Farming Feed

Learning from a Rabies Tragedy on Our Farm

We have had a rabies tragedy. I discovered a dead skunk in my pig pen and reported it to the Essex County, NY Health Department. I delivered the skunk for testing. Unfortunately, it tested positive. And so an American Guinea Hog sow and two Gloucester Old Spots mixes had to die.

The Health Department demanded that either that all the pigs in the pen must be "euthanized", or I must come up with and implement a six month quarantine for which there were no available coherent specifications, and inasmuch as they could provide specifics, the description of what was required would not effectively contain pigs. (A tall stockade fence, or maybe a double one, 100 feet from anything else, and with netting or wire or a roof over the whole pen or something like that; and this would be subject to regular inspections by, maybe, the animal abuse officer (a Sheriff's Deputy)? Should I have appeased them by building this elaborate structure, my pigs would have broken out within a week or two. As this was completely unworkable, I had to consent to having them put down.

Pigs mostly don't get rabies and there is no approved vaccine for them. The exposure here was simply being in the presence of a rabid skunk and being known to have touched it. According to the WHO, this would be a Category I exposure requiring no treatment. I got all hoofed animals on my property vaccinated off label within a few days. (I also have goats, and likewise, there is no approved rabies vaccine for goats. But they were not in the pen with the skunk. So they are still with us.)

The County's response to the situation was incoherent and initially provided no workable path forward whether or not I would consent to having the three pigs in question put down.

I have gathered here some resources to help others navigate a situation like this. My bibliography is below.

Here is what I am requesting from Essex County:

Rabies Plan going forward

  1. Requests for the County: Payment in the amount of approximately $1,400.

    1. Compensation in the amount of $150 per pig as per Article 6-A in NY Ag & Markets Law, for a total compensation of $450 for the three swine.
    2. Reimbursement for veterinary expenses incurred as a result of the rabies diagnosis for attempts to secure the situation and comply with requests by the Department of Health in the amount of approximately $950.
    3. Support with securing my farm from future rabies outbreaks by distributing Oral Rabies Vaccine packets in the Stacy Brook wildlife corridor and within a 2-mile radius of my farm.
    4. Assurance from the Department of Health that the veterinarian-administered rabies vaccinations given to my surviving livestock will be accepted as valid vaccinations in the case of future rabies exposures, even though the vaccinations are off-label as there is no approved vaccine for either swine of goats.
  2. Policy Suggestions:

    1. The County should facilitate rabies vaccination of all hoofed stock including species for which there is no approved vaccine.
    2. The County should honor as valid off-label rabies vaccinations administered by a vet in species for which there is no approved vaccine and should consider alternatives for vaccinated animals such as vaccine boosters at spaced intervals rather than demanding culling.
    3. The County should have species-appropriate guidance for isolation available immediately at the time of a rabies exposure.
    4. The County should have clear guidance for the public as to how dead animals should be collected on its website and in its printed materials.
    5. The County should have clear guidance as to how culling of exposed animals and disposal of carcasses should take place in cases of rabies exposure. (There is no place for seat-of-the-pants DIY innovations in such situations.)
    6. If livestock owners opt for isolation rather than culling of exposed livestock, the County should facilitate and support the creation of the infrastructure needed for isolation.
    7. The County should publicly state on its website and in its printed materials that it will cover livestock owners’ costs for rabies mitigation in the case of a rabies exposure and that it will compensate livestock owners for stock losses associated with rabies and compliance with Health Dept requests.



Brown, L. J., Rosatte, R. C., Fehlner-Gardiner, C., Ellison, J. A., Jackson, F. R., Bachmann, P., Taylor, J. S., Franka, R., & Donovan, D. (2014). Oral vaccination and protection of striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) against rabies using ONRAB®. Vaccine, 32(29), 3675–3679.

Casseri, E. (2022). Program Evaluation: Evaluating the Success of the Oral Rabies Vaccine (ORV) Program in New York State. Journal of Public Health Student Capstones.

CDC. (2011). Rabies Vaccination.

