U.S. hog population falls sharply, reflecting PED virus
By Daniel Enoch
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
WASHINGTON, March 28, 2014 - The U.S. hog and pig inventory totaled 62.9 million as of March 1, down 3 percent from a year earlier and down 5 percent from three months earlier, USDA said today in a quarterly report. The figure is the smallest since early 2007.
The drop reflects the effects of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), a disease that was first confirmed in U.S. herds in Iowa in May and has since spread to 27 different states. The report did not mention PEDv.
The pig crop for the December-through-February period totaled 27.3 million, down 3 percent from the same period a year earlier. That's also the smallest for any quarter since 2007, the USDA report showed. Pigs saved per litter averaged 9.53 for the quarter, down from 10.08 a year earlier.
The virus, first recognized in the UK in 1971, can cause severe diarrhea and dehydration in pigs. While older animals mostly end up losing weight after infection, piglets often die. PEDv can't be transmitted to humans or other animals, and has no effect on pork quality. The virus can spread rapidly throughout an entire herd of hogs. The most common avenue is on livestock and farm equipment that come into contact with hogs positive with PEDv or their feces.
Earlier this week, a Rabobank report said overall U.S. pork production is anticipated to decline 6 percent to 7 percent in 2014, the most in more than 30 years. Hog prices are already near record levels and the report could drive prices even higher.
As of March 12, the National Animal Health Laboratory Network reported 4,458 U.S. hog-raising operations with PEDv. Iowa had the most cases with 1,521, followed by Minnesota with 701 cases, and North Carolina with 486 cases.
No vaccines to fight the virus have been approved by the USDA. Harrisvaccines, in Ames, Iowa, has applied for a conditional license from the USDA for a vaccine it has developed. The company said it expects USDA to act on its application by August. Meanwhile, the company said it is providing the vaccine to producers with veterinary approval and studying the results.
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