may be misidentified as common respiratory diseases, flu, or a Streptococcus infection. So, if pig farmers have health concerns in their herd “it may just be in their better interest to have a second opinion on it, maybe submit some samples or have a vet” investigate further, Tenbergen explained.

DarcyMaulsby\iStock\Getty Images Plus photo

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