Thursday, April 30, 2009

Guest Commentary - Dan Murphy

My friend, Dan Murphy, author, speaker and industry commentator, as agreed to join us at Chore Time every now and again. This is his piece on the 'Swine Flu' outbreak, just got it last night.

Thanks Dan!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Flu outbreak exposes strengths, weaknesses among producers, policymakers

By Dan Murphy, industry commentator (

With the spread of a virulent new virus across North America – and the fist U.S. fatality Tuesday – there is growing concern among meat industry leaders about how this affects public perceptions of their business, and ultimately, their operations.

From a medical and public health perspective, the response to date has been most gratifying. Unlike other recent public health emergencies that occurred during the Bush administration, the federal government’s communications and reactions have been sharp, timely and focused on effective investigation and mitigation strategies.

That’s a welcome change.

Internationally, the UN’s World Health Organization has also responded decisively, raising the pandemic alert level to Phase 4 (“confirmed person-to-person spread of a new influenza virus able to cause community-level” outbreaks”). Domestically, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued warnings against non-essential travel to Mexico (now there’s some real genius advice – or as comedian Hal Sparks suggests, “Wash your hands, don’t rub your eyes and avoid eating a pulled pork sandwich in Cancun while sitting next to somebody blowing their nose into a bandana.”) and began stockpiling personal protective equipment, respiratory protection devices and antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir.

The good news is that this influenza A-H1N1 virus appears to be susceptible to those drugs, and should the spread of the disease widen, treatment would likely help most victims recover without incident.

Now for the bad news.

Despite the seriousness of this situation, very few industry groups have gotten out front of the news with their external communications. Here’s one suggestion:


Even the UN boarded that bus this week, noting that the term “swine flu” implies that you can catch the disease from consuming pork products. Reality is that this virus is a unique mutation that combines biological material from human, porcine and avian influenza viruses.

Granted, it’s difficult to wean the media off using of precise medical terms (like “octomom”), but certainly industry shouldn’t be referring to this virus as the equivalent of mad cow disease. “The flu outbreak,” or the use of the technical name for this virus – H1N1 – would be a far better choice.

And speaking of that hysteria, it is time for industry to start talking about the critical importance of biosecurity. (In an eerie parallel to the dairy cow born in Canada but diagnosed with BSE in Mabton, Wash., in 2003, the young boy who became the first U.S. fatality in Houston was actually a Mexican national who had only recently returned to Texas). The spread of virtually every deadly zoonotic disease, such as foot-and-mouth, is exacerbated when the prevailing production model is small farms, outdoor operations and lots of buying and selling of individual animals among local farmers and producers.

In other words, every practice demonized by the anti-industry activists – confinement production, centralized systems, the use of specialty growers – turns out to be precisely the way that such outbreaks could and should be controlled. This is the time to do some serious consumer and media education.

If ordinary reporters and producers can eventually get their arms arou

nd the idea that BSE prions are confined to neurological tissue (brain and spinal cord), which North American don’t consume, they can also begin to internalize the concept of biosecurity as a series of measures that are positive with respect to public health, if not perceived animal welfare.

Remember foot-and-mouth in the U.K.? The widespread practice of swapping and trading animals among England’s smaller farms was exactly how the outbreak outran efforts to contain it. And with BSE, the biggest problem investigators had with the initial reference animal was trying to figure out which herds and what farmers had bought and sold the cow prior to her positive diagnosis.

This outbreak will get worse before it gets better. Thankfully, public health authorities are rapidly gearing up with measures that, even if they’re not needed, will help make us all safer should an actual pandemic occur.

Meanwhile, industry should be working equally hard to communicate the idea that this virus likely originated due to the “natural” production conditions typical of less developed agricultural models, such as Mexico, and that the value of modern confinement production systems should now be understood less in terms of greedy producers making obscene profits and more in terms of protecting our non-farm population from the occasional, though potentially deadly, eruption of a new zoonotic disease organism.

The way pork producers operate in North America is designed to keep pigs safe, and humans even safer.

Let’s get busy and share that thought.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Important Swine Flu Information for you:

Internet Web Links:

CFIA Questions & Answers

What is Swine Flu and how can humans catch it?

