Threat of ASF Heightens Biosecurity

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With Foreign Animal Diseases, like African Swine Fever, biosecurity is extremely important. National Pork Board Director of Swine Health Information and Research Dr. Lisa Becton outlines common-sense recommendations in this edition of Pork Pod.


Don Wick


Lisa Becton, Director of Swine Health & Research, National Pork Board




Don Wick: 00:00 From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines, Iowa, its 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 Lisa Becton, who is the director of swine health information and research for the National Pork Board. Certainly foreign animal diseases are a major concern for the US pork producer, especially now as we look at African swine fever. Dr Becton, as we look at these diseases, what kind of preparation, what kind of things should our US producers be thinking about?

Lisa Becton: 00:41 Yes. You know, ASF is a significant threat and I think there are a lot of things people can do. You know, we’ve talked about a lot of just basic farm biosecurity, looking at how you’re bringing people in and out of the farms, even where you’re parking workers. You know, things like don’t park people right next to the farm, having extra boots and coveralls, and make sure people aren’t carrying any of their personal items in. But other things like looking at feed and feed suppliers, that’s been something that’s been of high focus because you know, you’d like to think that we’ve learned from past issues and PED was one of those unfortunate teachers. And so we know a lot of times that PED may have traveled around in feed and so we’re trying to take advantage of that learning for ASF and have folks look at feed suppliers if they get anything from overseas, specifically from China or Asia. But really looking at what are they doing for purchasing. Can you hold the feed before using it to try to prevent any kind of disease introduction? But also looking at how you handle biosecurity for feed, for feed mill, as well as feed trucks. You know, we focus a lot on animals but also feed drivers, feed trucks themselves, keeping those types of things clean. So really working on basics, but also stepping it up a notch and looking a little bit more closely at things that we might not have done in the past.

Don Wick: 02:18 Let’s talk about that. That real strict line of separation. And that’s really what we’re talking about here.

Lisa Becton: 02:22 That’s correct. Because you know everybody’s line of separation or you know what we sometimes refer to as the “clean and dirty line” may vary by farm. But the goal of having that line is to know where people that aren’t associated with the farm ,or visitors, stay on the outside versus what is across the line on the inside of the farm that you want to protect. And so typically people think of that, especially during load-out when you are moving animals out of the farm onto a truck for movement to another market or another farm. And so having that guard right at the chute where people don’t crossover, drivers don’t come into the farm, and farm workers don’t go into the truck. That’s a very easy one. But other things like, you know, where feed trucks can go, where other people working around the farm such as manure hauling or spreading, making sure that people understand there are certain areas that they just cannot go or if they do, they’ve got to follow different procedures like wearing you, know, plastic boots or coveralls or things like that. So that all plays into the biosecurity plan.

Don Wick: 03:30 We really aren’t talking about things that are costly. It’s really just making this a priority.

Lisa Becton: 03:36 That’s correct. You know, and my philosophy is to try to look at what are things that are truly a risk and try to come up with solutions to that. They don’t have to be very complicated or crazy, but it’s really trying to assess what are my individual risks for my farm and then what are the best practices that I can do to prevent that. You know, during PED, a lot of people were worried about people going to, you know, a convenience store, community areas, which people do, you know, we’ve got to go to the grocery store. But the concern was how do you get people back into the farm? Well, we know footwear is something that can, you know, track through different muds, manures, whatever. So an easy solution is, don’t wear your footwear that you wear out in the community, out in your car, into the farm. Change into a separate pair or have a bench set up where you can remove shoes before you go into a farm. So solutions don’t have to be complicated, but they do have to address at least the risks that is there to the farm.

Don Wick: 04:36 It may be easy to think that this is an issue in China or Eastern Europe or South Korea today. Should the US producer be making these steps today?

Lisa Becton: 04:45 You know, it always is good because while ASF is a significant threat and we don’t have it here, we still have other diseases such as PRRS, PED influenza that, you know, that are out there that we can still do a very good job to prevent. So even though the threat of African swine fever is still real, so are the threats of other diseases. And biosecurity’s always a wise investment, any time.

Don Wick: 05:10 Can you kind of give me a kind of little primer? What are some things we should keep in mind as far as biosecurity on the farm?

Lisa Becton: 05:18 You know it’s always looking at what are things you can do to prevent entry and so again, you know, if it’s a shower in-shower out protocol, if it’s changing boots and coveralls, if it’s parking in a different area, those are the key things. But also looking at how do I prevent things from spreading within a farm. And so you know, making sure that your work from youngest to oldest animals, if you have to work in different areas of the farm, say farrowing or go to a nursery if you have it, you know, wash hands, do something like that. If you’re working an isolation barn, work your isolation barns last thing of the day and then go home. And always, to me, clean and dry is always a good thing. Whenever you’re dealing with trucks, trailers, farms, if you can keep things clean, free of manure and dry, you’re a lot less likely to have pathogens hang around.

Don Wick: 06:13 Obviously in pork production we have a lot of workers on the farm and staff changes can change quite, quite frequently. What’s that mean as far as training and some of those kinds of things as it relates to biosecurity?

