October 25, 2021

New group prepares for possible ASF outbreak


A new group led by pork producers, state veterinarians and USDA might be able to help the pork industry maintain exports should the US experience an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) or classical swine fever.

The new Swine Health Improvement Program (SHIP) will develop monitored certification plans for producers and packers/slaughter facilities.

“We can certify that herds are free-status today, and if there were ever an outbreak of one of those diseases, we can help producers get back to business as quickly as possible,” reported Paul Yeske, DVM, with Swine Vet Center. He has been involved with the program since it started in 2020.

Modeled after poultry

The impetus for SHIP came from a similar program called the National Poultry Improvement Plan in the poultry industry. After the last avian influenza outbreak, it helped poultry producers who were part of the program export products from specific regions, Yeske explained.

Key to making this program successful is including state government, USDA and the pork industry so they work together developing the solutions for health challenges.

“Everybody has a seat at the table, and hopefully this helps with the buy-in from all parties to make it easier to implement,” Yeske explained.

Funding for this program is still in the works. “In the poultry model, there’s state-federal sharing. So, we are hopeful the same thing can be set up [for the pork industry] as we go forward,” he added.

Exports allowed in outbreak

While there are other organizations getting prepared for ASF outbreaks, this one is different, according to Yeske.

“I think SHIP takes work on ASF to the next level by looking at biosecurity, specific testing protocols and traceability,” he said. “Those are the three cornerstones in this initial program.

“Then, if some areas become exposed, there is a mechanism to verify the status of herds. With the verified status, hopefully our export partners will accept it and allow those producers to continue to move product.”

It is anticipated that producers in the program will use the Secure Pork Supply Plan as a guideline for their biosecurity program and expand on it. Routine monitoring and testing will provide a status of the overall industry.

Now that ASF is closer to the US in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Yeske admitted there is more urgency to getting plans ready.

“Producers have raised their level of awareness and are going back to review their Secure Pork Supply Plans and biosecurity protocols,” he added. “They’re making sure we don’t get that inadvertent contact that nobody wants to have.”