Should the pork industry make a more concerted effort to eradicate some of the major diseases that continue to plague the pork industry?

Carlos Pijoan, veterinarian at the University of Minnesota, believes the industry should. He cites four reasons why past attempts have failed:

1. Eradication efforts relied on signs and lesions to monitor disease instead of concentrating on pathogen detection.

2. There was a failure to understand the problems of maintaining disease-free herds in infected regions, the so-called “area spread” of disease.

3. Eradication solutions were developed for pathogens that were not fully understood, especially their pathogenesis and epidemiology.

4. Information for eradication measures was applied from small-scale experimental trials to large swine populations. Results were not the same in large populations as they were in the smaller groups.

Still, no one would argue that eradicating a disease from the U.S. swine herd is no small task. It has been done– for example, with hog cholera and the soon-to-be eliminated pseudorabies– and there are benefits to disease eradication. Pijoan believes more times than not, it’s worth the cost and effort involved. He cites the following reasons for that opinion:

1. Disease-free populations have much better biological production and much lower production cost than populations where common endemic diseases exist.

2. Disease-free animals require less (or no) antibiotic supplementation, therefore positively addressing an important emerging social issue.

3. Disease negatively impacts the animal’s welfare. Steps to eradicate disease may therefore present some of our most effective measures to increase welfare.

4. Personal motivation is tested when endemic disease is present and represents a daily struggle. Personnel dealing with disease-free pigs can apply more of their time to looking after the animals instead of treating them.