Dave Pyburn speaks matter-of-factly: “At some point in time our industry is going to have a foreign animal disease; it will come our turn at some point. Beef has had their BSE; eggs has had avian influenza; poultry has had, and again has, exotic Newcastle disease,” the National Pork Board vice president of science and technology said during a World Pork Expo press conference. “Even as biosecure as we are, at some point we will have a foreign animal disease, as much as we try to prevent it.”
When that does happen, Pyburn stressed the importance of having a plan in place to keep it business-as-usual as much as possible, or to return to business as usual.
The Secure Pork Supply plan, which was unveiled at the 2017 World Pork Expo, is a plan to help better respond when a FAD does hit the U.S. swine herd. The plan’s development, primarily funded by USDA and contributions by the Pork Checkoff, was done in cooperation with the industry, academics and state and federal animal health officials to ensure it was workable and credible. An integral part of any successful plan is involvement, and “producers need to be involved ahead of time,” Pyburn said. The SPS is “a business continuity plan for producers. In the event of a FAD, state veterinarians as well as USDA are going to shut down movement of all swine and this is an appropriate move,” since it will be difficult to tell immediately the extent of the spread of foot-and-mouth disease, African swine fever or classical swine fever, each of which are export-halting diseases.
“We won’t know where it’s at in the country, but we know we will want to stop the spread of it,” he said. “The only way to do that is to stop movement immediately. And then we’ll want to restart safe movement again as soon as possible.”
Knowing where to start is a good place to begin. Although SPS is a voluntary program, each producer who chooses to participate needs to acquire a premises identification number, Pyburn said. He stressed that each farm site with hogs on it needs to have an individual PIN. Requesting a PIN from your state veterinarian is free.
Pyburn encouraged producers to get involved in the SPS program now, because “when we have a foreign animal disease there will be a rush to get involved because folks will need to move hogs again, but if you’re involved ahead of time and you’re providing data to the state veterinarian, with your permission of course, and only your permission, if you’ve already got that relationship with your state veterinarian, if you’ve already got that premises ID number so you can be identified and your site can be identified, you will be ahead of the game and you will be one of the first to restart movement if it is safe to do so.”
Producers can obtain a national PIN from their state’s animal health official. “Every site that has pigs needs to have a premises ID number,” he said. Currently, “well more than 95% of our sites are identified with national premises ID numbers, but we need 100% to be identified.”
Pyburn related that producers have shared that, should animal movement stoppage be ordered, most producers have about a week’s worth of capacity. “After that week it’s going to compromise animal well-being on the farm.” We’re going to have situations where animals need to move to larger pens, we’re going to have situations where animals are going to get too big and they’re going to have to move to market.”
SPS allows the transfer of information to state and federal animal health officials to enable them to make an educated decision on low-risk movement. “In a foreign animal disease, everyone is going to stop animal movement in the beginning,” he said. There will be many farms that test negative for the diseases that will be able to resume movement sooner than their infected neighbors. “But the only way to do that is to be able to show the state animal health officials and the USDA that that movement is indeed safe.”
Pyburn used the example of avian influenza that hit Iowa and Minnesota four to five years ago that forced the movement of all egg production to cease. “How did they start movement of eggs where it was safe? They did it through their Secure Egg Supply program. They were then able to get their eggs moving again a lot more quickly,” he said.
If or when a FAD is discovered in the U.S. swine herd, animal movements in and out of facilities will be ceased at the infected site, but also at sites in close proximity to the infected herd. “Producers will be questioned about the potential of having had exposure to sites that are known to be positive. Is there a possibility that you brought the disease onto your farm?” Pyburn said. For that reason, it is important for farms to have complete and detailed animal movement records.
In addition to animal movement records, Pyburn stressed the importance of established and maintaining detailed disease surveillance data “in the form of diagnostic lab testing data, but also in the form of observational data. We’ve got skilled labor on farms and they’re looking at pigs every day, and when they do they can tell when something is just slightly off in those pigs that others cannot tell. They can see a disease coming before it manifests into something that we can see, so good observational data is of value too, we just need to have a way to deliver that to regulatory officials.”
Good records were beneficial in allowing egg movement earlier in the avian influenza outbreak. Pyburn related that the state veterinarians credit the records, but the records were on the farm, and they were on paper. “They were dealing with hand-delivered paper, or mailed paper or faxed paper,” Pyburn said. “It’s pretty slow to get movement started again.”
What the pork industry is doing, with checkoff funding from the National Pork Board, is to create a digital dashboard that would transfer that data quickly in the event of a disease outbreak. “Keep the records digitally, deliver the records digitally so they are there in a split second, and decisions can start to be made” more rapidly, Pyburn said.
Equally as important to detailed health and animal movement records are detailed biosecurity records. “Is it possible that you had high biosecurity on your farm and were able to keep the disease out of your barns? If so, you need to have the documentation to be able to prove that to the animal health officials,” Pyburn said.
A side benefit of the SPS is an enhanced biosecurity plan for individual farm operations, and collectively the entire U.S. swine industry, “and that’s not a bad thing to have right now either. We can think back to the PED outbreak, and those of us who had it remember it was devastating on the farm,” Pyburn said, “and they probably wish we would have increased our on-farm biosecurity before we got it.”
