Trade and technology are on the upswing.

Kevin.Schulz, senior content specialist

November 22, 2019

3 Min Read
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These are exciting times that we live in.

Sometimes excitement isn't always pleasant, as we well know in U.S. agriculture and specifically the hog industry.

From trade wars to impeachment talks to the threat of African swine fever and a number of other pathogens trying to work their way into our swine herd, there are many concerning industry issues right now.

As I've said in this space before, I may be a Pollyanna, but I think that the trade wars will be resolved, and yes, some producers and companies will take the hit before all the trade dust settles, but I think the country will benefit in the long run. Look, U.S. poultry is now heading back to China, and the U.S.-Japan trade pact is working its way through the Japanese government.

As for the impeachment proceedings, and not to get too political, it seems like that is only thing being worked on in the nation's capital. Now, I know that's not true as we are hearing that there actually is work being done on getting the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal finished, which would be great news. Sadly, the "real" work in D.C. is getting lost in the headlines and buried in the newspapers and newscasts.

At the forefront of the U.S. swine industry concern is the threat of ASF and the myriad pathogens making their way here. Yes, this is scary, but it is also exciting to watch the work that is being done by a unified U.S. swine industry so that we may be best prepared for whatever may be thrown our way.

Farms are upping their biosecurity measures, which we have learned should have been in place all along. We have learned a lot from the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus break of 2013-14, and the biosecurity measures implemented due to PED have helped keep other pathogens at bay. Let's not forget those lessons.

We all know how technological advancements have improved the way we raise and care for our hogs, and similar advancements have been and are being made in the labs of our researchers who are trying to keep their fingers on the pulse of the current pathogen, as well as the next "big" one.

Polymerase chain reaction was a breakthrough in the 1980s, and then we've seen benefits of genetic modification and now we're looking at next generation sequencing. All of this technology has helped us identify exactly what is happening in our barns if a pig is dragging in performance.

While the eyes of the herd veterinarians and the caregivers can spot and suspect what is making their animals sick, the latest technology will be able to more specifically pinpoint the virus or bacteria, differentiating between multiple strains of a known pathogen. Technology also allows for a diagnostician to even find a bug that the farm never knew that they had.

Simply because a pathogen can be detected however, does not necessarily correlate that it can be infectious.

I parallel this to improvements that were made in the testing of groundwater samples. Parts per million had been the standard for determining if a chemical present was harmful to humans or livestock. Then the testing improved so that parts per trillion could be detected. When you get that specific, you can almost find anything registering on a ppt level. But the question still needed to be asked, just because you can detect it, does it mean it's harmful?

Regardless, this technology will continue to improve, and I believe that being able to detect pathogens before clinical signs appear in the barn will help the U.S. swine industry win the bigger battle.

Yes indeed, these are exciting times.

About the Author(s)


senior content specialist, National Hog Farmer

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