Harold Lee

Harold Lee worked closely with his consulting veterinarians to devise a battle plan while fighting PEDV.

Producer Diary: PEDV Outbreak at Meadow Hill Farm

Sow unit manager documents his experiences with PEDV as a way to help other producers.

Introduction:

Christmas 2013 is one that the employees of the Meadow Hill Sow Farm likely won’t forget. As Meadow Hill manager Harold Lee explains it, the staff spent the holiday engaged in a no-holds-barred battle to try to stop a porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) outbreak on the 2,500-sow farm. “It was the worst disease I’ve seen or experienced in my life,” Lee relates. “Frankly, Christmas sucked.” He has been managing the unit, located near Hawarden, IA, for eight years. He and his staff of 10 employees typically shoot for a goal of weaning 1,150 pigs/week from this farrow-to-wean operation. The numbers for 2014 will look a bit different, post-PEDV.

As he struggled with both the emotional toll and staggering workload in the wake of the horrifying outbreak, one of his veterinarians suggested he keep a journal of his experiences. As the employees of the unit have fought back against the disease, Lee has been asked by veterinarians and other pork producers to share his thoughts about what worked — and didn’t — during the darkest days of the PEDV battle. He agreed to share his PEDV journal with National Hog Farmer readers in the hope that other producers could learn from the Meadow Hill experiences.

The disease hit Meadow Hill hard and fast, with absolutely no warning. As Lee explains, on Dec. 16, 2013, Jeffrey Blythe, DVM, Orange City, IA, and Paul Armbrecht, DVM, Lake City, IA, were on-site for their normal walk through of the unit. Blythe is the farm’s regular veterinarian and visits the farm monthly. Armbrecht is Meadow Hill’s consulting veterinarian and comes to the farm once per quarter. Everything appeared to be fine in the sow farm. “Dr. Armbrecht was commenting on how good the pigs looked,” Lee remembers. “Then, on the morning of Dec. 17, one of the employees came rushing to find me to tell me I had to come to one of the farrowing rooms right away. When we got there, several litters of pigs were scouring so badly that the pigs literally looked like they had been dipped in manure. You could actually watch the pigs getting sick and see scours fanning out through the room and affecting more litters. There were 300 pigs in that room.”

Lee immediately took samples to the South Dakota State University veterinary diagnostic lab in Brookings, SD, three hours away. The diagnosis was positive for PEDV. He contacted his veterinarians and followed their instructions to begin the grim task of preparing to feed back ground-up intestinal contents from deceased piglets to the sows in order to build immunity. On Dec. 18, farm staff quickly worked to wean and load out all baby pigs older than 8 days of age. Lee takes up the conversation from his diary:

December 18, 2013

Many sows were observed today vomiting and having diarrhea. Preparing to back-feed Thursday morning. Had 136 dead pigs today.

December 19

Went to youngest scouring room and extracted as much fecal material as I can. Back-fed sows today with pig intestinal contents at approximately one intestine per 40-50 sows in the gestation barn. Sprayed each sow’s mouth and nose with saline (1 gallon of purified water with 1 teaspoon of salt) and fecal material mixed at approximately 30cc per gallon to the sows in farrowing. We have around 700 sows off feed today, with one abortion. We have 240 dead piglets today. We are continuing to remove and grind intestines from young piglets for feedback; we are also collecting fecal material from live piglets at 1-3 days old to feed back. Official dead count for the day: 240.

December 20

Putting the farm on “BLUE 2,” an electrolyte, at 1 oz./gal. Have 1,000-1,200 sows showing symptoms this morning. Going to continue with fecal retrieval from live piglets aged 1-3 days old and gut removal of the same-age deads. By 9 a.m., we had three dead sows. Official count of dead piglets is 479.

December 21

Going to back-feed the sow farm today. I recorded 248 deads in rooms 7 thru 11, and have 27 more sows weaned because they didn’t have any more pigs. Total count for the day is 325 dead piglets, two dead sows, and three late-term abortions. We have 1,500-1,800 sows off feed today, with more tomorrow, I am sure; however, the sows that were sick Wednesday have started to eat better. The gilts in isolation that I exposed Thursday are really showing strong symptoms today. We will be moving those girls in on Monday. This mess is very disheartening for all of us and it has affected everyone’s attitude, including mine, but we are hoping to try and keep pigs alive after the first of the year. We back-fed the entire farm today using contents of intestines and feces collected from live pigs: 30 intestines per 400 animals, with 4-5 oz. of feces added with it. Shipped a little over 2,000 piglets out for the week, and had 1,259 deads and five dead sows.

