Keeping out infected feed proves difficult for hog sector

Producers should know where their feed ingredients come from to avoid getting material from regions infected with African swine fever.

But finding out is not as easy as one might think.

Feed manufacturers in North America are beginning to think more about where they get their ingredients, how the feed is treated, how to minimize disease potential, and how to distribute their products so they don’t spread viruses like ASF.

“There’s a lot of material coming into the United States from China,” said Scott Dee, a leading swine veterinarian from Minnesota, during a panel about ASF at the Global Hog Industry Virtual Conference.

He said he was surprised to find that in one recent year, the U.S. feed industry imported 250,000 tonnes of soybean products.

Leah Wilkinson of the American Feed Industry Association said feed manufacturers source materials from many places, but China can be significant for some things.

“In some cases they are our only source,” said Wilkinson.

Modern feeds are complex blends of nutrition designed to meet specific needs, so the ingredients must be carefully formulated. That can make it difficult for manufacturers to be aware of all the different sources and risks involved in what they produce.

“People are starting to ask questions,” said Brooke Humphrey of Provimi about the feed industry’s complex supply chains.

“What risks might that bring us?”With the threat of ASF hanging over the entire hog industry and all its suppliers, feed providers are examining what they’re using, how to store it and how to move it safely.

Some researchers hope to find or develop a feed additive that would help kill the ASF virus inside stored feed.

Currently, it is believed to take weeks for ASF to break down inside feed.

“We need a safe, cost effective feed additive,” said Dee.

While the North American industry imports Chinese vitamins, enzymes and other specific feed components, Dee said the risk is much more from whole feed grains.

“To me, it’s the bulk ingredients,” he said, pointing out that Chinese feed stocks are often stored on the ground, creating a major risk for infection.

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