Time to commit to a national biosecurity, traceability strategy, By Daniel Hendrickson from Four Star Veterinary Services

Swine health is critical to ensuring a quality, nutritious product for domestic and international consumers of US pork. While monitoring a swine herd for domestic diseases is part of a farm’s daily routine, foreign animal diseases (FADs) like African swine fever (ASF), classical swine fever (CSF) and foot and mouth disease (FMD) tend to take a back seat.

Part of that is because, even though ASF cases, for example, continue to surface around the world, US producers haven’t faced that challenge. Another part can be attributed to warning fatigue and even skepticism that an FAD will reach the US.

With more than 27% of annual US pork production exported, that’s a dangerous gamble because an FAD would immediately close access to foreign markets. “It will be important to prove to our trade partners that we know where the FAD is and the pork they are purchasing comes from negative herds,” said Daniel Hendrickson, DVM, Four Star Veterinary Service (FSVS). “That will be vital for producers and our industry to survive.”

The good news is that there are three industry-based programs to help ensure you are prepared whether you run a commercial operation or are involved in the show-pig sector, and whether you have five pigs or 50,000. The common goals are to minimize the spread of an FAD and maintain business continuity for herds that are proven to be negative.

“Bottom line, if you’re in a buffer zone or where animals have tested positive but you have the right protocols in place — the maps and such to show animal-health officials — and your animals test negative, you will be able to move animals outside of that zone,” he added.

It does take some time to enroll and get these programs going, but FSVS is available to help with the process, Hendrickson said.

How to get started

All of the programs are voluntary and work together to implement a national strategy for biosecurity, traceability and disease surveillance. A basic step to get started requires something every producer should already have secured, and that is a premises identification number (prem ID) for every production site.

The Secure Pork Supply (SPS) Plan for Continuity of Business is the first program in the lineup, and it addresses detailed biosecurity plans for each production site. In the event of any FAD outbreak, moving animals will require a movement permit from state animal health officials, and SPS can help with that.

SPS basics include:

  • Create a premises map that includes the facilities, animals and flow of the operation.
  • Write an enhanced site-specific biosecurity plan.
  • Implement biosecurity measures included in the biosecurity plan.
  • Monitor your herd for FMD, CSF or ASF.
  • Maintain movement records of animals, people, equipment and other items.

There is an audit tied to SPS to confirm that the biosecurity plan and other measures are being met. “Going through the SPS process identifies biosecurity holes to fix on your farm,” Hendrickson added. “It also will benefit you for all types of domestic diseases, such as porcine respiratory and reproductive syndrome, porcine epidemic diarrhea virus and influenza, that we already deal with.”

Next in the lineup — Traceability

Each day, more than 1 million hogs move throughout the US, making animal health and movement data essential to controlling the spread of an FAD in the event of an outbreak. “AgView is a platform developed by the National Pork Board to trace animals from point A to point B,” Hendrickson noted.

There is no fee involved and AgView can be used by pork producers running any type or size of operation. However, you can use your own system, provided it can submit 30 days of animal health and movement data electronically to the state animal health officials and USDA upon request.

“I think AgView makes the most sense for producers to use. It’s already built,” he added. “I signed up because my kids exhibit pigs; it’s really very simple.”

The required data can be imported into AgView from most current swine-production recordkeeping systems. This includes:

  • Site information — prem ID number, type of farm, number of pigs.
  • All animal movements — in-state and out-of-state.
  • Test results from participating diagnostic laboratories.

The goal is to be prepared prior to an FAD outbreak so that state veterinarians, producers and others can make sound decisions and act quickly when needed.

The end game — U.S. SHIP

Pulling everything together is U.S. Swine Health Improvement Plan (U.S. SHIP), an industry-driven effort started in 2020 and modeled after the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP). U.S. SHIP aims to safeguard, improve and certify the health status of swine across participating farm sites, supply chains, states and regions. It is the disease-surveillance portion of the three programs. As such, diagnostic samples submitted to the National Animal Health Laboratory Network from U.S. SHIP participating sites, meeting case requirements, will be tested for ASF and CSF as part of USDA’s surveillance program.

U.S. SHIP is a producer and packer program with participation at the premises level. Enrollment is open, and as of summer 2023, 33 states, 61% of growing pigs and 68% of US breeding herds have signed up. In all, that involves 10,800 producers, packers and live-animal marketing sites.

The objective is to develop and implement an ASF-CSF Monitored certification of US pork production operations — farm sites and slaughter facilities — similar to NPIP’s H5/H7 Avian Influenza Monitored certification. Such certification not only helps mitigate ASF-CSF introduction risk but identifies disease-free areas, which would support regionalization and recovery of international trade.

“U.S. SHIP is not yet certified by USDA, but that’s the end goal,” Hendrickson said. That is expected to come sometime in 2024. “The industry recognizes that it needs to be a USDA program based on the amount of funding and labor required to operate it but also for export-market acceptance.”

Participants will be responsible for the costs to meet certification requirements, including an audit to ensure all steps are covered.

In all of these programs, “the producer has control of the data; it’s kept in-house. You just have to prove that you can provide it to state animal health officials upon request if we do have an FAD,” Hendrickson said. “There won’t be any producer identification; it will be tied to the premise ID.”

Although the programs are prioritized for FADs, they could be applied to domestic swine diseases. “In the future, we could start looking at other diseases that the industry wants to address — monitor where a disease is, how it’s changing, things like that,” he added. “But the industry has to drive that to make it happen.”