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Part II: Diary of a PEDV Outbreak

Part II: Diary of a PEDV Outbreak

An update from Meadow Hill Farm in the aftermath of a PEDV outbreak.

March 26, 2014 – I did the ultrasound of Group 9 and we are still seeing a low conception rate. However, the low conception rate is only in the sows that recycled for the most part. Some of our sows just are done after the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) break. The farrowing department on the other hand has now entered into the mummy phase of the break, and we will be dealing with it for about 3 more weeks.

April 1, 2014 – Another week down with it being relatively quiet. Our wean numbers are still down and will be until the 3rd or 4th week of May when we will get into larger farrowing groups.

Last week ended with 122 breeds, and our recycle rate has dropped down to 11.5%, and the bred-by-7 days was 94.7%. We farrowed 93 sows and had 13.5 total born (TB), 11.5 born alive (BA), 3.9% Stillborn and 10.8% mummies. We weaned 106 sows, with 9.2 pigs/sow for 975 pigs weighing 15.6 lb. and averaging 21.1 days old. Our prewean mortality (PWM) is holding at 19.6%, this could be better but we are fostering nothing. If a sow farrows pigs, my mantra is, "She is the only one that will be allowed to raise them unless she die,s period, there is and will not be any further discussion.” With the amount of virus associated with PEDV I don’t think we have any other choice. Quite honestly I am willing to have a slightly higher pre-weaning mortality if I can continue to wean pigs that are healthy, the numbers will improve as we go forward.

April 3, 2014 – I got the test results back yesterday on the piglets I tested Monday; three oral samples tested negative for PEDV, and twenty piglets tested by a blood draw for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) 1 pool of 4 tested positive and 4 pools of 4 tested negative. Well it’s not quite time to celebrate, but what the hell, I’m happy! We will need to stay vigilant and we are going to win this war--and that is exactly what this is WAR!

I have a message for old man winter: dude you can go on vacation any time. We are in a winter storm warning we may see as much as 10 inches of snow YUCK. All of us swine producers need warm weather to slow this virus down.


April 7, 2014 – Well the 8 inches of snow we had Friday is gone, and we have sunshine. I received some great news on Saturday morning that a company is very close to having a vaccine for PEDV very soon, they are waiting on some field trials.

Last week ended ok. We bred 120 animals and had 10.3% returns with a bred-by-7 days of 91.9%. We farrowed 110 sows, 12.9 TB, 11.2 BA, 4.8% stillborn and 8.1% mummies. This week we will be farrowing the sows that we bred during the week of Christmas when we back-fed and made them sick. We weaned 98 sows with 951 pigs. PWM% is 17.3, the aveerage age and weight are 20.9 days and 15.4 pounds respectively.

The only big issue I have right now is the fact I am running out of gilts in the farm because I can’t move them from isolation yet. Dr. Blythe will be here today.


April 11, 2014 – Weaned pigs today and pigs weighed 16 pounds again. We weaned 888 head for the week, and ended with 9.5 pigs/sow and the PWM% is 14.6. Things continue to click along. The weather has really warmed up; this should help the cause as well.

April 15, 2014 – Why is it about the time things seem to be going good someone blows the hell out of it?! Over the weekend one of the employees "checked the isolation barn," but  in reality didn’t really check it because Sunday when they went up to the barn, the manure was over the slats in one part of one room! I am very concerned about this because I have no doubt there is PEDV and PRRS  in the manure, both of which I really do not need reintroduced in the unit. My biggest problem is we are out of gilts in the main farm and I was planning on moving gilts from one of the rooms in this week, but they are the same gilts that were standing in manure Sunday. Now I wait for tests and see what they look like this afternoon.

Last week's numbers look like this: Bred 111 sows and gilt,s with a bred- by-7 days of 91% and 10.1% recycles. We farrowed 82, had 13.1TB, 11.9 BA, 5.1% stillborn, and 4.4% mummies. The pigs we weaned today were 16 lb. again.

April 17, 2014 – On the 15th, I did some testing of the gilts and piglets as well as the pits. Results as follow: gilts in isoloation in the room that did not have the pit over flow were negative for both PEDV and PRRS. The room where the pit over flowed PEDV+ PRRS-. I did test the pit in iso barn and it was PEDV+ PRRS+. I also tested the lagoon and 1 pit in a gestation barn and both were PEDV+ and PRRS- . The results of the piglet testing were PEDV- and 2 pools of 4 pigs tested PRRS+, There were 5 pools.

After some conversation with Dr. Blythe, we made the decision to move the room that was PEDV- in iso in the farm yesterday. The other room was then split up and will stay there until the end of May.

