Jeff Kaisand has served as Iowa’s state veterinarian since February 2019.
Prior to his appointment, Kaisand had served six years as assistant state veterinarian. As the state veterinarian, he leads the Iowa Department of Agriculture’s Animal Industry Bureau, which oversees regulation of animal movement, exhibitions, importation and disease eradication and control.
Kaisand also plays an important role in working with partners to prevent, prepare and respond to any foreign animal disease or natural disaster concern. The bureau also regulates certain commercial companion animal breeders and retailers.
Previously, Kaisand held various veterinary supervisor roles with Iowa businesses and had his own veterinary practice. He earned his degree in veterinary medicine from Iowa State University.
IFT: African swine fever (ASF) continues to spread across Asia and has reached into Eastern Europe. What steps are being taken in the Midwest to help prepare for a possible ASF outbreak?
KAISAND: What we are doing now is trying to get pork producers prepared in the event we have it here, and what that might look like. We want them to know what happens if a farm becomes quarantined, if the premises becomes infected and how to handle disposal.
The state does not pay an indemnity, USDA does that, so we want to ensure that producers know how all of this is handled. The more everyone knows about ASF ahead of time, the better prepared we are going to be. If we don’t understand how to handle it, it is going to be even more difficult.
We also want to make sure producers know what records to keep. They are already keeping many records, but we need to be able to do an epidemiology workup and know how that premises became infected and what other sites may have been affected. Knowing that gives us a better chance of controlling the disease.
IFT: Your office recently participated in an ASF simulation organized by USDA. Did the drill make you feel more comfortable about how Iowa and other states can deal with ASF?
KAISAND: I don’t think comfort is something I would ever say regarding ASF. But when we look back to over a year ago, when China broke with ASF, we have come a long way because of all the planning we have done. The exercise was a culmination of a lot of work, and we are in a lot better spot than we were a year ago.
I would caution that a lot of work remains to be done. The engagement from the pork industry has been tremendous. We have to continue to refine the plan we currently have in place.
IFT: More of an emphasis has been placed on biosecurity recently, particularly in the wake of disease outbreaks in both the swine and poultry industries. How do you think producers are doing when it comes to biosecurity practices?
KAISAND: The swine industry is fully engaged when it comes to enhanced biosecurity practices, but is every producer where they need to be? There is still plenty of room to improve, and they are working on it.
They are working on things such as what route feed is taking to the farm and many other things. With biosecurity, there is always room for improvement.
IFT: What roles do the veterinarians in the field play in the prevention of ASF or other foreign animal diseases?
KAISAND: Our veterinarians are fully engaged with producers. We are all fully supportive of the pork industry’s Secure Pork Supply program, and our accredited vets are working with producers to make sure this plan is in place. Now is the time to take steps to ensure that foreign animal diseases threats stay away from your farm.
IFT: What did the livestock industry learn from a massive outbreak of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) several years ago, along with a devastating outbreak of avian influenza in 2015 that caused over $1 billion in losses in Iowa alone?
KAISAND: I think they learned that biosecurity needed to be tighter, and we have seen that. The swine industry still deals with many diseases such as PRRS, and we continue to work on preventing those types of diseases from entering a farm.
With avian influenza, there is always a concern with the migratory birds. The poultry industry has strengthened its biosecurity efforts since the outbreak.
We tell producers there are factors they cannot control. First, we need to keep it in the countries that already have it. Second, if it gets to our borders, we need to keep it there.
Our goal is to prevent foreign animal diseases from breaching our borders. But what I tell producers is to control what you can and be informed about what you can’t.
There is a lot that can be done on the farm. You need to have a tight biosecurity plan. If you are concerned about feed ingredients, you need to have biosecurity there. Be careful with foreign visitors, and make sure people who have visited foreign countries do not bring food items back with them.
Every producer has the ability to protect their farm. They are the last line of defense.