My View From The Country

PED Virus Worries U.S. Hog Industry

The presence of porcine epidemic diarrhea has now has been reported in swine herds in 16 states in the U.S., and confirmed in Iowa and North Carolina, the nation’s top two hog-producing states, respectively.

Most cattlemen probably have never heard of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED). However, if you’re in the hog industry, you definitely are aware of this hog disease that could be a major industry changer, if it becomes widespread.

There is no cure for this strain of swine virus that is extremely deadly to young pigs. PED hit the Chinese hog industry in 2010, and ended up costing that industry a million young pigs before it was brought under control.

PED’s presence now has been reported in swine herds in 16 states in the U.S., and has been confirmed in Iowa and North Carolina, the nation’s top two hog-producing states, respectively. The virus doesn’t affect humans or present a threat to the meat products, and the summer heat seems to slow down the virus, which should aid in control. However, significant concern remains that if the virus becomes widespread, it could ultimately impact U.S. hog slaughter numbers by decimating the number of pigs reaching weaning age. On the plus side, the U.S. hog industry is very adept at biosecurity, which analysts hope will help minimize the effects.

 

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However, PED remains a grave concern. Its timing is problematic for the U.S. pork industry, as it is engaged in an aggressive plan to wrest market share from beef. If the virus was to become widespread, it could reduce hog numbers and mitigate the price advantage that the hog industry was planning on leveraging in its campaign to capture market share from the beef sector.

From a cattle industry standpoint, the most disturbing part of the pork industry’s marketing strategy is that it thinks it can win favor on what has traditionally been beef’s strength. The pork industry not only believes it can buy market share based on price, in a fashion similar to what the poultry industry did, but it also believes it can win on taste, convenience, and overall eating experience. The bottom line is that the pork industry plans on attacking the value proposition, and it plans on using the beef industry’s nomenclature to do it.

 

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Discuss this Blog Entry 3

Jim McGrann (not verified)
on Jul 12, 2013

Its called being competitive!

W.E. (not verified)
on Jul 12, 2013

This is a perfect opportunity for cattlemen to enter a niche where only sheep and goats can compete with cattle: grassfed meat. For many years, our farm raised hogs according to pork industry protocols. The industry itself drove us out of the hog industry, thank God, just before prices dived to ten cents per pound during the mid-1990s. Too many of our hog producing neighbors stayed in, hoping for an upturn in the industry-driven market, and they lost their shirts. Now all of the small hog industry operations in our county are gone, down from hundreds during the 1980s and 90s, as larger corporate pork farms with "economies of scale" have taken over the industry from individual farmers. Industry is not the answer to the beef industry's cost dilemma. Grass is the beef industry's true advantage over chicken and pork. Chickens and pigs are omnivores. They must have some corn and soybeans in order to put on pounds. Domesticated cattle have been doing just fine without corn, thank you, for well over ten thousand years. Only in twentieth century America did corn become "necessary" for beef production. Grassfed meat is what our local customers want, more and more--an all-natural product raised entirely on pasture from conception to consumption. On the ranch or farm, truly good grassfed beef production takes good grass, good genetics and top-notch pasture, water and grazing management. On the processor end, it takes dry-cool aging and personalized customer service. On the customer end, it requires the knowledge of how to properly cook leaner grassfed beef. This has become a lost art; almost all the beef the cooks have ever dealt with for the past sixty years has been grainfed with plenty of seam and marbling fat to keep the meat "moist" (meaning basted with fat). If we cattlemen really want to compete with pork (which must have an omnivore's diet), we will take advantage of the fact that all cattle are ruminants. All we have to do is to change our minds, accept nature's ways, and focus on grass to change the beef industry.

Speedrite (not verified)
on Jul 16, 2013

I can respect your enthusiasm for grass fed cattle. I run 800 stock cows and finish what isn't kept back for replacements. Question, with all of the grass being turned into farm ground where would there even remotely be enough grass to finish even a fraction of todays fed cattle without corn. Plus, the average consumer I feel wouldn't pay the extra cost.

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What's My View From The Country?

As a fulltime rancher, opinion contributor Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how consumer and political trends affect livestock production.

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Troy Marshall

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

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