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New survey shines light on pork industry’s biosecurity investment

National Pork Board Biosecurity Sign
The first-of-its-kind survey reveals diversity in producer views on the future frequency of high-consequence foreign animal diseases occurring in the U.S., the dollars-per-pig loss their operation would experience following an outbreak, and the duration an event would last.

By Lee Schulz, Iowa State University Extension livestock economist

The health of the U.S. swine herd underlies efficient and profitable pork production. Swine health challenges have had significant impacts on pork production in recent years. Disease challenges include porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus, circovirus, influenza and porcine epidemic diarrhea virus. The PEDV outbreak in the United States crystallized concerns that producers, allied industries and consumers share about the impact of swine disease and the complexity of preventing such impacts. With the benefit of more knowledge, the pork industry will be better equipped to address current diseases, while preparing for other potential emerging diseases.

New data is now available from Iowa State University. Before this first-of-its-kind survey, little data existed to fully understand and analyze producer decisions regarding biosecurity investment and adoption of disease-mitigating practices.

Glynn Tonsor, collaborating livestock economist with Kansas State University, adds “while many disease-mitigating practices have been developed and identified as effective, to the extent they are only partially used, key opportunities remain to protect the swine industry from disease initiation and persistence further if we can better understand producer investment decisions.”

In 2017, Iowa State University, in collaboration with state pork producer associations, conducted a comprehensive survey of swine producers as part of a larger, USDA grant-funded project focused on how livestock producers make biosecurity investment decisions. The objectives of the survey were to document swine industry characteristics, biosecurity adoption and how risks to swine health influence producer decision making. Completed surveys from 371 anonymous producers from 19 U.S. states were received.

“We are excited about the possibilities this data will open up for us to understand the complexities of disease management and help provide insight for producers, industry stakeholders and policymakers,” says Christopher Pudenz, an Iowa State University economics PhD student. “We’re very grateful to the state pork producer associations who helped distribute the survey and producers who took the time to provide information on such a complex and challenging issue.”

“Survey participants were asked to identify disease surveillance measures performed on their operation,” Pudenz says. “Of those producers who identified practices, 48% conduct active observational surveillance daily.”

“More than half of the producers responding to the survey have conducted a biosecurity risk assessment, either self-administered or an on-farm evaluation with a veterinarian or other biosecurity expert,” Pudenz says. “These biosecurity risk assessments had been conducted within the past nine months, on average.”

Biosecurity is a key component of the Secure Pork Supply Plan designed to provide business continuity in the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak. Three of the biosecurity recommendations outlined in the SPS Plan are a written site-specific biosecurity plan, a defined perimeter buffer area (PBA) and a defined line of separation (LOS).

Nearly 60% of responding producers report always providing a written site-specific biosecurity plan to employees. However, only 39% report always providing a written site-specific biosecurity plan to delivery and service personnel. Sixty percent of responding producers indicate a LOS is clearly defined for each building on their operation, while only 40% indicate a PBA is clearly defined. Though many producers believe implementation of a PBA and LOS is feasible on their operation, non-adoption suggests other motivating factors. Additional analyses will aim to identify reasons for non-adoption with a goal of guiding future educational and message targeting efforts to enhance overall industry biosecurity.

The survey also revealed notable heterogeneity in producer views on the future frequency of high-consequence foreign animal diseases occurring in the U.S., the dollars-per-pig loss their operation would experience following an outbreak, and the duration an event would last. These diverse producer views likely underlie current and future biosecurity practices and will be further assessed by the research team accordingly.

Pudenz, Tonsor and Lee Schulz will be sharing more details as analysis continues on the broad array of survey information.

A full summary of the survey results is available online at the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Store.

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