Porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus can be expected to affect more pig farms as the winter months arrive, but its impact will not be as harsh as it was during the winter of 2013-14, said Donnie Smith, president and CEO of Tyson Foods. Smith spoke of the company’s pork operations during the Barclays Back-To-School Consumer Conference, held on September 4.

With Tyson Foods completing its acquisition of Hillshire Brands on August 28, Tyson Foods is now the No. 2 pork producer in the United States, Smith said. Tyson Foods has felt the effects of PED virus ever since it arrived in the U.S. in 2013, but losses eased during the summer months. Smith does expect the virus to become more prevalent in the winter because of the virus’ tendency to spread in cooler, damp weather. However, it should not be as bad as it was during the previous winter.

“As we get through the warmer season, the PED virus doesn’t replicate as quickly. We’ll have to see what happens when we move into the winter time and we get into a more moist, cool environment. I do feel like the biosecurity aspects that have been put into place on hog farms around the country will reduce certainly -- I’m not sure it will eliminate – but will reduce the PED effect going forward,” said Smith.

U.S. pork supply down, but rebound is coming

Smith addressed the conference saying Tyson Foods is seeing double-digit declines in the pork supply, largely because of piglet losses to PED virus, just as the company suspected. However, he thinks those numbers will rebound as decreased feed prices will give farmers an incentive to expand their herds.

“It would likely be the latter part of ’15 -- maybe moving onto ’16 -- before that increased supply manifests itself in a meaningful way. But I think we can say production could be up 1 or 2 percent in pork,” said Smith.