Two years ago, we were continually reading and reporting about the latest cases of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus in the United States. The virus, which caused widespread losses in the U.S. pig industry after first entering the United States in 2013, has sure received a lot less attention in recent months, but a look at the September 25 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report proves that PED virus needs to be brought to people’s attention once again.
Only this time, the focus isn’t on how the virus is causing so much turmoil for pig producers, but rather on patting the North American pig industry on the back for collaborating so well and helping one another rebound from those losses.
Actually, the word “rebound” is an understatement when describing this resilience. U.S pig producers set a pair of records on September 1. The U.S. inventory of all hogs and pigs on that date was nearly 6.4 million head, a 4 percent improvement when compared to the same date in 2014, and the highest number ever recorded since USDA began preparing the report in 1988.
It is a similar story with the market hog inventory, which at 62.4 million head is up 4 percent from the previous year and again the highest number on record.
“We’re really talking about a continuation of the gradual expansion of production following the recovery in inventories from porcine epidemic diarrhea virus,” Shayle Shagam, USDA livestock analyst, said during a USDA Radio News report.
The industry – both in the U.S. and Canada – did well in identifying the virus, stepping up biosecurity efforts, learning about immunity in herds, and focusing on issues with feed that may add to the risk of the virus spreading throughout the industry. Some people even called the heightened communication and cooperation at the time “unprecedented.”
Some of the increase in pig production does need to be credited to farmers and pork companies expanding their herds as they took advantage of lower feed prices, but the bulk of the credit in my book goes to those who sought information about the mysterious virus, gained and shared that information, and put what was learned into practice.