December 22

Here we go again. 259 dead piglets, one dead sow from a prolapse. Identified 334 sows that had not yet exhibited symptoms; more of those sows continue to exhibit throughout the day. Continued to collect feces and intestinal material for continued feedback on Monday and Friday.

December 23

 Preparing to back-feed again today, as well as dosing those sows I found yesterday that had not shown signs yet. Many more showing symptoms. Back-fed farm today, and will do it again on Friday the 27th. One dead sow in farrowing. Talked to Drs. Armbrecht and Blythe, and we have decided to euthanize all pigs being born and abort sows being loaded into farrowing to reduce the virus cloud, in an attempt to get back to raising pigs by the first of the year. Total deads for today: 485.

December 24

Merry Christmas! Today will be a short day. I arrived at 4 a.m. and fed sows. Many are back on feed and improving. However, we do have at least one dead sow; she had poor body condition. We are continuing to run the electrolyte solution in the water. Many more sows are showing symptoms this morning that had not yet done so. We have reduced the number of non-symptomatic sows to 133. We are euthanizing all newborn piglets. We are also euthanizing all piglets on the farm. Looked for the sows that had not been symptomatic yet and dosed them with saline and feces (8 oz. of feces per gallon). TAKE NO PRISONERS: EVERYONE MUST GET SICK!!!!!!

December 25

Euthanized all the pigs born. Found a few more sows showing symptoms.

December 26

Ultrasounded a group and found 85.16%. We are euthanizing any piglets being born and inducing all sows going into farrowing through Room 6. We are going to get a Knipco heater to bake the rooms as we clean them. Purchased two diesel-fired heaters to cook the rooms after they are washed.

December 27

Washing rooms 7 and 8 in preparation to load these rooms with sows next week. We are going to attempt to save those pigs, so we can start putting pigs on a wean truck and not in the compost pile. I told the guys washing if they would not eat off the creep floor when they were done, then they needed to rewash the room.

The procedure for cleaning and disinfection is as follows:

1. Remove all organic material and wash entire room.

2. Heat the room to 120 degrees F, if possible, for at least 1½ to 2 hours, or until dry.

3. Disinfect the entire room with Synergize disinfectant applied with a foam gun.

4. Repeat step 2.

5. Re-foam crates with disinfectant.

6. Repeat step 2. Note: Step 2 may require 10 to 15 gallons of diesel fuel.

New gilts for isolation arrived this morning at 5:15. Unloaded gilts, blood-tested them and back-fed. The whole farm was back-fed today.

December 28

As of this morning we have a total of 2,999 dead pigs for the week.

December 29

Last sow had pigs on the farm today until Wednesday or Thursday.

 

December 30

We are going to load two rooms today in hopes we can keep these alive. We will also be washing farrowing rooms and crates in breeding and gestation to lower the amount of virus as best we can. We back-fed the gilts in isolation today as well. We had one sow start to farrow in Room 7.

December 31

We have three litters in Room 7 this morning and we are hoping to keep these alive; the pigs look good. Sows are not cycling like we would like them to in breeding. Room 8 is clean and loaded. Room 9 is clean and will be loaded today. We identified 107 sows without symptoms, and we may cull them.

January 1, 2014

We have what appear to be healthy piglets in farrowing.

January 2

We have more piglets today, and the ones born Tuesday and Wednesday look good so far. I will be recording sows today that have not shown symptoms so we can make arrangements to cull them. I hung up sow cards for the sows that had not shown symptoms, and gave them a shot of Estramate. We will put them on a truck on Jan. 13. Ultrasound test results for the group, 77.2%. PEDV hit this group hard.

January 3

There are nine more new litters this morning; we do, however, have a litter in Room 8 that appears to be scouring, and it clearly looks like PEDV. Those pigs are on a sow identified with no symptoms. We will euthanize those pigs today and remove her from the room. All the rest of the piglets look really good. Upon further observation of Room 7, we found two litters scouring and euthanized them, and four more litters seem to be starting to scour. We are going to try Excenel on four litters.

January 4

I was not here today, but I was told the Excenel worked. They had one more litter they treated as well.

