Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea has not made its way into British Columbia and the BC hog industry wants to keep it that way.
The industry has received $600,000 from the provincial and federal governments through Growing Forward II to implement bio-security programs to prevent PED and other infectious diseases from coming onto BC hog farms and to minimize the impact should prevention efforts fail.
As of mid-April, 52 farms in Ontario, one in Quebec, one in PEI and one in Manitoba as well as a Manitoba hog assembly yard were confirmed with the highly infectious virus which kills virtually 100 percent of the piglets it infects.
“We’re quite capable of controlling the disease unless it gets into the environment,” says Dr. Chris Byra of Greenbelt Veterinary Services in Chilliwack, BC.DSC_0047
For the past few years, the BC Pork Producers Association has contracted Byra to provide technical support services to its 21 members. In 2012, he was also named manager of the Canadian Swine Health Information Network (CSHIN).
Both he and BCPPA general manager Geraldine Auston praise the support they are receiving from the province.
“I’m still getting over the shock and awe of how interested government is in helping this small industry,” Auston said.
In late February, the industry began regular sampling at the two slaughterhouses that handle pigs from both BC and Alberta, Britco Packers in Aldergrove and Johnston’s Packers in Chilliwack. Samples are taken every other week at each facility. During testing weeks, sampling is conducted each day hogs are delivered (five days/week at Britco, 3-4 days/week at Johnston’s). The BC Ministry of Agriculture Animal Health Lab in Abbotsford is testing the samples at no charge. The lab is one of only three Canadian labs accredited as a veterinary diagnostic lab by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians.
“We want to over test so our producers don’t suffer the same losses as Ontario,” said BCMA plant and animal health branch director Jane Pritchard.
The lab is testing for both PED and the swine deltacoronavirus (which requires two different tests). The two viruses have similar symptoms but SDCV is not as severe.
“To date, all our samples from both slaughterhouses and pigs with diarrhea have tested negative for both PED and SDCV,” Pritchard said May 26th.
The one year bio-security program is working with slaughter plants, feed and dead stock companies to identify and correct biosecurity risks. That includes creating a plan to deal with an outbreak on an Alberta farm which ships to BC.
“We are using a study Dr. Josh Waddington (of Greenbelt) did for CSHIN two years ago as a basis for our work at the slaughter plants,” Byra said.
Since most Ontario outbreaks have been blamed on contaminated trucks moving between farms and packers, that is where BC is placing its focus.
“Our aim is to create a situation where a livestock transport truck leaves the plant clean,” Byra said, noting that includes providing separate entry and exit lanes for the trucks.
The program will provide matching funding for slaughter plants to make those and other capital improvements to address biosecurity risks.
This component also includes training for livestock transporters. West Coast Reduction, which takes most producers dead stock, has already implemented heightened biosecurity protocols.
“Our drivers now carry Virkon and spray the wheels and truck body after a spillage,” a WCR spokesman says.
The second component aims to increase on-farm bio-security. The BCPPA has hired Heather Carriere, whose experience includes work with Elite Swine and as a Canadian Food Inspection Agency slaughterhouse inspector, to visit all BC hog farms at least twice in the next year to review their on-farm bio-security protocols and recommend changes.
Byra has been offering farmers advice on bio-security for three years but says Carriere provides “a second set of eyes” to ensure they are doing everything possible to prevent entry of the disease onto their farms. She has up to $15,000/farm available to help producers make positive changes. The program also includes a contingency fund for a potential outbreak on farm.
“We want to be able to contain an outbreak if it does occur,” Byra said. “If a farm breaks, that farmer has a lot to do to protect other farms from getting it and the contingency fund will help him do it.”
Finally, the program will hire a consultant to develop a truck wash in BC, similar to those which already exist in Ontario and the prairie provinces. Canadian Border Services agents can order livestock trucks coming from US farms to go to Manitoba’s accredited washer if they deem them to be unclean. Any truck wash built in BC would be available to both hog and cattle haulers. •
— David Schmidt