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How feed has become a risk for the arrival of ASF into the US

27 January 2021, at 12:30am

Feed has become a significant risk for disease in animals over the past several years. Dr. Scott Dee, director of research at Pipestone Veterinary Services, explains the risks of spreading African Swine Fever (ASF) through animal feed.

Scott Dee discusses the risk of African Swine Fever virus in feed with The Pig Site's Sarah Mikesell at the 2020 American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) meeting in Atlanta.

“We identified feed as a risk in 2014,” said Scott Dee. “Our group in Pipestone as well as researchers such as Dr. Megan Niederwerder at Kansas State University have expanded that and lots of new information was discussed. We looked at the effect of certain feed additives and their ability to reduce the viral survival in feed."

The research team also looked at activities that their research has stimulated at the governance level, such as new policy being passed, and letters being directed to the Secretary of Agriculture, considering restricting the importation of high-risk products from ASF virus-positive countries.

"Besides on-the-farm activities, we've actually made progress up at Capitol Hill," he said.

Over time, Pipestone Veterinary Services has learned there are several feed additives that are effective against viruses. These additives reduce the virus survival in feed, making the feed a much safer option. There’s a variety of additives on the market, so producers have many options to use, depending on their budget, their level of risk, and their capabilities at the mill.

The team also found that mitigating the feed produces better results than choosing not to mitigate the feed, leading to better pig performance. This is great news for producers, who now have a new method of biosecurity to ensure safer feed.

Is the US testing feed?

“We cannot test feed on a regular basis, but we do it as often as we can,” said Scott Dee. “The risk is high, in my opinion, because we are consistently bringing in soy-based products from China, Ukraine, and Russia - all African swine fever virus positive countries - every year, which amazes me because we make the greatest soy-based products in the world. We should quit bringing these products in from these positive countries because the virus lives extremely well in soy-based products.”

Many producers in the US choose to bring in soy products from other countries because of the cheaper price tag. Last year, the country imported 100,000 metric tons of soy products from those three ASF positive countries. At the same time, the US exported 49 million metric tons. Another desirable factor of imported soy-based products is that products from the three countries noted tend to have an organic label, which is appealing to some producers. The US does not have a large organic soy market. To improve domestic sales, it might be something for the country to look into, according to Dee.

Data also suggests that pet food coming in from China may be a risk factor for ASF entering the US.

“We've shown that the African swine fever virus lives very well in dry pet food, moist pet food,” said Scott Dee. “That virus lives basically in everything. But pet foods are at risk, that's for sure. If they're not manufactured safely or securely and potentially contaminated and sent over, that's another thing we have to be aware of as well.”

There are multiple factors that could contribute to the arrival of ASF to the United States based on feed. However, Dee says the biggest risk currently is the importation of soy-based products from these ASF positive countries. To reduce the risk, the US would need to take the first step of using their own soy products or importing soy products from ASF negative countries.

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