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Pig Illness Will Increase Pork Prices

MONTICELLO, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- Get ready to pay more the next time you go grocery shopping. Extreme drought is raising vegetable, nut and some meat prices.

Now, experts are concerned about an illness affecting hogs, leading to less pork available for sale.

For hog farmers like Jason Russell, who runs Russell Brothers LLC, theres no such thing as too careful.

We do a lot of changing clothes, changing boots, cleaning equipment and vehicles, he says.

They are all necessary steps to stop the spread of the manure-borne Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea otherwise known as PED.

Anytime there's something this widespread it's concerning, there's no doubt about that.

A year ago, PED was almost non-existent. Now it's spread to half the country, including Iowa, the U.S.'s number one hog producer. While it's harmless to humans, the same can't be said about your wallet.

This year we'll be 5 to 10 percent lower in the number of hogs fed, Russell says. It's going to be a considerate increase in price because of the reduction of supply.

On his farm, which raises pigs from weaning until they're ready for market, Russell has two populations of pigs - PED negative and PED positive. Russell says they work hard to avoid cross contamination,

PED causes diarrhea and vomiting in pigs, which makes it tough to keep them nourished. It can also be extremely deadly in younger pigs, and can cause a lack of offspring production for females.

The hope for many farmers is that warmer weather will help slow down transmission, but even after it warms up, they still say they're going to take precautions.

It's just a take your shoes off, change clothes thingjust to keep it away, says Chris Spoden, a Caretaker on the farm.

The good thing is the virus can be beat, but...

It's just like anybody that has a virusit's a real challenge, Russell says.

That includes longer days for workers, with more attention towards the infected pigs. Russell says often family time and their overall lives are put on hold - all to make sure their livelihood stays intact.

Russell says current estimates show 50% of the breeding herd in the US has been affected by the virus. Currently, Iowa State University is conducting research to help find a vaccine.
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