It’s been one year since Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) was first identified in the United States. In those relatively short 12 months, PEDv has spread unchecked across the country, stretching across 30 states with more than 6,000 confirmed cases.
Steve Meyer, president of Paragon Economics and National Pork Board consultant, puts losses attributed to PEDv as high as 7 million, or more than 10 percent of the nation’s pig population. Purdue University economist Chris Hurt, however, estimates a lower number of PEDv-related deaths. See, “PEDv losses not as large as expected.”
The bottom-line for both estimates remain the same: PEDv has killed millions of pigs.
As a result, retail pork and hog prices have set new record highs, and as cases continue to climb, these prices have the potential to increase even more.
The USDA announced PEDV as a reportable disease in April, a step that requires the pork industry to track its spread. But for Meyer, it’s a step that is months overdue.
"It's a positive step that I wish they had taken last summer when it became obvious this was spreading rapidly," Meyer told Retuers.
The financial and emotion ramifications of PEDv have taken its toll on producers across the country.
"If you have four weeks of mortality in a PEDv break, that's pretty devastating to the financial wellbeing of that operation," said Greg Boerboom, a Minnesota hog farmer.
"I think most producers are scared," Boerboom said. "They stay up at night."
Iowa producer Greg Lear was one of the thousands of farms hit by the virus. Lear’s farm lost 500 piglets within 96 hours before Christmas last year. The emotional toll, in additional to the financial hit, has weighed on Lear and his employees.
"How do you keep up employee morale when you're asking, 'How many are dead today?'," Lear said. "Those pigs should have been walking out of the barn, and we were carrying them out. Mentally it just hammers you."
PorkNetwork blogger and Iowa hog farmer Erin Brenneman detailed her heartfelt experience with the virus. The emotional tornado that surrounds being able to do little to help animals infected with PEDv is overwhelming.
“When you go to work everyday with the mindset of “I’m going to save pigs today and start their lives out right and I’m going to think of an even better way to do it tomorrow,” it is an extremely hard task to walk in knowing that you have to watch that passion shrivel and die before it starts to look better. You try to keep the morale up in the farm because lets face it, nobody wants to come to work and watch everything you worked so hard for fall apart with no hope of making it better other than time,” she wrote in a blog post here.
Companies and researchers are rushing to find answers – and potentially vaccines – to help combat the virus. As Justin Ellis, marketing manager at Alltech points, at this time “there is no silver bullet for PEDv.”
It’s still unclear whether PEDv has peaked though. The USDA’s Joseph Glauber told reporters after testifying at a House Agriculture Committee hearing on the livestock industry he can’t say whether ith as peaked or not. Click here for more.