African Swine Fever: Trust Your Instinct, Be Prepared

( National Pork Board and the Pork Checkoff )

One of the most important resources you have is your instinct – especially when it comes to the health and well-being of your pigs. Following your instinct does more than protect your pigs, it protects the entire industry.

“As the eyes and the ears of the pork industry, if you think you may have something going on at your farm – even if it’s just a little tingling on the back of your neck that says, ‘Hey, maybe we need to get the state involved,’ – do it,” says Patrick Webb, DVM, director of swine health programs at the National Pork Board.

African Swine Fever and COVID-19
In order to keep foreign animal diseases like African swine fever (ASF), a deadly virus of pigs that has no cure, out of the U.S., Webb says producers need to stay vigilant as the industry is constantly at risk for the introduction of foreign animal diseases.

Because ASF continues to explode throughout parts of the world, the U.S. continues to be at more risk for getting the virus here, either accidentally or intentionally, he adds. Just as other countries have to learn to live with the virus, the U.S. will have to learn to live with that risk at a higher level than ever before. 

Later this year, the National Pork Board will release another tool in its arsenal to keep ASF out. AgView, a database and dashboard technology, will help get critical information into the hands of key decisionmakers like state animal health officials in the unlikely event of a foreign animal disease outbreak. 

“What we're seeing with COVID-19 is a stark reminder of the importance of good information and data because a lot of choices get made that affect a lot of lives. It’s shown us the serious ramifications that occur when you stop movements and don't allow animals to move through the production chain,” Webb says. “AgView can provide data and information for state vets to make risk-based assessments that could help protect business continuity for producers, as well as help get outbreaks contained and eradicated quicker.”

Advantages of AgView
AgView is designed to work in cooperation with Secure Pork Supply (SPS), a business continuity plan that is designed to help support business continuity in the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak. If you haven’t developed an SPS plan for your farm, go to securepork.org and get started, Webb says. 

For those who have a plan in place, instructions will be coming later this year on how to integrate your SPS plan into AgView, he notes.

“If you think about it being like a puzzle, as producers become compliant with the Secure Pork Supply plan, they develop their biosecurity plans and get their movement data and premises data organized in an electronic format. Then, if a foreign animal disease strikes tomorrow, they can hand those puzzle pieces over to the state vet.”

AgView helps put those pieces together to form a picture that can then be assessed and built upon. It’s a tool that producers can add data to, and then see the data in a way that makes it easy for decisionmakers to assess. 

“When you talk to state vets, there are three bits of information that they want in an outbreak very rapidly. They want to know where the farms are, a little bit about the demographics of the farms (size, type of farm), and they want to know movements, usually over 14 to 30 days depending on the disease we're talking about,” Webb says. “Then, they also need to see test results as we start doing surveillance.”

AgView will allow the state vet to see data in what they refer to as “breaking pictures” – who’s in that area, movements in and out of that area, and the status of those sites in that area. 

“That’s what’s really cool about this technology,” Webb adds. “It’s been a long ground game, but we're starting to get around third base and heading for home.”

A Program to Help Producers
In addition to facilitating speedier and more efficient communication with state animal health officials, this tool will go a long way into helping producers on a day-to-day basis, Webb adds. 

“That’s important because we want to make sure that producers have a tool that adds value and helps keep the data current,” Webb says. 

The AgView technology was funded by the Pork Checkoff so there is no fee for producers to use the technology. There is also no charge for state animal health officials to access it. 

Webb is hopeful this will help keep the system more up-to-date.

“One of our biggest challenges with state and federal databases is that they're not dynamic. They're only as accurate as the last time they were updated,” he says. 

Dynamic data is important for state animal health officials in the event of a crisis. Nothing is worse than a static database where you don't know if the information in it is up to date and accurate, Webb explains. 

“AgView is all about trust and transparency,” he says. “It allows our producers who want to do the right thing to work with their state animal health officials to be able to adequately respond to an outbreak without breaking the system.” 

Interested in learning more? Watch Farm Journal’s PORK webinar on ASF with leading industry experts Gordon Spronk, DVM, of Pipestone Veterinary Services; Liz Wagstrom, DVM, NPPC chief veterinarian; and Patrick Webb, DVM, director of swine health for the National Pork Board.


More from Farm Journal's PORK:

Don’t Take Your Eyes Off of African Swine Fever

From the Streets to the Swine Barn

 
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