April 2015

Associate Photo
Jessica Newberry
Manager, Technical Services
Dear Subscriber: Welcome to Phibro ProSM, a newsletter for professionals in the swine production industry. Six to eight times a year, we will send you this e-newsletter with helpful information designed to help improve your business.

Dr. Matt Ackerman was one of the first veterinarians in the United States to experience an outbreak of Porcine Endemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv) at a client’s farm in Indiana. Since that time, he’s generously shared his hard-earned knowledge with others in the industry through presentations and speaking engagements in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Europe.

The following is an overview of thoughts and observations he recently shared with us regarding PEDv seasonality, the producer practices he recommends and his thoughts on both the short- and long-term outlook for the disease.

Along with his business partner Dr. Larry Rueff, Dr. Ackerman oversees about 75,000 sows in a seven-state region, in addition to clients served in Southeast Asia, through their Swine Veterinary Services practice in Greensburg, Indiana. Extrapolating that number to 1.5 million marketed pigs, Swine Veterinary Services touches about one percent of U.S. production.

Dr. Matt Ackerman’s Future PEDv Outlook

Dr. Matt Ackerman has as much firsthand experience as anyone regarding the challenges of PEDv.

Dr. Matt Ackerman

Dr. Ackerman said University of Minnesota data clearly shows what the industry knows from experience – that  PEDv is a tougher disease to fight in winter than in the summertime.

Even though PEDv outbreaks during the winter of 2014-2015 were relatively under control, we still are going to be living with this disease for a long time, Dr. Ackerman said.

PEDv: Dr. Ackerman’s Current Approach and Recommendations

Dr. Ackerman said: “I would encourage people to wean down to 10 days of age to get as many pigs as you can off the farm. Number one, the piglets are less likely to get sick. If they are sick, they’re more likely to survive off the farm than on the farm, off the mother than on the mother. This approach lessens the viral load on the farm as this virus starts to propagate through the population.

“Of those animals that are left, try not to infect the animals that are less than 10 days of age and wean them out once they’re above 10 days of age. I would provide Oral Live Virus Exposure (OLVE) (previously known as "feedback") to the sows.

“Get all of the sows infected with OLVE to propagate the virus. I would do it once, and I would watch for whichever animals didn’t break and infect them again. Basically, this is the same protocol we used on our first farm that broke with PEDv. We haven't seen a need to deviate from that protocol. And then, do everything you can to focus on cleaning up the unit after that. Three weeks later, make sure that everything’s getting washed down and cleaned up,” Dr. Ackerman said.

“Our strategy from the beginning has been to eliminate this disease. We didn’t feel it was something we could afford to live with, so we worked to eliminate the disease. We assumed that since it was an enteric coronavirus, what would happen is: we would infect all the animals on the farm, and those animals would have immunity, and then we’d roll them back into the farm, and we’d let the virus die out on its own," Dr. Ackerman said.

“It was summertime (May 2013) for us at the first farm that broke in Indiana – and the virus died out.  After eight weeks, we didn’t have any more clinical signs. We were back to 100 percent of production. And within 120 days, we were able to produce negative weaned pigs. About the same time that happened, the virus died out in the nursery and in the finishers. So, we were saying, ‘Hey, the virus is gone!’ Yes, we realized the virus could still be on the farm at some level, but we went six months and never saw any scours. That six months was the best weaned pig production in the farm’s history,” Dr. Ackerman said.

“So, we are continuing to try and roll farms negative and continue to bring in either naïve gilts (which have never been exposed to the virus) or negative gilts (which are exposed in isolation and cooled down [testing PEDv negative] before coming back into the farm). Those are our two main strategies today.” 

Sows and Baby Pigs: "Stabilize the Gut"

“Whenever you have an enteric virus running through your farm, do whatever you can to stabilize the gut. You have to be watching out for secondary Salmonella or secondary E. coli infections that can really cause a problem,” Dr. Ackerman said.  

