Hog groups moving on PRRS-free certification pilot

Prairie hog producer agencies are close to launch on a pilot program to certify hog herds as free of a costly viral disease.

The Canadian Swine Health Board is spearheading a protocol under which farmers selling hogs or boar semen will be able to certify their herds or product as free of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS).

The hope for what’s been named the Western Canada PRRS-Free Herd Certification Pilot Project is to have a number of herds working toward certification within the next three to four months, according to Harvey Wagner of Saskatchewan’s pork industry development board, Sask Pork.

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Information on the pilot project will be sent to producers and veterinarians within the next two to three weeks, Wagner said on the pork industry-sponsored program Farmscape.

Producers will then sign up, samples will be collected and testing will begin, he said.

“Basically they have to test at least 60 different animals in their herd to hit the magic target, or the points required to achieve certification, and after that they’ll have to do ongoing testing,” said Wagner, Sask Pork’s producer services manager.

Testing on breeding boars already has to be done on a “weekly or biweekly” basis anyway, he said, because the boars’ semen is shipped to other farms regularly, so producers will want to make sure any sign of PRRS is caught within a week to 10 days.

“Breeding stock farms send out groups of animals on a somewhat less regular basis, so they don’t have to test quite as frequently,” he said. 

Farmers shipping feeder pigs would have to test less frequently, as the “downstream risks” are fewer for those animals, Wagner told Farmscape’s Bruce Cochrane.

More information on the pilot project is available from by contacting any of the provincial pork organizations in Manitoba, Saskatchewan or Alberta.

While not known to cause illness in people, PRRS is considered by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to be the “most economically important” viral disease of intensive hog farming in both Europe and North America, causing reproductive failure in sows and respiratory illness in piglets and feeder hogs.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency classifies PRRS as “annually notifiable,” meaning it’s present in Canada but not considered immediately reportable. CFIA must submit reports on PRRS’s presence in this country each year to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

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