Canada develops plan to market hogs during ASF outbreak
Efforts are underway in Canada to develop an ASF-Free Compartments strategy allowing farms to market hogs in the event of an African swine fever (ASF) outbreak.
Egan Brockhoff, DVM, veterinary counselor with the Canadian Pork Council, discussed plans to work with government veterinary authorities and industry to help high-biosecurity farms participate in an ASF-Free Compartments Program that allows them to continue marketing hogs in the face of foreign animal disease. He hopes the US will consider following a similar plan.
Key to the plan is setting up compartments by farm systems or processor systems that are ASF-free and will work to remain ASF-free even in the face of an outbreak somewhere within the country. Brockhoff said the farms will follow strict external biosecurity plans, including surveillance and traceability processes. When pigs from those farms are moved to slaughter, they will be segregated in the slaughter facilities as well.
The ASF-free compartments allow producers to “approach trading partners to say we have ASF-free compartments,” he said. “We are going to do all we can to ensure pigs are ASF-free from the moment they’re born to the moment they get to slaughter and through slaughter to export.
“So, the goal is if ASF is found in the country or the zone or the region, there’s no market disruption to the ASF-free compartments,” Brockhoff explained.
A compartment is built on common management practices, not geographical principles, and can be spread out over multiple states or provinces. “You can have half of your compartment within an infected zone and half outside of the infected zone,” he added. “As long as you maintain those biosecurity standards, you’re still able to move product.”
Currently, there are no ASF-free swine compartments set up in Canada or anywhere else in the world. But there are disease-free compartments set up for pigs with classical swine fever and for other diseases and species. The model is proven to work.
Brockhoff said the biggest hurdle is setting up the private-public partnership that’s needed to get the compartmentalization program going. Industry must be the driver and administer the program. The farms must follow the standards for biosecurity, traceability and surveillance.
“And there’s a cost to it,” he added. “If your farm already has a good biosecurity program in place, the cost of adopting compartmentalization is probably just the cost of doing surveillance. But if you have no biosecurity infrastructure…it is an increased cost to enhance biosecurity, but it’s also providing value and benefit.”
“We have small, backyard pork producers, wild pigs, feral pigs, pet pigs,” he said. “If ASF were to arrive in any of those populations, like someone’s pet pig in Toronto was found to have ASF, it closes the border for all of the commercial swine industry.”
With the compartmentalization plan, this will not happen. Also, the strict biosecurity rules put in place will help protect the commercial industry from the wild-pig populations and other groups that don’t practice strict biosecurity, Brockhoff added.
Critical to success, the plans must be set up before an ASF outbreak occurs. Brockhoff hopes the first Canadian compartment applications will be made in 2022. He has presented this project to a number of different US colleagues hoping to build interest there as well.
Egan Brockhoff is also a partner in Prairie Swine Health Services, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada.
Posted on February 1, 2022