By Kent Andersen, U.S. Business Development
The impacts of livestock diseases are staggering and include lost sales, lost profits, lost consumer demand and loss of market access. Costs can also include depopulation and repopulation of a farm, which is a common strategy in hog production when there is an outbreak of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). In the US and Canada, PRRS is estimated to cause annual losses of around $664 million1 and $184 million respectively.2
Clinical signs of PRRS include sow mortality, going off feed, post-weaning mortality, increased mummies, and abortions. Abortions start about the same time as sows go off feed and increase very rapidly. Piglet mortality can be as high as 50-80% in severe breaks. In terms of average daily gain, pigs that were gaining 2-4 lbs per day can drop to one pound per day.
Carthage veterinarian Clayton Johnson writes that frustration with the economic effects of chronic health challenges and devastating downstream losses from severe PRRS viruses, including the newly 1C variant, have renewed interest in the depopulation and repopulation elimination approach, even among commercial herds.3
Assume a farm of 1,000 sows each weaning 25 pigs per year has a PRRS break. If the average value of each weaned pig is $36 (USD), the production loss would be $900,000 or the value of a full year of production.
Using some baseline numbers, it is possible to estimate the costs of depop-repop. Assume a farm of 1,000 sows each weaning 25 pigs per year (25,000 piglets) has a PRRS break. If the average value of each weaned pig is $36 (USD), the production loss would be $900,000 or the value of a full year of production because the weaned pigs would need an additional 6-7 months to reach maturity. If sows are replaced with mature gilts, the loss is estimated at $450,000.
This elimination approach has the most certain outcome but also comes with the highest costs. Speakers at Swine Health Ontario’s Big Bug Day 2022 noted that for a depop-repop, most of the financial loss is due to a reduction in output and most of the output is lost in the first three months after the PRRS break.4
For example, if a facility broke with PRRS on January 1 and the producer buys mature gilts, the production downtime would be 26 weeks. If depopulated sows are replaced with weaned pigs an additional 26 weeks (for a total of 52 weeks) would be needed to raise the young pigs to breeding age. For a depop-repop to be successful thorough cleaning of all areas of the farm is also necessary between the old and the new stock and all equipment should be either replaced or thoroughly cleaned and allowed to dry at ≥ 25°C for 14 days.5
It all adds up. The costs of depop-repop can exceed a million-dollar investment without any guarantee that there won’t be a repeat break. Having a strong biosecurity program is the lowest cost way to prevent losses from disease outbreaks. To learn more visit farmhealthguardian.com.