Fair officials in La Crosse County are considering their options after the state issued warnings and new restrictions on showing swine this year to prevent the spread of a virus blamed for killing millions of pigs nationwide.
The state veterinarian Tuesday banned the spring weigh-ins for swine intended for 2014 competition and recommended fairs conduct only “terminal” shows in which the pigs go directly to slaughter afterwards.
“The understanding would be those animals would not be leaving the grounds to go back to the farm,” said Steve Huntzicker, agricultural agent for the La Crosse County UW Extension.
Both moves are intended to avoid pigs mingling and potentially passing along the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or PEDv, which causes diarrhea, vomiting and severe dehydration in swine. Wisconsin so far has only six confirmed cases of PEDv, but other states have been hit hard, with up to 4 million pigs lost since it surfaced in the U.S. in April 2013. It is especially lethal in piglets.
The state took the latest steps after the number of confirmed PEDv reports hit a new high last week. It has been found in 23 states so far, with neighboring Iowa accounting for nearly 40 percent of the cases.
While he knows of no PEDv reported in the county, Huntzicker said he understands the need for precautions to safeguard the pork and swine industry.
“It’s a devastating virus,” Huntzicker said.
He and others connected with the La Crosse Interstate Fair now must decide what type of swine show to have at this year’s event in mid-July. The fair annually draws 150 to 175 pigs, some of which are breeding stock rather than just market hogs.
Fairs and exhibitions that don’t restrict swine to terminal events could face possible state action if PEDv is suspected at the show, warned Paul McGraw, state veterinarian at the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. All pigs would be quarantined and, if the virus is confirmed, likely sold for slaughter.
The state’s announcement this week gives the county until April or May to see whether PEDv continues to spread before making the final call, Huntzicker said.
“People will need to be patient,” Huntzicker said, “as this gets worked out.”