Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Deadly Piglet Virus Came From China

Veterinary researchers at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine have helped identify the origin of an emerging swine virus with high mortality rates that has spread to at least 17 U.S. states since it was first identified in May.

A team of researchers led by Dr. X.J. Meng, University Distinguished Professor of Molecular Virology traced the likely origin of the emergent porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) to a strain from the Anhui province in China.

“The virus typically only affects nursery pigs and has many similarities with transmissible gastroenteritis virus of swine,” said Meng. “There is currently no vaccine against porcine epidemic diarrhea virus in the United States. Although some vaccines are in use in Asia, we do not know whether they would work against the U.S. strains of the virus.”

The sudden emergence of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, which belongs to the coronavirus family, has caused economic and public health concerns in the United States.

Ongoing outbreaks of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus in humans from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula and the historical deadly nature of the 2002 outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus make the emergence of PEDV in the United States a serious concern.

Researchers have found no evidence that the virus can spread to humans or pose a threat to food safety. They did, however, find evidence that the U.S. strains share several genetic features with a bat coronavirus — findings which point to an evolutionary origin from bats and the potential for cross-species transmission.

Though commonly accepted that the virus spreads through the fecal-oral route, scientists have not yet ruled out the possibility of other transmission routes. Symptoms include acute vomiting, anorexia, and watery diarrhea with high mortality rates in pigs less than 10 days old.

Sources: mBio, October 15, 2013. “Origin, Evolution, and Genotyping of Emergent Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus Strains in the United States”
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Artwork: Pig (Getting Cozy)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cornfields a Good Source for Low-Cost Cattle Feed

Despite what appears to be a more bountiful harvest compared to last year, cattle farmers are continuing to experience the pinch of elevated feed costs. Hay prices have remained at record levels, corn co-product feeds have been slow to lower in price, and land values and pasture rents are still elevated.

Hay prices have stayed at record levels because of depleted inventories due to last year’s drought, winter-kill issues in early 2013, and a slow start to the haying season due to a wet spring.

Competition for acreage from corn and soybeans has also contributed to expensive forage costs. It is evident that forage prices will remain elevated into 2014, and cattlemen need to be looking to alternative forages. Nearby cornfields can offer the most economical alternative to high-priced forage.

“The best way to use a harvested cornfield is to allow cattle to graze it,” says University of Illinois beef extension educator Travis Meteer. “Cattle graze selectively, looking for the more palatable feedstuffs. In the case of cornstalkgrazing, the more palatable   parts of the plant are also more nutritious. Cattle first eat the remaining corn grain, then husks, then leaves, and finally the stalk.”

The cost of grazing cornstalks is low first because the cows graze and harvest their own feed, and second, because all costs to produce the plant for grain production are attributed to the row-crop operation. Even with the cost of a temporary fence (which many farmers already have) and water, grazing cornstalks is more economical than feeding high-priced hay.

“Cattle will eat the more digestible and higher-protein portions first,” Meteer said. “Therefore, a good mineral is probably the only supplementation needed for the first month unless the herd includes fall-calving cows or stocker calves. For them, a supplement will be necessary to meet nutrient demands of lactation and growth, respectively.”

Grazing stalks can also benefit subsequent crops. Cows grazing cornstalks for 60 days will remove approximately 30 to 40 percent of the residue, Meteer said. Residue buildup has been a well-documented problem in many corn-on-corn fields with new hybrids. Cows deposit nutrients in the form of manure back on the field. As they graze, they reduce volunteer corn, considered a weed and a yield robber in soybean fields.

Source: University of Illinois Extension

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Artwork: Cattle Grazing by Johannes-Hubertus-Leonardus De Haas