Statewide change in application of ID tags to 4-H hogs

Concerns about spreading diseases, and the threat of forced slaughter of swine after competing at the county fair, has resulted in a statewide change in the process for how identification tags are applied to 4-H hogs.

Concerns about spreading diseases, and the threat of forced slaughter of swine after competing at the county fair, has resulted in a statewide change in the process for how identification tags are applied to 4-H hogs.

Kandiyohi County 4-H members received letters last week explaining the change, which is being enforced across the state immediately.

The new rule applies only to swine.

"We're being proactive," said Jodi Bakke, Kandiyohi County 4-H coordinator. "We don't want to be contributing to any livestock disease."

The actual change to 4-H'ers isn't all that significant.


It will require 4-H families to obtain and attach ear tags and complete identification affidavits, rather than having it done by 4-H staff or trained volunteers.

"4-H wanted to be part of the solution," said Brad Rugg, director of Fairs and Animal Science Programs at the Center for 4-H Community Youth Development at the University of Minnesota.

But the reason for the change -- and the possible consequences of slaughtering all swine after shows if changes aren't made -- is significant.

Rugg said 4-H was responding to a "wake-up call" issued by the Minnesota Pork Producers about the risk of diseases, how 4-H handles animals and the need for preventative measures on all levels.

Industry officials welcomed the action by Minnesota 4-H clubs.

Dave Preisler, executive director of the Minnesota Pork Producers, said more discussions will take place this summer between 4-H, FFA and organizers of commercial hog shows to find additional preventative measures. He said the goal is to reduce the risk of transmitting diseases to hogs that have the potential of crippling the industry.

Swine producers struggle to combat major diseases, including circovirus and porcine reproductive respiratory syndrome, known as PPRS. Both have been linked to diminished health and mortality in swine.

The Minnesota Pork Producers' legislative committee recently passed a resolution that would require all swine, even breeding stock, to be slaughtered after a show or county fair by 2009 as a means of curtailing the transmission of diseases.


Such action could negatively affect participation in county fairs or other competitive shows for swine.

Preisler said the resolution was a means of drawing attention to the seriousness of transmitting diseases in order to bring the players to the table to negotiate options to alleviate problems.

The diseases can be spread with "nose-to-nose" contact between animals as well as by people who may go farm to farm. When people have contact with infected animals and travel to another hog farm without disinfecting boots or clothes, the diseases can be transmitted, said Preisler.

Both of those transmission scenarios happen each spring when 4-H'ers identify and document the hogs they're raising and intend to show at the county fair in the fall.

Some counties host one-day events when 4-H'ers bring their hogs to a central location where the animals are weighed and special metal tags with identification numbers are attached to their ears. Notches are also made in the pigs' ears for further identification.

In Kandiyohi County, trained 4-H volunteers travel to the farms to distribute the ear tags and complete the formal documentation.

The tags, notches and documents are part of a process to preserve the integrity in the 4-H competition and ensure that the hog a 4-H'er raised in the spring is the same one that's shown in the fall.

Starting this spring, 4-H families will obtain ear tags at their county extension offices, attach them to the hogs' ears, perform the appropriate ear notching and return the completed affidavits to the extension office by May 15.


Rugg said steps are being taken to make sure 4-H animals are properly identified under the new system to avoid any misrepresentation of animals during the competitive shows.

4-H staff or volunteers may execute spot checks on the farms to make sure the identification numbers match the hog, said Rugg. Also, any broken or unused ear tags must be returned to the county office.

Preisler said the response by Minnesota 4-H was "very appropriate" and would be "good for the pork industry and the 4-H'ers involved" because it would lessen the chance of spreading diseases.

Rugg said 4-H leaders worked with the Minnesota Pork Producers to develop the new plan. "They were very supportive of the steps we were taking."

(The West Central Tribune is owned by Forum Communications, which also owns Detroit Lakes Newspapers)

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