Animal Industry News Update - March 2014

Theresia Lavergne, Page, Timothy G., Garcia, Matthew, Harborth, Karl, Navarre, Christine B., Walker, Neely, Pruitt, J. Ross  |  3/28/2014 12:02:01 AM

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED)


Dr. Christine Navarre
Dr. Tim Page

Porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) is caused by a coronavirus somewhat similar to the one that causes transmittable gastroenteritis (TGE). This virus is widespread throughout Europe. It was first recognized in the U.S. in May of 2013 and is causing significant losses in swine herds across the U.S. and parts of Canada. No cases have been reported in Louisiana, but swine producers should take precautions to keep this virus out of swine in their operations.

There are two types of PED that have been identified so far. PED Type I only affects growing pigs, whereas PED Type II affects all ages including suckling pigs and mature sows. Introduction of PED virus into a naïve herd typically results in acute outbreaks of severe diarrhea, vomiting, high morbidity (often 100%) and variable mortality (as high as 100% in young pigs) that lasts 7-14 days. The incubation period is short (2-4 days), and natural immunity develops over two to three weeks, resulting in colostral protection for neonatal piglets. If a sow or gilt has been previously exposed and has developed immunity, protection is provided to her suckling pigs through consumption of PED virus-neutralizing antibodies in milk. When pigs are weaned, they become susceptible again and develop the disease if exposed to the virus. There is no specific treatment for PED. Pigs should be provided supportive care.

In large breeding herds, particularly if kept extensively, not all the females may become infected the first time around, and there may be recrudescence. This only occurs in suckling piglets from sows with no maternal antibodies and, therefore, is sporadic.

This virus is transmitted by direct pig exposure or indirect exposure through fomites (boots, clothing, equipment, hands, etc.) that are contaminated with fecal material that contains virus. Transport vehicles can quickly spread the virus. Likewise, personnel can track the virus if exposed to virus-shedding pigs or fecal material on trucks, stockyards, slaughter facilities or other locations where pigs or pig workers have been who have been exposed to infected pigs. Strict biosecurity and biocontainment protocols should be followed.

Anyone who suspects this virus has infected their herd should contact their veterinarian immediately to develop treatment and control protocols. PEDv only infects pigs at this time. It poses no known public health threat.

For more information:

Should you blanket your horse?

blanketed horses

Dr. Neely Walker

The recent cold weather snap, A.K.A. the Polar Vortex of 2014, had horse owners across the nation taking extra management precautions to keep their horses warm. Louisiana was not excluded. Despite Louisiana’s typically mild winter weather, temperatures in January dropped to single digits across the state. This weather change left many horse owners asking the question, “Should I blanket my horse?” The answer to this question is variable based upon a number of circumstances. The primary considerations in horse blanketing are hair coat, body condition and environmental factors. Keep in mind that healthy horses have a number of natural defenses against cold weather, including; a long hair coat, a layer of fat beneath the skin and the ability to generate body heat via digestive activity.

A full winter hair coat is the first line of defense against the cold weather and serves as insulation by reducing the loss of body heat. Its insulating value is lost when the horse becomes wet or covered in mud. Therefore, it is important to provide shelter to allow horses to stay dry during wet conditions.

Another way to keep horses warm is by feeding adequate amounts of forage (hay). Maintaining body heat in cold temperatures requires additional calories. The greatest amount of heat is produced when microbes in the horse’s gut digest high-fiber feeds. To maintain adequate body heat the average horse needs an additional two pounds of forage per day for every 10 degree change below 40?F. This function, along with the natural insulating ability of a winter coat, will allow your horse to sustain appropriate amounts of body heat to withstand winter temperature changes.

Blanketing your horse is another way to maintain adequate body heat. While blanketing horses that do not have a winter coat can be beneficial, blankets also can compress coat layers, which inhibit their insulating properties. So, how do you know if you should blanket your horse? Blanketing becomes necessary to reduce the effects of cold and inclement weather when they are exposed to extreme cold (10?F or lower) and:

  • There is a chance the horse will become wet.
  • The horse has a poor winter coat or has been clipped for showing.
  • The horse is very young or very old.
  • The horse has a body condition score of 3 or less or is in poor health.
  • The horse is not acclimated to the cold.
  • Shelter from the wind/elements is not available.

Generally speaking, horses across Louisiana will manage changes in temperature this winter without needing a blanket as long as adequate hay is provided. However, blanketing is a personal decision. Whether you choose to blanket your horses or not this winter, make sure to adjust your management routine to ensure your horses have what they need to stay warm and comfortable.

Frequently asked questions about Expected Progeny Differences (EPD’s)


Dr. Karl Harborth
Dr. Matthew Garcia

What are EPDs?
EPDs are a prediction of how a bull’s offspring will perform for certain traits when compared to the breed average, based on their individual performance, performance of their offspring and estimates based on ancestral performance.