Souce: Canadian Food Inspection Agency, April 26, 2009

Swine Influenza - Advice for Veterinarians and Swine Producers

What is swine influenza?

Swine influenza is a contagious respiratory disease of pigs. The disease is commonly seen in North and South America, Asia and Europe. Illness is cause by type A Influenza viruses, which also affect a range of other animals, as well as humans.

Are humans affected by swine influenza?

Yes, but human cases of swine influenza are normally uncommon. Most often, cases involve people who have had close contact with pigs, such as farmers and veterinarians. Some cases of human-to-human transmission have been reported. Symptoms of human illness are similar to regular flu: cough, nausea, body aches, fatigue, runny nose and congestion.

Although the risk of human illness is low, anyone having contact with pigs or potentially contaminated equipment should thoroughly wash their hands and limit contact with possibly infected pigs.

Swine, avian and human influenza viruses can combine within pig cells to form new influenza viruses. Flu-like symptoms in swine or people that may have had contact with swine should be reported to animal or public health professionals. Doing so will allow health authorities to maintain a current understanding of the viruses circulating in the animal and human populations.

What are the symptoms in pigs?

Signs of swine influenza include the following:

  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • nasal discharge
  • difficulty breathing
  • reduced fertility or abortion

Swine influenza generally does not lead to death, and affected animals usually recover within five to seven days.

How do pigs become infected?

Normally, virus spreads when infected pigs cough or sneeze in close quarters with other pigs. Contaminated equipment or other objects may also play a role in transmitting virus. Influenza virus from birds and humans can also infect pigs.

How can pigs be protected?

The following actions can potentially prevent swine influenza:

  • vaccinating animals
  • ensuring farm working maintain good hygiene
  • following strict biosecurity practices
  • providing adequate ventilation in barns
  • identifying and segregating sick animals as early as possible

What roles do veterinarians and producers play?

Veterinarians should work closely with clients to develop management strategies to limit the incidence and spread of swine influenza. As part of this approach, veterinarians suffering from the “flu” should limit contact with pigs, and farm workers should follow similar advice. Given the current situation, particular caution should be exercised with visitors to farms, especially those who may have recently returned from the southern United States or Mexico.

Does swine influenza affect food safety?

No, swine influenza is not a food safety concern.

For additional information:

What is swine flu and how can humans catch it?

Souce :Angela Mulholland, News


What is swine flu?

Like humans, pigs get the flu. They develop a sudden fever, a barking cough, sneezing, lethargy and typically lose their appetite.

Pigs usually don't die from swine flu; their flu viruses cause high levels of illness but low death rates.

Swine influenza viruses circulate among pigs throughout the year, but most outbreaks occur during the late fall and winter, just like with outbreaks in humans.

Most swine flu viruses belong to the Influenza A H1N1 and H3N2 subtypes.


Can humans catch swine flu?

Normally, swine flu bugs don't infect people. When they do, it's been in people who have direct contact with pigs; historically, there's such a case every year or two in the U.S.

Between Dec. 2005 and Feb. 2009, there were12 human swine flu infections in the U.S. -- about four a year.

It's possible this uptick was due to improved reporting systems, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says "genetic changes in swine flu viruses and other factors might also be a factor."

Since March 2009, a number of confirmed human cases of a new strain of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection in the U.S. and internationally have been identified.


Can humans pass swine flu?

Usually no. But what makes this new outbreak worrisome is that in all the recent cases, none had any direct contact with pigs.

Two of the new cases were among 16-year-olds at the same school in San Antonio and there's a father-daughter pair in California, said CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat.


Is this a new kind of swine flu?

Yes. The CDC reports that the virus in these latest cases is a never-before-seen mixture of viruses typical among pigs, birds and humans.

The influenza A H1N1 virus contains DNA typical to avian, swine and human viruses, including elements from European and Asian swine viruses.

Although it's called swine flu, this new strain is not infecting pigs and has never been seen in pigs.

Why would a new strain be worrisome?

