Indiana farmers debate how to contain hog virus
Neighbor to large operation alleges disease spread from 'acclimation farm.'
April 10, 2011|JEFF SWIATEK | The Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS -- Three years ago, TDM Farms, one of the nation's largest hog producers, tried a new tactic to fight the hard-to-treat PRRS virus on its farms.

It was a tactic borrowed from the "chickenpox parties" that many mothers used to hold for their young children, hoping to expose them to the childhood disease early and avoid infections later in life when chickenpox can be much worse.

TDM's version of the chickenpox party was an "acclimation farm" built in Tippecanoe County. There, TDM intentionally began exposing 200 of its healthy young sows each month to an especially virulent form of the PRRS virus. By catching the disease early, the sows gained immunity to it, so the virus wouldn't bother them once they're breeding and are more vulnerable.

What TDM didn't bank on was the virus spreading to its nearest neighbor a mile away. Which, alleges the neighbor, Alan Wilhoite, is exactly what happened in July 2009, with devastating results...