By David Fairfield, Senior Vice President of Feed
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is sponsoring a series of four exercises for the top 14 swine-producing states to advance their capacity to effectively respond to and mitigate an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) virus, should it ever occur in the United States.
The series of functional exercises and drills will be conducted on Sept. 23-26 in the following states:
The exercises are designed to target key areas of ASF response and mitigation. Each of the 14 states will participate from their departmental operations centers, or equivalent; initiate the appropriate scale of their Incident Command System, as designated in their response plans; and deploy field personnel as needed.
Each day of the exercises will focus on a separate theme:
- Day 1, Sept. 23: Conducting a foreign animal disease investigation and subsequent coordination and engagement of the National Veterinary Services Laboratory’s Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory and the appropriate laboratories in the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.
- Day 2, Sept. 24: Responding to and supporting a state, regional or national movement standstill depending upon swine populations infected.
- Day 3, Sept. 25: Implementing the planning and resource coordination associated with depopulating and disposing of infected and exposed swine.
- Day 4, Sept. 26: Implementing a system to allow continuity of business for non-infected operations within a control area.
Individuals interested in participating in the exercises should contact their State Animal Health Official or state pork producers’ association.
ASF, Animal Feed and Biosecurity
Research studies have shown that grain and feed products may be inoculated with ASF virus and transmit the disease to animals under controlled conditions. However, implementing appropriate biosecurity practices can reduce the potential risk of transmitting ASF and other animal diseases through feed, manufacturing and transportation equipment, and people.
In general, steps to take to develop an effective biosecurity plan include:
- Identifying known or reasonably foreseeable biological hazards, and determining where such hazards may be potentially introduced, amplified or controlled within a facility’s receiving/processing/distribution systems.
- Accessing the probability and severity of known or reasonably foreseeable hazards.
- Determining and implementing appropriate controls to mitigate the risk posed by such hazards.
- Taking steps to verify that the controls are implemented effectively and are adequately controlling the hazards.
- Documenting the control and verification activities.
- Reviewing the plan periodically to assess potential new hazards and to identify ways to improve implementation.
A key component of an effective facility biosecurity plan is prevention of the entry of hazards during the receiving of ingredients and raw materials. Typically, the first step for hazard prevention during receiving involves a supplier-approval process that includes development and communication of appropriate ingredient specifications. In addition, the supplier approval program should have methods to verify that the supplier has effective programs in place to ensure ingredients meet necessary specifications.
Since ingredients and raw materials can be sourced on a global basis, the risk assessment of a given product should consider its point of origin, distribution methods and associated supply-chain entities. Ingredients sourced from countries that are experiencing or have recently experienced animal disease outbreaks should be carefully considered and the level of control applied to such products commensurate with the results of the risk assessment. Regarding appropriate controls, the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) in May 2019 released a document that offers suggested holding times based on the calculated half-life of viruses for feed ingredients sourced from countries of ASF concern.
Another key component of an effective biosecurity plan is control of how people move in and out of the facility and on livestock premises. Appropriate protocols for personal hygiene and limiting access of personnel to specified areas within the facility can help reduce the potential transmission of biological hazards. In addition, establishing procedures for delivery of feed to animal locations can help reduce the potential for contamination and pathogen transmission. Facilities should work closely with their customers to ensure appropriate procedures are identified and adhered to during feed delivery. The National Pork Board has guidelines for feed and feed delivery practices.
Beyond preventing the entry of the hazard and taking steps to minimize cross-contamination, certain processing activities may be used to reduce the presence of biological hazards and their risks. For example, thermal processing by pelleting has been demonstrated to reduce the quantity of biological hazards in feed products. However, it is important to note that thermal processing is a point-in-time mitigation step and that possible recontamination of the product can occur. In addition, research has shown that certain chemical additives such as formaldehyde and medium-chain fatty acids may reduce the quantity of biological hazards, but currently these additives have not been approved for use in the mitigation of ASF.
For more information, Kansas State University’s Department of Animal Sciences and Industry Feed Safety Resource website contains numerous feed safety and biosecurity resources.