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WPX: One Million Hogs with Nowhere to Go

07 June 2013

USA - Dr. James A. Roth, Iowa State University, discussed the implications of a foreign animal disease (FAD) outbreak in the US, focusing on Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) reports Carla Wright, Editor, The Pig Site, from the World Pork Expo.

Every day, there are one million pigs on trucks across the U.S. being transported to different locations. When an outbreak occurs, issuing a stop movement order actually causes the disease to worsen in animals as they would be stuck on trucks. And, those million pigs would have nowhere to go.

“The agricultural community has changed enormously in the past twenty years. Foot and Mouth Disease would be an unprecedented challenge. The more we increase pork exports, the more vulnerable we are to those exports being cut off. When an FAD outbreak occurs, export markets can be lost. An outbreak in a small herd can be stamped out quickly and international exports will resume in six months to a year. An outbreak that reaches national proportions would eliminate international trade for years to come. Trade will be gone on day one,” emphasized Dr. Roth.

Exports represent 25 to 28 per cent of total pork production.

“Traditionally, all the animals in the outbreak area are killed until all of the disease is gone. We don’t want to stamp out the pork industry while stamping out disease,” stated Dr. Roth.

“Modern swine production in the U.S. depends on the extensive movement of swine. When an outbreak occurs, a stop movement order is issued; there are serious consequences to animal health and welfare, due to overcrowding. Hogs born in one place are finished in another place, at the rate of forty million per year. They cross multiple state borders, and it’s the individual states that control their borders.

“The swine industry is very diverse in the U.S. There are 48,700 farms with less than 100 hogs each, while 61.9 per cent of the inventory exists on farms with more than 5000 hogs each.

“Also, the five million feral swine in the U.S. are a growing concern and their population is moving north. Smaller producers could have problems with disease from these pigs.”

Foot and Mouth Disease

“Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is the most difficult of FADs because of the many species that are susceptible to it, including pigs, sheep, and cattle.

“Throughout the world, FMD is controlled by stamping out, or killing within 24 to 48 hours.

“The U.S. is very lucky to not have FMD at the moment, but there is the worry that if it does appear, the consequences would be severe to the meat industry because of the extremely large herd sizes in the U.S. Herds of over 50,000 cattle each are on feedlots, herds over 5,000 each in cow dairies, over 70,000 calves on ranches.

“There will be no way to kill all these animals in 24 to 48 hours in herds this large if FMD gets into these herds.”

“Among all the various actions to prevent and/or control FADs, which include stop movement, biosecurity, trace back and trace forward (28 days), rapid diagnosis and vaccination, biosecurity remains the crucial action. It’s the only one we can really count on. It’s the producer’s responsibility to keep out FADs,” stated Dr. Roth. He encouraged swine producers to voluntarily adopt biosecurity procedures before disease outbreaks are caused by an FAD.

“Food safety and public health are not concerns with Foot and Mouth Disease. Because animals that are infected, but otherwise healthy, are safe to eat, meat packing plants need to be encouraged to continue slaughter and processing. Animals should be allowed to cross state borders and hogs with no sign of infection should go to slaughter as soon as possible. Federal and state officials would need to agree on this and the packing facility would also need to agree.

‘When an outbreak occurs, a stop movement order causes the disease to worsen in animals. Those one million pigs that are on trucks daily across the U.S. would have nowhere to go. Slaughtering healthy animals is the best way to control the disease.

“Packing plant employees and truckers need to implement biosecurity procedures and have them in place before disease is evident.”

There are major concerns of an FAD outbreak:

  1. Will the public accept the product?
  2. Will packers be willing to continue to process animals from an FMD control area?
  3. Will state officials allow animals to cross state lines?
  4. We need to ramp up our stockpile of FMD vaccines, because there are not enough vaccines. 

Further Reading

Find out more information on securing the pork supply by clicking here.

You can visit the FMD page by clicking here.

Top image via Shutterstock

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