4-H swine rules to change

Farm Forum

County and state swine shows will continue to take place in South Dakota, but the tagging process will change this year because of growing concerns about a new virus affecting pigs.

Dr. Russ Daly, South Dakota State University Extension veterinarian, said porcine epidemic diarrhea virus causes severe diarrhea in pigs and can be fatal in piglets because they are more susceptible to dehydration and still have a developing digestive system.

Megan Nielson, 4-H youth livestock field specialist, said no spring weigh-ins will take place this year.

During weigh-ins, pigs are weighed and tagged and DNA samples are collected, but this process also creates a situation where there’s a higher chance of disease transmission because pigs are coming together in one area, according to Nielson.

“It’s unnecessary to bring those animals together,” Nielson said.

So, an alternative process, already being used in Minnesota and Wisconsin, has been adopted. Animals will not be weighed and families will be provided ear tags for their 4-H animals and an envelope that can be used to submit DNA samples.

“It’s new for South Dakota, but other states have moved toward that for biosecurity reasons,” Nielson said.

Qualifications for 4-H swine entries for the state fair also have changed. Nielson said that in previous years, 4-H entries were required to enter a county fair and receive a purple ribbon to qualify for the state fair. That’s no longer a requirement, so those interested in state competition can bypass the county fair, lessening the pigs’ chances for contamination.

Nielson said the rule change was adopted because entries in the county fair often return home before going to the state fair. Through this process, she said, families run the risk of exposing their pig to the virus then bringing it back to their farm.

Entries at a state fair don’t return home. Nielson said, after the state fair, swine entries are taken to John Morrell and Co., where they are slaughtered.

Nielson said qualifications for other livestock exhibitors have not changed.

This new virus only affects pigs and was first detected in the United States last spring. It’s a virus that has been present in Europe since the 1970s, Daly said. It’s transmitted through contact with manure from infected animals, but it’s unknown how the virus made its way to the United States.

“A lot of pigs have been lost to this,” Daly said. “Just how many have been dropped in the production cycle, we don’t know.”

Daly said reported cases have been hit and miss across South Dakota.

Daly said piglets who are infected have a higher probability of death from dehydration. In older pigs, the virus will run its course in seven to 11 days.

“Once the farm goes through it, (the pigs) have an immunity that protects them for a little while,” said Daly, explaining that some farms have reported a second round of the virus.

“Not a lot is known about how it works,” he said. “I think it’s something we have to deal with from now on. Over the next few years, our animals will become more accustomed to it and have an immune response and that will result in fewer lost over time. Until we get to that point, we’re going to have some death loss.”

Reporter Jeff Bahr contributed to this story. Follow @ElisaSand_aan on Twitter.