Epidemiologists have been warning for years that it's just a matter of time before a new strain of the flu emerges that has the potential to kill millions. Flu pandemics have historically occurred about three times per century and the world hasn't seen one in more than 40 years.

If an influenza virus changes and becomes a new strain against which people have little or no immunity -- and this new strain is easily spread from person to person -- many people around the world could become ill and die.

The World Health Organization estimates that in the best case scenario, the next pandemic could kill two to seven million people and send tens of millions to hospital


Is there a vaccine?

There is a vaccine available that can be given to pigs to prevent swine influenza. But there is no vaccine to protect humans from swine flu.


I got the flu shot this year. Am I protected?

No. H1N1 swine flu viruses are very different from human H1N1 viruses and, therefore, vaccines for human flu would not provide protection from H1N1 swine flu viruses.


Can people catch swine flu from eating pork?

No. Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food; you cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products.


What are the symptoms of swine flu in humans?

Symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of our regular flu, with sudden onset of:



Lack of appetite


Some people with swine flu also have reported:

Runny nose

Sore throat

Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.


How is the virus transmitted?

Human-to-human transmission of swine flu is believed to occur the same way as seasonal flu, mainly through coughing or sneezing of people infected with the influenza virus.

People also can become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. 


Can we treat swine flu in humans?

Yes. Most swine influenza viruses have been treated with antiviral medications.

The virus from the most recent U.S. swine flu cases appeared to be resistant to amantadine and rimantadine but were susceptible to zanamivir and oseltamivir (Tamiflu).


Have there been swine flu outbreaks before?

Yes. Most famously, there was an outbreak in 1976 at Fort Dix, N.J., among military recruits that grabbed big headlines at the time.

Worried that they had the beginning of a pandemic on their hands, U.S. officials ordered the manufacture of swine flu vaccine and the country launched a mass immunization program that saw about 40 million people vaccinated.

But the outbreak didn't turn into a pandemic and went away as mysteriously as it appeared.

Sources: The Canadian Press, Public Health Agency of Canada and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control

More News...

It will be a dual news day for Chore Time, this is your regular edition with news, links and images from the world concerning animal agriculture.

Is Nature 'Biting Back'?

Nebraska: 74 confirmed dead equines

Predator Impacts

'Dumped' Animals, Recession Victims?

Pack Dogs Destroy Farms

California Moves to Ban Routine Antibiotic Use

Farmer? Vet? Both?
A crisis in the US is a shortage of large animal vets, we do not face this crisis in Canada at this time but could be impacted by it through 'brain drain', recruitment and our own trends towards smaller animal practices.

Italy Cares for Quake Impacted Animals

30 Horses Rescued
video link included



As more groups start to produce information for consumers, producers and media those links will be posted.  Keep an eye out for the SWINE FLU SPECIAL EDITION headers to know when they are up!

A regular edition of Chore Time will be posted in the coming days...subscribe so you don't miss a thing!


We have gone from being prepared and feeling ready for Avian Influenza to being faced with Swine Flu - as producers, consumers and industry professionals how prepared do you feel we are?  Where are you on your own farm, with your own family in being prepared? 

Here is what's on the news today:

Confirmed cases in BC & NS, More to Come

The federal government has set up a hotline and websites for information about the swine flu virus. The number is 1-800-454-8302, and the websites are

"The new flu strain, a mixture of various swine, bird and human viruses, poses the biggest risk of a large-scale pandemic since avian flu surfaced in 1997, killing several hundred people."

Interactive H1N1 Swine Flu Map

Winnipeg Lab Working on Swine Flu

Pork Producers Urged to Do Their Part
It is important to know that there is no direct link between hogs and this outbreakd of swine article for more details!

National Pork Board Encourages Producers to Protect Their Herds

Mexican Farm Workers in Limbo

Origins of Virus, OIE Needs More Data

and yes the blame game begins...Mike Davis slings

Friday, April 24, 2009

What's going on?

This Chore Time will be topped off with an image, and a link back to my good friend Ben Crane.  His work is a bright light for many of us in farming and ranching country - and anyone who is a fan of Lean'n Tree knows his special 'picks'! Enjoy...

There are lots of things going on in the news, including many about farming and farm animals. 

