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African swine fever, PRRS among hot topics at 2021 Leman Conference

3 September 2021, at 9:54am

Now that African swine fever (ASF) has reared its ugly head in the Dominican Republic, the US is on even higher alert for the devastating virus. Experts in veterinary medicine will come together to discuss innovations to mitigate the threat of ASF as well as important reality checks to provide perspective. This headline topic and many more will be featured at the upcoming Allen D. Leman Swine Conference, scheduled for Sept. 18-21 in St. Paul, Minnesota. The meeting will be held in person as well as virtually.

“A few years ago, we talked about understanding the ASF virus,” said program chair Montserrat Torremorell, DVM, PhD, professor at the University of Minnesota. “Now we know the characteristics of the virus, but with the recent diagnosis in the Dominican Republic, the possibility of the virus reaching the US is more real.

“What’s happening in China is the emergence of new strains, including vaccine strains that have become established,” she told Pig Health Today. “The risk has increased for all of us.”

Organized by the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine, the annual 4-day conference offers scientific and practical information on a broad range of swine health and production topics.

Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome will be another important topic at the conference, particularly the emerging 1-4-4 strain. The new strain was identified less than a year ago and swine researchers are learning more about how it operates.

Keynote sessions

Craig Edsill, CEO of the Clemens Family Corporation will address the group on Monday morning, Sept. 20. Edsill led the Clemens team, in coordination with several family-owned pig operations from Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, to create a growth venture in Coldwater, Mich. That venture produces more than 2 million pounds of fresh pork daily. Edsill will share the Clemens Food Group’s unique approach to creating value.

Declan Schroeder, PhD, will also speak on Monday morning. An associate professor of virology at the University of Minnesota, Schroeder’s research program is focused on pathogen discovery: comparing and contrasting host-virus interactions, with particular interest in seeing research translated into practical solutions.

On Tuesday, Volker Gerdts, DVM, with the University of Saskatchewan, will discuss his work in the area of vaccines for both humans and animals, in addition to vaccine delivery and formulation.

Rounding out the keynote presentations is Dennis DiPietre, PhD. He is well-known in pork circles, having served as a consultant to agriculture and food industries since the mid-1980s. Always interesting and thought-provoking, DiPietre believes a very different future is coming for pork producers.

Extra steps are being taken this year for the safety of attendees, Torremorell explained. The St. Paul RiverCentre is taking additional precautions by providing for social distancing in the meeting rooms and general sessions. The onsite flu clinic will have medical professionals available to answer COVID and flu-related questions, she said.

Scientific sessions

Many swine diseases will be discussed at the meeting, Torremorell said. There are sessions on influenza, Mycoplasma and Salmonella and the threat of antimicrobial resistance. Other sessions will cover how to put “big data” to work in your operation, the opportunities and risks associated with Proposition 12 in California, how to feed sows, and how to be better prepared for the next disease threats.

“Our audience is diverse and most of the attendees are decision-makers,” Torremorell said. “That’s why we have four different tracks at the same time.”

Pre-conference sessions will cover reproductive management and the latest research on ventilation systems. A diagnostic wet lab will allow managers to do necropsies.

The conference will be presented in person as well as virtually. Torremorell is excited to see people again and considers the networking and hallway discussions to be important benefits of the live meeting.

“We want to give people the opportunity to interact but still feel safe,” Torremorell said. “We work very hard to have a strong program but we also want it to be a great experience for those attending the conference, whether in person or virtually.”