Swine Disease Surveillance Developmental Efforts

James D. McKean, Extension Veterinarian and Associate Director, Iowa Pork Industry Center, Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine


Historically swine disease surveillance has relied on down-the-road testing, point of first concentration or slaughter collections to provide necessary information to identify infected animals/herds and to monitor control program successes. The continued cost-reductions associated with data capture, manipulation and storage and the introduction of a unified production identification systems (NAIS premises ID) offer a substantial opportunity to provide the swine industry with risk-based rather than geographic data for control of swine diseases of interest as program diseases or for producer production refinements.  With the proper melding of these emerging technologies a coordinated and comprehensive swine disease surveillance and monitoring system can be implemented to the benefit of the USA swine industries and to answer trading partner concerns about traceability of product. 


Expand the knowledge gleaned from the pseudorabies (PRV) monitoring program in market swine to a coordinated and comprehensive swine surveillance system for market and cull swine for use in disease eradication efforts and food safety monitoring.


The Iowa pilot PRV monitoring of market swine, developed by the author to provide monitoring of producer PRV status eight years ago, was expanded several years ago to include market swine abattoirs in Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.  This effort operates regularly in abattoirs that harvest over 65% of the daily market swine capacity.  With the expansion of these efforts to 30-32 major abattoirs harvesting over 97% of USA market swine could be surveilled. Also a variety of other tests are being evaluated to increase the efficiency of sampling at the abattoir by expanding the diseases that can be effectively monitored from this sample stream. In addition the potential for cull animal identification directly to the premises becomes more practical as use of premises tags increases at the point of first sale.

Three demonstrations of system capabilities were made to National Pork Board (NPB) and USDA-APHIS-VS swine disease and surveillance units in an effort to identify a range of disease organisms and their antibody responses.  In addition research grants to characterize PRRS status in market swine from varied locales and herd production sizes, to examine the prevalence and distribution of Salmonella, Trichinella and Toxoplasma (food safety concerns) antibodies, and to examine whether a new ELISA test for the common toxin in Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae isolates could be used in this system to launch a national prevalence study as a prologue to formulation of a national eradication program have been initiated or completed this year.

To examine the potential applications and pitfalls to a national market-based surveillance system in both cull animals and market swine a four-plant, three-state tour of cull sow and market swine abattoirs to better understand the functional and logistical problems associated with abattoir-based sampling was completed by industry and USDA National Surveillance Unit representatives and myself. At each location the group examined possible avenues of cooperation and concerns from the packer representatives relative to sample collection, animal identification and traceback for positive samples. At one plant, a successful lot ID system using bar codes was demonstrated.  This information is currently being used to develop a new comprehensive swine disease surveillance system at the industry and USDA levels. At two sow harvest facilities the logistics of designing and implementing a workable and affordable sample and premises ID ear tag collection system was discussed.  This conversation was very useful for the USDA and industry representatives to better understand the variability of each plant and the different potential strategies that might be required to successfully meet program needs.

Outcome Statement:   

From these various activities over the past year, pork industry representatives have grasp the power, program implications, cost-effectiveness, and complexity of a comprehensive swine disease surveillance system for both market and cull swine. They increasingly are interested in implementation strategy development. Representatives from USDA-APHIS-VS directly participating in these activities have had similar epiphanies, but others less directly involved are not similarly situated. Results of these educational and demonstrational efforts are being incorporated into longer term industry planning strategies for disease surveillance. If current progress can be sustained for the near future a cost-effective, risk-based and industry supported comprehensive swine disease surveillance system will be implemented by USDA-APHIS-VS to the benefit of producers, packers, and domestic and export markets.  Educational efforts must continue apace.


150 Iowa Pork Industry Center

Page last updated: August 5, 2009
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