Check out the links'll be sure to find something worth reading!  From Flu to the Malta perspective on farming to a new 'compartive' virtual farm experience.  You should also click on Biomimicry ( pretty awesome stuff there!  I'm very intrigued and am going to be adding that to my 'wanna know more' list!  

We are going to be featuring some commentary from friends in Agriculture coming soon...keep an eye out for those special Chore Time editions.

Remember feedback is important so comment, share and talk about what's going on!

Swine Flu - Mexico, California and Texas...Canada?

How does it spread...more information on Swine Flu

Speak up for Animal Science - as US schools get shorted

Vet's Charged with Animal Cruelty

EU Visits to Farms?  Interesting story with numbers...

California to Ban Dairy Cow Tail Docking

 A new Farm Experience - Virtually!
Farm Sanctuary is an American group calls themselves a 'leading farm animal rescue and advocacy' group.  This is a comparison between 'factory' farms and their ideal of farming practices.

North Dakota Farm Animal Losses Topping 90,000
Photos and more details on second link

Lakeland College Managed Farm Animal Project

PETA Taken to Task over Animal Euthanasia Record

And on a lighter note:
"Nazi" Super Cows Debut in UK

MSU Circus over a Circus

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Some more stories to check out...

Some news stories to check out...

A review of Dr. Temple Grandin's newest book, Animals Make Us Human, we should all read her books, articles and at least once see her in person. 
Cargil Achieves Eight Critical Animal Welfare Assurance Goals

Volley's in BC over Free Range vs. Caged Egg Production
(be sure to check out both stories as one is a response to the other)

Focus on Farm Animal Pet & Working Animal Welfare
Note: horses and donkeys are included as working farm animals not livestock in this initiative.

The American Association of Swine Veterinarians’ Pig Welfare committee recently considered the issue of animal cruelty and its implications in U.S. swine production.

Food Safety Modernization Act, HR875 tackles farm size, welfare and definitions of farm types

Canada's Agriculture Policy gets a UK Hit

Well known NY Breeder Charged with Animal Abuse

Prices Soaring for "Unwanted" Horses as a Shortage of Loose Horses is Seen in the US
More stories on this subject:

Avoiding Lameness in Dairy Cattle Before they are Born

From the view of animal control:

Phony Inspections in Ontario - Be Sure of Who is On Your Farm!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

In The News...

In the news so far this week:

Homes for Horses Conference in Vegas

Ohio State Educator Raises Awareness of Animal Welfare

PETA vs. KFC on Animal Welfare Claims

Horse Rescue &Welfare in the UK

John Block Blog (with comments) on AgWeb (A MUST READ)

What have you been doing to prepare and care for your animals during this flooding time?  How prepared do you feel you are?  Share your thoughts, ideas and stories!  Photos are always welcome!

Visit to see images and updated stories on Flood Watch 2009.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Okay you are probably wondering why that show is the topic of this blog entry, but animal rights and activism was featured on this show tonight.   The activity was freeing and bombing at Cal-Sci especially of the lab animals.  The most interesting part, for me, was when the member of one of the uninvolved groups told investigators how he knew they were amateurs - because they were not freeing animals from 'factory farms' where the 'real torture' and 'real abuse' is happening.  There was a slight vegetarian message but was overidden by free choice and the light hearted joke about food choices being something that can be partially made to be more attractive to another person.  Well done episode and anyone who has done some research knows they were pretty accurate on many things.  If you are able to watch, do so...definately worthwhile.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! Much like Christmas, Easter also has it's share of animal participants and stories.  One of my favorite Easter stories is about how the donkey got a cross across his back.  There are many different versions of this story.  The donkey colt which carried Jesus through the city on Palm Sunday stayed as close to his Master as he could, wishing to ease His burden along the road to the cross. He was not able to carry the burden but he did loyally stay by his Master, and as he stood by the cross he was unable to look at the shadow of it fell across his back, and the reminder of his loyalty stayed on amongst all of his decendents.  There are a number of wise and brave donkey's in the Bible, but this one is really special to me.

Now for your list of interesting stories...

Ohio Reaction to HBO "Death on a Factory Farm"

Save The Prison Farms!

