Though the name has changed, the mission of the National Pork Board Science & Technology Department remains the same.
Dave Pyburn took over Sept. 8 as the senior vice president of science and technology, replacing Paul Sundberg who has become the executive director of the newly formed Swine Health Information Center.
Pyburn says that the producer-members of the NPB Science and Technology committee have done a good job of identifying and prioritizing important research that needs to be done in the S&T realm. Though they seem to get the public headlines, the S&T focus does go beyond swine diseases.
The S&T department “is the science ‘engine’ for the Pork Board. Almost all research done by the National Pork Board comes through our committee members,” he says. In addition to swine diseases, other areas receiving great attention from the S&T committee are antimicrobials, foreign animal disease preparedness, animal welfare, pork quality and animal science issues such as sow longevity and feed efficiency.
Sustainability is also getting a greater emphasis from the Pork Board, so much so that the NPB decided to change the strictly environmental committee to a broader reaching sustainability committee.
Keeping with the times
Pyburn has been with the NPB since 2013, and has been serving as assistant vice president in the S&T department. Previously he served 13 years as the senior veterinary medical officer at the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services. Pyburn was with the National Pork Producers Council from 1997 to 2000 and, prior to that, a practicing veterinarian in Iowa.
Pyburn says the pork producer research focus has changed since his time with the NPPC. “Back in the ’90s the focus was on diseases and pork safety, but producers have done good job of expanding the universe of research that they see needs to be done,” he says. “Disease will always be important. It can hit an individual producer hard in the pocketbook with a PED or PRRS, or it can hit the industry hard if we get a foreign animal disease to come into this country.”
On that front, he is cautiously watching the reports of Seneca Valley Virus that have slowly been coming in across hog country.
“We don’t want to cause panic with this,” Pyburn says of the disease that has popped up in 16 cases in the past few week, but he states that producers and veterinarians need to be cautious if they notice the vesicles and coalescing erosions on the snouts and coronary bands, ulcerative lesions on or around the hoof wall and acute lameness in groups of pigs. SVV is not a foreign animal disease, but these symptoms are similar to those of foot and mouth disease.
“If producers or veterinarians see vesicles, we need to have a foreign animal disease investigation,” he says. “Because the last thing that we want is for Seneca Valley to mask FMD, and then we have FMD throughout the country. That would ruin our industry.” If any signs of vesicular disease are noticed, producers or their veterinarian need to immediately contact the state board of animal health, their state veterinarian or the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to determine if further investigation is necessary.
Luxury of timing
Pyburn sees the origination of the Swine Health Information Center is good timing, for all swine health issues, but particularly for the presence of SVV. “PED taught us that we need to have this organization (SHIC) in place,” he says, “to have someone out there looking for that that next thing or things coming down the pipe that could affect the industry the way PED did. … where the next disease is coming from, what diagnostics we have available and that we have the proper communication lines open.”
In his role, Pyburn reports to NPB CEO Chris Hodges, who in an NPB press release says: “Dr. Pyburn is a respected and demonstrated leader in the swine science industry and has proven himself as both a qualified academic, and as a leader of his team. Dave’s professional history encompasses on-the-farm practical work, government experience and he was also previously the director of veterinary science at the National Pork Producers Council. Dave has many progressive ideas for this team and our industry, and we are looking forward to him starting his new role immediately.”