Veterinary Views

State Veterinarian Update

Responding to a Weather Emergency

Dennis Hughes, DVM

Nebraska State Veterinarian


At the time of this writing, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) is assisting and advising Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), local emergency managers, and other state agencies for response to a major weather event in Nebraska.  Blizzard conditions and flooding are having a significant impact on Nebraska livestock producers. By the time this is published, we hope that this winter has long since gone away and only “bad memories” persist.

Bovine Tuberculosis has, and is, making a lot of “noise” here in NE and several other states.  Although we don’t have an infected herd within the state at the present time, there are a significant number of traces involving NE herds from other states that have TB-infected herds.  Both dairy and beef herds are involved in trace events originating from several other states. I’ve discussed in previous articles, the fact that “new” TB strains are being found over and over—strains previously unseen in the U.S., but originate from Mexico.  In the past few years, Whole Genome Sequencing has shown that some infected herds were actually infected via human to bovine transmission. Some of the traces involve very large dairy or beef herds here in NE. We are hoping that we can “dodge bullets” from the numerous trace events, but I don’t know how long that can happen.  

I’ve also mentioned previously that I am on a TB Rule Working group with 5 other State Veterinarians and USDA TB program veterinarians to re-write a new federal rule for TB.  The process has been long and laborious, and has led to discussions that have been “lively” at times; we hope to come up with a program that will be more modern than the old rule that did not account for large herd infections.  In the past decade, large dairies in TX, CA, NM, WI and other states have become infected with TB. USDA-Veterinary Services no longer has the funding to indemnify/depopulate these large herds, so test and removal protocols have to be implemented.  In a few herds, large dairies had to test every 90 days 12-15+ times before the herd was released from quarantine. That process alone creates a “death by testing” plan in place, and puts the state of origin in danger of losing state status. Among many items we have discussed in the TB Rule Working group, was the idea that maybe all states should require annual TB testing of their dairy herds.  Beef herds have not been immune from TB, as has been seen in several incidents here in the Midwest.

Once again, lack of animal disease traceability or delayed animal disease traceability becomes a major problem when dealing with TB or other dangerous diseases.  When traceability procedures take weeks to months to complete, then diseases continue to spread to and within other herds after animal movements. It is one of the biggest frustrations that regulatory veterinarians have to deal with, when trying to respond to a major disease event.  We need a faster and more efficient process. That means individual ID which can be read quickly and accurately. It means records of movements which can be reviewed quickly and accurately. These changes need to occur sooner than later.

African Swine Fever continues to spread in China, and now in Vietnam.  NDA has sponsored and led education and outreach efforts to NE swine industry stakeholders, and will continue to do so.  Secure Pork Supply plans and protocols would be major tools for responding to an ASF outbreak. Biosecurity, biosecurity, biosecurity! A word that is thrown out to all livestock industry stakeholders-to prevent introduction of disease, to contain disease, and to eradicate disease.  It is easy to determine that a deficiency in biosecurity is responsible for the ASF outbreak in China, and recent events with PEDv/SECD, PRRS, SIV, and other swine diseases.

Contrary to popular belief, major livestock exhibitions here in the state make their own entry requirement rules. They do need to obey our import requirements for out-of-state exhibitors, but in-state requirements are controlled by the specific exhibitor. This year, swine exhibitions are “gravitating” towards allowing non-terminal exhibition of market swine. In light of fears with ASF and many contagious diseases that could come into exhibitions, I believe this is a very bad choice.  The NE State Fair is now considering that option.  The State Veterinarian and NDA can make recommendations, and most often, exhibitions heed those recommendations. THIS OFFICE DOES NOT CONCUR WITH NON-TERMINAL SWINE EXHIBITIONS—especially on market swine that would usually go to slaughter! In light of that recommendation, we cannot prohibit what an exhibition decides to do, except meet our import requirements. If you have clients who take swine to a non-terminal swine exhibition, and bring them back home, please encourage them to isolate and segregate those exhibited swine away from the rest of their herd for a minimum of 10 days; also, we would advise that the swine be examined by you and possibly tested for various diseases that could be dangerous to the rest of their herd.   

The Veterinary Medical Loan Repayment Program process was severely affected by the partial federal government shutdown.  The shutdown of 6 weeks delayed the decisions for selecting shortage areas, and the application process. Unfortunately, the timing could not be worse for bovine practices during calving season.  Hopefully, those who are interested in VMLRP received notification (via all our known databases) that a webinar explaining the process was held on March 13, and the submission deadline is April 12, 2019.  There are no exceptions to the deadline.

Veterinary Views is published quarterly by the Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association. 

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