Pork Checkoff Welcomes Increased Surveillance for African Swine Fever

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USDA has announced the implementation of an African Swine Fever surveillance plan. Dr. Dave Pyburn, who is the Pork Checkoff’s senior vice president of science and technology, outlines this new effort and what it means to pig farmers.


Don Wick


Dave Pyburn, Vice President of Science and Technology, National Pork Board




Don Wick: 00:16 From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines Iowa, it’s Pork Pod. Pork Pod, a look at the hot topics in today’s pork industry. The Pork Checkoff is working for you through various forms of research, promotion, and consumer information projects. I’m Don Wick speaking on behalf of the Pork Checkoff, and today our guest is Dr. David Pyburn, Senior Vice President of science and technology with the National Pork Board. The USDA has announced the implementation of an African swine fever surveillance plan. Dr Pyburn is with us. Tell us more about this announcement from USDA.

David Pyburn: 00:33 Yeah, Don, really happy to see this. We’ve had surveillance for classical swine fever and other foreign animal disease since 2008. And what they’re doing is they’re taking and they’re going to utilize those same samples, because the diseases look very similar between classical and African swine fever. They’ll be able to utilize those same samples, those same risk animals that are coming into that surveillance program, and test those for African swine fever and classical swine fever together. So it’s a simultaneous testing of the same samples. It’s economically very feasible for them to do that. And for us, it just helps us as far as being able to continue to show that we remain negative for both of those diseases. And then for both of those foreign animal diseases, it enables us to more quickly, hopefully more quickly, catch it if either one of them were to ever get here, and thus, more quickly be able to eradicate the disease from our industry again.

Don Wick: 01:28 So what animals are they testing as part of this effort?

David Pyburn: 01:32 Yeah, they’ve got several different higher risk streams that they’re going to pull from. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to be testing apparently healthy animals because they probably don’t have either one of these, because we don’t have either one of these in the country. So in order to use the, their money, the wisest as far as putting together this surveillance program, what they’ve decided to do, and I agree with it, is they’re going to test sick pigs submissions into the veterinary diagnostic labs through the USDA National Animal Health Lab network, where they have agreements with these labs that are doing our regular testing for endemic diseases. They’ll be able to pull those samples in the D labs that look like they could be, potentially could be African swine or classical swine fever, and they’d be able to run them through a test to see if they, what they get for an outcome.

David Pyburn: 02:20 So that’s, that’s one of the samples. Another one would be sick pigs, or in some cases, we will have dead pigs at points of congregation. Things like, you know, markets where we were gathering groups before they go onto harvest. Roaster pigs or, or poor-doing pigs that end up in the roaster market. Some of those types of places, they’re going to pull samples there from pigs that look like they could be sick or from pigs that unfortunately die there. And then they’re also going to target some of the higher risk herds. So especially looking at the current waste feeding program that they have. We have a number of states where you can still feed food waste to pigs. And so in those states, those facilities are inspected to make sure that they’re, in fact, cooking that waste before it’s fed to the pigs. And in that inspection process, the inspectors look over the animals as well. So if they find sick animals or dead animals on those facilities, they’ll again pull samples from them and run them through the surveillance program.

Don Wick: 03:22 What about feral pigs?

David Pyburn: 03:24 Yeah, and that’s one thing that, in this one, it does not look like they’re going to do that for African swine fever. For classical swine fever, they do currently test in feral swine. But in reading the surveillance plan that USDA has put out, it looks like, at least for the time being, they’re not going to be testing feral swine, although I will say it’s not in the plan, but I’ve had some discussions with their swine health staff at USDA and what it may end up being is that feral swine that are found sick or found dead, again higher risk, because this is a disease that is killing pigs very quickly, within 10 days of becoming infected. So if they find a sick animal or a dead animal, they could put that in the surveillance program. But the way it’s written right now, that’s not in there, but it is in there for classical swine fever.

Don Wick: 04:16 So from a pig farmer’s perspective, what’s this mean to them?

David Pyburn: 04:21 What this means to them is, is that there’s potential for them to have submissions into the labs that would match up with what ASF or classical swine fever could look like. A situation where we have like a septicemic salmonella in some of our animals, that can look very much like either one of these diseases. And so their samples could be pulled and put into that surveillance program. Just to make sure that, in fact, what we’re actually dealing with is the endemic disease and not the foreign animal disease that we’re worried about getting here. And then the big payoff really for the producer and for the whole industry is as we continue to work on prevention and keep this thing out, we’ve also got to remember that there’s still potential for this to slip through, African swine fever or classical swine fever. And if it does, we want to catch this thing very quickly, either one of these diseases in our pigs. So this has the potential to help us with being able to catch it more quickly and thus make the eradication program a smaller effort and one that we can hopefully get done pretty quickly.

Don Wick: 05:22 So how closely does the Pork Checkoff work with USDA on some of these preparedness efforts?

David Pyburn: 05:26 We’ve been working with them ever since the announcement by China back in August. And when I say we, it’s not just the Pork Board, it’s the National Pork Producers Council, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and also the Swine Health Information Center. We’ve all been coming together and going and speaking with USDA and asking them about our preparedness and about our prevention activities and asking them to help us and us to allow us to help them to increase the level of activity in that area and also the level of awareness.

Don Wick: 05:56 So the response from USDA, you’re pleased with where they’re sitting at this point?

David Pyburn: 06:01 Oh yeah. Yes, I am. This is, this is another action on their part. Just like that when they came up with the addition of beagles for the Customs and Border Patrol to make sure that we’re not bringing smuggled meats, smuggled pork into the country. This is another step for them as they work towards bettering our preparedness here and our ability to prevent. We should be very pleased that USDA is taking this action. And for folks that are hearing this now and wondering about the surveillance program, or maybe just for the first time hearing about African swine fever or want more information on African swine fever, I would direct them to our website, which is www.pork.org/fad and there they can find the latest information on the surveillance program and on everything we’re doing as far as prevention and preparedness for African swine fever.

Don Wick: 06:53 Dr. David Pyburn from the National Pork Board. Thank you for listening to this edition of Pork Pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, visit pork.org.