Livestock Producers Demonstrate Effectiveness of Quarantine

October is coming to an end, and I must talk about pork before it’s over!

The last few weeks I have written how my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday celebration gave us a reason to look through old family albums and reflect upon the good old days. The Iowa DNR (Department of Natural Resources) recently released an historical aerial map photo project, dating to the 1930s.

As I looked through these maps of old farmsteads, I noticed a difference in buildings. What an amazing look through history of farming! The buildings, like our equipment, have completely changed. We have gone from hand labor cleaning the barns to mechanization, from pitch fork to pumps to for manure removal. I can see how this natural fertilizer was applied to the fields by looking at these maps.

In the past, manure was moved with horses so it most often got applied close to the building site. The soil tests taken when I started farming in the early 1970s proved this as the fertility around the buildings was sky high; the fields farthest away from the building site were very low in fertility. The manure was valued but not scientifically applied.

Today’s pork producers understand the value in applying this natural fertilizer where it’s needed. Producers keep records of manure application, such as the method (injection, incorporation, etc.), date of application, field location, number of acres, and application rate.

Just as we’ve developed more scientific ways of applying natural fertilizer and modern equipment technology now allows us to inject or incorporate the manure right into the soil, today’s pig farmers also have made great strides in controlling disease outbreaks.

In the late 1980s, I was on the Iowa Pork board as chairman of the Feeder Pig Committee. It was decided that the pork industry would eradicate pseudorabies. Pseudorabies is an extremely contagious disease that causes reproductive problems, including spontaneous abortion, stillbirths and death losses in breeding and finishing hogs. While the disease is not a threat to humans and the meat from infected animals is not contaminated, pseudorabies can wipe out a herd. The financial impact from pseudorabies was huge for farmers, as well as for the state.

Pork production generates billions of dollars annually for Iowa’s economy. Iowa pork producers raise more than 17 million pigs, or 28% of the nation’s pork supply. It goes without saying that eradicating pseudorabies was a huge undertaking!

Veterinarians developed an eradication plan that was put into action. Because some areas of Iowa’s pork production were completely shut down, it was devastating to many pork producers. Feeder pig shows were especially hit hard, but it worked! A press conference was held in July 2004, declaring our state free of pseudorabies.

Today Ebola is making the headline news. We know quarantines can be effective in stopping the spread of this disease, they cause hardships for medical professionals. In fact, some medical professionals might even avoid volunteering to help fight Ebola due to the quarantine.

While it may not be fun or convenient, being quarantined for 21 days is an extremely small price to pay when you think about it! Livestock production has proved time and again that quarantine is an effective way of stopping the spread of deadly disease.

Stopping the spread of Ebola is certainly a concern, and we don’t want it to become an epidemic. However, there are so many other problems this world: starvation, political unrest, terrorism, the right to life… Is anyone making a list and trying to put things in order of importance?

Next week’s election is a good place to start showing your priorities! Then after the election, let’s keep the official’s feet to the fire. Talk to your elected officials at all levels, and let them know what you expect. Then remember to keep talking to them because bills get passed and regulations get made all year long.