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April 10, 2019

African swine fever

Protecting Pork Producers

Jennifer Ferris

Underscoring the risk African swine fever (ASF) poses to the health of U.S. swine herds and the livelihood of producers, on April 10, 2019 the National Pork Producers Council’s board of directors announced its decision to cancel World Pork Expo 2019 out of an abundance of caution as ASF continues to spread in China and other parts of Asia. Hosted by NPPC since 1987, World Pork Expo is the world’s largest pork industry-specific trade show in the world.

Pork producing operations of all sizes are increasingly managing risk by insuring against hog diseases that include African Swine Fever (ASF).

It’s a very specialized type of coverage, available only from select consultants, including Marsh & McLennan Agency, through Lloyd’s of London.

Pork production facilities—from sow units to nurseries to finishers—need the same standard types of coverage that manufacturing companies use. This includes workers’ compensation, property, general liability and auto liability.

Yet such facilities differ from manufacturing operations because of the health and mortality risks that come with animal production.

A catastrophic disease
Like all livestock, pigs are susceptible to a variety of diseases. In the U.S., this includes porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) and porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDS).

ASF is a highly contagious virus that affects domestic pigs. Although ASF has not reached the U.S., Canada or Mexico, it is wreaking havoc in Asia. The disease is not a threat to human health.

Pigs infected with ASF present with symptoms including, but not limited to, fever, skin discoloration, diarrhea and ultimately death. Dr. Brian Roggow of the Fairmont Veterinary Clinic in Fairmont, Minn., a veterinary clinic that has served the swine industry for 60 years, says, “Symptoms of ASF are similar to those of PEDs and PRRS, so if ASF came to the U.S., early diagnosis would be difficult if not impossible until a postmortem was performed.” 

According to the USDA, this highly contagious and deadly viral disease has the potential to be devastating to the U.S. industry. The disease cannot be treated, so all affected or exposed swine herds would have to be depopulated.

ASF can be spread through saliva, breath, milk, semen, urine and manure. However, research has shown that certain feed ingredients can support viral survival based on either trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific shipping to the U.S. Feedstuffs such as vitamins and amino acids harbor the virus for a time period less than 100 days, whereas bulk feedstuffs such as DDGs could harbor the virus for closer to 300 days. 

Preventing ASF
It’s said that prevention is the best medicine, and that’s certainly true for ASF.

Dr. Roggow urges producers to follow the Secure Pork Supply Plan to protect their herds. Additionally, producers can track their hogs and make sure trucks and trailers are washed.

Producers should also talk with their co-op and feed analysts to make sure feedstuffs are being tracked. If the feedstuffs come from China, they should be incubated for an appropriate amount of time to ensure that any viruses are dead.    

Coverage considerations for ASF
Sound risk management for pork producers includes insuring hogs against mortality. The typical mortality policy was not designed for, and does not cover disease.

A specialized disease policy has been designed to cover not only ASF, but also the more typical PEDS and PRRS. These policies are complicated and may contain many limits on coverages, conditions to coverage and exclusions. Talking through the coverage and the risk-reward regarding cost is a conversation to have with your risk management consultant. 

Sow farms and gilt developers in particular should consider ASF coverage because of the expense and time involved with replacement and re-establishing their operations.

U.S. biosecurity measures are strong, and most swine operations are diligent in protecting against ASF. However, purchasing ASF coverage as a form of risk management is something all swine producers should consider.

If you have questions about ASF coverage, our agribusiness team is prepared to assist you.