“While we are implementing ‘feedback,’ or ‘oral live vaccine’ I recommend we include Neo-Terramycin® in the sow diets for 10 to 14 days at 10 milligrams per pound of body weight. I want to be sure we always stay on label. If we are having just PEDv with related Salmonella concerns in the nursery pigs, we’ll go with Mecadox® first to address the Salmonella. If we get into more of our respiratory-type challenge along with the scours we consider other programs such as Neo-Terramycin." Please be sure and work with your veterinarian to confirm any disease challenge and to develop a medication strategy that is right for your herd situation. Culture and sensitivity work should drive your medication decision making.

“You can’t just keep telling people you need to improve sanitation. You need to make sure you get the gut stabilized and keep it healthy.”


Dr. Ackerman continues: “In the area of sanitation at the farm, we like to think that if we do 10 percent better, that it’s going to make all the difference in the world. But in the area of sanitation, on some farms we have to do 100 percent better. And to do 100 percent better, it’s going to take more people and more resources in that area to make the right things happen. While that is a challenge – the key is to have good people that will stay focused on getting the job done, especially in these emotionally challenging times – we’ve had great people really step up and make a difference.”

Industry Communications

When asked about farm level communication, Dr. Ackerman responded, “Internally, we try and keep the employees all informed about what we know, what we don’t know, and what we’re trying to figure out. Everyone needs to understand that we are using the best information to date and trying to figure out a solution from there.

“There’s been a lot of good communication within this industry. I really think this industry should be commended on the way that it has handled the PEDv/PDCoV issue with open and honest communication, not only within the industry organizations, but also between production companies and with government (state and federal) organizations as well.”

Recommendation(s) for the Utilization of Neo-Terramycin in the Grower and Finisher Phase

“A lot of people say, ‘Well, PEDv really doesn’t have an impact on the nursery or finisher.’ And in general, that’s true. But, on some farms and some systems, I’ve seen mortalities exceed 20 percent in individual groups where people thought, ‘I just have some PEDv.’ And the next thing you know they’ve got a bunch of pigs dying of scour. You’ve got to be watching out for those secondary infections with Salmonella and/or E. coli that can really cause a problem. So, whether that’s Neo-Terramycin or Mecadox for enterics – you’ve got to stabilize the gut in nursery and finishing populations.”

What is the True Cost of PEDv?

Dr. Ackerman said that Derald Holtkamp at Iowa State University has estimated this is a $300 million disease to the U.S. industry right now. Divide that by 100 million pigs that went to market last year; it’s costing us $3.00 a pig across the entire industry right now. From the University of Minnesota SHMP data, it appears that 52 percent of the sow farms had been infected in the first year, so we’ve lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 million pigs.

He stressed that the economics of controlling PEDv up front are very compelling. 

Recommendations for Those Who Have Not Broken with PEDv

In conclusion, Dr. Ackerman offers some advice that on the surface may sound flippant. However he is being absolutely sincere:   

“The first thing I recommend is not to get PEDv. You need to take this disease very seriously. Do anything you can to avoid getting this disease.”

For a fascinating first-person look at Dr. Ackerman’s personal experiences with uncovering the PEDv disease in the United States, see below.

It Looks Like TGE

Sometimes in veterinary medicine you can be so certain about what you are dealing with that you don’t believe lab tests that tell you it’s not what you think. Dr. Matt Ackerman learned this when he initially encountered Porcine Endemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv) in spring 2013.

Dr. Ackerman, partner at Swine Veterinary Services in Greensburg, Indiana, was one of the first veterinarians to encounter and treat PEDv in the United States. He recalls that initial experience with the deadly virus on a farm in Indiana. “When we first saw it, we were convinced it was TGE,” he said, referring to transmissible gastroenteritis, a viral disease that affects swine of all ages and, like PEDv, is characterized by diarrhea and vomiting.  “The farm called me and said, ‘We think we’ve got TGE at the sow farm.’”

None of the farm employees had ever encountered TGE, so the farm manager called Ackerman to get his diagnosis. They had sows in gestation that had diarrhea and were vomiting.  They also had piglets, 10- to 14-days-old, in the farrowing house with a profuse watery scour. The piglets were lying on top of the sows.

