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Ohio Pig Farmers Feel Effects Of Swine Flu Coverage

The swine flu has brought increased attention to the practices of pig farmers. Ohio has more 4,000 pork producers. One is in Delaware County.

At Dawson Farms Incorporated just east of Delaware, 10,000 sows are housed in barns that cover 4 acres. Owner Doug Dawson, who is 50 years old, says he's done some type of farming since he was five. But he says he likes raising hogs the best.

"I've grown up around pigs and raised pigs all my life," Dawson says. "It's a gratifying experience to raise pork and watch the animals being born."

But the current swine flu outbreak is costing Dawson money. Health officials say the virus cannot be caught by eating pork. But all the talk about swine flu has begun to hurt Dawson's bottom line.

"Our price per pound has already dropped about six cents per pound. I truly think that this instance with the market price the way it's dropped, it will cost me a quarter of a million dollars to recover. And that's if it doesn't get worse than it is today. The damage has already been done. It just depends on how long it takes to recover." When prices are good, the 35,000 pigs that Dawson sells every year bring about $4 million. He and his crew of 7 full-time employees meticulously care for the health of the animals.

"We shower-in before we come into the unit in the morning so that we're not carrying anything in," Dawson says. "We're very conscientious when we move pigs about cleaning trucks and cleaning boots and the trailer's cleaned out and disinfected and we go to great lengths to keep these hogs healthy and to make sure it's a safe product for people to consume."

Dawson says a veterinarian conducts inspections at least four times a year - more often if needed. Blood and tissue samples are taken when an animal is suspected of being ill.

"It's a lot easier to keep an animal healthy than it is to treat them after they get sick," Dawson says.