January 5

Several more sows have farrowed today, and the pigs look good. We do have three litters that are scouring and will treat with Excenel — it seems to be working. Pig birth weight seems to be OK. The sows I gave Estramate to on Thursday have finished aborting, and we will be loading these sows on Jan. 13 and sending them to cull. This sounds extreme to do, but after seeing the litter from Room 8, I don’t think I really have a choice.

January 6

Pigs look good in farrowing today. I do have a couple of litters that appear to be falling back because I think maybe the sows are not milking; we will treat those. Loaded Room 12 with sows that are due to farrow, finishing the washing in Room 13. We want to load this room if we can. Treated seven litters for scours. One of those litters was a re-treat from Jan. 4. Room 13 is washed and disinfected once by noon, and we are heating it now. We do have a couple of abortions, and I am unsure exactly why. We do have an ending inventory of 753 piglets today. I have an employee that will be coming in at 2 p.m. to monitor and hot-box pigs and give Primalac until 10 p.m.

January 7

Pigs look good, however I am not sure if my second-shift employee hot-boxed any pigs. We do have a few litters that have a mild scour this morning. I fired my second-shift employee today for not doing his job. We have 861 live pigs on the ground, with more to come. Had 40 deads today and two dead sows: one was a prolapse, the other was a poor-condition. The poor condition, I think, came from the fact that these sows would not eat for 3-5 days when they were sick.

Room 13 is done and loaded. Room 14 is washed the second time, because it was dirty the first time. We have it disinfected the first time, and will disinfect the second time and cook it so we can load it tomorrow. Temperatures in the room exceed 120 degrees, with the crates’ temperature reaching 120-130 degrees. I have measured this with an infrared temp gun.

January 8

Walked the rooms this morning and the pigs look good. We have several new litters in rooms 11 and 12. Born-alive numbers look good, and pig size seems to be hanging in there. We do have another dead sow this morning from another prolapse. We are going to load Room 14 and maybe 15 today, and we are kicking Room 1 out to breeding. At this point it would appear we will have about 180 or so pigs to ship on the 21st. Today we have an ending inventory of 1,110 piglets. We did have another litter today that had PEDV, because, I think, they didn’t get colostrum in them. Colostrum is crucial. I back-fed sows in isolation again today; will do it for the last time on Friday.

January 9

Today I will be interviewing a potential employee to monitor sows so we can get colostrum in pigs, so we can keep them from getting PEDV. The pigs in rooms 7 and 8 still look good this morning. The oldest pigs in Room 7 are 9 days old today. The piglets being born now have noticeably lighter birth weights; I think this will correct itself. My thinking is the sows did not eat for 3-6 days when they were sick. We know from experience that the last weeks are when the pigs grow the most. The sows that farrowed last week were far enough along that their pigs were not affected when they got sick; however the sows who still had 2½-plus weeks to go obviously have been.

My power-washer people are having a tough time getting the bottom of the creep panels clean. They are washing again after the second failed inspection. I think they will get it this time. It looks like they want to be done with the room. Again, I cannot stress enough that all organic material must be gone.

Ending live pig inventory as of today is 1,247. This is definitely an improvement from one week ago. Yes, there are some bumps along the way as we proceed forward, but it does look promising. A thank-you to the employees is well-deserved. At the start of this, I had the attitude that I wanted live pigs back in my farrowing house as soon as I could. I also had a few people tell me I couldn’t do it in 14 days. I decided that response was a challenge, so I went after it. We did it. They may not be all perfect, but it is a start.

Another thing I cannot stress enough is that these sows have to be observed very diligently and aggressively, or it will be a complete waste of time. If I could go back and had the opportunity to change one thing, I would have written on the sow card what day she got sick. It won’t change the outcome to date, but it might explain some of the scouring events that have occurred during the last week.

January 10

I arrived this morning at 4:15 a.m. and started the heater in Room 1. I walked the rooms to check out the pigs. We are farrowing in rooms 12 and 13. I didn’t count how many sows, but it looks like more than 20. The number being born is good, but we are going to be dealing with some low-birth-weight pigs, it appears. This should correct itself in a week or so. The older pigs (7-10 days) look great, all things considered. Today we will be finishing Room 2 as well as Room 1. The final heating temp in Room 1 was 129.7, using only one 220,000-BTU heater.

My farrowing personnel are having a tough time with not being able to even litters out. I don’t think I will allow any nurse sows or fostering for at least 90 days, maybe more. They are just going to need to treat the sow.

