A quick-spreading, relentless pig virus continues to impact pork production across the country.
Porcine epidemic diarrhea, or PED, has been reported in 23 states (hitting Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Kansas especially hard) and also, in Canada (reporting its first case in January 2014). To date, the virus has killed pigs on 3,000 U.S. farms. Though all swine are susceptible to the virus, piglets are especially vulnerable (adult pigs typically recover). Since the first reported incident of the virus last spring in Iowa, PED has killed about 1 million baby pigs in the U.S., resulting in fewer hogs going to the market.
As such, hog prices are expected to go up as demand for pork rises. But of greater worry, the virus shows no evidence of tapering off. Vaccines are in the works and one has already hit the market; however, this particular vaccine is not 100% effective as it’s incapable of protecting all piglets in infected herds.
For all the pork lovers out there wondering if this will escalate bacon prices, the answer is: not yet.
Other factors influence pork prices, including feed price which, this year, is down due to the large corn harvest in 2013. Also, though 1 million piglets sounds substantial, it really is not in the grander scheme of things. A USDA report from December 2013 estimated the total U.S. swine population at 66 million. So, 1 million represents but a small percentage of the industry. Though small, these losses will greatly impact pork producers that didn’t send as many full-size hogs to the market.
Before a vaccine surfaces, pork producers are strongly encouraged to stiffen their operations, minimize contact with other farms, and limit farm visitors.
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