Monday, March 3, 2014

The Closed Herd Theory and PEDV...Good? Bad? or Dangerous?

Not our Farm

Not our farm

The following is my opinion. It's my blog, therefore it's my opinion. Please, if you have a small farm and raise pigs do your own due diligence and make the decision that is best for your animals. I am open to comments and discussion from both side so this issue. With that said...

Some of you other small family farmers out there may already be aware of the PEDV virus making its way (AGAIN) through confinement hog operations in the US, killing millions of piglets, and causing great concern for consumers and breeders but for those who don't.. states "PEDV or Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus is not a new virus, nor is it a regulatory/reportable disease. First identified in England in 1971 it is now seen in a number of European countries as well as the US. Since PEDV is widespread in many countries, it is not a trade-restricting disease, but rather a production-related disease. PEDV may appear clinically to be the same as transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) virus with acute diarrhea."
PEDV is transmitted orally and though pig feces with acute diarrhea occurring in piglets within 24-36 hours of onset. Older hogs are not as susceptible. Lab testing is the only way to accurate diagnose PEDV.

That site also states that PEDV poses no risk to other animals or humans or to the pork produced and later eaten from these farms.

Really? Pork that has come from a sick pig is OK to eat? Not for me thank you very much.

According to specific numbers of PEDV are difficult to measure as one "case" reported could involve one or several piglets at a single farm or several locations. How is that for creative math?  Still they have estimated that up to 4 million piglets  "may have" died last year. In January 2014, Reuters went on to state that nearly 40% of the US cases of PEDV were identified in Iowa.

Yes, this is our farm.

Ouch for the Hawkeye State.

So what to do? Well of course the pork industry is playing up both sides of the issue. On one hand they are telling consumers not to worry, the actual pork products are all fine. Don't worry, eat bacon. But on the other hand Iowa State University Specialists as well as Pork Network ( are screaming loud and clear...


In other words they want the CAFO's as well as small farmers to batten down the hatches and draw a very solid line between farm employees and farm visitors. Well, to be truthful most CAFO's prefer no visitors at all, ever. And now they feel they are justified in that approach.

I can only imagine how some of these CAFO owners would cringe knowing we have 10-20 visitors on our farm every single day. And none of them wear Haz Mat suits.

What worries me is not so much what the CAFO's are doing, making visitors wear booties, masks and I suppose gowns and gloves, not to mention tire dipping into antibacterial, antiviral solutions but the fact that some of my small farmer colleagues are jumping on this Sterilize The World Campaign.

People, people, people. Or I should say...

Farmer, farmer, farmer.

It is impossible to keep all bacteria, all viruses all opportunistic infections off our farms. Do you really believe that dipping the tires of your visitors cars will help? What about the undercarriage? The bugs on their windshields? The notebooks and laptops your inspectors carry?

What about the hundreds of unwashed bacteria laden hands that handled the bags of feed you bought at Big R or your local grain elevator? What about the mail touched by your bronchitis ridden mail lady (hey, its been a tough winter)or  that your germ ridden grandchild (thick preschool bugs) picked up and left in your barn office? What about the acne ridden teenager who swiped his nose with his hands and then carried out your groceries to the car so you could grab a "healthy: granola bar to eat while you did chores?

My point? We cannot prevent all bacteria and viruses from our farms but we can do all we can to improve the immune systems of our animals. It is not unlike a very basic child raising theory. There is no way we can fix every bumpy road our child might run across but we can prepare THEM to deal with that road.

The same theory holds true for our farms. Although we have lost piglets to hawks, coyotes and bitter bitter cold we have to the best of my knowledge not lost one to diarrhea. Why? Because they come from strong healthy stock, they spend weeks and weeks and weeks (8-12) consuming their mothers antibody rich milk and they live in fresh air.

Bacteria and virus really do not like fresh air but oh how they love tight confined wet spaces with poor air flow. All the antibacterials, antivirals in the world will not stop this epidemic or the one right on its heels or the one after that.

Germs has a deep desire to live. They will mutate and change in order to adapt to the poisons we throw at them producing super bugs that are harder and harder to kill off. Just look at human health care for the very best lesson in this theory.

As a new nurse in the early 1980's , we were able to kill most anything with the simplest penicillin and sulfa based meds. Not anymore. Now we have 20 and 30 year old's who come into ER with staph infections so virulent from a scabbed knee or burst boil and they often lose limbs and sometimes their lives. Why?  Because they were started on antibiotics at very young ages at the insistence of their mothers who didn't want Jr. to suffer for one minute, or cough through one night and now there are no meds strong enough to kill what thrives in their bodies.

Of course this insane practice followed us right into our livestock businesses as we vaccinated and inoculated and basically removed all our animals basic ability to fight off illness. Crowding them into smaller and smaller spaces we've shortened their life spans and destroyed their immune systems.

They are indeed sitting pigs and chickens and calves and etc...

Please understand, I am not saying that filthy farms are good farms but I am saying that common sense not unlimited bottles of Clorox, Lysol and  is the answer to this and future epidemics. Certainly small farmers should follow some of the basics like:

WASH YOUR HANDS! (But avoid the antibacterial soap)
Purchase only healthy animals for your farm
Use approved cleansing agents sparingly.
Limit the amount of new livestock brought onto your farm bringing on only that which will IMPROVE the genetics and health of your current herd.
Isolate new livestock from other animals until their health is verified.
Build immune systems with good feed, organic feed, raw milk or whey if available, not restaurant leftovers and pesticide filled garden remains.
House your animals in wide open spaces with good ventilation and ACCESS TO PASTURE every day that weather permits
Keep them well bedded, well watered, well fed, well exercised and your animals will...

Be well.



      1. Putting on my tin-foil hat. How long before "people" (like Mrs. FT at the IDPH) in govt. (taxpayer funded, btw) positions are pushing through laws that would REQUIRE all farms to do the Douse Everything In Bleach and No Visitors and Red Tape (i.e. costly) Record Keeping Protocols are required? You know, ones that the big guys already do because the don't want anybody on their place. Additional BS that will cost small farmers more than they can afford to stay viable. Just another law to make small farming illegal.
        Taking tin foil hat off now (and replacing it with a wool hat only because I have to go outside now and check on the goats).

        1. Ironically, all that our government is doing to make our food "safe" is indeed making it quite harmful and yet they continue to do what that want , what is best for Big Ag but not what is actually in best interests of humans. Thusly, we must strive towards growing as much as we can ourselves or at least make good friends with farmers who do.

      2. Very well said and I couldn't agree with you more. The first line of defense against any kind of disease outbreak on the farm should be healthy animals raised in a healthy environment.

        1. I knew you'd see it in a similar light Walt. I think we have to remember all of us in this pastured hog world have a very different "product" and rather than jump on the CAFO's bandwagon of treatment in this issues, we need to develop and share methods that work for our very special (aka healthy) type of pork

      3. So true. Immune systems are the first line of defence!

        1. Marie, it took me awhile to understand that methodology coming from my healthcare background which focused on illness rather than wellness but there is no turning back for me now!

      4. Excellent article thank you. I have friends on Pahoa Hawaii who raise their pigs off the ground in the Korean style. These pigs never see mud!

        1. Interesting. That is a method I am unfamiliar with. Something to Google for sure


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