For the past 20 years, porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome—or PRRS—has taken a financial toll on individual producers as well as the industry as a whole.

In 2005, the cost to the pork industry was estimated at $560 million annually. Today an updated study by Iowa State University and funded by the National Pork Checkoff, estimates PRRS costs for the pork industry has climbed to $664 million per year. Translate that to a daily cost, and it adds up to $1.8 million. If you calculate the cost across all sows in the U.S. herd (while certainly not all are infected with the virus) the cost is $114.71 per sow each year.  

The study provides “valuable insight into the economic impact of PRRS and underscores why we've leveraged domestic and international government funds to offer producers tools for regional control of this virus," says Everett Forkner, National Pork Board president and Missouri pork producer.

There are nearly 20 PRRS Area Regional Control and Elimination projects underway across the United States, including Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and more.    

The 2011 PRRS economic study differed most significantly from the 2005 study in the allocation of losses between the breeding herd and growing pigs. In the 2005 study, losses associated with growing pigs accounted for 88 percent of the total cost, compared with 55 percent today.

Derald Holtkamp, DVM, and Jim Kliebenstein, agricultural economist, both from Iowa State, coordinated the study, which included other specialists, practicing veterinarians and USDA. They found that differences between the two studies are attributed to several factors, including as changes in PRRS virus prevalence and incidence of outbreaks, production and animal-health management practices, and other pathogens that have emerged since 2005, such as porcine circovirus. Inflation accounts for 40 percent of the increase.

The new study collected much of its data from cooperating producers and veterinarians across the United States in late 2010. Not included in 2005 were additional PRRS-related costs that producers must contend with, such as veterinary and biosecurity measures. In this study, researchers found that such costs added $477.79 million to total the PRRS costs. Add it all up and it pushes the cumulative cost of PRRS beyond $1 billion annually.

Because the study involved swine veterinarians across the United States, researchers were able to evaluate other PRRS statistics, such as 28 percent of sows and gilts used for breeding in the United States were PRRS virus-free. As for weaned pigs, 60 percent were PRRS-negative at placement.

"This study also confirmed conventional wisdom that says outbreaks in PRRS virus-free herds are more severe than outbreaks in PRRS virus-infected herds," Holtkamp said. "When comparing elimination methods, we found that the time required for herds to provide a return on investment was still relatively short with herd closure and rollover. However, we found that complete depopulation/repopulation appears to make economic sense only if there are other reasons to depopulate the herd or for high-value genetics herds."

Lisa Becton, DVM, and NPB’s director of swine health, says the complete 2011 study will serve as a valuable resource for producers, veterinarians and the entire industry for years, as more of its data is analyzed. She points out that the full report is expected to be available in coming months and will be found at NPB’s website.

Source: National Pork Board