Simulation Helps Pork Industry Find Gaps in FAD Outbreak Preparedness

( National Pork Board and the Pork Checkoff )

Prevention is key to keeping foreign animal disease (FAD) out of the U.S. But if the country gets struck by a deadly disease like African swine fever (ASF), are we ready? 

During the week of Sept. 23, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services National Training and Exercise Program led a full-function, four-day exercise simulating a fictional outbreak of ASF to determine how federal and state authorities and the pork industry would respond. 

“The exercise was excellent because our producers, state veterinarians and USDA played it like it was the real deal happening,” said Dave Pyburn, DVM, senior vice president of science and technology for the National Pork Board. “At times, people were upset, panicked, confused, not sure where to turn and that’s exactly what the exercise should do so we aren’t doing that in the face of a live outbreak.”

Because of the great collaboration from those involved, Pyburn says participants left the exercise with a clearer vision of things the industry needs to work on to prepare for a FAD outbreak, from policy and mortality disposal, to biosecurity measures and producer participation in Secure Pork Supply.

Mass depopulation
One of the big questions that came out of the exercise was how to perform mass depopulations on large barns in the event of a FAD outbreak. Then, once depopulated, how should producers dispose of mortality?

“Depopulation and disposal will be a very big challenge if we have a large outbreak of any of the foreign animal diseases,” Pyburn says. “We all – producers, states, USDA – need to be leaning in trying to figure this out at all of our local levels.”

Surveillance and diagnostics
Surveillance of viruses needs to be better addressed, too. Oral fluids and processing fluids need to be validated on our FAD tests so they can be used in the face of an outbreak for surveillance, he adds.

“Also, within our USDA National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), we have a limited capacity,” he says. “On a daily basis when it comes to ASF, NAHLN can test roughly 40,000 samples. When you are taking multiple samples in barns and asking everybody that’s moving animals for permit to do that testing, we’ll quickly overrun that 40,000 per day limit that NAHLN has on ASF.”

Resources needed
Two other questions on Pyburn’s mind are fair indemnity and people resources.

“We just don’t have the people resources to go out and do these depopulations and testing,” he says. “How can we train our own labor force within those barns to be able to do testing?”

Pyburn is hopeful the lessons learned from the FAD exercise will go a long way to help USDA recognize the labor shortage and need to engage barn labor to help with testing.

This exercise was the final of the year to help prepare the top 14 swine-producing states to further their knowledge to respond to an outbreak of ASF. These states included Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Texas.

The next steps will be to take the data gathered from the exercise to answer the questions that need answered, Pyburn says.

“The four-day ASF exercise held at the Illinois Department of Agriculture was a critical next step in identifying any gaps in our producers’ on-farm biosecurity plans and educating stakeholders that may not work in our industry on what our specific needs would be in the event of a FAD outbreak,” says Jennifer Tirey, Illinois Pork Producers Association executive director.  

Here are nine questions you need to be able to answer and processes that you should start preparing for today. 

1. Do you know your Premises ID number and is your farm information updated with your state department of agriculture? 
Even though you may already have a premises ID for your farm, keep in mind that the information is only effective if it is up-to-date. You need a separate premises ID for each production site separated by more than a quarter of a mile. 

2. Have you validated your Premises ID and obtained barcode labels of each PIN number?
Go to and follow these three steps: 
1.    Enter your Premises ID (PIN) and have the system perform the validation.
2.    Verify that the address returned is correct.
3.    Select the style of label to use and generate a PDF Barcode file.

3. Are you keeping movement records of animals, people, equipment and other items on your farm?
Aggregate your records on movement of animals, vaccination, disease monitoring, biosecurity and everything that is needed for Secure Pork Supply. If you have that information ready, you will be in a good position for what your state veterinarian may ask of you if an outbreak takes place.

4. If a FAD occurs, have you completed the paperwork to immediately file an indemnity claim?
If a producer plans to file an indemnity claim for animals infected with a FAD, they must make sure the indemnity is approved by USDA before the animal is euthanized – indemnity only applies to live animals. USDA will not approve claims for dead animals if the producer did not apply and they did not approve the indemnity claim in advance. The federal government is authorized to pay up to 100% of fair market value. This means they may not cover the total value, so producers should understand this when applying. To speed the approval process along, it is good to keep the farm’s database of daily mortalities up to date.

5. What do you need to file an indemnity claim?
To apply for an indemnity claim, producers must have a Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number and be currently registered in the System for Award Management (SAM) database to receive an indemnity payment from USDA APHIS. Each business entity at each location will need its own DUNS number and SAM. The DUNS number can be applied for one time. The SAM needs to be updated annually. There is no cost to apply for a DUNS and SAM. However, you must apply for the DUNS number first. You should apply for your DUNS number and SAM now.
Find out more

Register at Dun and Bradstreet (MUST DO THIS FIRST) 

6. Is your biosecurity plan up-to-date?
Work with your veterinarian to develop a biosecurity plan. If you’ve already done this, review your current plan and compare it to the biosecurity plan at

7. Have you accessed your individual farm needs if a mass mortality plan is necessary?
What is the size of your farm, number of animals and weight of animals at the time of the event? Do you have access to available farmland for possible disposal? 

8. Have you updated your emergency contact list? 
Who is on your list? Keep phone numbers accessible for your veterinarian, local public health and emergency management officials, regional EPA representative and your state veterinarian.

9. Are you monitoring for disease?
Observe, record, report, sample. Learn how to recognize when animals look “off” due to a possible FAD. Keep records and report any abnormalities. Work with your veterinarian to learn how to collect samples in the event they might be used to test for disease during an outbreak.

Pyburn says he’s grateful to the producers, state veterinarian and USDA for taking this exercise seriously. 

“It revealed a lot of questions we need to answer. It gave us plenty to work on going into 2020, hopefully on something that we've never really got to do,” he says.