Farm Sanctuary Statement on Iowa Farm

OFAC Enlisting Ambassadors for Agriculture

Defending Agricultural Antibiotic Use

Egg Farm Managers Fire Back At Activists

Hog Farm Hopes Bigger Gets Better

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Links to Look At...for today

Some links to check out today...

PETA asked pointed pet adoption questions 

The new Framework For Agriculture has some critics

New England's biggest Egg Producer investigated for animal cruelty

Another concern for free range hog producers, rustling!

Knoweth Thy Animal - A dog is not a cow

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

You Are Awesome...

Thanks to your generosity we now have enough crates to fill a trailer which can head south to help our friends in North Dakota or stay here at home to help our animals during our own upcoming flooding.  Keep checking back here or at the Facebook group for Manitoba Emergency Response for Animals to see what is going on.  We are compiling a database of volunteers so if you have a desire to help email Ciem and let her know what you can offer.  We are so proud of all of you, and are honoured to have your help.

What's new?

There are some good news stories, and some that urge caution and some that are just plain strange.  The good news is that the flooding, for now, has eased in North Dakota but with the snow we had last night and they had this week it could come back up again. The strong winds that were forecast didn't materialize and their dykes held.  That also means they can start getting back to normal for work and school and for animal care.

Our flood forecast seems not too bad except for the 'big three' which are of course more rain, more snow and ice jams on the river. Any of these or a combination of will bring us challenges perhaps not seen before but I'm sure we'll prevail.  How are your plans for your farm, family and other animals going?  Have found a way to volunteer and get vulnerable places and populations taken care of?

Before I do some flooding and news links I'll share my two 'daily' links, espeically in rural areas, we need to be aware of the weather. Check out: and because much of our weather imports from the south link to: These two links will not only show you what is going on but hopefully give you time to prepare.  And if you do the live loop the storms look rather pretty :-)

Next up are some flood update links: 

We had a pretty good hit of snow last night and we were on the 'fringe' of the storm that really dumped on North Dakota.  Remember folks that water comes north and we already have lots of our own...

Until something better comes along sandbagging is going to be the primary tool for flood fighting. Although a new device is being tested around Selkirk this week.  We have our spider which makes short work of bagging.  This is the story about our sandbag spider:

This is a move in the right direction, in the US a number of areas have farm groups asking their legislators to scrutinze the agendas of the animal rights activists who are proposing legislation.  While often we have similar goals when it comes to animal care our perspectives and experiences are worlds apart.  Our legislators need to remember this when they are considering choosing between supporting change for producers or legislating change.,0,6833216.story

In Canada we have a few advantages when it comes to our animal care codes and our animal welfare legislation but it is always good to know what our friends down south, or in other parts of the world are facing for challenges. This is an emerging one in the US that could have ripple effects for us all...

And the old saw, "If you have livestock you'll have dead stock" is true and with the new rules and legislations on the books the removal and appropriate disposal of dead stock is a major issue for producers in every day operations not even considering situations where you'd have higher than normal numbers. Canadian provinces from Ontario to Alberta are considering changes which would be more supportive of producers while others are looking in the other direction. Do you know what your local regs are?  How compliant are you?  Don't tell me - you just need to know!  Check this link and follow the other stories on Google.

That's the full Chore Time for this week, photos and updates will be posted as they come up.  Keep a close eye on things close to home by using the net, talking to friends and neighbors.  There are a number of really great blogs to check out including:

Don't forget you can help with flood relief efforts by letting the good folks at Manitoba Emergency Response for Animals know what you can offer and where you are located. Check out their group on Facebook, check out their website at or contact Ciem here.  We are continuing our crate and animal food drive, with drop off points in both Winnipeg and Steinbach.  Contact Ciem or myself for details.

NOTE: I have included full url's for the website links rather than hotlinks for those folks who don't have reliable hotlinking in their browsers, I know it isn't as pretty or easy to read but I think we can be brave and muscle through eh?  Thought so!

For the next blog I'd like to see some photos to share - send some pictures of your spring this year...white and grey as it is right now...or of your flood preparations or whatever...