Sanctuary!! - When veterinarians attack!

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Last weekend my youngest children were introduced to the Disney animated movie “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. It had been many years since I had seen it myself and I had forgotten most of it, even though my oldest children grew up watching it repeatedly. If you’ve never seen the movie, it’s the story of a disfigured young man born of gypsy heritage in Paris, raised in the sanctuary of Notre Dame cathedral. He becomes enamored with a young gypsy woman who saves him from a severe mob hazing in his first venture outside the cathedral walls. A pinnacle moment in the movie is when he swings down from the top of the cathedral to rescue the young woman who is being burned at the stake. He sets her free and carries her to the top of the cathedral, raising her unconscious, limp body over his head as he shouts repeatedly to the masses below, “Sanctuary!! Sanctuary!! Sanctuary!!!!”

As I watched the movie with my children and the story began to come back to me, I couldn’t help thinking about current issues within the swine industry in my home state of Wisconsin. The Notre Dame cathedral was considered a “safe place”; a place where those in trouble, those being persecuted, and those in need of help could find a place where they could claim sanctuary, be safe from the outside world and find the help they need. It served as both a place of freedom and a place of imprisonment at the same time. As long as you remained within the walls of Notre Dame you were safe from the outside world. Step outside the walls however, and you had people waiting there to harm you.

The state of Wisconsin recently implemented new testing requirements for movement of pigs within our state, as well as for pigs entering Wisconsin from other states. As of February 1st, all pigs moving within the state and all pigs entering the state must come from herds that have been tested for PRRS and SECD (PED and Delta Corona virus). If the herd of origin tests negative for both diseases within 90 days of movement, they are safe to move without a special import permit. The pigs must be accompanied by a CVI (health paper) including the negative test results on the certificate. If the herd of origin tests positive, an import permit will be required in order to bring them to Wisconsin. In order to obtain the import permit, the buyer has to meet the state requirements for quarantines, testing and herd health plans after import.

For pigs entering Wisconsin from out of state that come from a comingled site, for example a consignment auction of several breeders, each origin herd participating in the sale must have a negative PRRS and SECD test within 90 days of the date of movement in order to enter Wisconsin without an import permit. If even one of the consignors doesn’t have the required testing or tested positive, all pigs coming from that event will be subject to the import permit in order to enter the state. The same rule applies for comingled pigs from within the state. Again, in order to obtain the permit, the buyer has to comply with the state requirements for quarantines, testing and herd health plans after bring the pigs home.

There are exceptions made for hogs entering Wisconsin and going directly to slaughter and for hogs entering Wisconsin for veterinary treatment and being returned to the origin farm. Pretty much any other movement of hogs within our state falls under the testing requirements.

Testing at the farms can be done by blood testing or rope testing using saliva for the tests. Farms should do this quarterly to maintain their negative status, much like pseudorabies and brucellosis validation.

One can easily imagine all the scenarios in which this new regulation complicates the everyday lives of small producers, showpig breeders and swine project 4H members in Wisconsin. Think about looking for 4H pigs for your kids this spring. Can you buy them from a consignment sale? Are all the participating breeders tested negative? Can you bring them from out-of-state? Has the breeder done the required testing? What about show-animal truckers who comingle pigs from several breeders and cross state lines? Can you have your pig delivered from an online sale?

What about show day? Can you take your pig back home after the show? Will all the Wisconsin fairs go to terminal shows only, meaning all hogs go to slaughter after the show? What about spring jackpot shows?

Can you buy a breeding gilt at World Pork Expo or STC and bring it back to Wisconsin? What about small farmers who sell commercial feeder pigs at the local auction barn? Will there be any buyers there? Everyone who brings pigs to the auction must meet the requirements. The state department of agriculture and the veterinarians are working through all of these scenarios as they come about.

Think about the amount of testing that will need to be done. Any farm who intends to sell a pig to another individual other than directly to slaughter will need to do the testing. Every movement, even within the state, will need to be accompanied with a health paper. What about farms that test positive? They are going to have to work with their veterinarian to implement an approved herd-health plan in order to be compliant.

All of this adds up to a big win for the veterinarians! This creates lots of additional work that isn’t currently being done adding up to additional revenue for them. Many producers are disgruntled or downright upset about these new changes. Many see this as just another government overreach making their lives more difficult and fattening the pockets of a select group at their expense. Many feel as though they are under attack from the veterinarians and the state of Wisconsin. They need to seek sanctuary!!

What is the purpose of these new, somewhat burdensome regulations? Is it really necessary? While change is often hard to accept and it’s easy to become upset and defensive when presented with these new challenges, there is a definite long-term benefit to following the plan and putting some trust in the veterinarians. This isn’t about lining their pockets so much as it is about eradicating some very harmful diseases from our pig population. If you look back in time, you can see that veterinarians led the charge to eliminate diseases in the past, such as hog cholera, foot and mouth disease, brucellosis and pseudorabies. These are all very dangerous diseases that virtually do not exist in the US as they do in many other countries around the world. It’s primarily because of the diligent work of veterinarians in implementing regulations, tests and procedures to eradicate these diseases in the past that they are no longer an issue here as they once were.

The ultimate goal here is eradication of PRRS and SECD from the US swine population. Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of dealing with these diseases can appreciate the effort. While that ultimate goal is likely a long way into the future, it will never be obtained if we do not start somewhere. Wisconsin is a logical place to start. Wisconsin has low hog density as compared with IL, IA, MN and other Midwest states. It’s within reach of those states to transport healthy weaned pigs and feeders pigs from Wisconsin to other states for finishing. Wisconsin has relatively healthy herds as compared with those other states as well. The first step is identifying any positive herds within the state and putting a plan in place to get them healthy and testing negative. Prohibiting positive pigs from entering the state then could eventually lead to Wisconsin becoming a sort of “sanctuary state” where all hogs here are free from PRRS and SECD. If this can be achieved and maintained, the next step would be to begin implementing this in other regions of the US.

There are questions as to whether any of this is actually attainable. It seems like an enormous challenge, especially given the prevalence of these diseases in places like Iowa, southern Minnesota and North Carolina. The number of hogs and hog farms in some areas make the task look very daunting. Some say it will never happen. However there are other technologies available to help combat disease, most notably genetic modification and selection of genes for disease resistance. Perhaps as these new advancements come to fruition they can combine with the control efforts being put into place with these new regulations to make eradication a reality. Meanwhile, if you are feeling attacked; if the new regulations have your head spinning and you need to get things off your chest, you can come here! You can vent your frustration and ask your questions in the comments section here in Darin’s Pig Pen. We will do our best to help you work through this. We will provide sanctuary!


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