Iowa is the nation's leading hog producer but there is concern about a virus which can kill newborn pigs. The virus has affected one Scott County farmer and his business so far.
Mike Paustian of Walcott raises and markets about 22,000 hogs per year.
In February, he lost about a thousand newborns when they contracted PEDV: Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus. His newborns were dying from diarrhea and dehydration, costing him potentially $200,000.
"It really is only lethal to the youngest pigs," he said. "The newborns don't have many defenses against it."
How did the disease get to the United States? Nobody knows for sure. There is no cure, at least right now. The virus does not present a health risk to the public.
"It has no ability to effect humans," Paustian said. "Zero impact on the food supply as far as humans are concerned."
Paustian is extremely careful. He separates the piglets from the adults and houses them in separate buildings.
"We are very careful about where we have been before we go around our pigs," he said. "This herd has developed an immunity to the virus."
But the big question is how long will that immunity last?
"Obviously, if this disease gets here there are other diseases that can do the same thing, we obviously want to do everything we can to prevent that," he said.
Paustian uses these compost machines to dispose of the dead pigs.
"We eventually mix the dead pigs with wood shavings," he said. "Bacteria naturally breaks that down."
That compost is used as fertilizer for the crops. It's a swine virus that's a cause for concern down on the farm.
"The pork industry and the Federal Government are both putting a lot of time and money into trying to develop a vaccine or other management tools," he said. "That will allow us to handle the disease."
Paustian tested his herd about three weeks ago, and the pigs tested negative for the virus.
805 Brady Street, Davenport, IA 52803