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NAHMS gearing up to survey swine operations in 2020

NAHMS will take in-depth look at large and small swine enterprises in separate studies.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS), in collaboration with USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), is gearing up to conduct two national studies of U.S. swine operations: the "NAHMS Swine 2020 Small Enterprise Study" and the "NAHMS Swine 2020 Large Enterprise Study."

According to the NAHMS launch materials, the small enterprise study is the third to take an in-depth look at swine operations with fewer than 1,000 pigs, while the large enterprise study will be the sixth look at operations with 1,000-plus pigs. Both studies are meant to provide new information regarding health and management practices of the U.S. swine industry, NAHMS said.

The small enterprise study will ask about 5,000 swine operations from 38 states to participate, and the large enterprise study will select 2,700 operations from 13 of the top swine-producing states, which represent 90% of U.S. swine operations with 1,000 pigs or more.

NAHMS noted that small enterprise swine production is a growing sector of the industry due to its role as a primary supplier of many niche-market products. Study objectives include:

  • Describe the current health and production practices on small enterprise operations;
  • Describe trends in swine health and disease management practices on small enterprise operations;
  • Characterize movement, mortality and slaughter channels on on small enterprise operations, and
  • Examine differences in marketing practices and movements on small and large U.S. swine operations.

NAHMS said the objectives for the large enterprise study were developed from focus group discussions with representatives of the National Pork Board, the National Pork Producers Council and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians as well as input from industry stakeholders via an online survey.

The large enterprise study objectives include:

  • Describe current U.S. swine production practices related to housing, productivity, biosecurity and morbidity and mortality prevention;
  • Determine the producer-reported prevalence of certain pathogens in weaned market pigs;
  • Describe antimicrobial stewardship and use patterns, and
  • Evaluate the presence of select economically important pathogens, and characterize isolated organisms from biological specimens.

"NAHMS is a great tool to better understand the burden of disease in the U.S. swine herd. It also provides data for further analyses and characterization of different populations within the industry, which ultimately provides insights into disease trends. Participating will contribute to the representativeness of the study," said Dr. Cesar Corzo, associate professor and Leman chair in swine health and productivity with the University of Minnesota department of veterinary population medicine.

The small enterprise study will run from June 2020 to August 2021, and selected producers ill be mailed a letter and questionnaire in June 2020. NASS will contact selected large enterprise operations in July and August 2020 to complete a questionnaire. Participation in any NAHMS study is voluntary, and information provided in the questionnaires is kept confidential, with data presented only in aggregate or summary, NAHMS said.

Historical significance

According to background information provided by NAHMS, past NAHMS swine studies have contributed to the industry in the following ways:

  • Trend data collected between 1990 and 2006 by four NAHMS swine studies documented the decline and virtual elimination of trichinae in commercial market swine and showed a corresponding decrease in the use of production practices that contribute to trichinae infection (such as feeding uncooked food waste to swine). NAHMS developed informational sheets on toxoplasma and trichinae that were used in industry discussions with trading partners to provide objective, national-level data on the low prevalence of these parasites in swine.
  • Estimates from NAHMS swine studies are used to develop national African swine fever and classical swine fever disease spread models for the USDA Centers for Epidemiology & Animal Health (CEAH). Population estimates from NAHMS studies inform the structure of the models’ swine population estimates that describe both the sourcing of pigs and where they go when they leave a farm, both of which are the basis of live animal movement parameters that influence the rate of disease spread. The validity of the CEAH national models depends on the quality of data used to build the models, and national estimates provided by NAHMS studies have been an important component of that effort.
  • Data from NAHMS swine studies from 1995 to 2012 were used to compare scenarios using estimated economic impacts to the swine industry of a decrease in the prevalence of swine dysentery.
  • During the initial U.S. outbreaks involving porcine epidemic diarrhea virus in 2013 and porcine deltacoronavirus in 2014, NAHMS assisted with the initial epidemiologic investigations.
  • Utilizing data from two NAHMS national swine studies, academia were able to provide the swine industry with an estimate of the economic cost of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, which gave the industry baseline data to use in efforts to regionalize and/or eradicate this costly disease.
  • The NAHMS 2006 and 2012 national swine studies, along with the "Antimicrobial Use & Stewardship on U.S. Swine Operations, 2017" study, provided insight into the use of antimicrobials in feed and water before and after the Food & Drug Administration's Veterinary Feed Directive regulations went into effect in 2017.
  • Fecal specimen samples collected from NAHMS national swine studies are examined to isolate bacteria considered to be animal and foodborne pathogens. Not only does NAHMS generate information on the prevalence of these pathogens on farms, but an assessment of antibiotic resistance profiles is also conducted. Biologic sampling such as this generates aggregate and trend data important to an increasingly active research agenda on antimicrobial use and resistance.
  • The NAHMS 2006 and 2012 national swine studies also examined the prevalence and profiles of circovirus strains before and after development of a porcine circovirus 2 vaccine.

More information on the studies can be found on the NAHMS website.

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