By Laurie Greene, Editor

First detected in the U.S. in 1987, Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus (PRRS Virus or PRSSv), a recently recognized incurable viral disease of pigs that can cause animal reproductive failure, reduced growth and premature death, costs American farmers approximately $600 million in damages each year.[1] Genus PIC, a global pioneer in animal genetics, announced the development of the first pigs resistant to PRRS Virus through a long-standing collaboration with the University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Specifically, they bred pigs that do not produce a protein necessary for the virus to spread.

The swine industry is invaluable to California’s agriculture, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), and the demand for swine in California is increasing greatly. Expanding ethnic populations have created new demands in the marketplace.

CDFA’s Animal Health Branch aids in the management of swine diseases because of the highly contagious nature of some diseases to swine, other species of livestock and/or people. Due to expanding international trade and travel, highly transmissible foreign animal disease can spread rapidly if undetected or detected but not reported.

Currently, CDFA participates in monitoring for PRRSv through the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System; however, since no vaccine has been effective and no control program has been proposed, preventing the spread of PRRSv within and between pig populations is a critical component of a farm’s disease control program.

CDFA Animal Health and Food Safety Services’ swine health experts recommend farmers look for blisters on hooves and on the snout, unusual or unexplained illness, hemorrhagic septicemias, unusual skin lesions ranging from cyanotic patches on the ears and abdomen to raised, scabby lesions mainly on the legs, high morbidity or mortality. If you suspect you are dealing with such a disease, contact CDFA at (916) 900-5002 or your district office.

Genus is dedicated to the responsible exploration of new innovations that benefit the wellbeing of animals, farmers, and ultimately consumers. PIC, a subsidiary of Genus, is the global leader in providing genetically superior pig breeding stock and technical support for maximizing genetic potential to commercial pork producers. PIC has been delivering genetic improvements for over 50 years.

The University of Missouri has signed a global licensing deal for future commercialization with Genus. If development continues, Genus will seek approvals and registration from governments before a wider market release. Genus expects that it will be at least five years until PRRSV resistant animals will be available to farmers.

(Photo Source: USDA)

[1] Holtkamp, Derald J.; Kliebenstein, James B.; Zimmerman, Jeffrey J.; Neumann, Eric; Rotto, Hans; Yoder, Tiffany K.; Wang, Chong; Yeske, Paul; Mowrer, Christine L.; and Haley, Charles (2012) “Economic Impact of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus on U.S. Pork Producers,” Animal Industry Report: AS 658, ASL R2671. Available at: http://lib.dr.iastate.edu/ans_air/vol658/iss1/3



Basi, Christian, Pigs that are Resistant to Incurable Disease Developed at University of Missouri: Discovery about PRRS virus could save swine industry hundreds of millions of dollars; Exclusive deal signed with global leader in animal genetics, December 8, 2015

CDFA Swine Health Information And Resources

California Pork Producers Association

Genus tackles major pig disease with breakthrough technology, December 8, 2015

Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS)

Schmidt, Stephen, Big Cat Collaboration: CAFNR geneticist teams up with Kansas State researcher to make PRRSv-resistant pigs, December 8, 2015

California Chickens at Increased Risk for Severe Bird Flu Strain

UC Davis experts are urging backyard chicken enthusiasts and commercial poultry owners to practice strong biosecurity measures to prevent contact with wild birds, due to highly pathogenic strains of avian influenza or “bird flu” recently detected in migratory waterfowl in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and Butte County, California.

The current detected strains, H5N2 and H5N8, are not a risk to human health and have not been found in commercial poultry in the United States. However, commercial poultry flocks in British Columbia and backyard flocks in Washington and Oregon have been affected.OneCalifornia

Avian influenza — commonly called “bird flu” — is a disease found in a wide variety of domesticated and wild birds. Once introduced into an area, infection can spread through bird-to-bird contact or through contact with contaminated clothing, shoes, hands, feed, water or equipment. Because waterfowl are reservoirs for avian influenza strains that can be fatal to domestic poultry (yet often show little to no signs in waterfowl), backyard and commercial chickens raised near areas commonly used by migrating waterfowl are at risk of transmission.

“Due to normal waterfowl migration along the Pacific Flyway, during the winter there are approximately eight times the number of waterfowl in California than what we will see three months from now,” said Maurice Pitesky, a poultry specialist with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “There are lots of birds that winter and establish roosting and feeding habitat in California wetlands and agricultural crops. If you are a poultry owner — either backyard or commercial — and live in proximity to waterfowl and their habitat, your birds are at risk.”

Owners of backyard chickens who observe illness or increased mortality in their birds should call their veterinarian or the California Department of Food Agriculture sick bird hotline at (866) 922-2473.

The California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System includes four diagnostic labs in Davis, Turlock, Tulare and San Bernardino. The labs encourage veterinarians and owners of backyard chickens to submit sick or recently dead birds for necropsy (postmortem) examination. The exam is free of charge for California backyard flock owners of fewer than 1,000 birds (chicken, turkey, waterfowl and squabs). For more information, contact (530) 752-8700 or visit the CAFHS website.

Reduce the risk of bird flu

To reduce the risk of avian influenza transmission, chickens should be kept separate from wild birds and monitored for signs of illness or increased mortality. The CDFA also urges owners to take the following necessary and crucial precautions:

  • If you have a pond or body of water that can attract waterfowl to or near your facility, consider draining if feasible.
  • Provide housing to confine domestic poultry and/or enclose an exercise area with netting.
  • Avoid use of water that comes from sources where waterfowl may congregate during migration.
  • Ideally, owners of poultry should try to avoid waterfowl hunting during migration. Otherwise, ensure clothing, footwear, vehicles, etc. used during hunts are laundered and/or disinfected.
  • Permit only essential workers and vehicles on premises and provide disposable coveralls, boots and head coverings for visitors.
  • Clean and disinfect vehicles and equipment entering or leaving the premises.
  • Control movement associated with the disposal of mortality, litter and manure.

Additional resources

Information on good biosecurity and hygiene precautions to keep backyard flocks healthy can be found at:

Reports of dead, wild birds can be directed to the Wildlife Investigations Lab at (916) 358-2790. There is also a Web application for submission.

CAHFS at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine

The California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System is the backbone of California’s warning system helping to protect the health of the state’s livestock and poultry. Operated through the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, CAHFS provides appropriate and timely diagnostic support to safeguard the health of California’s dairy, livestock and poultry industries and to protect the public health from animal disease.


(Photo credit: UC Davis)