NORTHFIELD, Minn. - A deadly virus that affects newborn pigs has made its way to Minnesota. Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) is deadly to almost 100% of infected piglets.
PED has been a problem for Europe and China, but now it has been detected in 15 states in the U.S. It was confirmed in some farms in Minnesota in June.
"It is a watery diarrhea. It affects newborn piglets. The older the animal, the more hardy they are to it," said Mike Peterson, owner of Twin Oaks farm in Northfield. Peterson's operation, with his son, Shane, 17, has not been affected by PED. Twin Oaks is not a farrow farm, where piglets are produced. The 400 animals at Peterson's are "Feeder pigs", raised for market.
Annually, three groups of pigs pass through the Northfield farm, meaning 1200 pigs are sent to slaughter.
Karen Richter of Montgomery, National President of the Pork Producers Association, is in Japan for pork industry conferences. She asked Kare11's Allen Costantini to "Please stress to your listeners that this virus is not a food safety or public health issue...This virus will be another financial setback for farmers whose herds have been affected and who have been dealing with high feed costs in the past year."
Among the institutions seeking a solution to the PED outbreaks is the University of Minnesota Veterinary laboratory.
Richter explained that she is "looking for the research to help develop a vaccine quickly (for piglets) and to help find how this disease came to the U.S. In the meantime, producers should step up their farm bio-security measures."
Mike Peterson agreed. "In the hog industry, biosecurity is everything. Hogs are transported in enclosed trucks. They are primarily raised in enclosed buildings and it is all about isolation and biosecurity."
However, Peterson said the rising pork prices are more a factor of supply and demand caused by the cost of animal feed.
"Primarily, this is a recoil of the drought. All of our markets are where they are at because of the drought last summer and the amount of bushels of corn that was produced last year," said Peterson.
However, national economic reports point to PED as a potential driver of pork prices, if the disease kills enough piglets in the states affected, which, so far, are Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Dakota.