Pig farms need to tighten biosecurity measures


By Jenny Schlecht, Agweek

via Agri News (MN) - Jun 6, 2019


ST. PAUL — While countries across the globe work to eliminate African swine fever, John Deen says he hopes that U.S. pork producers continue to strive to block the highly contagious and deadly virus from ever infecting its pig herd.


Deen is a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota. His expertise includes swine health and welfare, and epidemiology of swine diseases. He has visited China, talking to pig farmers and veterinarians about the new scourge to the industry.


“I’m very concerned about this disease,” he said. “A massive number of pigs have been infected with this agent.”


The U.S. exports far more pork than it imports. In 2018, the U.S. exported more than 2.4 million pounds of pork, worth $6.392 billion, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. Deen said African fever could devastate the industry.


“Introduction of ASF into pigs in the U.S. would result in a loss of export markets and real difficulty in maintaining a market for our pork,” he said. “We’ve got to do everything to keep it out.”


African swine fever, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, is found in countries around the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.


Recent discovery of the disease in China and other southeast Asian countries and parts of Europe has been particularly worrisome, leading to the cancellation of the World Pork Expo that had been slated to be held in Iowa.


That and other measures are not an overreaction, according to experts. Deen said the disease can travel in many ways, which makes the possibility of it making it to the U.S. more likely than other livestock diseases, like foot and mouth disease. It can stick to shoes and equipment. It can live in feedstuffs and in the pork from infected pigs.


“It’s a long-lived virus,” he said. “It lasts a long time under a variety of scenarios.”


So farmers need to re-examine their biosecurity efforts, he said. Check into where materials are sourced. That includes not just feedstuffs but also the bags in which the feed comes. Create good sanitary conditions. Don’t bring pork products onto a pig farm.


All consumers have a role to play, Deen said. Support government efforts by avoiding smuggled products. Applaud efforts like the “Beagle Brigade” — an inspection service at international airports that involves dogs sniffing international travelers for smuggled items.


The USDA considers the illegal entry of swine products and byproducts to be the most likely pathway for African swine fever to come to the U.S., with the likeliest entry points being air passenger baggage and foreign mail.


“Part of the reason we identify that as a risk is that’s the way we think it entered countries such as China and Vietnam,” Deen said...