Lisa Becton: 06:26 That’s a really good point. Training is critical, especially with new people, just to have them understand why you’re asking them to do different things in different policies. But it’s also really good for people that are also on the farm because a lot of times people don’t have a chance to, you know, sit down and read a magazine or listen to a podcast. And so it’s very important that, that people provide training, provide that knowledge and access so folks can understand that a lot of these procedures and policies aren’t set in place to make people crazy. It’s really to help prevent a disease and to prevent something from coming into the farm because anybody that’s ever dealt with PED or survived through that whole process knows that it’s extremely painful and emotionally frustrating to have to deal with a disease that’s so devastating. And unfortunately ASF is like that. So people that have to deal with that in other countries are dealing with this very same thing of just complete chaos on the farm. And so we just want to prevent this. So training is very, very important.

Don Wick: 07:31 We live in a very mobile society, at least we travel internationally, all of us. And it seems like a lot of international visitors come to our country as well and our farms possibly. What does that mean as far as some of the foreign animal diseases?

Lisa Becton: 07:50 A lot of people really looked at our visitor policies and there are things that people can do. You know, there’s people that go travel overseas for vacation or for other things. And so we do have at, there’s guidelines for international visitors. The big thing is really trying to ensure downtime. If, especially if, people are, that are coming in have been to a farm that they don’t wear the same clothing and footwear that they’ve worn to other farms and that they, you know, sign log books and document when they came in, when they came into the country. Same goes really for people that are having to go to other farms out in other countries, whether it’s for vacation or otherwise, just don’t wear the same clothes back from your visits overseas, have downtime, work that out with your supervisors. And then not wear same clothing and footwear. So those are some very key things that we’ve got to look at.

Don Wick: 08:47 What about processed foods, bringing pork related food items onto the farm? Is that an issue?

Lisa Becton: 08:54 Yes. You know, we have to worry about the transmittance of diseases and a lot of farms will not allow pork, you know, at least raw pork products coming onto the farm because we know some of the diseases can survive there. Obviously with the threat of foreign animal diseases, we know African swine fever can survive in meat and meat products for an extended period of time. And so it’s very important that people, you know, if they have to bring food onto the farm, keep it in the office or the break room, don’t take it out into the animal areas and definitely don’t feed it to any of the pigs that are there. Because again, we know these pathogens can sometimes transmit in meat. It’s also very important that if people do travel overseas to not bring any of those type foods back into the US. It is illegal because our US Department of Agriculture does not allow those type products in from other countries and they have things in place in Customs at the border to hopefully prevent any of these products from entering the US, because obviously if it got into pork production, it would be devastating.

Don Wick: 10:05 Certainly the well-being of the animal is important to all pig farmers. Are there signs that folks should look at as far as health related issues? Diseases are such that may, you know, put up a red flag about a foreign animal disease, like ASF.

Lisa Becton: 10:23 With African swine fever, you know, the strains that we’re seeing in Asia and somewhat in Europe are relatively aggressive. And so if you come in and notice, you know, a pig that’s down, that has bloody froth coming out of his nose or bloody diarrhea and then the next day all of a sudden you see 10 more. Anytime you see an unexplained increase in death loss over and above what you normally would expect, that should be immediate sign. But other things such as pigs off feed, reddened skin, they may be breathing hard, they’re going to be listless. A lot of people think, wow, those are clinical signs like other diseases. And they are, but the big thing is to note, you know, really to, to look at is this something different than what I normally see? It could look like a PRRS break, but if it is, anytime you see that increase in death loss or pigs just not doing right, that’s the time to let, you know, your herd veterinarian know, let even a state veterinarian know. Just that way to be safe, people can come out and investigate and make sure they know what it is. It could be a hot PRRS break, but it might not. So anything out of the ordinary that people aren’t expecting. Those are the things they should look for.

Don Wick: 11:42 The Checkoff certainly been involved with the Secure Pork Supply plan. Does that feed into this whole mission as well?

Lisa Becton: 11:49 You know, it really does because what Secure Pork Supply is set up to do is really to be a business continuity type of a plan, in which means it allows hopefully will allow producers to stay in business and work under their normal operating plans in the event we should get a disease outbreak like African swine fever. It does require people to take a closer look and really hone in on their biosecurity. There’s some very specific requirements for SPS, but it is a way that they can gain confidence and work with their state veterinarian to know that their farm is following additional guidelines and really trying to make sure that the disease is not in that farm. And some of that involves, you know, additional testing requirements, but also having premises identification, having your biosecurity plan in place. And then following the guidelines of SPS should the disease ever be identified.

Don Wick: 12:47 Any other biosecurity things that we should keep in mind that we haven’t touched on?

Lisa Becton: 12:52 You know, it just really important for all sectors, whether it’s in commercial production or show pig production, because we know some of the shows are starting to gear back up again this fall. And so it really, it’s important for everyone to be aware that biosecurity can help out in all aspects of keeping your pigs healthy. And a lot of the information that we have is at and those resources can help people, you know, outline what things they should do for all sorts of biosecurity and hopefully keep their pigs healthy and safe.

Don Wick: 13:25 Dr Lisa Becton 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