COLUMBIA, Mo. - Spring weigh-ins for 4-H pig projects are being waived throughout much of Missouri 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 of PEDV.
"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, she said.
No state mandates have been issued for noncommercial operations regarding PEDV, which does not pose a health risk to humans.
State weigh-ins take place in April of each year for those who plan to enter livestock in 4-H fairs held in each county. The weigh-ins are used to document ownership of the livestock and evaluate growth performance.
Exhibitors often purchase livestock in March and April, Shannon said. 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," Shannon 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 is unlikely. However, she noted, it is 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.