In the end, I just might be able to prove to them less is truly more, in many cases.

The ultrasound results for Group 50 is 84.3%. We are still struggling with this, and I expect this for another week or so.

I have hired a new employee; he will start Tuesday morning. He will work on the day shift for two weeks and then he will move to second shift. Still looking for someone for third shift.

The official count for the farm today is 1,486 live piglets in farrowing. We do have a total death count for the week so far of 273. This is a whole lot better than 273 for one day.

January 13

Today is the day we will load the non-symptomatic sows. We will have about 120 sows total. I did not work this weekend, so there are no entries for yesterday or Saturday. We did, however, end the week with a 1,780 ending piglet inventory, and had only 324 dead piglets for the week. That’s the good part.

The bad part is we did have 11 aborts Friday thru Sunday; I am concerned we may be on the verge of a porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) break. We bred 165 sows last week.

I did have another farm owner call me about what I did to get the farm cleaned up. This diary is being shared with a few people, who are also sharing it with others. If this helps one producer it is worth me doing this.

We culled 133 sows today. We will be emptying the last of the sows from farrowing today. I have told them Room 6 has to be done by Friday. We think the aborts may be a touch of flu from the temperature swings last week.

January 14

I have two employees here this morning at 4 a.m. I think they want to get done power-washing rooms. The farrowing rooms with pigs in them look good. Our numbers will be down, it looks like, for about 4-6 weeks. We will be vaccinating the herd this week with MJPRRS. Last week the breeding department overbred by 26 sows. I am going to see how the group looks at preg-check, and I may abort a few sows to move them. Yesterday I did put ibuprofen in the water in the two gestation barns, planning on running it for 3-4 days.

I do have a new employee starting this morning to train him for monitoring sows in the afternoon. My intention is to have him on a day shift for two weeks, then move him. I am still looking for another in the evening. The sows due to farrow are starting to push us a little, because we don’t have the rooms all washed.

Dr. Blythe was in yesterday. He and I discussed where we go from here. We decided I would test some piglets by rope and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for PEDV the first week of February, to see how the piglets are doing and to see if we might be getting some negative pigs. He did say had he not known what had happened the last 28 days, he wouldn’t have thought we had PEDV. We both think the pigs look good.

Our ending inventory for the day is 1,896.

January 15

Today we will finish washing and disinfecting Room 4, and they did get Room 3 done. When they get done with Room 4 we will have 5 & 6 left. Tuesday we will wean Room 7; it will be about 180 head. I don’t think we will have to be quite as aggressive as we were the first time around, but it will still need to be clean and disinfected, then cooked. Next week we are going to concentrate on cleaning the floors in the gestation and breeding barns to try and get rid of as much virus as we can. I checked the temperature in Room 3 and the controller read 135.7 degrees F, and the first six crates had a temperature of 127 to 142 degrees F. The last six crates were 118 to 125 degrees F. That room I would consider finished.

Today we will be collecting material for pre-farrow feedback tomorrow. Today we have not treated any new litters for scours, however we do still have two litters that have a persistent scour and I would guess it is PEDV. Our ending inventory for the day is 2,001.

 

January 16

Today we will be vaccinating the whole herd with MJPRRS. We will also take a look at the two litters which won’t quit scouring. Hopefully my blood tubes get here today so I can blood test.

I really hope someone is able to make an effective vaccine for this miserable disease. I can really tell yesterday and today my people that are power washing are getting tired of washing because they are missing organic material and are having to rewash some of the crates.

Morale has really improved over the last week. Today we will be doing pre-farrow feedback with fecal material from sows and piglets if we have any scouring, which has really dwindled over the last five days. When I walked the farrowing rooms this morning, the pigs look good from the oldest to the youngest--except for the two litters that won’t quit scouring. We will be euthanizing those today (note: we only ended up euthanizing one litter).

Our ending inventory of piglets is 2,099. These employees deserve a huge pat on the back for their efforts to achieve this.

