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Always Expect The Unexpected



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Sometimes when all is going well, it’s hard to imagine what can go wrong. That’s exactly what happened on our Sow Farm this Spring. Every farm has a ‘cash crop’.  A Cash Crop is a crop that is a dependable, ‘take it to the bank’ source of income.  Normally this crop carries the farm finances when adverse weather and market conditions affect other farm incomes. On our farm, our pigs and hogs are our Cash Crop.  Usually, the income from our swine, is steady and predictable.   

Then comes the spring of 2014.  A new production disease, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDV) had been creeping across the country from the mid-west.  PEDV is a virus that attacks the intestinal tracts of the pigs. (It is not zoonotic, so therefore it poses no risk to other animals or humans. Also, it poses no risk to food safety.)The smaller pigs die from dehydration very fast.  We had heard it was bad – but we beefed up our bio-security, cut back on unnecessary traffic on the farm, and held our breath.  But all was to no avail.  PEDV struck our farm in February.  Over the next 6 weeks, we lost 900 pigs per week from dehydration.  There was 100% mortality to all baby pigs that were 10 pounds and under.  Their little bodies couldn’t withstand the effects of the virus that attacked their intestinal systems.  The sows and older pigs got sick too, but were bigger and able to weather the virus. 

The Cure ? There is no cure.  It’s a virus, always mutating and changing….

The Solution ? As bad as it sounds, we took some of the dead pigs and harvested their infected intestines.  Then we ground that up and put it in the feed of the sows.  This was called: ‘A FeedBack’. This is a process recommended by swine veterinarians to help our sows build natural immunity. We did this twice to ‘inoculate’ the sows, and it worked (so far). Our sows are providing immunity to their baby pigs in a safe and natural way through their milk, so birthing rates are going back up and our weaning numbers are looking better !

The Effect ? I can’t explain how helpless you feel as you watch so many pigs die and there is nothing you can do.  You feel their suffering, you know you won’t be able to pay your bills, and Also, there was so much extra work in the burial, cleanup, and inoculation process.

The lesson ?  Always expect the unexpected and roll with the punches. Be prepared to weather the storm – even when your ‘Cash Crop’ is not your ‘Cash Crop’.Hopefully the ‘storm’ won’t last long and everyone will be smarter and stronger for ‘weathering’ the storm !

Sow Farm 20 

Written by Lorenda Overman

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