Friday, April 11, 2014

The Devastating Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV): Why We are NOT Worried.

Our small farm piglets

The CAFO piglets

If you farm, homestead, raise pigs or just enjoy listening to Ag radio you are probably aware of the PED virus that has swept through confinement hog farms in the US this past year.

*According to the US Department of Agriculture, PEDV has surfaced in 26 states. Steve Meyer, president of Paragon Economics and a Pork Checkoff consultant, estimates the loss of more than 5 million piglets in the past several months, with 1.3 million in January (2014) alone.

 Karen Richter, a Minnesota Producer and president of The National Pork Board states "This has become one of the most serious and devastating disease our pig farmers have faced in decades." She goes to say, " While it has no impact on food safety, it is clear implications for the pork industry in terms of supplying pork to consumers."

And finally..The Big Solution of Big Pork Producers, ...Biosecurity

Where do I begin on this one?

Well, I suppose with a disclaimer. We here on South Pork Ranch do not do any kind of formal research, we are not (Thank God) a mega farm, we do not gather data for anyone but ourselves and our opinion are ours alone; Purely anecdotal from over 50 years of combined small family farming.

And frankly this biosecurity crap is what has killed all those piglets in the first place, which is why we have never practiced it here and never plan to.

I will take it down to the very basics not because you my readers are limited but because our government is riddled with learning disabilities.  Bacteria and viruses can be good or bad. Bacteria and viruses can serve very important functions on the farm and in general. It is impossible to shield ourselves, our children, our farm from bacteria and viruses. 

The orange I brought home from the supermarket was handled, I am guessing my maybe 50 people (with dirty hands, with colds, with who knows what) before I picked it up and bought it. It rolled around in its little bag touching other foods and then I put it in the bowl on my kitchen table where it could touch even MORE fruit) Sure I could wash it but water doesn't kill germs. Am I going to rinse it in bleach water? Will I eat part of the peel or zest it up in a recipe? You bet your sweet bippy I will.

The focus, for any of us to come out of this world alive (until of course, we die, and we all will indeed die) is not to attempt to remove all bacteria and virus's from our world  but to IMPROVE OUR IMMUNE SYSTEMS AND THOSE OF OUR LIVESTOCK. Now keep in mind I understand that institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes are bound to provide care under certain anti-bacterial standards as unfortunately harmful bacteria can thrive in those places if left unchecked. I am referring to the need to keep things simple on farms and in homes that are already healthy.

Back to PEDV.

Those CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) piglets were sitting ducks. With decades of antibiotic overuse, confined animals have had their immune systems completely wiped off their genetic maps. Even if PEDV is mildly controlled in the future (No sign of that yet), it's devastation in CAFO hog houses is just the beginning of what this country is destined to see, a complete annihilation of its conventional meat supply. Only with drastic production method changes will they be able to turn this crashing train around, the train that started careening off its track when after WW2 we started pulling our livestock off the good green earth it needs to survive.

And because this type of farming is based on finance alone, I have no hope, that these changes will occur. I do however have great hope for the ever increasing population who is insisting on humanely grown, healthy meat raised by small farmers whom although not opposed to a healthy bottom line, choose to farm in an ethical manner first.

I believe it is past time for all livestock farmers to adopt the small portion of same Hippocratic Oath  (sadly not mandatory) as physicians: First, Do No Harm.

Please understand. I do not view farm animals on the same level as human life. I do believe God gave them to use to use to our benefit. But I am appalled at the horrific treatment the majority of our US livestock is experiencing. There are better ways but sadly they won't make us filthy rich which has become the impetus behind Factory Farming today. I am not saying that those  farmers with just a few Hog Houses are filthy rich but they are certainly contributing to the welfare of those Bigger Ag Companies who are.

And at what price?  The future devastation of our meat supply in this country, and the deteriorating health of our population.

So here at South Pork Ranch we continue to focus NOT on keeping germs off our farm, like we are being told to do by those who keep losing millions of their own animals, but instead on maintaining  the health of our livestock. What follows is our list of...


1. Allow visitors to your farm.
2. Allow delivery trucks, postal vehicles, customers SUV's to roll right on up the lane.
3. Allow people to (here is the scary part) actually Touch your animals. With supervision of course. It is still a farm and animals can be dangerous.
4. Avoid any antibiotic use (unless the animals life is threatened) instead utilizing, organic, holistic, homeopathic treatments first.
5. Wear your chores boots until they wear out but be sure to rinse them off well in the mud muddles before bringing them inside the farmhouse.
6. Wash your coveralls when the percentage of clean cloth seen is less than the manure stained portions.
7. Raise your animals outside, in spacious areas, on the good green earth, rather than in inhumane overcrowded concrete and steel buildings where they reside on hard surfaces just above huge pools of their own toxic waste their entire but greatly shortened lives.

