ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOUSE — A Central Alberta pig farmer whose herd was infected with the new swine flu virus culled his entire herd last week, according to a news release issued by Alberta Pork on Sunday.
The farmer, Arnold Van Ginkel, said the virus was still present in his herd and the animals couldn’t be marketed because they were under quarantine and he was facing a problem with overcrowding.
“I am disappointed that I have to cull these animals but the presence of the Type A H1N1 virus in my herd left me with few options,” Van Ginkel is quoted as saying in the release.
“I was facing another partial cull due to overcrowding and no prospects for marketing my animals once they were given a clean bill of health.”
“The only real option left was to have a complete cull and end the uncertainty for my farm and for the entire pork industry.”
Van Ginkel had previously culled 500 animals from his herd. Federal and Alberta health officials have speculated that the herd became infected in April by a worker who had been vacationing in Mexico.
Federal and provincial animal health experts were on hand last week when the remaining hogs, totalling about 3,000 animals, were destroyed at the farm near Rocky Mountain House.
Van Ginkel, who moved to Canada from Holland, says the decision to cull his entire herd was extremely stressful for his family, but he will now start over.
Paul Hodgman, executive director of Alberta Pork which speaks for the province’s hog producers, said Van Ginkel will apply for aid under the federal AgriRecovery and AgriStability programs.
“These programs … are designed to provide for these unusual circumstances,” Hodgman said in a telephone interview.
“He had a circumstance hit him that was outside of his control really.”
“The science tells you this is safe, but nobody wants to buy. What do you do?
“You’re caught between a rock and a hard place.”
The virus was isolated to Van Ginkel’s herd, but the publicity surrounding both the flu outbreak and the infected Alberta herd has damaged an industry that was already struggling due to low prices, Hodgson said.
‘We’ve had two years of bad prices and this on top of it — it’s quite a blow,” Hodgson said.
In the past two years, many pig farmers have left the industry and Hodgson predicts more will follow soon.
“If things don’t change here really rapidly for a lot of reasons, there’s going to be another bunch probably decide to get out,” he said.
“You can’t go on producing at a loss for a long time.”
Although Canadian Food Inspection Agency officials suspect the flu was transmitted from a farmworker to the herd, they indicated last month they may never be able to positively pinpoint the cause.
Tests were done on people working at the farm, but it turned up no solid proof that people brought the virus to the pigs.