traceability of diseases

African swine fever and other diseases concerned pork producers at the Illinois Pork Expo in Springfield this past week. Many updated their traceability information with the USDA.

SPRINGFIELD, lll. — While trade issues dominate conversations among pork producers today, pig health and disease — especially the ongoing outbreak of African swine fever in China and other countries — is closely tied to trade and exports.

“Keeping it out (of the U.S.) is our top priority,” Patrick Webb, director of swine programs at the National Pork Board, said when speaking at the Pork Expo in Springfield, Illinois, Jan. 30. “If we manage to get the disease, that would cut exports and cost billions in lost revenue even before the costs of response.”

In some areas of China now ASF is causing almost 100 percent mortality, said Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council.

Anything that resembles the hemorrhagic disease, characterized by bloody lesions, should be reported to a veterinarian, she said.

If the trade-limiting disease were to come to the U.S. there is already a plan for response, including communication to consumers. Wagstrom said when she talks to consumers, she emphasizes it is a pig disease, not one that will affect humans.

Plans and PINs

After hearing veterinarians, state and national pork officials speak at the Pork Expo, Phil Borgic, a southwestern Illinois pork producer, boiled down three things that he and other pig farmers can do today: verify their premises identification numbers (PINs), have a biosecurity plan in writing, and create a system of surveillance to be alert to any potential disease issues.

Farmers can participate in the voluntary Secure Pork Supply (SPS) Plan. SPS helps support business continuity in the event of a foreign animal disease, Webb said. The plan, available at, focuses on biosecurity and surveillance and could act as a “permit” for movement of animals.

“It’s not a get-out-of-jail card,” Webb said, but compares it more to a pre-check option at airport security. Movement of pigs still depends on what the state would allow.

“One million hogs move across the country on any given day,” said Jennifer Tirey, Illinois Pork Producers Association executive director, explaining the importance of maintaining the industry flow.

Producers participating in the voluntary program need to designate a biosecurity manager.

“You really need to dedicate an individual to this job,” Webb said.

It also includes a written site-specific biosecurity plan, defining a perimeter buffer and establishing a line of separation.

Traceability comes from having a premises identification. If producers got their PIN number a few years ago — when most people had telephone landlines and didn’t include email addresses on the contact information — it needs to be updated, Tirey said.

The Department of Agriculture and state veterinarians set up a booth at the expo trade show to help producers verify their PINs and let them know how to update information for each building.

Being aware of and having plans to prevent and deal with ASF is “one of our very top priorities,” Tirey said.

To verify an existing PIN, use the checkoff’s tool at

On track

Webb recommended producers establish up-to-date, accessible records on animal movement in an electronic format.

He said sampling would also be required during a potential outbreak. Each farm needs to have someone trained to do the sampling, and it should be done regularly starting now.

On the positive side, it looks like oral fluid validation for testing could be available sometime this year; that is something that has been requested for a decade, he said.

Webb told producers of another tool in the works that would provide a standard way of reporting. Today, the swine industry does not have a standardized way to deliver producer data across states, which could delay data collection, management and sharing in an outbreak.

The National Pork Board is funding the development of the AgView System, with the help of Texas A&M University’s Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases. The database and dashboard system would allow producers to voluntarily participate and share data in a secure way with each other or a state veterinarian, for example. It is based on “producer permission,” he said, and if a producer wants out, they can “turn ‘share’ off.”

The system would provide data from one of four labs, in Minnesota, Kansas, Iowa and South Dakota. The AgView System won’t likely be complete for two years, but a specific component, which could be activated in case of ASF outbreak, is targeted to be ready by May 1, Webb said.

Phyllis Coulter is Northern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.