 

January 17

Today is going to be a good day. We have about one-half of the last room to wash. There are 12 new litters, at least, this morning. Best of all, we are going to wean some pigs Tuesday morning! Our plan for the day is to get the last room finished so it is ready to load next week, re-wash all the hallways and get them disinfected. We will be loading Room 4 today that will get all sows in for next Wednesday. Monday we will load Room 5 and get ready to wean Tuesday morning. Piglet birth weight has come back up to where it was pre-break. We did not get the MJPRRS vaccinating done yesterday, but we will get it done today. The breeding department is struggling a little this week, and I am not sure how many breedings we will end up with yet. Some of the old sows that were on Matrix in the farrowing crate don’t want to cycle on our schedule. It is a little frustrating because it makes it hard to order semen.

Our ending inventory today is 2,260. We have had 205 dead piglets for the week.

January 19

Our ending inventory of piglets was 2,739; we had 242 deads last week. 

January 20

 I did not work this weekend. I came in this morning and looked at the pigs in farrowing and they look good. We will wean one room tomorrow. I will draw blood from piglets today for a PRRS PCR test. We loaded out the rest of the non-symptomatic sows this morning, we probably won’t have any more culls for three weeks.  We do have a few sows in breeding and gestation that seem to have very loose stools, so we will keep an eye on it.

We have 190 pigs for wean tomorrow. Today we have an ending inventory of 3,008 piglets.

January 21

Wean day today- we loaded 190 head at 2,520 lb. with an average of 13.26 lb..

January 22

Received test results from Monday’s blood test, and the pigs are PRRS positive. I made the necessary calls to let everyone know. The piglets look good though. Ending inventory is 3,090.

I can’t say I am very happy about the PRRS, but I somewhat expected this. I have two sow farms located one mile north of our unit, and one of them has had PRRS in it since about the time of our PEDV break. I am really hoping the MJPRRS shot will shut this back down and soon.

 

January 24

Well, we weaned 8.4 pigs/litter this week with 25.1% preweaning mortality, it could be worse. We did send out 398 head this morning, and they weighed 14.1 lb. It appears we have a possible PEDV problem in Room 15, because we have nine litters scouring with no response to antibiotic.

 

January 27

Today we only have four litters scouring. Last week we bred 161 sows, and farrowed 116 sows with 13.3 total born, 12.3 born alive, 4.5% stills, and 2.7% mummies. We weaned 72 sows with 591 pigs. The average weight was 13.8 lb. with an average age of 19.5 days and 249 deads. Our ending inventory of piglets is 3,052.

 

January 29

Ok, things went along pretty good up until now. I have washed five piglets from Room 15 so that the water can be tested for virus and used to make some sort of vaccine. I will be taking the water Orange City today so it can be tested to find out what is all in it. We have three rooms with scouring piglets, and it looks like PEDV. Preg checked today and 76 sows are bred of 133, for 57.1%.

 

February 3

Last week’s tally is 160 bred sows with 52 recycles, 88 farrowed, 12.8 total born, 11.6 born alive,103 sows weaned, and 847 pigs weighing around 14.4 lb. at 20.6 days. There were 363 deads, 34.3% pre-weaning mortality and seven dead sows. We will be euthanizing some litters today because of more PEDV.

 

February 4

 I got the results back from the five pigs I put in the cart with water the PEDV CT was 23.0. Today I did the same thing with three more litters and will test it as well. I have frozen it. I am contemplating using it as an oral vaccine on the sows pre-farrow. The problem I am having is we are still getting some PEDV in the farrowing house and I am wondering if some of the sows do not have enough immunity yet, even though they got sick. I am pretty sure we are moving the virus ourselves right now. I have taken steps today to hopefully stop this or at least slow it down.

 

February 5

Preg checked today. We bred 166 sows in week 2, and we have 104 left. I will be rechecking the opens on Monday. I expected this to some degree because of the PEDV and the PRRS. There are not as many recycling from week 3 breedings as of this time. Using [an estrus synchronization product] may have compounded this issue as well.

The PEDV in farrowing is most likely our fault for not making sure every pig got colostrum or making sure we did not move it mechanically on ourselves or equipment. Today and yesterday I have implemented changing gloves and changing nasal cannulas every litter. Everything else is and has been disinfected between litters already.

I blood tested weaned pigs on Monday and 15 out of 20 pigs were PRRS positive, and 5 of those 15 were only at 35.8 of 37 so they were close. Looks like the MJPRRS is kicking in.

 

February 6

Upon further thought and discussion, the decision not to use the “home brew PEDV vaccine” made from washing the pigs will be the stance for now. Farrowing looks better today. The pigs we are weaning tomorrow look good, they did not get sick as of yet.

