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Swine Disease Divides Indiana Pork Producers

Dispute over PRRS rocks swine producers.

Paul Queck 1, Freelance

February 11, 2011

3 Min Read

Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, now known as PRRS, is pitting pork producers against each other in Indiana. One lawsuit has already been filed, and the Indiana State Veterinarian has been criticized for not adequately protecting Indiana hogs from pigs infected with the disease.

PRRS affects hogs in two forms- as a reproductive disease and as a respiratory illness. While the virus can affect hogs of all ages, it's much more costly in sow units where it can cause abortions in sows and high death losses among nursing pigs. Therefore, the issue is largely between pork producers with sow farrowing units and hog finishers.

Seedstock operations are also impacted both by production losses in sow units and loss of a market for their boars, boar semen and gilts since they can carry the PRRS infection.

One key to keeping sow herds free of PRRS is for producers to isolate their herds from other hogs that might carry the PRRS virus. Purdue University veterinary professor Sandra Amass advises pork producers to keep a minimum of two miles separation from their hogs and neighboring hogs, or their manure.

But sow and seedstock producers are complaining that finishers are building units close to their sow units and bringing in PRRS infected pigs, putting their sow and seedstock operations at risk. And Indiana pork producer Alan Wilhoite, Lebanon, contends one North Carolina-based hog producer, TDM Farms, Inc., is intentionally infecting gilts with the PRRS virus in its Indiana growing facilities, then allowing the gilts to develop immunity in Indiana, putting Indiana hogs at risk, before being shipped to the company's farrowing operations in North Carolina.

Wilhoite, who owns and manages a family-owned 1,800 sow farrow-to-finish operation, charges in a lawsuit that the action of TDM Farms, Inc., of intentionally infecting gilts with PRRS and housing them in a grower unit near his sow operation led to an abortion storm in 2009 in his sow unit.

"We had 200 sows abort, some just days before they were to farrow," he says. "In addition, we had death losses as high as 30% in our pig nursery, and additional losses from slow gain and death in growing and finishing pigs in the months following the outbreak. "

TDM does not dispute the fact that it is intentionally infecting young gilts to give them immunity. "Pig producers have two choices when dealing with PRRS, says TDM. "Either isolate them far from others in the hopes of maintaining a PRRS-free operation, or expose young hogs to the disease to allow them to develop immunity."

TDM Farms, Inc., says it infected the gilts on the Johnson farm with PRRS, but disputes Wilhoites's contention that he can prove that the virus from that farm was responsible for his losses.

"PRRS has been present on the Johnson Farm since the 1990's," says TDM. "Other farms in the area also had a history of PRRS. Wilhoite chose to purchase a farm adjacent to the Johnson farm in 2006," points out the company.

For the complete story, check out the March issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer coming soon.  

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