Why use EPDs?
EPDs are the most accurate method of selection we have available today for purebred animals with high accuracy. We need to keep in mind that EPDs are not accurate for crossbreeding schemes, and we must have the breed average for the trait to make an educated decision. It also needs to be noted that variation from the calculated EPD will be observed from calves sired from young bulls with lowly accurate EPDs. However, these EPDs will change from the initial calculation and become more accurate as data from more purebred progeny are collected.

What EPDs are not!
EPDs are not predictors of actual performance; they predict how a sire’s calves will perform relative to the breed average for a given trait. They do not predict uniformity or variation in crossbred calf crops due to hybrid vigor and are not an absolute guarantee.

How are EPDs calculated?

  • Seedstock producers record phenotypic data of all offspring.
  • Send information into the breed associations.
  • Breed associations calculate EPDs and report them in.
    • Sire summaries
    • Bull test reports
    • Advertisements
  • The more offspring a bull has reported, the more accurate the EPD.

Breed Average EPDs (2011 Sires)



































Important facts about EPDs

  • EPDs are breed specific, so Charolais EPDs are irrelevant if crossing with Angus cows.
  • EPDs are expressed in the units of the traits listed.
    • Birth weight = pounds.
    • Scrotal circumference = centimeters.
  • Where does EPD information come from?
    • Seedstock producers
    • EPDs are only as good as the information going into the system.
    • Progeny performance typically adjusts for fraudulent data.
    • Sire EPD is only half the equation.
    • Mating systems still essential.
  •  EPDs will change over time.
    • As more offspring are generated, the more accurate the EPD will become relative to that bull’s ability to produce offspring with certain performance levels for specific traits.
    • As the breed average for the trait increases or decreases.

Tips for using EPDs

  • Breed averages are different for each breed, and are rarely zero.
  • Breed averages change each year due to selection practices within the breed.
  • Breed averages can be used to compare bulls to the rest of their breed.
  • EPD’s cannot be compared across breeds without adjustments.

Wholesale Meat Prices Adjust to Consumer Demand and Tighter Supplies

primal cuts

Dr. Ross Pruitt

Tighter supplies of cattle and hogs combined with improved domestic demand are positively impacting prices for these commodities. Beef and pork exports also were greater than a year ago in January, which provides additional support for the higher prices that producers are currently enjoying. Strength is seen most clearly through the cutout values for beef and pork. As these cutout values are a weighted average of various primal meat cuts, the question then becomes which primals are driving the observed increases in the beef and pork cutouts?

The weekly Choice boxed beef cutout value has averaged approximately 17% higher than year ago since the beginning of the year. Similar appreciation has been experienced in the Select boxed beef cutout value, which has kept the Choice-Select spread at least less than $5/cwt so far this year. The increased boxed beef cutout values are being driven more by the end meats (chuck and round) than the middle meats (rib and loin). Some of the strength in the value of the chuck primal (averaging 22% higher than a year ago since late January) is due to new types of steaks from this primal. Additional strength may be a result of how strong the hamburger market currently is. This strength is indicated by the fact the round primal has been averaging 30% higher than a year ago since late January. As the price of the round primal has increased, this has narrowed the price differential to lean 85% and 90% ground beef prices, which increases the economic incentive to grind round into hamburger. The price for the brisket primal has been in excess of 20% higher than a year ago, partly due to seasonal strength. Some of the additional demand for brisket may reflect the strength of demand for ground beef combined with tight supplies of beef ahead of St. Patrick’s Day when corned beef is a popular item.

Values for the pork cutout had been slightly higher than a year ago for the first five weeks of 2014, only to rapidly increase to near 30% higher than a year ago by the beginning of March. This increase in the wholesale pork cutout has started earlier than the normal run-up in wholesale prices observed during the summer months. Pork supplies have been tighter than expected due to spread of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) throughout the nation. Speculation about Russia soon accepting U.S. pork exports again also has provided support for the pork cutout, especially pork trimmings. Of the primals, the loin and ham have contributed the most to the increase in the pork cutout value. Improved retail demand for pork chops is why the loin primal has seen a rise of 30% in early March compared to a year ago. Ham prices have increased as a result of Easter being later than normal this year and will likely continue to see price increases at the wholesale through most of March.

Chicken component prices are largely lower than a year ago through early March. Boneless/skinless chicken breast prices have been approximately 9% lower than a year ago with wing prices over 25% lower. Chicken tenderloins are the only major chicken meat piece that has seen a price increase over last year, but even that is a modest 2%, on average, for each week so far this year.

The higher wholesale prices for beef and pork are slowly making their way to consumers. Over the next few months, it will be interesting to watch what happens with these prices as consumers are asked to pay more for their favorite meat cuts as more consumers get ready for grilling season. Wholesale meat prices could weaken a little if consumers are hesitant to pay higher prices for beef and pork and switch to relatively cheaper chicken. However, supplies of beef and pork are going to be tight for most of the summer and limit how much lower meat and livestock prices can actually go.

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