 

February 7

 We loaded pigs this morning, and they looked really good. Their average age was 20.3 days old, 21.3% pre-weaning mortality and they weighed 14.65 lb. Next week’s pigs look good, but the following week we will struggle again a bit because of the PEDV scours that went on at the end of last week and first part of this week.

The pigs born Tuesday thru Thursday look good, and we do have 1 or 2 litters we are going to be challenged with, but I think overall we should get this straightened out.

 

February 12

OK, now that I have my thoughts back about me, maybe now I can put an entry in this diary about what has been going on without losing my mind while thinking about it. Here we go.

The highlight for the week is that we bred 149 sows; we did, however, have 25% returns. We think many of these may be partially due to the use of [an estrus synchronization treatment]. We farrowed 101 sows, with 13.0 total born, 11.7 born alive, 6.8% stillbirths and 3.8% mummies. We weaned 864 pigs at 20.7 days of age weighing 13.5 lb. Yesterday, we weaned 48 sows with 474 pigs; the average age was 21.2 days and pigs weighed 15.52 lb.

Well here are the not-so-good things from last week. My farrowing people gave up, and things spiraled downhill very fast over the weekend. My Day One pig care became nonexistent because the employees did not make sure all pigs got colostrum. They got lazy and gave up once the PEDV re-fired. I sat them down and explained to them very clearly that if the pig does not get colostrum, the litter of pigs will die — and so will many more pigs in that room. We also must be more aware of moving PEDV on ourselves. We have to change gloves every litter and clean, clean, clean. If we let our guard down for one second, we will lose. PEDV does not forgive, it just takes. We must continue to be very aware of the effects of “cutting corners,” because doing that will burn us. I also informed the employees we are not here to throw away pigs because someone gives up, because if that is the case, this farm does not and will not need them. Take-home message from this is purely:
Do your job. If you do not do your job, someone else will and we will not require you as an expense anymore. So far it appears to have made an impact on the pigs, because the pigs that were farrowed the last couple of days look good.

I can’t stress enough the importance of colostrum intake for the piglet, and that keeping as little virus as possible in the crate will save the most pigs: no colostrum, no pig!!!!!! There is no vaccine for this virus yet.

February 14

Happy Valentine’s Day! Today we weaned pigs and put 481 head on the truck, weighing 14.6 lb. off 48 sows. Next week and the week after won’t be quite so good, but we’ll get through it. The pigs we have to wean the first week of March look pretty good. At least they haven’t got a lot of scours going at this point.

After the sit-down with the employees earlier this week, they have done a good job with Day One pig care. I think they finally see the results of taking the extra time now more than ever, because all of a sudden they do not have to treat as many scours.   

February 20, 2014

Well things look a lot better this week. Our wean numbers will be in the crapper this week and next week because of the scours. I don’t think all of the scours we were seeing was related to PEDV, but the situation was made worse by the presence of PEDV. On February 13 I took a fecal sample from a sow that had 2- or 3-day-old pigs that were normal with no scours, and she tested positive for PEDV at 25.5 CT of 37, so that means what I have been telling the employees about Day 1 pig care is the most important. Farrowing crates need to be scraped regularly--meaning as often as possible.

Last week’s numbers looked like this: farrowed 104,  total born 13.4, born alive 12.1, still births 5.8%, mummies 3.6%. We weaned 113 sows and had 957 pigs at an average age of 22 days,  aveerage weight of 15.1 lb.and had pre-weaning mortality of 30.9% . We mated 166 sow and gilts, and had 58 recycles. A total of 89.5% of the weaned sows were bred by 7 days, 25 culls were shipped and we had 4 dead sows.

February 25

Last week turned out to be ok, all things considered. We mated 145 sows and gilts, with 16.2 % returns, and 96.7% females bred by 7 days. We farrowed 106 and had a 13.3 total born WITH 12.0 born alive, 5.3% stillbirths, and 4.0% mummies. We weaned 77 sows and 609 piglets at an average weight 13.9 lb. with an average age of 22.2 days and 32.6% pre-weaning mortality (PWM). This number will improve in the weeks to come.

The Day 1 pig care has gotten much better but can still improve; I will just have to keep tweaking it. I am working on implementing an afternoon farrowing attendant.

 

February 28

We loaded pigs this morning 303 head, 20.4 days old 15.2 lb. Pigs going forward look really good so far. We started a trial of a product used for drying and disinfection it is too early to tell yet if there is a difference from the treated pig to the non-treated.

