Foot-and-mouth disease. That is the last thing any livestock producer wants to hear associated with their farm, or with the entire U.S. livestock industry for that matter.
Though FMD has not been found in the United States since 1929, an Iowa State University study has put the estimated potential revenue losses to U.S. pork and beef producers in the event of an FMD outbreak at $12.8 billion per year or $128 billion over a 10-year period. Related losses to corn and soybean markets over a decade would be $44 billion and $24.9 billion, respectively. The reason for these huge estimated losses are that export markets will be closed immediately should FMD, classical swine fever and/or African swine fever be confirmed in the U.S. swine herd, since each of these three pathogens are foreign animal diseases. The closed export markets and the disruption of pig movements would result in these severe economic losses and disruption of business as usual.
Should FMD hit the U.S. swine herd (some say it’s only a matter of time), a swift and successful response to the break would go a long way in diminishing the impact of the pathogen and keep farms operating and related business activities functioning as close to normal as possible.
With that in mind, the Center for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State University spearheaded the development of a Secure Pork Supply Plan. USDA was the major funder of the work and National Pork Board provided dollars, support and producer input. According to Patrick Webb, director of swine health programs for the Pork Checkoff, the creation of a Secure Pork Supply is a long time coming. “We’ve wanted a secure pork supply plan since 2007.” Though the plan won’t be fully implemented until early next year, Webb says there is plenty that a hog producer can do today to prepare for such a calamity as an FAD hitting their herd. “If we got foot-and-mouth disease, or classical swine fever or African swine fever here in the U.S., the people who are in charge are the state animal health officials in conjunction with the USDA federal animal health officials,” he says. Pork producers, though on the frontlines with their hogs, will play a supportive role should an outbreak occur, “to try to contain and eradicate a foreign animal disease and also focus on continuity of business,” Webb says.
Webb says there are three key components to the SPS plan:
• Disease surveillance and reporting
Basically, Webb says on the front end producers should already be doing all the things that they would need to do “in case of an outbreak, but you’re doing it ahead of time.”
Webb says when an FAD is found, the area around the infected farm is zoned by establishing a control area — a clearly defined infected zone and buffer zone. Producers found within these zones will undergo the most restrictive disease control measures “which could be to stop movements and quarantine the site,” he says.
“It’s important for producers to realize and understand that they have a certain role in this situation to comply with the regulations that are in place,” Webb says. Zoning farms according to infected area and buffer zone are important because animal health officials use the zones to stop the spread of disease to outside of these zones.
Since producers are on the front lines, it is also imperative that they up their game on level of preparedness to be ready to respond “should we get hammered” with FMD, Webb says.
No one knows when an FAD will infect a swine herd, so preparedness is key. The first step in being prepared is to request a national premises identification number from your state veterinarian’s office.
As with any disease outbreak, as producers have learned with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome and porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, biosecurity measures go a long way in prevention or control of a disease in the herd. Producers are encouraged to review and implement items in the “Self-Assessment Checklist for Enhanced Pork Production Biosecurity for Animals Raised Indoors,” (available at SecurePork.org) including developing a site-specific biosecurity plan.
Preparedness steps should already be a part of producers’ normal operating procedures, but it never hurts to hone those practices. If producers have been lax in adopting such preparedness steps, there is no better time than the present to change their shortfall. The Pork Checkoff has created a Foreign Animal Disease Preparation Checklist of processes and practices that if implemented by producers will help speed response times to an outbreak by animal health officials and the industry as a whole.
The checklist is broken into main categories Finance, Site Identification, Production Records, Animal Identification/Animal Movements, Health Papers/Interstate Movement Reports (commuter agreement), Biosecurity/Training, Diagnostics, Site Plans and Discussions.
For an example of the information sought in the checklist, the Production Records section lists these considerations:
❏ Sending and receiving Premises Identification Numbers are included in all movement records for all swine moving into, within and out of the production system.
❏ Production data is entered into a data management software system and can be easily exported.
❏ A PIN is associated with production records for all production sites.
❏ All records for semen shipments include the valid PIN for the sending and receiving sites.
❏ All production sites keep a daily log of all human and vehicle traffic entering a production site.
❏ Daily observations for disease are entered into a data management software system and can be easily exported.
