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Published February 16, 2014, 10:30 PM

Pork producers on the lookout for deadly PED Virus

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - A fatal virus is spreading through the pork industry, leaving producers financially devastated. An NDSU Animal Sciences Assistant-Professor estimates tens of millions of dollars has been lost in the swine industry due to the disease. Consumers should expect to feel a pinch on the pocketbook at the grocery store this summer.

By: Katie Lange, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - A fatal virus is spreading through the pork industry, leaving producers financially devastated. An NDSU Animal Sciences Assistant-Professor estimates tens of millions of dollars has been lost in the swine industry due to the disease. Consumers should expect to feel a pinch on the pocketbook at the grocery store this summer.

Pork - It's the most widely consumed protein in the world, and its smallest members of the swine family are being targeted by a fatal virus.

David Newman – NDSU, Assistant Professor of Animal Sciences: "We reference it as the PED Virus. The Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus."

The first discovery in the United States was last April in North Carolina. Although it may sound clichéd, it’s since spread like wild fire.

David Newman: "As of last week in January and the first week in February we have over 2,300 confirmed positive cases in the United States."

David Newman, an NDSU Professor of Animal Sciences, knows the intricacies of the disease. He says it limits piglet’s ability to uptake nutrients, affecting their digestive system.

David Newman: "When those barns have been exposed to the PED Virus, we’ve seen anywhere from 3 to 5 weeks of production in the farrowing room eliminated. 100% death loss.

PED is spread through fecal matter and can withstand bitterly cold temperatures. In hopes of slowing the spread of disease, producers are stepping up their game - washing their trailers as well as using a viral disinfectant. Newman says the latest technique is "baking” the trailer for 10 minutes at temperatures greater than 160 degrees.

David Newman: “You can dilute the amount of fecal material the size of a pencil eraser in 26,000 gallons of water and the virus would still be active."

This makes bio security more important than ever before. When visitors come they have to put on white uniforms. It's just another step to preventing the spread of the virus. It’s a difference of not thousands of dollars, but MILLIONS, that producers could lose, taking a hard hit at their livelihood.

For large producers - like Amon Baer of Lake Park -

Amon Baer – Baer Brothers, Inc: "Losses to our company at the Sow Farm would be about a half a million dollars"

It’s a hefty lump sum of cash, meaning Baer's been under the gun with stress.

Amon Baer: "Sometimes I wake up at 3 in the morning and can't get back to sleep."

To date, one company has begun manufacturing a vaccine, but it's too early to tell if it's actually working. While producers are and will continue to take a financial hit, they have a work for the consumer.

David Newman: "Pork is Safe. This is not a consumer issue at all. This is something that is impacting our producers' livelihood."

However, you may see pork prices increase. Aside from a simple cut of meat, a lot of processed meats can also contain a portion of pork product, including baloneys, hot dogs and SPAM.

The virus has yet to spread to South or North Dakota. Newman told me he fears the virus could impact the industry beyond 2015.

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