Feed Bites

Are You Ready for African Swine Fever?

Written by: Guest   |   March 8, 2022

African swine fever

By: Cassandra Jones, Ph.D., Kansas State University, and Leah Wilkinson, AFIA

As mothers, we often find ourselves stating words of caution to our children and while some of those get adhered to, others are ignored, despite our pleading. But that is “how our children learn,” so they say, by making choices based upon the information available. When it comes to the introduction of foreign animal diseases like African swine fever (ASF), our desire is that our message and words of caution get heard, and the feed industry acts accordingly NOW to do its part to prevent the introduction or spread of ASF into the United States.   

In January, we spoke at the Wisconsin Agribusiness Classic to share the latest information about the virus, what the feed industry can expect during an outbreak and tips to be better prepared now. Since 2018, the U.S. pork industry has been on heightened alert with the spread of the virus into China, the largest pork-producing nation. As research continues to expand on how the virus is transmitted and spread, the U.S. feed industry stepped up and has implemented measures to prevent the introduction of ASF; however, there is more that can be shared and accomplished. 

An outbreak of ASF in the U.S. would be devastating not only to the U.S. pork industry, but its effects would be felt throughout agriculture and the animal food industry as well. We all have a role to play in prevention, preparedness and response related to ASF. 

Prevention – the best defense we have against ASF is improving our biosecurity programs now.  

  • Know your suppliers - Supplier verification takes on a new level for imported products from countries where ASF and other foreign animal diseases are present. Know your suppliers, their biosecurity programs and the potential risks of importing particular ingredients.  

  • Imported product/hold times - When importing from countries where ASF and other foreign animal diseases are present, companies are encouraged to follow the recommended holding times. It is a best practice to start these holding time calculations once a product is in your control, not necessarily the point of its manufacture due to the potential risk of post-processing, cross-contamination during transportation. 

  • Biosecurity - Feed manufacturers should develop and implement biosecurity plans that can mitigate or eliminate the risk of disease or harmful biological agents and protect public and animal health. Specific factors to watch out for include: paying attention to incoming ingredients, traffic flow of individuals in your facility, transportation vehicles and methods for sanitizing and cleaning trucks – including the interior of the cab.  

Preparedness – In the event of an ASF outbreak in the United States or its territories, the federal government will order a “72-hour” standstill of all live swine. The movement of feed should not stop per that federal order; however, state orders may restrict the movement of feed in the attempt to limit movement of the virus by vehicle traffic. Feed manufacturers can prepare contingency plans in advance such as:    

  • Evaluating current transportation routes.  

  • Considering adjustments to your feed delivery systems. For example, can you deliver bagged feed instead of bulk? Can you dedicate a feed truck inside a control zone?  

  • Developing contingency plans. Can you identify alternative methods to manufacture feed for your customers using other locations or agreements with competitors?  

Response – Once the detection has occurred, tracing the outbreak will be a key focus as well as enhanced biosecurity methods to prevent the continued spread of the virus. States will take over in responding to the outbreak; and it is expected that movements of feed on and off infected premises will require permits. Tight tracing of feed movements within control zones should also be anticipated. You can prepare for some situations by: 

  • Ensuring your traceability system is functioning and that you can provide the necessary paperwork in a timely manner. 

  • Considering alternatives for delivering feed or allowing feed pick up at your mill for your different customers. For instance, can you limit truck traffic and prohibit livestock trailers from entering your facility? Can you establish a different pick-up location offsite or at least not at your loading dock? 

  • If you have delivered feed to an infected premise/farm, expect you may be visited by authorities to determine what other locations that truck serviced or your mill services. 

There are many different scenarios that could possibly occur and in many cases, the situation may change rapidly during the course of an outbreak. However, we know that the industry and our government partners are working hard to prevent an outbreak and be prepared if it were to come here.  

It’s our hope that these words of caution are useful to the feed industry and allow for our industry to be “learning” now before it’s too late. Note: Dr. Jones will be speaking on this very topic at AFIA’s Purchasing and Ingredient Suppliers Conference this week, we hope to see you there!  

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