click image to zoomMichigan State UniversityA better alternative to the stick measure of manure is a laser. The Porcine Endemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) continues to impact the U.S. pork industry. Farms that have avoided the virus continue to implement intensive precautions to keep PEDv out of their herd. Farms that have already experienced the ravages of the virus are taking steps to prevent reinfection.
PEDv is spread through oral fecal contact and requires exposure to only a small amount of fecal material to cause infection. Adding to the complications of preventing PEDv reinfections is the virus’s ability to stay viable in stored manure. Research conducted by Goyal at the University of Minnesota and reported by the National Pork Board has confirmed PED virus may stay viable in manure stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Centigrade) greater than 28 days. Therefore, stored manure with viable virus, if brought to the floor surface could re-infect susceptible pigs with PEDv.
In Michigan, large livestock farms (CAFOs), who are covered under the MI Department of Environmental Quality (M-DEQ) National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, are required to monitor and weekly record manure depth in each of the farm’s manure storage structures. In addition all livestock farms, regardless of size, should record the amount of manure removed when spreading manure. Prior to PEDv, using a stick to measure manure depth in deep pitted barns, was of small risk to infect pigs with a virus or bacteria. Currently, in this era of PEDv, there is a risk the small amount of manure brought up on the measuring stick may re-infect the pigs.
One option to avoid recontamination in a barn previously infected with PEDv, is to stick and measure manure depth outside of the barn using the manure pump out ports. However, there remains the risk of contaminating the periphery of the site and vectors such as personnel or rodents tracking manure virus particles back into the barn and exposing the pigs.
As any 8 year old boy will attest, a better alternative to the stick is a laser. By aiming the laser’s beam down through the slat opening, a laser measure will determine the freeboard between the manure surface and the top of the slats. Dependable laser measures can be purchased for $80 to $125 either online or at local hardware stores. A quick field trial using the laser method demonstrated it was easier than the stick and accurate despite the presence of dust and cobwebs.