Increasing feral swine populations leads to growing concern among North Carolina swine farmers
Despite North Carolina's long history with feral swine, the animals were relatively absent in eastern counties until the 1990s. Since then, feral swine populations have grown in these counties causing concern for commercial production swine (CPS) facilities. Feral swine have been known to carry or transmit over 30 diseases that can be transmitted to livestock, people, pets, and wildlife. Just recently, feral swine exposure to pseudorabies virus (PRV) and swine brucellosis was documented in North Carolina, with 10 feral swine positive for brucellosis and 2 positive for PRV. If reinfection to domestic swine through feral swine should occur, it would be economically devastating to the pork industry. In 2007, North Carolina's pork production, packing, and processing alone exceeded $7 billion in sales and supported more than 46,000 jobs.
In 2008, the NWRC, WS Operations, and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture combined forces to survey 120 CPS facility operators, including site inspections around their facilities, in order to determine perceived and actual feral swine activity in the immediate vicinity. On-site farm operators were questioned about their knowledge and awareness of feral swine near their commercial operation, biosecurity measures in place, and concerns about potential damage from feral swine. Following the interview, a physical inspection was made of the area within 300 m of any swine holding facility on the operation. Nearly all facility operators (97%) recognized feral swine were in their counties, but only 18% said they had feral swine activity nearby.
“During inspections, we found feral swine sign at 19% of the facilities where the operator noted they had never observed feral swine or their sign,” states NWRC's Dr. Rick Engeman. “This tells us that feral swine activities in these areas are higher than perceived.”
Only two of the facilities inspected had fenced grain bins or feeders to prohibit access by mid- to large-sized wildlife. Game trails or wild animal tracks leading to feeders or grain bins were observed on 10 facilities. Feral swine tracks or other sign were observed within 300 m of 29 of the facilities.
“Given the increasing feral swine populations in eastern North Carolina, the recently detected evidence of disease in the feral populations, the evidence of feral swine presence near commercial facilities, and the importance of commercial swine production to the local economy, we believe feral swine pose a real and increasing threat for disease transmission warranting a more stringent look at biosecurity and feral swine management at CPS facilities,” concludes Engeman. These findings are consistent with other work done by NWRC researchers in Texas.
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