Swine flu fears prompt cancellation of annual pig fair

61-year history of the Jefferson County Fair, the pig show has been canceled in order to keep a deadly swine disease from spreading into the county.

The porcine epidemic diarrhea virus was discovered in the United Kingdom in 1971 and then spread through Europe and Asia. PED reached the United States last year with the first diagnosis of the disease made in Iowa. The fatality rate is 100 percent for baby pigs with about a 70 percent mortality rate for older pigs. Humans can’t catch the disease.

Keith Berkeley, superintendent of live¬stock for the fair, said PED is running rampant through the central part of the country. Though it has not been discov¬ered in West Virginia, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture recommended pig shows in the state be cancelled.

“We were nervous,” Berkeley said. “We cancelled the show because we felt it would be in the best interest of the children who participate. They spend a lot of time and money raising their pigs, and many pigs are purchased from other states.”

Officials of the West Virginia Depart¬ment of Agriculture did say pig shows could be go on if they were “termina¬ble” sales, meaning the pigs are taken to slaughter immediately after the show.

“The participants would have in¬curred additional costs like a slaughter fee,” he said. “Again, the department of agriculture was only making recom¬mendations. The department could de¬cide to mandate the end of pig shows this year. We didn’t want the children to put all that time and effort on their pigs only to have the show cancelled at the last minute.”

Matt Miller, who is in charge of the swine department of the fair, said there too many unknowns about PED.

“It would be too much of a risk to the county.” Miller said. “We don’t know what’s coming into the county. The dis¬ease is spread by the pigs’ manure. You can step in it and spread it or the equip¬ment you use can spread it. It still was a very sad decision for the kids.”

The Jefferson County Fair Board told fair participants late in March they could switch to sheep or goats for their fair entries. Last year, 50 young partici¬pants sold their market hogs at the fair, bringing in $40,800.

Miller said the majority of the money is returned to the participants.

Anna Ours, 12, of Shepherdstown, a 4-H member whose pig Bullet won last year, said she would continue showing pigs. She plans to take part in the State Fair of West Virginia in Fairlea in Au¬gust. The pig show there will continue.

Shepherdstown sisters Jenna and Em¬ily Everhart have decided to raise goats for this year’s fair. Jenna, 12, has en¬tered pigs in the pig show for two years.

“I was pretty upset, but I’ll see how it goes,” she said.

Emily, 15, agreed. This would have been her seventh year participating in the pig show.

“I was very disappointed,” the 4-H member said. “I was saving the money I got from the pigs for college.”

Pigs can be sold for about $2.50 per pound. Most of the pigs shown at the fair range between 215 to 285 pounds.

Emily, also a 4-Her, admitted having a goat would be more work.

“You have to halter train it and get it to walk slow. You spend a lot of time with it. You get more attached to it,” she said.

The Jefferson County Fair runs from Aug. 17 to 23.

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