In May of 2013 the United States Department of Agriculture notified the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) of an outbreak of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) in a small number of swine herds in the States. By January 2014, the virus had crossed the border, with the first case of PED confirmed on a farm in Middlesex County, Ontario.
The virus is persistent in cold, and beyond direct contact, can spread through clothing, hands, boots, equipment and anything else contaminated with the feces of infected animals. Since its initial reports, much has been done to mitigate the risk of disease spread, with biosecurity considerations extending into manure management.
“As we all know, biosecurity has always been important to manure applicators,” says John Carney of the Manitoba Livestock Manure Management Initiative (MLMMI). “But certainly with this disease now, it elevates the risk.”
The MLMMI was set up in 1998 to address manure odour and management concerns. Today, the organization is fielding questions over PED, publishing ongoing research and biosecurity guidelines that address the risks of disease spread. Carney recently spoke about biosecurity at the Manitoba Agronomists Conference and the Prairie Livestock Expo in Winnipeg.
“I do want to stress that I don’t know of any cases where PED has been spread from farm to farm by manure application equipment,” reassures Carney. “I don’t want to leave the impression that this is a high-risk area…It’s one of many risk factors that each producer is aware of and is managing.”
Still, for manure applicators, the challenges with biosecurity are vast, according to Carney. There’s a lack of direct access to lagoons, and a need for further training and communication. Time can also prove incredibly limiting, as washing and disinfecting equipment is not a short process.
Besides maintaining clean equipment and clothing, manure applicators should avoid coming into contact with pigs, rotate livestock sources, use an access separate from daily farm use, agitate storages and fully cover manure with soil (see full list of guidelines from OMAFRA).
PED has been confirmed in Ontario, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and Quebec. The virus does not pose a risk to human health or food safety.
For more on the challenges and opportunities for manure applicators, check out the full interview with John Carney, included below.