An important component of the entire plan starts with the hog producer and their barn employees to be able “to know what they are looking at to be able to report the diseases,” Webb says. Disease observation and detection, along with strong biosecurity measures have long been stressed and practiced on U.S. hog farms, and have become an important part of the Pork Quality Assurance Plus program presented by the Pork Checkoff, and there are a number of other related resources available at Pork.org.
It is recommended that farms have designated individuals trained to collect oral fluid and nasal swab samples. Videos and handouts for oral fluid collection and handouts for nasal swab collection are available in English and Spanish at SecurePork.org/training-materials.php. These designated individuals should periodically practice sample collection, and sample collection supplies should be maintained on the premises. All farm caretakers should also be trained to look for signs associated with FMD, CSF and ASF.
A shortcoming to any best-laid plan can be communication and the sharing of data, and should the U.S. swine herd experience FMD infections, it is imperative that producers improve their communication lines. “Producers are only used to sharing a limited amount of data that they need to conduct their business,” he says. “In our world the premises ID number is really key to our level of preparedness. The first thing the state animal health officials will have to do in an outbreak is actually communicate with producers, and to be able to do that, they’re going to need to know where you’re at.”
While sharing of data is imperative to stall a disease spread, sharing of “quality” data is even more important. Producers should maintain records of movement of animals, feed, supplies, equipment, personnel and visitors. Records of the names, addresses and telephone numbers of livestock haulers, employees, feed suppliers, etc., should also be maintained. A sample FMD epidemiology questionnaire found in the USDA FMD Response Plan, for which the above-mentioned information is needed, is available at SecurePork.org/Resources/FMD_ResponsePlan_2014_epiquestionnaire.pdf.
When an outbreak first occurs, it may take several days to weeks before the livestock industry and federal and state officials have sufficient knowledge of the extent of the outbreak to have confidence that animals can be safely moved without contributing to disease spread. Producers should be prepared to manage their premises with being allowed to move animals during this time if they are located in a regulatory control zone. This allows time to be able to conduct surveillance to demonstrate a lack of evidence of disease and more confidence that a movement does not present a significant risk of disease spread.
During an outbreak, producers would be required to obtain a permit to move pigs within, out of or into a control area. The SPS plan has several components (which may vary with the type of facility and movement requested) that may need to be fulfilled in order to request and receive a permit for permissible movement. There may be additional requirements depending on the scope of the outbreak.
PINs, which all producers should already have in place, are just the starting point. State animal health officials will require a lot of data in a short amount of time to analyze to make sure that the disease has been contained, “and those assurances are vital because that’s when business continuity can start coming in to play to make sure that you can move your pigs to market if you are in a disease control area,” Webb says. Merely having a PIN is not enough. “The PIN must be associated with the location the pigs are actually housed" says Webb, “if not you need to contact your state vets offices to get a new PIN” A valid PIN must be incorporated into all movement records and production records, in addition to making sure that PINs are incorporated with veterinary diagnostic laboratory submission forms, and make sure the premises ID numbers are associated with movement records, especially those heading to market on the bills of lading. “All of that information is vital for state animal health officials,” Webb says. “They need to see it, they need to analyze it, because they are the one who are going to determine if we can move our pigs.” Producers can visit premid.pork.org to validate PINs and generate barcodes to apply to paperwork.
For producers who find themselves in a disease control area, Webb says they will need to take measures to be able to move pigs, and ensure that animal welfare is still maintained. “You need to consider what you are going to do if you have to depop or even dispose of animals,” Webb says.
As Webb has stressed, communication is key, and these lines of communication need to be established now. “Develop relationships with state animal health officials now,” he says. “Don’t try to establish that relationship once at outbreak occurs. … if you wait until then, it’s too late.” Any delay or hiccup in the process would mean a delay in pathogen identification and the continuation if business as usual.
Webb says an implementation guide, or a cookbook as he calls it, will be available for producers in the first part of 2018. Until then, producers can glean as much information as possible from the SecurePork.org website.
“We’re thankful that our country has not experienced a disease such as foot-and-mouth since 1929,” says Terry O’Neel, National Pork Board president from Friend, Neb. “However, if we get the news that FMD, African swine fever or another foreign animal disease has arrived, the Secure Pork Supply plan will pay big dividends by getting pork production back to normal much faster.”