Charlton, K. M., Artois, M., Prevec, L., Campbell, J. B., Casey, G. A., Wandeler, A. I., & Armstrong, J. (1992). Oral rabies vaccination of skunks and foxes with a recombinant human adenovirus vaccine. Archives of Virology, 123(1–2), 169–179.

Clark, R., Taylor, A., Garcia, F., Krone, T., & Brown, H. E. (2015). Recognizing the Role of Skunks in Human and Animal Rabies Exposures in the Southwest. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, 15(8), 494–501.

Debbie, J. G. (1974). Use of Inoculated Eggs as a Vehicle for the Oral Rabies Vaccination of Red Foxes ( Vulpes fulva ). Infection and Immunity, 9(4), 681–683.

DuVernoy, T. S., Mitchell, K. C., Myers, R. A., Walinski, L. W., & Tinsley, M. O. (2008). The First Laboratory‐confirmed Rabid Pig in Maryland, 2003. Zoonoses and Public Health, 55(8–10), 431–435.

Jardine, C. M., Buchanan, T., Ojkic, D., Campbell, G. D., & Bowman, J. (2018). Frequency of Virus Coinfection in Raccoons ( Procyon lotor ) and Striped Skunks ( Mephitis mephitis ) During a Concurrent Rabies and Canine Distemper Outbreak. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 54(3), 622–625.

Johnson, S. R., Slate, D., Nelson, K. M., Davis, A. J., Mills, S. A., Forbes, J. T., VerCauteren, K. C., Gilbert, A. T., & Chipman, R. B. (2021). Serological Responses of Raccoons and Striped Skunks to Ontario Rabies Vaccine Bait in West Virginia during 2012–2016. Viruses, 13(2), 157.

Liu, Y., Zhang, S., Ma, G., Zhang, F., & Hu, R. (2008). Efficacy and safety of a live canine adenovirus-vectored rabies virus vaccine in swine. Vaccine, 26(42), 5368–5372.

Luangtongkun, S., Sayasoothjaree, B., Chalermchaikit, T., & Kortheerakul, K. (1986). Rabies in Swine: Natural Infection in Three Case. The Thai Journal of Veterinary Medicine, 16(3), 159–164.

Luo, Y., Zhang, Y., Liu, X., Yang, Y., Yang, X., Zheng, Z., Deng, X., Wu, X., & Guo, X. (2013). Characterization of a wild rabies virus isolate of porcine origin in China. Infection, Genetics and Evolution, 17, 147–152.

Ma, X., Monroe, B. P., Cleaton, J. M., Orciari, L. A., Gigante, C. M., Kirby, J. D., Chipman, R. B., Fehlner-Gardiner, C., Gutiérrez Cedillo, V., Petersen, B. W., Olson, V., & Wallace, R. M. (2020). Public Veterinary Medicine: Public Health: Rabies surveillance in the United States during 2018. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 256(2), 195–208.

Mitmoonpitak, C., Limusanno, S., Khawplod, P., Tepsumethanon, V., & Wilde, H. (2002). Post-exposure rabies treatment in pigs. Vaccine, 20(16), 2019–2021.

Moreira, I. L., De Sousa, D. E. R., Ferreira-Junior, J. A., De Castro, M. B., Fino, T. C. M., Borges, J. R. J., Soto-Blanco, B., & Câmara, A. C. L. (2018). Paralytic rabies in a goat. BMC Veterinary Research, 14(1), 338.

Pedersen, K., Gilbert, A. T., Nelson, K. M., Morgan, D. P., Davis, A. J., VerCauteren, K. C., Slate, D., & Chipman, R. B. (2019). Racoon (Procyon Lotor) Response to Ontario Rabies Vacinne Baits (ONRAB) in St. Lawrence County, New York, USA. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 55(3), 645.

Pessoa, C. R. D. M., Silva, M. L. C. R., Gomes, A. A. D. B., Garcia, A. I. E., Ito, F. H., Brandão, P. E., & Riet-Correa, F. (2011). Paralytic rabies in swine. Brazilian Journal of Microbiology, 42(1), 298–302.