Yes, I am being a bit glib in a couple of our actions above, but not much. We do keep a very clean milk parlor, milk house according to Grade A Standards. We teach our customers to wash their hands before accessing our milk tank

Hand washing really is one of the best ways to deter disease spread.

Our farm is not perfect. We make mistakes but each time we suffer an animal loss we ask ourselves. "What could we have done different? What are others like us doing? How can we improve?" So when I see Big Ag repeat their same mistakes like overuse of antibiotics , overcrowding, and increased biosecurity when it has not proven successful in the past, I have to wonder (again) about their basic sanity levels.

We do isolate new animals when they are brought onto the farm. This only happens two-three times a year. And we do quasi-isolate sick animals but not alone. We will isolate them with a litter mate or another calf because animals like humans need companionship and they heal best when not in absolute isolation.

What I ask of you my fellow farmer is this. Take a drive. Observe the number of CAFO setups in your area and ask. "If this farmer is so proud of the way he is raising his animals why is there no Farm Sign or contact info outside those buildings? Why do they not invite consumers to tour? Why are those animals never taken to petting zoos or schools ?

The reasons why not...go way beyond Biosecurity.

* Source: from


  1. I agree with ~mel.

    I've also been delighted to hear that my pork mistress is raising piggies again this season, and yes, folks, i'm going the whole hog. I might draw the line at head cheese. And i might ask the butcher not to make me sausage, as i have a meat grinder now and would like to try a few sausage recipes myself.

    I wish people would understand how much power they truly have as consumers. I know there've been times where every penny counted to the point where yes, i've had to buy CAFO meat, but i'd rather do what i can not to have to do that and use my money to support my local farmer. If every person did that, even if just half the time, it would make a huge difference.

    1. Megan, our journey has been long and slow. 20 years ago when we first merged our families and were raising four kids while working full time we thought KFC chicken was fantastic. Now I won't touch it with a 10 foot pole. As we've learned and researched and TASTED the bad stuff we eat less and less of it. but we are no food saints...we just make better choices every single day. I am still fat from years of bad eating but 50 pounds less than I was 10 years ago. If I stay on this same track I should be at "healthy" weight by the time I'm 60. Just one more goal in an extremely long list.

  2. The sea of piglets in such close confinement! More reasons why I don't eat commercial pork, or chicken.

    It does make me nervous after your use of an orange as an example.

    1. Susan, don't be nervous, be happy. I'll carry the doomslayer touch for us all.

  3. Working on raising our own meat when and wherever possible. I know that I would much rather live a life cut short if I had grass under food and sky over head, snow, rain and sunshine in which to live. It stands to reason that if I would enjoy those things, then so too would the meat I eat. I am not fed pills every day of my life to protect against the myriad of diseases this world now has to offer so why would you do it to animals. The logic of CAFO's defies reason.

    1. The coolest thing is rabid little hippy (LOVE that name) is that sows in confinement are fortunate to have three litters and live 2-3 years before they die, or cannot breed back. On pasture our sows (so far) are living twice that. But we've only been doing this about 7 years.:)

  4. I totally agree with you AND with Frugal in Derb., we need to let the kids get dirty, maybe even (GASP) eat without scouring their hands! Maybe then we'd have much healthier kids!

    1. Truly the only real reason I have my GK's wash their hands is to get them out of the kitchen while I'm serving up the food!

  5. Your last paragraph says it all. Those secretive farm buildings, down well used drives, are probably responsible for most agricultural woes. Openness, honesty, and responsibility, are essential.

    A Bio wine producer has just been taken to court, over here, for NOT having sprayed his vines with insecticide. It's a funny old world!

    1. Wow. Really? Was he fined? Jailed? or just made to drink his own insecticide free wine? It is indeed a funny old world Cro. What was up is down , for sure.

  6. Oh cripes. When we were kids the things we ate right from the woods and fields, the animals we found and handled, even the occasional mouthful of dirt only seemed to make our immune systems stronger. As for confined quarters, ever since I stopped working in 2006, I've not had more than 2 colds and never a flu. Wide open spaces, fresh air, sunshine and clean water -- priceless in ANY economy. Great post, Donna.

  7. Me too Kris. For years while I worked as a nurse (over 25) I suffered with colds. All that antibacterial hand washing sure messed with my head.

  8. Seester! Well written, really well written, the U of I is going to have NO idea what is hitting them this fall!!
    ~ Maggie

    1. Maggie, you are too kind as always. I'm afraid through U of I is well aware of my return, they are already asking for a deposit to protect the grass on their Quad from my late night (past) "lay down" protests.

  9. When the government gets involved or "academic" types who live by data instead of experience are suggesting methods of farming/ranching, things can get ridiculous. Glad to see that you are enjoying the farm and letting other people do the same.


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