The same goes for FADs: Enhanced biosecurity measures will go a long way in keeping the U.S. herd clean.
Although developing a Secure Pork Supply plan for your farm or system sounds daunting, Dave Wright, the SPS coordinator for Minnesota, has attempted to simplify the process. Referring to SecurePork.org (the Secure Pork Supply Plan website) as “the Bible,” he created a seven-step program to get producers up to speed with an SPS plan for their farm:
■ Step 1. Familiarize yourself with SecurePork.org
■ Step 2. Validate your premises; obtain a PIN; print a map
■ Step 3. Locate and compile records: Logbooks, CVIs and SOPs
■ Step 4. Enhanced Biosecurity Part 1 — Introducing the Biosecurity Plan Template
■ Step 5. Enhanced Biosecurity Part 2 — Create and Label a Premises Map
■ Step 6. Enhanced Biosecurity Part 3 — Complete the Biosecurity Template
■ Step 7. Foreign Animal Disease Training and Response
“Looking at these seven steps may seem overwhelming, but if you break it down piece by piece it is more palatable,” Wright said. He estimated that it may take six to eight hours if a producer wanted to develop their farm’s SPS plan in one sitting, so he suggested breaking it off into smaller “bites.”
Wright said Step 1 is most important for producers to get a good feel for the program. Steps 5 and 6 can be time-consuming but have proven to be an excellent exercise in reviewing biosecurity on each site. He also emphasized the importance of training and sharing the SPS plan with all farm staff.
Biosecurity is about minimizing risk, and Scott Dee, director of Pipestone Applied Research, has substantiated research saying possible disease transmission can be via supplies coming to the farm, and more specifically in the feedstuffs being imported.
Dee has worked with teams at the South Dakota State University and Kansas State University led by Diego Diel and Megan Niederwerder, respectively, researching the possibility that viruses, first PED, could indeed travel and survive along with feedstuffs on an oceanic voyage from China or Eastern Europe.
“Historically we have recognized the importation of live animals and meat as the primary risk factor for disease transmission,” Niederwerder said, “but PEDV has been an eye-opener to the potential that viruses can survive in certain feedstuffs, and it may be a significant risk. It has broadened our mindset.”
This team’s research has garnered attention within the swine industry, as well as from other commodity groups, feed industry organizations and even the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “The government is very interested in this work,” Dee said.
Interest will continue to grow in this research as the team is studying the potential of FADs being transmitted through feed, as Niederwerder is working with the African swine fever virus in trials at Kansas State’s Biological Safety Level-3 laboratory, the Biosecurity Research Institute.
Niederwerder’s ASF research is organized into three parts:
■ Understanding if the virus survives in feed ingredients using a transboundary model that simulates the shipment of feed from other countries into the United States.
■ Determining the oral dose of African swine fever virus necessary in feed to cause infection.
■ Identifying mitigants that reduce or eliminate the risk of African swine fever virus transmission in feed ingredients, including any additives that may inactivate the virus in swine feed.
Dee said this research has also garnered global interest, as FMD, ASF and CSF have global consequences. Diel added that research on the transboundary survivability and more recent mitigation of endemic viruses such as Seneca Valley and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome paved the way for the work that is now being done with FAD agents.
A part of any good biosecurity plan is to have steps to follow, and Dee said he foresees an established protocol of how to handle incoming feed supplies that may indeed be harboring harmful viruses, “kind of like how you quarantine breeding stock.” He claimed that such a protocol will be in place in a year. “I see it coming sooner than later,” he said.
“This is a pretty complex problem,” Diel said. “There is no single solution.”
Dee said he sees another integral prong to keeping FADs at bay is mitigation of viruses that survive in feedstuffs. “Mitigation is the key. Not only would it reduce the risk of pathogen entry to the U.S. in imports, treatment of feed to be exported would provide our industry with a significant advantage,” Dee said. “Finally, should an FAD enter the country, mass treatment across farms in regions may help reduce local spread.”
Diel is leading research at SDSU, looking at mitigation agents and their effectiveness on multiple viruses in the transboundary model. Dee acknowledged that none of this research would be possible without funding from SHIC. Niederwerder also acknowledged funding from the National Pork Board and the State of Kansas National Bio and Agro-defense Facility Fund.
A wide range of industry leaders are coordinating the effort to create a secure pork supply. Pyburn and others at the National Pork Board, Dee and the team at Pipestone-SDSU-KSU, Wright and the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, USDA and other government agencies, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, Iowa State University, University of Minnesota and participating producers are all dedicated to keeping the U.S. swine herd healthy.
The work that Pyburn and others at the NPB have done, as well as the work done by Wright and the team of Pipestone-SDSU-KSU, all ties into creating a secure pork supply, and keeping the U.S. swine herd healthy.
Producers are encouraged to visit SecurePork.org for the information they will need to develop the Secure Pork Supply plan for their individual farms. Minnesota producers may contact Wright at 763-242-7535 to obtain a copy of the seven-step process.