Arm & Hammer Animal and Food Production
Swine Eating

Industry responding to “Perfect Storm” of African Swine Fever.

Posted October 16, 2019 by Dr. Ellen Davis, Swine Field Technical Service Manager

Livestock diseases don’t typically have a significant impact on the global food supply, but when a disease like African Swine Fever (ASF) leads to the depopulation of entire herds across multiple countries and continents, it quickly becomes a “perfect storm” disease—and no one is immune from its ultimate impact.

What ASF is (and isn’t).

ASF has already decimated swine herds in sub-Saharan Africa and has recently spread to countries in the European Union and Asia, including China, the world’s largest pork producer. By some estimates, pork production losses in that country could hit at least 50% in 2019. Since China produces approximately 114 million metric tons annually, these losses present a clear threat to the global food supply. And since there are no known cures or vaccines for this devastating disease, repopulation often becomes the only option when ASF attacks a herd.

Map of African Swine Fever Outbreaks June 2018 - July 2019
African Swine Fever Outbreaks – June 2018 – July 2019

ASF symptoms include high fever, decreased appetite and weakness, red, blotchy skin or skin lesions, diarrhea and vomiting, coughing and difficulty breathing, according to the USDA. And most believe it’s simply a matter of time before ASF appears in the U.S. as well, creating the need for even more diligent biosecurity measures.

Despite its serious impact on swine herds, ASF is not a threat to human health and cannot be transmitted from pigs to humans. In other words, it’s a food supply issue, not a food safety issue.

Obstacles on the road to repopulation.

As African Swine Fever continues to wreak havoc on herds around the world, the industry can minimize disruption to the global food supply by increasing production elsewhere and repopulating herds in affected countries. There are, however, obstacles standing in the way.

Uncertainty about trade policy is one possible obstacle. Even with the volatility caused by African Swine Fever, we have yet to see many increases in U.S. pork production. Uncertainty about whether there might be a surplus of animals that can’t be exported could be making these producers more risk averse.

Repopulation won’t happen overnight, either. Instead, it could take anywhere from three to five years. And that’s assuming the risk of reinfection doesn’t further delay efforts. In the interim, countries like China will continue to turn to chicken and other alternative protein sources to meet demand.

New strategies for addressing current threats.

When a terrible disease creates the need to repopulate so many herds around the world, it also highlights the role new technologies must play in the future to achieve reproduction and performance gains. These technologies can address the challenges associated with repopulating when fewer traditional tools like antibiotics are available.

Taking a science-based approach, ARM & HAMMER is constantly on the lookout for new ways to achieve desired outcomes. For example, to improve immune function readiness and achieve performance gains, many swine producers are turning to Refined Functional Carbohydrates™ (RFCs™)—available in CELMANAX™. Feeding CELMANAX supports immunity through gut health, helping to make pigs more resilient against difficult environmental and health challenges.

Even when the entire industry isn’t facing a “perfect storm” disease like African Swine Fever, science-based approaches will help producers cope with whatever individual threats they may be facing. Learn more about the spread of ASF and the benefits of RFCs by talking to one of our reps today.

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