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Scientists to study true costs of PRRS to US hog farmers

The true costs of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) to US pig farms is set to be investigated by scientists looking at the effects of the disease on the country’s pork sector.

Researchers at Iowa State University are embarking on a three-year study to find out how PRRS is affecting US pig farm profitability and sustainability, reports National Hog Farmer.

Funded by the National Pork Board, the study will reveal how much PRRS costs farmers each year, as well as investigate how effective management practices introduced to control the disease have been.

The study is the second to be carried out by the team, after research done in 2012 showed that annual losses associated with the virus were as much as $664 million, making PRRS the costliest disease to affect the sector.

Since then, producers have implemented various practices to control the disease, including vaccines and strategic sanitation of facilities. The updated study will investigate what impact those efforts have made.

Research leader Donald Holtkamp, associate professor of veterinary diagnostic and production medicine, said PRRS remains a recurring challenge for the US pork sector, with 20 to 40% of breeding herds experiencing outbreaks each year.

“It is a clever virus,” he said. “It changes rapidly to keep a pig’s immune system from fighting it off. We have vaccine, but their efficacy is often limited.”

Holtkamp said the study will use data from pork producers, as well as surveys and diagnostic data from local vets.

He and his team will release quarterly updates on the economic effects of the virus for the next three years.

“This is a way to measure the progress we’ve been making against the pathogen and the disease it causes,” Holtkamp added.

“We’ll be able to see if we’re moving the ball on PRRS. I think we are and will continue to do so.”

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