African Swine Fever: It affects more than just pigs |

African Swine Fever: It affects more than just pigs

Megan Silveira
for Tri-State Livestock News

The American cattleman is not often lumped on the same train of thought as the pork industry in China. With the recent outbreak of African Swine Fever in China, however, this is certainly changing. The ASF is making waves that are reaching all global trade markets, and the American beef industry is no exception.

“It’s easy to consider a pig disease on the other side of the world to be a very distant problem,” said Russ Daly, South Dakota State University extension veterinarian.

Even if the outbreak in China is not a geographically relevant threat, Daly said the effects of ASF have certainly affected American farmers and ranchers.

Photo courtesy Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine
Photo courtesy Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Daly said large groups of agriculturalists across the globe are already monitoring the disease, but producers of all meat animals here in the United States should be asking themselves what it would look like if ASF were to hit the country.

ASF is a highly contagious virus only prevalent in swine, Daly said. The disease spreads amongst animals through nose and mouth before infecting the entire body, he added. According to Iowa State University, the virus can also be picked up through contaminated objects such as clothing, equipment and more.

Some species of ticks (vector) can transmit the virus. Blood sucking flies or insects may possibly spread the virus between pigs. Aerosol transmission is limited, according to ISU.

“It is important to note that ASF is not a food safety threat not a human health threat,” said Roy Lee Lindsey, Oklahoma Pork Council executive director. “The virus only affects swine. The issue is the disease is highly contagious in swine and has a mortality rate up to 95%. It can devastate pork operations for years, causing severe economic hardship to producers and related agribusinesses.”

While the disease is not currently seen here in the U.S., Daly said it has the potential to be brought into the country through contaminated feed ingredients. With no current vaccine or treatment, Daly said ASF has the potential to make significant impacts on global markets.

The United States Department of Agriculture is doing all in its power to ensure this disease does not touch ground in the U.S. While the global impact of the disease’s presence in China cannot be controlled, the USDA is fighting to reduce the risk of U.S. swine herds from contracting ASF.

No live hogs are imported to the U.S. to prevent the spreading of ASF. The USDA also allocated a $1.7 million grant to the Swine Health Information Center to support communication between the United States and Asia in regards to the disease. The National Pork Producers Council and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians are also supporting the initiative.

The disease is not controlled in most countries where it is a prominent problem, making communication between the U.S. and other countries vital, said Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Cooperative livestock marketing specialist. He describes the disease as difficult to eradicate and said its impact on American agriculture is starting to be revealed through the latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Peel said losses in the Chinese protein markets are affecting producers on a global level, as this powerhouse trading country attempts to mitigate reduced meat supplies during a major protein deficit.

While Peel said total Chinese consumption of protein is projected to decrease by 14.9% by 2020, the country will continue to add to the growth in global beef imports for the sixth year in a row. Total world beef exports are projected to grow 4.4% in 2020, he added. Despite all this, Peel said the global impact of this disease does not benefit beef producers.

“Worldwide, total global production of beef, pork and poultry is projected to decline by 1.5% year over year in 2019 and decrease another 2.4% in 2020 as a result of decreased pork production caused by ASF,” Peel said.

Looking past livestock producers, Jerry Shurson, professor of swine nutrition at the University of Minnesota, and Pedro Urriola, research assistant professor at the UofM, said corn and soybean growers are also threatened by the disease.

“The economic impact of an ASF outbreak would extend beyond the pork industry,” the pair said. “The prices and revenue from production of corn ($44 billion) and soybeans ($25 billion) would also significantly decrease as a consequence of decreased utilization of these ingredients in swine diets.”

Another large concern stemming from this disease is not tied to economics at all, said Lindsey. If the disease spreads to any part of the U.S., a stop movement order will be issued for all swine in the country, he said. While this might not sound detrimental to beef producers, Lindsey said the USDA will likely close all export markets to further investigate the disease’s impact.

The eliminated export capability would lead to a major surplus of pork in the U.S. A snowball effect would lead to changes in prices for all proteins (such as poultry and beef) sold in the country.

The presence of ASF in China is creating waves affecting all segments in the agricultural industry. American producers can continue to push for biosecurity on their operation and further instill safe production practices. The global markets may ebb and flow, but American producers will continue to help feed the growing world population with the high quality products they are known for.

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