April 18, 2014 – Somewhat to my surprise, the gilts that are left in iso have not scoured or gone off-feed, even though they have been re-exposed to PEDV via the pit. We are weaning today and pigs look good. The sows we are farrowing right now are the sows we bred the week of New Years (in the midst of the PEDV outbreak) and you can tell they were not feeling good at the time of conception. We have dropped about 2 pigs from the total born to just under 12. The number of pigs being born mummified has gone down as well to under 3%.

A side note to everything that has been done to get here. I haven’t wrote this but I have said this to many people I have talked to; if or when a farm gets exposed to PEDV, don’t go to all the work of removal of intestines from piglets. I would highly recommend placing the pig(s) in a tub, barrel, or cart and add some water to wash the pig off and allow the pig to defecate in the water and use that instead.

I would still use it like intestines i.e. 1 per 30-50 sows. I am not a vet but I feel very confident in this method, but be sure to ask your own veterinarian what procedures they recommend,too. It helps to be able to have a discussion about what works for other producers, in my opinion.

April 22, 2014 – Last week turned out ok. Our pigs have good weight and are still 15-16 pounds. We mated 112 which is not enough, but we were out of gilts. We farrowed 109 sows, had 12.1 TB, 11.0 BA. These numbers are slipping, and I expect them to continue due the fact the sows which are farrowing now were bred during the back- feed process.

April 30, 2014 – Things in the farm look good. Our number of sows bred improved, while the percentage of recycles is going down. The sow that farrowed last week was only 48 with an 11.5 TB and 10.5 BA, this is not a surprise. It does appear that is coming back the first part of this week. PWM is bouncing around a little but hanging around 16%.

May 5, 2014 – We now have had three tests with each two weeks apart, with the pigs testing PEDV-negative on the oral PCR test. We also have our first negative for PRRS as well. The pigs look it too. Our weights have held steady at about 15.5 lb. and 22 days old. In about two weeks our age will drop a little because of short groups, but it will only be temporary.

Last week we bred 131 animals with a 95.7% bred by 7 days, and 8.5% returns, the conception rate has finally gotten back to 90% or above for the last 3 weeks. We farrowed 106 sows last week with 11.4 TB and 10.4 BA. We weaned 96 sows with 957 pigs weighing 15.5 lb. at 21.3 days old and 15.1 % PWM. Our farrowing rate is struggling and will continue for another 4-5 weeks. The pigs look healthy. Dr. Blythe will be in today for his monthly walk through.

June 9, 2014 – What a difference a month makes. There’s been a lot happening over the last 30 days: total born went in the crapper, which made the wean numbers low. I have had a lot of producers call me and ask if I have seen any signs of reinfection, there have been many questions. Oh, and at the end of the month total born came back. World Pork Expo happened and I got more questions.

Ok, total born and born alive are impacting wean numbers. Starting about the first week of May, these numbers started to fall.  The cause I know is from PEDV; the sows which lost their pigs from the disease or were weaned early farrowed 3-7 pigs less than those who lactated for their entire time. This I can prove just by looking at numbers both prior to these sows farrowing and now after. The numbers are coming back and group size has improved as well. The health of the sow farm directly impacts farrowing and weaning. WE STILL ARE NOT FOSTERING PIGLETS, CREATING NURSE SOWS, OR HOLDING ANYTHING BACK!! At this point I would have to say we may not ever foster again, “less is more.”  We had our first negative PEDV test on March 31, which by the way is 105 days post- break. I have been testing every two weeks by rope test and am still negative, and today is 175 days. We have also become PRRS-stable in the last two weeks, just in time for my neighbor to get a new PRRS strain introduction three weeks ago.

June 11, 2014Thing learned (or lack thereof) last week. I learned three things last week 1.)There are many veterinarians and producers that still do not understand ALL SOWS MUST GET SICK. It’s not “well I back fed the farm so they all got it.” Because not everyone will get it.

2) There is a “thirst” for information on this virus and the reporting of it.

3) The hospitality tents can still cook some damn good ribs at World Pork Expo, man I love pork.

In my opinion now more than ever, getting rid of the sows in January that did not get sick was the smartest move we made. The whole premise of all sows must get sick is important, I think, to keep the sow farm stable long enough to allow PEDV to “burn itself out." I have new gilts coming in two days and my vets and I agree we should not expose them. The question was asked of me while in Des Moines when do I think a farm can bring new gilts in; my answer is simple but complicated. It ultimately depends on where the farm is with PEDV status. I don’t think this is a "one size fits all" disease.


June 12, 2014 – Today is the day. We will be getting 300 head of new gilts later this afternoon. Overall the farm looks good but I don’t want to say that too loud. This is the swine industry, anything can happen.

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