“I considered the differential diagnoses – it could be Salmonella, it could be E. coli, it could be rotavirus – but with those clinical pictures I was convinced it was TGE,” said Dr. Ackerman.

When he went to examine the sows the following day, Dr. Ackerman intended to collect feces samples to diagnose. However, the feces were so runny he couldn’t collect a good sample, and what he saw looked grim.

“The gestation rooms have 600 sows in individual stalls. In one room they were lying down and would not get up. It was lunchtime. The sows should have been standing and ready to eat, but they were all laid out and clearly not feeling well,” Dr. Ackerman recalls.

The other gestation rooms looked fine. But he went to farrowing next and it was exactly as the farm manager had described. He picked a pig up by the back leg and feces flushed down past his hand.

“I said, ‘guys, this is TGE. We need to feed it back. You need to feedback one piglet’s intestine for every 10 sows like the literature recommends.’”

Dr. Ackerman said the client’s team was shocked. “Do you realize that’s going to be 600 pigs we have to euthanize?” They were slightly relieved when Ackerman told them they could get by with 1-to-100.

They needed to feedback three days in a row. The farm manager asked if it was possible to only do it once. Dr. Ackerman agreed that approach could work, but emphasized that each individual sow should be watched carefully and if any did not get sick, they should reinfect them at the end of the week.

The sows were fed back all at once. At the end of the week, there were two additional areas to consider – a nursery and finisher. There was one nursery that didn’t break, and they reinfected it, and then one area of gestation that didn’t break, and that also was reinfected.

Test Results:

The initial results showed it was PCR-negative for TGE (polymerase chain reaction test). While Dr. Ackerman was inspecting the 6,000-sow farm, a call came from the 3,600-sow farm (the farm is part of a 15,000-sow system). The farm manager reported 14-day-old piglets scouring in the farrowing house. Dr. Ackerman’s immediate thought was that TGE had infected the other farm, which he visited the next day. 

“I eventually got my results back showing that my original case farm was negative on PCR for TGE. I thought, ‘Blast it! The lab missed it. Sometimes that can happen if you don't get the right sample in an acute situation.'”

Dr. Ackerman was eager to see the results of samples sent to the lab from the second case. Those reports arrived the next day also showing the second farm was TGE-negative on PCR. The first farm came back negative on IHC (immunohistochemistry). The farm owner sent Dr. Ackerman a text saying mortality had reached 100% for the week and asked, “Do you know what you had us feedback?”

Dr. Ackerman called the Iowa State Diagnostic Labs, thinking he had TGE at two farms. ‘I have high pig mortality on two farms. I’ve got two cases of TGE in your lab and the lab just missed them both!’”

He was told: “We know you’re saying that you think we have a problem, but we think you have a problem. The histo-lesions look like TGE. Everything looks like TGE. But it’s not TGE.”

Dr. Ackerman persisted, suggesting that something was wrong with the tests they ran. 

The lab contact said that while it was possible that a reagent could go bad on the PCR test, it was highly unlikely that it would go bad on the PCR test and a different reagent would go bad on the IHC test at the same time. It was pointed out that a similar case came in from Iowa one-week prior that came back negative on PCR/TGE and negative on IFA, also a sample was sent to South Dakota State where it tested negative there as well. “We’re trying to sort out what’s going on,” the lab representative said, “if it looks like a coronavirus and it’s not TGE, its most likely PEDv.”

“What’s PEDv?” Dr. Ackerman asked. They said it’s the term for TGE in China, explaining that PEDv is also an alphacoronavirus, just a different part of the family tree.

One week later, Dr. Ackerman received results from the National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL), which confirmed that it was a coronavirus and subsequently confirmed specifically that it was PEDv. Along the way, Dr. Ackerman had called several other veterinarians in search of other cases, and discovered that other farms were experiencing the same issues.

At this point, Dr. Ackerman realized there was a brand new challenge on the farm.


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