PEDv Hits Oklahoma Pork Producers Financially and EmotionallyWed, 05 Mar 2014 05:24:19 CST
PEDv is perhaps the most-talked-about unpopular topic among Oklahoma pork producers today. That's according to Roy Lee Lindsey, executive director of the Oklahoma Pork Council. Lindsey spoke with Radio Oklahoma Farm Director Ron Hays last week at the Pork Congress held in Midwest City. Although that topic was not on the meeting's formal agenda, it was being talked about almost everywhere.
Lindsey said he thinks some producers who normally attend the event stayed home this year in order to protect the biosecurity of their farms. "They just decided they're not going to come and mix and mingle with other producers. Until we can really get a feel for how to protect our herds, how to prevent the spread of PED, I think you're going to continue to see that."
While the disease may not yet have hit Oklahoma as hard as other states, Lindsey said it has still taken its toll on producers.
"The challenge is not just economic, it's emotional. The farmers who have been through this, when you lose two weeks or three weeks or four weeks of every pig born on the farm doesn't survive, that takes an emotional toll on you and so when you're thinking 'How do I prevent that?' it's not just the economic loss that goes with it, there's an emotional toll that goes with it, too."
Amidst that, the Humane Society of the United States mounted a campaign vilifying producers attempting to come up with methods of fighting the disease in their herds, particularly feeding portions of the piglets who had died back to the sows to help develop antibodies to PED.
"At the end of the day, what we're looking for is a way to save baby pigs and, from my perspective, that's our number one goal is to care for our animals. And today we don't have a vaccine that's approved to use. We don't have a good way to prevent the disease and looking for methods that help us promote immunity among our sows, build up their immune systems so they can fight it off and pass that along to baby pigs, that's where we get to. So, I think when you talk to the average American they may say, "Yeh, that's kind of an icky process and I don't really want to think about how you get that immunity.' But if you tell them you're trying to save the baby pigs, that really resonates with them. And that's the message that we've got to share. And that's what the American public expects of us. The consumer expects us to do everything in our power to take the best care possible of all of our pigs, but especially our baby pigs."
While PED may be on the front burner now, Lindsey said there are a number of positive accomplishments producers made over the last year that overshadow the negative. He cited the tremendous influx of aid from pork producers and their organizations in the wake of the tornadoes in Moore and Oklahoma City last year.
"You don't want to ever have to be in that situation, but, man you sure feel good you were able to help those folks out of it. And I think this group took great pride in that opportunity to give back a little bit. One of our ethical principles is a commitment to our communities. And I don't know how to better demonstrate that than to help people who have lost absolutely everything."
Lindsey said there are a number of other positive things to look forward to in the near future. Among those topping the list is the soon-to-be-released "Farmland" film which will take a look at modern agriculture.
"This is going to be a film that really showcases what life is like on a farm today. And it's not just a contemporary hog farm or commercial hog farm. It's all kinds of agriculture-from crops to vegetables to livestock. And the public's going to get an opportunity to meet these people and understand what goes on because, at the end of the day, the average farmer's not any different than the average car salesman or the average or the average pharmacist or the average whatever it may be. They work every day. They get up, they go care for their animals, they go care for their land, their crops, their families. They have the same issues at home that everybody else does."
Lindsey said he thinks the film will put a face on agriculture and let viewers see farmers are people like everyone else and that's the best way to address the unfounded criticism that has grown up in some quarters against modern agriculture.
"Folks have got to believe they share a common set of values with the folks who are feeding them."
Likewise, Lindsey also said there is a great opportunity for all agricultural producers to focus more in the future on the positive aspects of their own products without trying to denigrate the products of others. He cited the marketing campaign by Chipotle that takes a ham-handed swipe at production agriculture.
"We've got to figure out, as a group, to stop differentiating ourselves by putting others down. And agriculture as a whole, if we get fragmented in this whole 'I'm better than you because you do these things wrong' not 'I'm better because I'm giving a customer what they want' or whatever it may be, that creates real challenges for us in all of agriculture."
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