Carthage Veterinary Service COVID-19 Pork Industry Update April 29, 2020

During this time of unprecedented supply chain disruption in the pork industry, we want to provide you with a brief summary of what we have learned and the resources we are making available to you as you navigate this difficult time.  Please do not hesitate to reach out to us during this time, we are ready and willing to help in any way we can.

Carthage Veterinary Service is working diligently to support you and the industry through the current crisis.  This is a status update to hit industry highlights and our focus on the following KEY 3 areas:

    1. Keep packing plants running in full production
    2. If required, support depopulation and disposal
    3. Indemnity payments for loss of livestock

Keeping plants open

    1. Dr. Hollis had a call with the Illinois Department of Agriculture Emergency Operations Center and the major pork packers on Monday.  There is variability in how the packers are being supported by the local public health departments, driving the variation in ability to harvest pigs.  PPE is in good supply in the plants with few requests for additional equipment.
    2. Dr. Lower communicated with most of the packers on Tuesday regarding the need to keep the plants operational.  Dr. Firkins and Dr. Lowe from the University of Illinois delivered an infrared camera to the Rantoul plant on Monday to support the Public Health Department’s request for taking temperatures of all staff.

Depopulation and Disposal

    1. Illinois Pork Producers drafted and sent a letter to the Governor on Tuesday to request FEMA oversight and funding for disposal of swine.  This letter was reviewed and edited by Dr. Lower.
    2. Funding
      • NRCS – can provide up to $25,000 for disposal cost per farm
      • Illinois Pork Producers was awarded a $250,000 emergency response grant today from National Pork Board
    3. Dr. Lower had correspondence with most of the plants on Tuesday to discuss the feasibility of utilizing the plants for depopulation if needed.  Current plant layouts create difficulties for removing the euthanized pigs from the building.  Additionally, CO2 supplies continue to be limited and the State is working to secure ample supplies.
    4. Dr. Lower has asked the Illinois EPA/NRCS to consider allowing grinding of carcass material with little to no additional carbon followed by immediate land application and incorporation.
    5. Dr. Lower, Jim Lowe, and Jay Miller submitted a Plan and Equipment List to the IL Department of Ag regarding a centralized location for depopulation and disposal activities.  The proposal would allow producers to transport and unload pigs at the centralized location where they would be euthanized and disposed of by Department of Ag personnel.
    6. Euthanasia
      • Have engaged a professor at the University of Illinois and company in Australia regarding use of sodium nitrite for mass euthanasia.  This technology is effective in feral swine but our studies over the past 2 years have proven unsuccessful for getting the domestic pigs to consume sufficient amounts.  We are doubling down efforts to improve consumption.
      • Several reports indicate that piglet euthanasia is going to be performed starting next week due to flow restrictions and lack of value.  Modification of electrical stunning devices is being attempted to provide a high volume, effective euthanasia technique.


    1. No updates on this from a local or national level.  The pressure continues to come from NPPC and NPB regarding indemnity.

Supply Chain Management Support

    1. Dr. Peterson and Dr. Lower have been working with multiple clients to address pig flow issues created by reduced access to market hog loads.  Multiple stocking and flow strategies have been implemented and guidelines are available if needed.
    2. Dr. Peterson has developed a guide for implementing strategies to reduce pig growth rates.  Multiple industry nutritionists have also developed nutrition strategies that will save cost and slow pig growth.  These strategies are all available and can be customized to your specific business needs.


    1. Illinois plants
      • Smithfield – closed
      • JBS – operational
      • Rantoul – operational but decreased staffing resulting in 35% of normal harvest Tuesday
      • Callihan – operational
    2. Defense Production Act was invoked Tuesday to order the companies to stay open during the pandemic.  The government will provide additional protective gear for employees as well as guidance for the plants.  This should provide one uniform set of expectations and decision making for plants versus the local health departments.

Interactive Packing Plant Status Map

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