Planning for the unexpected is not easy. But take it from the poultry industry who learned this lesson the hard way with avian influenza – an emergency plan is always worth the time and effort.
David Preisler, chief executive officer of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association, and Beth Thompson, DVM, Minnesota state veterinarian, have spent the last several months working to develop an emergency disease management committee in Minnesota. The committee is comprised of 55 different people involved in various aspects of the industry.
The concept is patterned after a plan the poultry industry put together after dealing with the avian influenza outbreak, he adds. It builds on lessons learned in the trenches.
“The committee brings producers, packers, academia, our diagnostic lab, and board of animal health together to work through these thorny issues. Whether it’s depop and disposal or communications, diagnostics and testing or resource needs, we’re working through all those issues now to come up with a detailed plan,” Preisler says.
The Minnesota Pork Board is contracting with an expert at the University of Minnesota to complete the plan, which should be finished soon. Preisler says the plan can be implemented by farmers and the state department of animal health.
“Regionalization and depop and disposal are still works in progress,” he says. “I feel a whole lot better than I did 90 days ago, but I hope I feel even better 90 days from now.”
He said Minnesota pork producers moved pigs out of Minnesota into 32 different states last year. Some states have packing capacity and some states don’t. For example, Minnesota only has the physical capability to kill half of the pigs that are raised in their state.
“We are absolutely reliant on other states to move our slaughter pigs to,” Preisler says.
As much as possible, states trading pigs with each other need to work together to be on same page and have the same set of expectations, he explains. They also need resources put together in advance dealing with a variety of topics from permitting to testing.
The U.S. pork industry is dependent on relationships between animal health officials from state to state. State veterinarians have a tremendous amount of power and with that power comes a tremendous amount of responsibility, Preisler says.
“As a swine industry, we have a million head of pigs roughly on the road at any given time. We move pigs all over the place,” he says. “If there are hiccups in being able to move animals across state lines, we are going to have an animal welfare problem really quick.”
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