By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
The nationwide outbreak of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus not only stands to take a toll on pigs, but it also could hamper the summertime tradition of showing pigs at county fairs.
"We'll see a decline in the amount of hogs that are exhibited, especially people that have sow operations at home," said Pat Fisher, University of Missouri Extension 4-H youth specialist and co-county program director in Pike County. "People are being more aware of safety issues. If you happen to carry the disease home, it's very costly."
Monroe City, Mo., producer Scott Hays already has decided his family won't participate in fairs for the first time in 20 years.
"My kids are disappointed ... but until we get a handle on this thing, the risk is just too great," he said.
The virus already has killed millions of pigs in 28 states, and producers nationwide have stepped up security measures to prevent its spread.
Several counties, including Pike County, Mo., already have canceled pig weigh-ins normally done around mid- to late-April. The events prove ownership, identify all the pigs for showing and provide a baseline weight. The pigs are weighed again at the fair to determine which ones grew the best and were most efficient.
Counties also are looking at canceling livestock shows to avoid spreading the virus.
Doug Duncan, a swine show superintendent for the Adams County Fair, said no decision has been made for the week-long event starting in late July. He said there's no breeding stock at the fair's open show, and animals come in and leave the same day.
Tim Maiers, director of industry and public relations for the Illinois Pork Producers Association, said livestock shows can provide an avenue for spreading the disease, so youth exhibitors should be closely watching pigs.
"If they're showing any signs (of PED), don't take pigs to any shows," he said.
Brock Bailey teaches about the risks of PED in his ag classes at Bowling Green (Mo.) High School and at home. He expects large producers will have more issues with showing.
"People with large numbers of breeding animals at home take extra biosecurity measures as they leave the farm and come back to herds," he said. "They have to make sure they follow a protocol that will ensure their herd is safe."
Shows also may change their protocol for participants.
"One of the other recommendations put out is shows should be a terminal show (where you do) not bring animals back to the farm," Daniel Mallory, MU Extension livestock specialist based in New London, Mo., said.