Diane DeWitte

As African swine fever spreads around the globe, pork industry and its partners all pulling together to prevent the entry of ASF into U.S. pig herds. ASF is one of three foreign animal diseases U.S. livestock producers and partners are working to exclude from the United States. Another is foot and mouth disease which would infect not just pigs, but cattle, sheep, goats, deer and bison. Foot and mouth disease was eradicated from the United States in 1929.  The third foreign animal disease being watched is classical swine fever which many of us know as hog cholera – a disease eradicated in the United States in 1978. 

Across the country, plans are in place establishing emergency foreign animal disease preparedness in livestock. Currently, secure food supply plans have been developed for milk, poultry, beef and pork. The purpose of the secure supply plan is to provide livestock producers with a workable continuity of business plan should a foreign animal disease occur. 

In the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak, livestock movement would be restricted, and preparation for such a catastrophe is the best way to ensure producers could continue to move animals off of the farm and move products to market. 

The secure supply plan also prepares producers for cooperating with animal health officials in the event of an outbreak, and provides consumers with confidence their meat, milk and egg supply is safe. 

State and federal officials, collaborating with the National Pork Board, industry and universities, have rolled out secure pork supply information to swine producers during 2018 and 2019. In Minnesota, Dr. Dave Wright’s appointment as the secure pork supply coordinator will end on June 30. Producers who have not yet put their secure pork supply plan into place are encouraged to get information from the national website (www.securepork.org), or through the University of Minnesota’s Extension website at https://z.umn.edu/UofMinnesotaSPSinfo. Extension swine educators Sarah Schieck and Diane DeWitte are also available to assist producers as they complete their farm’s secure pork supply plan. 

Traceability and movement management – It’s been proven that restricting movement of animals reduces the spread of disease; but that benefit has to be balanced with the costs of interrupting business. In addition, there is a real threat to animal welfare when they are kept in close proximity to diseased animals.

A farm connected to a validated national Premises Identification Number is a key component in helping officials determine disease control areas and potential movement of animals. 

Enhanced biosecurity – Four important concepts have been identified to tighten up a producer’s biosecurity effort: Identify a biosecurity manager; maintain detailed records; draft a written, site-specific biosecurity plan and document the training; and create a premises map.

Training, response and surveillance – Swine farm personnel must become familiar with the three most common swine foreign animal diseases. It should be noted African swine fever, foot and mouth disease and classical swine fever are not public health or food safety concerns.  Meat will still be safe to eat. However, these diseases are very contagious in swine, and each team member on the pig farm should be able to recognize clinical signs.

Currently, swine producers are asked to keep a daily observation record of their pigs, and doing so will help provide timely documentation in the event of a disease outbreak. If suspicious signs are observed, farm personnel will be asked to collect oral and nasal swab samples to submit for testing.  Any suspicions about pig health should be reported to a veterinarian immediately.

Premises ID number –The national premises ID number (PIN) is a unique seven-character identifier assigned to a premises where pigs are produced, kept or moved through. Each state’s Board of Animal Health manages the identification program and assigns the PIN for producers. National PINs are not specific only to swine and premises where any food animal is raised can have a PIN. 

Today more than 95 percent of swine premises use the national PIN. The pork industry is striving to reach 100 percent adoption of PINs.  Not only will accurate PINs on every pig farm provide pinpoint accuracy to reduce disease spread, but PIN use demonstrates a superior traceability system to the United States’ international trade partners.

PINs are a key component of the Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA+) site assessment, and many packers require a PQA+ site assessment as a condition of sale. Since January 2015, all sows and boars sold into the food chain must have an ear tag containing the farm’s PIN. The numbers are also required by many major swine shows and exhibitions. 

To obtain a PIN, producers can contact the Minnesota Board of Animal Health at  www.bah.state.mn.us/register-your-premises/ or call (651) 201-6816. 

Validate the correct PIN location – A team from University of Minnesota’s Department of Veterinary Population Medicine took a close look at PIN information and found two types of accuracy problems. First, PINs linked to a site with incorrect address or longitude and latitude coordinates. The PIN must be connected to the actual physical address where the animals are located. For emergency response activities, the PIN must correspond to the animal location. There are also occasions when one PIN is recorded for several geographically distinct sites. Producers with more than one farm or barns on several locations need to get a separate PIN for each site. In the case of a disease outbreak, if multiple barns/farms are connected to one PIN, all of the facilities would be designated as infected, even if only one actually was. 

Swine exhibitors must implement meticulous biosecurity before, during and after a pig show. The University of Minnesota's Biosecure Entry Education Trailer has hit the road this month to help 4-H livestock exhibitors learn about keeping their animals safe from diseases. Some biosecurity highlights for youthful swine exhibitors include these pointers: 

Before going to the fair, clean and disinfect all show equipment. If the animal is sick, DO NOT take it to the show!

At the fair, wash hands often with soap and running water. If water isn’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Do not share equipment with other exhibitors.

After the fair, isolate pigs for up to 30 days following the show and watch for signs of illness. Clean and disinfect all show equipment, feed and water buckets, pans and containers. Any pigs showing signs of illness should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Next step – Minnesota’s Board of Animal Health has developed a “next step” for producers who have completed their farm’s secure pork supply plan. A checklist completed by their herd veterinarian can be submitted to the board of animal health. That information will further assist Minnesota’s animal health officers determine if a movement permit can be issued in the event of an foreign animal disease movement restriction.

As swine producers learn more daily regarding African swine fever’s movement in other parts of the world, they will continue to hear about the secure pork supply plan. The SPS is voluntary. Countless hours and thought have gone into preparing the pig community for continuity of business in the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak. 

More details or assistance can be found at www.securepork.org, or by contacting University of Minnesota Extension swine educators Sarah Schieck at schi0466@umn.edu or Diane DeWitte at stouf002@umn.edu

Diane K. DeWitte is a University of Minnesota Extension Swine Educator located in Mankato, MN,  and can be reached at stouf002@umn.edu