WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2014 - The U.S. hog and pig inventory totaled 65.4 million as of Sept. 1, down 2 percent from a year earlier but up 6 percent from three months earlier, USDA said today in a quarterly report.

The numbers reflect a slight rebound from Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), a disease that was first confirmed in U.S. herds in Iowa in the spring of 2013 and has since spread to 31 different states. The report did not mention PEDv.

The pig crop for the June-through-August period totaled 29.5 million, down 1 percent from the same period a year earlier. Pigs saved per litter averaged 10.16 for the quarter, compared with 10.33 a year earlier but up from 9.65 in the previous quarter.

Daniel Bluntzer, director of research for Frontier Risk Management, said the pigs per litter numbers were probably the most surprising figures in the report.

“What it does project with this increase in the total breeding herd, we start looking at slaughter figures up . . . maybe as much as eight percent (in the third quarter of next year), Bluntzer said. “Assuming those pigs per litter continue to creep higher, that’s an enormous amount of hogs year over year, something we haven’t seen in probably a decade or so.”

PEDv, 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.

As of Sept. 6, the National Animal Health Laboratory Network confirmed positive tests on pigs from 8,316 farms, some of which may have had more than one outbreak and hence could have been counted twice. Iowa had the most cases with 2,271, followed by Minnesota with 1,382 cases, and Illinois with 932.

Veterinarians had expected a slowdown in the infection rate during the summer as warm weather inhibits the ability of the virus to spread. Biosecurity has also been improved as producers learn more about the disease. As the weather begins to cool and more favorable conditions for the spread of PEDv occur, experts said many factors could change the positive trends seen in this report.

“It’s almost like in March, trying to say ‘What’s the corn yield going to be in the Midwest?’ Well there’s a lot of things that are going to go on,” Bluntzer said, adding that the success of recently developed PEDv vaccines will truly be tested in the colder months.

In February and March, 2,347 total positive tests were confirmed nationwide. Six months later in July and August, that number has dropped to a total of 706.


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