Washing hog transports in the U.S. before they return to Canada sounds good in theory — but it may actually increase the threat of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus here.
“We are extremely concerned about this because essentially we’re going to be sending trailers to be firehose washed at some point in the U.S. where they will probably pick up some PED virus and will be adding to the viral load that our producers currently have to deal with in this province,” Andrew Dickson, general manager of the Manitoba Pork Council, said during a recent Alberta Pork telephone town hall.
As of Oct. 1, trucks returning to Canada after dropping swine off in the U.S. will be required to be disinfected and cleaned at American facilities before entering Canada. Previously, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency allowed these trucks to be sealed in the U.S. and disinfected once in Manitoba. Most of the swine carriers pass through Manitoba, but with no wash required when trucks pass between provinces, the threat applies to all three Prairie provinces.
“If no further washing or disinfecting of trucks is done in Canada before the truck is being brought to an Albertan farm, there will be significantly higher risk for Alberta producers,” said Dickson.
Manitoba has had five cases of PEDv — with none in the rest of Western Canada — but it’s endemic in the U.S., with about half of its sow herd infected.
The problem is that there are few truck washes along the major U.S. highways used by livestock truckers. And they have poor water quality, and lower standards for cleaning and disinfection.
“Many of them couldn’t handle the types of trailers that we were sending down to the U.S. because they had bedding material in them and a lot of U.S. transporters don’t use bedding material,” said Dickson.
A recent study found few American truck washes on major transportation routes were able to meet the wash, disinfect and dry standards recommended by the Canadian Swine Health Board. Since February of 2014, Canadian Border Services has been tagging empty livestock trailers and submitting the tag numbers to the CFIA.
“Then the trailers would proceed to a certified wash station in Canada and be washed and disinfected according to rules laid out by the Canadian Swine Health Board,” said Dickson.
“This had worked relatively well for the last 18 months. You can see from the number of cases that we got in Manitoba, that we had relatively few cases compared to other parts of Canada and compared to the United States.”
But in early 2015, the CFIA said it had a legal obligation to maintain the old regulations and was going to discontinue the tag system. Transports returning from American farms will now have to be washed and disinfected in the U.S., while transports returning from American processing facilities will only have to be scraped out. The province of Manitoba tried to negotiate a deal to administer the program, but the negotiations were fruitless.
“Essentially CFIA demanded that the province accept full liability for introduction of all farm animal diseases into Canada,” said Dickson. “The province is not financially in a position to do that.”
The Manitoba Pork Council has proposed detailed, amended regulations on truck washing to reduce the risk of PEDv catching a ride north on transport trailers. Pork organizations, including Alberta Pork, are urging producers to speak to their MP about the threat.