Thinking about your 4-H swine project? Think about PEDv

PEDv may impact how you purchase and move your 4-H pigs this season.

While the piles of snow on the ground may tell our eyes it is still winter, our calendars remind us that March is well under way. To 4-H and FFA members involved in swine projects, that means new pigs are being born that will be cared for and likely exhibited at county fairs this summer. Along with the excitement of a new year, the threat of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv) is on the minds of many pork producers. PEDv is a virus that only affects pigs (not humans) and causes severe diarrhea and dehydration, resulting in high mortality rates for very young pigs. Due to the severity of this disease, there may be some changes for youth this year as they begin their swine projects.

One impact youth may experience this spring is the number of show pigs available for purchase. First I want to state the strong majority of pork producers in Michigan and even the upper Midwest do not have confirmed cases of PEDv. Therefore, most pig suppliers will have a healthy herd of pigs for youth to choose from. However, it would still be wise to contact your pig supplier a head of time and make sure they have a good supply of pigs this spring. 

Another difference youth may encounter is the way in which they view and purchase pigs. Because producers are tightening up their biosecurity protocols in order to prevent PEDv from affecting their herds, many are also limiting the number of people that enter their farms. PEDv is thought to be spread by manure and can easily be passed from farm to farm by clothing, boots, equipment and vehicles. Strict biosecurity measures are needed to help reduce the chance that PEDv is spread accidently from one farm to another. That means the fewer people that enter your farm, the less likely someone will introduce it to your swine herd. 

Some farms that offer annual pig sales have elected to move the sale to an online auction format. Interested parties will be able to view and bid on their favorite pigs virtually. This is a big change, but the positive is that it helps reduce the likelihood that PEDv or other viruses are passed from farm to farm. Check with your pig suppliers to see what pigs they have for sale and how you may be able to view and purchase them this spring. 

After you bring your pigs home, remember to take similar precautions by reviewing your own biosecurity plan and limit the number of interactions your pigs have with animals and people. Some counties have weigh-in and tagging days for swine exhibitors. While the purpose is good, it may provide an opportunity to expose pigs to PEDv or other viruses by either bringing different groups of pigs together in the same location or by sharing weighing equipment. To help navigate these events, National Pork Board released two resources: Biosecurity for Organizers of Weigh-in or Tagging Events and Organizers of Exhibitions and Sales

Spring is an exciting time for 4-H and FFA youth involved in animal projects. Remember to make good choices when it comes to animal health and biosecurity so you can do your part to minimize PEDv in Michigan. For more information from Michigan State University Extension about PEDv, view the following news articles: Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea found in the United States, Protect swine herds from PED with proper biosecurity protocols and Prevent spreading PED while hauling manure. For additional information about PEDv click here. For more information about 4-H animal science programs click here.

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