P.E.I. government approves funding for hog farm sanitation, screening

Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 19, 2014
Pigs are pictured at a pig barn at an Ontario farm in a handout photo. Officials have  confirmed a case of the highly contagious pig virus that has ravaged herds across the U.S. has now been found in Prince Edward Island

The P.E.I. government has approved $115,000 in financial aid to hog farmers for increased sanitation and screening measures, now that a case of the deadly pig virus has been confirmed in the province.

Tim Seeber, executive director of the P.E.I. Hog Commodity Marketing Board, said the board requested government assistance close to a month ago but received no response.

Then late Tuesday afternoon, The Guardian received a statement from the Department of Agriculture confirming the funding would be forthcoming.

“The department moved swiftly to approve the project and was ready to launch the program within two days of notification that porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) had been diagnosed on P.E.I.,” says a statement emailed to The Guardian Tuesday.

The first reported case in P.E.I. was detected by a veterinary lab last week and confirmed on Sunday.

But hog producers in the province have been undergoing stringent cleaning and disinfecting measures for some time now, especially after the virus was first confirmed to have arrived in Canada last month.

Ever since, Seeber says Island hog farmers have been incurring numerous additional costs as a result of these heightened bio-security measures, especially for trucks that must transport hogs from P.E.I. to the nearest processing plant in Quebec.

“The costs of totally cleaning, washing, disinfecting and drying a truck adds about $4 a hog to our transportation costs,” Seeber said. “That is a huge increase and if we want to keep this disease at bay, we’ll have to do that going forward and that is a significant impact on the industry.”

The $115,000 in funding announced Tuesday will be delivered to the hog board to administer a project to enhance swine farm bio-security.

This will cover costs such as sanitation equipment required to properly wash and disinfect vehicles and equipment; training for individuals on bio-security by veterinarians, as well as special bio-secure entries to pig barns and pig loading facilities.

“The department also is covering expenses associated with the provincial veterinarian in determining the source of the disease. The department will cover environmental sampling costs by the provincial vet as well as the lab testing costs,” a department spokeswoman wrote in an email to The Guardian.

Prices for P.E.I. hogs are not expected to be negatively impacted by the fact the virus has been found here. In fact, the loss of so many piglets as a result of this highly contagious swine illness in the U.S. has driven up demand.

“They figure over a million hogs have been taken out of the U.S. market, which drives up the Canadian price. I guess that’s the only plus side of this disease,” Seeber said.

There have been no other cases of the virus found in P.E.I., but producers are taking no chances. All pig farms have strict sanitation measures in place and are taking all precautions necessary to prevent the spread of the disease.

And now they have some provincial dollars to help with these additional measures.

“It’s just a matter of just being a little bit more diligent in everything that we do,” Seeber said.