What is your African Swine Fever plan?

Date posted: January 14, 2022

Christa Arsenault

Christa Arsenault

Christa Arsenault, the National African Swine Fever (ASF) Coordinator with Animal Health Canada, ended her presentation to the 2022 Banff Pork Seminar with some simple questions for producers: "What would you do today if ASF was detected in Canada and you couldn't move your pigs? Do you know who was on your operation in the last 30 days and where are your records? What is your plan?"

These pointed questions are being asked at the highest level as well, by the ASF Executive Management Board (EMB). The EMB is made up of a broad range of industry stakeholders including representatives from:

  • Federal agencies such as Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • Provincial and territorial governments
  • Environmental and wildlife agencies
  • Animal Health Canada (formerly National Farmed Animal Health and Welfare Council)
  • National groups like Canadian Pork Council and Canadian Meat Council

The ASF EMB is tasked to develop and action the Pan Canadian Action Plan to prevent entry of the disease and to mitigate the impacts of ASF in Canada.

Arsenault stressed the seriousness of the situation should ASF be discovered not just in Canada, but in North America. "The discovery of ASF in the Dominican Republic and then Haiti in 2021 is significant because it is the first time the disease has been recorded in the Americas in 40 years.

"Due to the interdependence of the pork sectors in Canada and the United States, a discovery in either country will have unprecedented impacts on the entire value chain including an immediate shut down of all exports of live animals and meat products," she says.

Prepped for action

Four pillars for action have been developed by the ASF EMB to address their dual mandates of preventing the disease from coming into Canada and ensuring there is a plan in place if the worst happens. Under these pillars are a number of working groups (WG), and sub working groups, that are focusing on critical areas:

  • Enhanced bio-security prevention: Bio-security WG; Canadian invasive wild pig WG
  • Preparedness planning: Federal, Provincial, Territorial, Industry (FPTI) Exercise WG; Depopulation and disposal WG; Movement and control WG
  • Ensuring business continuity: Hog supply WG; Zoning industry-government WG; FPT Business continuity WG; Compartmentalization WG
  • Coordinated risk communication: Integrates and communicates information across each of the four pillars

Vincent ter Beek

The working groups are making progress in a number of areas and Arsenault provided an update on the highlights.

"One of the needs identified early on was the critical role of coordination between the pillars, across the value chain as well as FPT collaboration," she says. This has been an essential strategy in understanding the status of planning provincially as well identifying gaps where support might be needed."

An ASF coordination team was developed. The team members were integrated into each of the working groups and provided regular status updates to the EMB and other pillars which ensures progress, and allows for direction from the EMB.

"This has been a successful strategy in that it allows the working groups to share the progress and accomplishments they are making while also ensuring the EMB can see the full picture and know what to expect next," says Arsenault.

The third strategy that is proving useful for everyone is a detailed organizational chart. There are so many moving parts, that being able to share the ASF EMB org chart has been a critical piece in helping people to understand who is doing what and the depth of involvement of all stakeholders in the success of this plan.

"It was important to make this org chart flexible; there are a lot of people involved so it needs to be updated regularly. We do encourage people to check the live link to see the most up-to-date information."

The national, provincial, territorial and industry groups are all working hard on their ASF plans and the working groups listed above are also deep into planning, training, testing and collaboration. Some of the strategies developed by the ASF EMB have been used for managing the COVID pandemic and Arsenault expressed a hope that the work being done on ASF could be used for other animal health issues in the future.

Arsenault finished her presentation with a call to action for producers.

"The biggest thing you can do as a producer on your farm is to be ready with your own emergency response plan and include ASF in that plan," she says.

A recording of the presentation will be available to all BPS delegates and includes a detailed look at the progress and successes of each of the pillars and associated working groups.

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