Virus threatens pigs, Utah officials mandate post-show slaughter

Posted at 5:40 PM, Apr 30, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-01 00:00:50-04

SALT LAKE CITY --  A devastating virus is killing millions of pigs across the country, and state officials fear it could spread to Utah.

The state veterinarian's office issued an emergency order that requires any pigs shown at a fair or livestock show to be taken directly to a slaughter house afterward to prevent the spread of a deadly swine virus.

"The risk at a show is that you'll take your animal there, have it mingle with other swine that may be infected, and then you take your animal back to your farms and spread that to your farm," said Larry Lewis, Public Information Officer for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

Young farmer Cooper Galt said when he heard the news he reminded himself to take losses and look forward to later gains. However, he said it can be heartbreaking to see a pig go to slaughter.

"I do love my pigs and spend a lot of time with them; they are my life," he said.

The Utah Department of Agriculture said the virus, called the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PED), is not a threat to humans.

PED killed an estimated 7 million pigs last year and is in four of the five states bordering Utah.

And, as young pig farmers bring their prized hogs to livestock shows this summer, they'll have to learn the hard lesson of sacrificing one to save many.

"We need to teach the kids to be responsible and understand livestock and the livestock industry, and with that, time to time things come up like this disease and it is a really terrible disease," said Clay Nielsen, the manager of the Utah State Junior Livestock Show.