 

March 4

Last week turned out better than I thought.  We farrowed 100 sows and had 13.4 total born.

12.0 born alive, 6.1% stillbirths, and 4.0% mummies; I think the mummies will be on the rise for the next few weeks because of the PEDV and PRRS. We weaned 83 sows with 609 pigs at 20.8 days average and weighed 14.4 lb., we bred 131 sows and gilts, and our return rate was 19.1%--much improved we also had 84.5% bred by 7 days, which is not all that great but we cleaned up a lot of odds and ends.

March 6

The pig’s today look good and it looks like the next thing will be how much or lack thereof feed being given to the sows while lactating. The only odd thing and is somewhat disturbing is the sudden deaths this week of some sows. They look perfectly ok the day before, then the next day they won’t get up, and by afternoon they are dead.

March 7, 2014

Weaned pigs today and they weighed 15.8 lb. and were 21.7 days average age. What a difference Day

one pig care makes! The pigs going forward look good. My wean numbers are going to be driven by the number that are born alive. Sows that have 15 or more pigs will have to raise them--and they will. We had two sows that weaned 15 pigs each today.

March 11, 2014

I am back today after taking yesterday off. I didn’t have time to walk the farrowing rooms this morning before Drs. Armbrect and Blythe got here today. Last week wasn’t too bad; we farrowed 94 sows and had 13.1 total born, 11.9 born alive, 4.5% stillborn and 4.6% mummies. The breeding department has bred 140 with 20 repeat services, and we weaned 95 sows last week with 907 pigs weighing 14.8 lb. average and 21.7 days old.

 

March 12, 2014

We had a quite lengthy discussion yesterday about how do we proceed going forward. I think for us the best course of action is to continue to be vigilant of about how and why we do things, and not let our guard down for a second. If we want to be successful we are going to have to use the same intensity we used at the beginning of this mess, and three weeks ago in order to get to the point of being

able to ship more than 1,000 pigs per week. The hope is that as the days go forward, the amount of virus in the farm goes down, but the problem with this virus is the fact it make so damn much when it replicates that it becomes extremely hard to control.

March 13, 2014

We wrote up the wean numbers for tomorrow, and the pigs look great. We will be weaning 47 sows with 493 pigs-- and they are going to be BIG. Pigs being born this week look good, I think at this point we have the train back on the tracks.

March 18, 2014

The recap of last week isn’t too bad. We bred 150 females, and the percent returns to service is on the downward trend at 15.5. We farrowed 89 sows, with 12.7 total born, 11.4 born alive, stillborn at 4.1%, and mummies at 5.9%. We weaned 95 sows with 963 pigs. Our pre-weaning mortality is 18.9%. The pigs weighed 15.6 lb. and averaged 21.5 days old.

A comment was sent to me yesterday on my email stating that, “It looks like the black cloud has lifted from the farm.” Well, the short answer is, “for now.” The long answer is, “It is still here and waiting for us to let our guard down for just a little bit for the storm to move back in.”

 I don’t think the statement, “That’s the way we always did it,” will ever apply here again on many things. PEDV is not like any other disease I have ever seen, so that makes it all the more difficult to get and keep it under control. For instance a perfect example is picking up pigs, because we now think, “Is this pig a carrier? Does this pig have it? Did I wear gloves? Did I change gloves? Did my fellow employees wear gloves???” There are so many questions that now go through our minds that it blows my mind!

As Drs.Armbrecht and Blythe and myself discussed when they were here last week, “The new norm is no longer the mentality of ‘that’s the way we did it before.’” We are fighting, and will continue to fight, the possibility of further outbreaks, either from within or without. PEDV is here and I don’t see it leaving any time soon. We will have to change the way we do things and continue to be open-minded and mindful that anything can and may happen.

March 19, 2014

On Monday I pulled blood from 19 piglets that will be weaned. I had them sent to Iowa State University (ISU) to have them tested for PRRS and PEDV, I got the PEDV result back, and to my amazement 18 of the piglets were negative for PEDV. We are headed in the right direction.

Harold Lee will be providing additional diary updates as Meadow Hill continues to recover. Read more about his veterinarian's suggestions for dealing with PEDV in the related story, "A Veterinarian's PEDV Commentary from the 'Front Lines.'"  [4]