RABORAL V-RG® Oral Rabies Vaccine for Wildlife. (n.d.). Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health.

Siepker, C. L., Dalton, M. F., McHale, B. J., Sakamoto, K., & Rissi, D. R. (2020). Neuropathology and diagnostic features of rabies in a litter of piglets, with a brief review of the literature. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, 32(1), 166–168.

Sobey, K. G., Jamieson, S. E., Walpole, A. A., Rosatte, R. C., Donovan, D., Fehlner-Gardiner, C., Nadin-Davis, S. A., Davies, J. C., & Kyle, C. J. (2019). ONRAB® oral rabies vaccine is shed from, but does not persist in, captive mammals. Vaccine, 37(31), 4310–4317.

Sobey, K. G., Walpole, A. A., Rosatte, R., Fehlner-Gardiner, C., Donovan, D., Bachmann, P., Coulson, S., Beresford, A., Bruce, L., & Kyle, C. J. (2013). An assessment of ONRAB® oral rabies vaccine persistence in free-ranging mammal populations in Ontario, Canada. Vaccine, 31(17), 2207–2213.

Velasco‐Villa, A. (2023). On skunk rabies and its prevention in North America. Equine Veterinary Education, 35(11), 589–593.

Wohlers, A., Lankau, E. W., Oertli, E. H., & Maki, J. (2018). Challenges to controlling rabies in skunk populations using oral rabies vaccination: A review. Zoonoses and Public Health, 65(4), 373–385.

World Health Organization. (2018). WHO announces new rabies recommendations.,exposures%20due%20to%20direct%20contact%20with%20bats%20.


A Thousand Futures: A Search for Scenario Space
by Kathryn Cramer [MRP]

My OCAD University Major Research Project, entitled, A Thousand Futures: A Search for Scenario Space, is now available on the OCAD website.

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Although both science fiction and professional foresight work both are engaged with what the future might look like, they operate mostly independently from one another. A literature search reveals the characteristics of written science fiction and foresight, seeking ways these practices could be successfully combined. Concepts are explored through the example of agriculture and agricultural technology as well as technologies for constructing narrative semantics. Approaches are outlined for generating foresight scenarios and for creating a semantic tagging system for generating a semantic space for scenarios using intellectual technologies from science fiction.


agriculture, agroecology, animals, apples, bibliography, books, category theory, climate change, chickens, computational narrative, computational thinking, design fiction, dystopia, farming, fiction, folktales, foresight, foxes, futures, genre, history, landscape, language, metaphor, motifs, nationalism, ontology, orchardry, organic farming, pattern language, patents, pigs, publishing, retrofuturism, rewilding, scenarios, science fiction, semantics, speculative design, speculative fiction, tagging, technology, transrealism, utopia, wolves, workshops, writing

My new Patreon

Patreon header (2)

ANNOUNCEMENT: I now have a Patreon to support my project Family Farm to Food Forest. (Also, if you think other people would be in treated in following my progress, share this post.)

Become a Patron!

Between now and April I will be writing fairly steadily on my Major Research Project (MRP) towards my Master of Design degree at OCADU in Toronto. The working title is FAMILY FARM TO FOOD FOREST. And in it I will explore ways to transform our farm in Westport, NY to promote a better future. I am going to be writing up a lot of fascinating stuff, and doing cool graphics to go with it. I thought some of your might like to come along for the ride.

I am using this opportunity to do four things:

  • Come up with a better plan for our farm in Westport, NY.
  • Reconcile Design Thinking with Computational Thinking by arriving at a Pattern Language to describe the farm transformation I envision.
  • Post photos of the farm and my cute animals.
  • Make use of my skills as a science fiction writer & editor to imagine future possibilities for the farm and farms in general.

What you can expect to see:

  • Blog posts with interesting things I have discovered during my research.
  • Visual work, such as collages or sketches which I use while trying to figure it all out.
  • Drafts: extended pieces of prose written for this project
  • Book recommendations: things I've read along the way that I think you should read, too.
  • Maybe some fiction. I think I'm going to write some short stories to help me engage. But I don't promise.

This should be fun!