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Swine & U

By Diane DeWitte, UMN Extension swine educator
Originally printed in The LAND as May 27/June 3, 2022 Swine & U column.

Livestock and crop farmers are always being asked for their opinion, for information about their management practices, or a myriad of details about how they farm today. Four specific “asks” have come across my desk and computer screen lately, and each has important merit in the continuous improvement and protection of our swine industry.

US-Swine Health Improvement Plan (SHIP)

US-SHIP includes biosecurity, traceability and disease surveillance through a USDA Veterinary Services sponsored initiative with support from state and industry partners.

US SHIP is modeled after the very successful National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) that has been in place since 1935. US SHIP is intended to provide a national program for certifying health status and is initially focused on African Swine Fever (ASF) and Classical Swine Fever (CSF). Minnesota has committed to participating in US SHIP and we encourage all of our swine producers to enroll their production and packing site(s) in this unique program. Industry and state representation from Minnesota attended the inaugural US SHIP House of Delegates in August 2021 and approved the initial requirements for certification in the program.

The benefits of US SHIP enrollment include:
  • Strengthened ASF/CSF preparedness (prevention, response and recovery) for our state.
  • Establish a uniform biosecurity, traceability, sampling/testing approach across participating states in “peacetime” as well as “wartime.”
  • Participation in a collaborative industry (producers/packers), state, and federal program in which producers can help establish appropriate standards for health certification.

Enrollment in US SHIP is by site and is fairly straightforward:

  • Complete the enrollment form (either single premise or multi-premise form).
  • Complete the biosecurity enrollment survey provided after you submit your enrollment form.
  • Show ability to provide 30 days of swine movement records in an electronic format.
In short, US SHIP will establish a national playbook of technical standards and associated certification recognized across participating states that centers on disease prevention and demonstration of freedom of disease outside of control. At the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, Senior Veterinarian Brian Hoefs has taken the lead with US-SHIP. Further information about US-SHIP can be found at the BAH website and at the links listed above.

Minnesota’s Swine On-Farm Sustainability Report

In 2021 the National Pork Board piloted its US Pork Industry Sustainability Report tool for producers to complete and use to establish their own farm sustainability report. This is the latest step in the swine industry’s long-standing effort to produce a leading, sustainable protein choice. The goals and metrics of the Sustainability Report were developed through a National Pork Board producer-led multi-year process which considered customer needs and expectations.

Completion of the sustainability report provides free, farm-level data to help pork producers establish an individual baseline for social, environmental, and economic sustainability. Nationally, the industry is focused on doubling the number of farms participating in the reports in the next 12 months.

“We need benchmarks to better track and monitor progress, and also to make better data-driven decisions for the future of pork production,” said Dale Stevermer, Minnesota pig farmer and participant in the goals and metrics development. “The On-Farm Sustainability Reports provide metrics that can be aggregated to track progress at the industry level, while also giving farmers individualized data that helps them make better decisions for the future of pork production.” (NPB Sustainability Webinar, 2/17/22)

Here in Minnesota swine producer leadership has set a target to have at least 50% of the state’s pigs represented in the reports. MN Pork Director of Marketing and Public Policy Engagement Lauren Servick is leading the effort for Minnesota’s pig farmers. The on-farm sustainability reports are available free to farms through a pork checkoff investment at the National Pork Board. Pig farmers and contract growers are all eligible to participate. Interested farmers should contact Lauren Servick at or by calling 507-345-8814.

UMN Extension Swine Needs Assessment

UM’s Extension Swine Team launched the 2022 Swine Needs Assessment in Mankato at the MN Pork Congress in February. In order to better determine the educational needs of the Minnesota pork industry, the survey is available to all pork producers and ag professionals. Five participation incentives are available and participants have the option to sign up for the drawing of the incentives which include gift cards, management services free of charge and a product donated by Hubbard Feed. The survey timeline is drawing to a close and participants are encouraged to take five to ten minutes to complete the online needs assessment. The survey can be found at

UMN Swine Biosecurity Survey

The Center for Animal Health and Food Safety at the University of Minnesota is conducting a survey about biosecurity on swine farms across the state of Minnesota. By collecting data from producers about what biosecurity protocols they currently use, and those which they don’t, researchers hope to gain an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of biosecurity across the industry.

This study will help the swine industry identify gaps and opportunities for improvement in the face of a new or foreign animal disease outbreak. With a better understanding of practices currently in use, new resources, training materials, and research can be done with the ultimate goal of helping swine farms prevent the introduction of disease, spread of disease, and ultimately protecting the health and profitability of the Minnesota swine industry.

The project is funded through the USDA.

Pig farmers can access the biosecurity survey at this web site:

The researchers estimate that the survey will take 10-20 minutes, and all identifying information is kept confidential. Those who complete the survey and provide an email address will be entered into a drawing for one of eight $75 gift cards.

Participation Helps Producers Direct Their Destiny

It’s often easy to let requests for participation fall to the bottom of the list, or the waste basket, but in each of these cases, answering the call can help direct the future. On-farm sustainability is a request and requirement for many of the pork industry’s customers, and a farmer who can point to improvements made over the course of years can tell a successful story which appeals to consumers. Swine health across the country is a number-one concern, and the US-SHIP program will tie producers and packers to continuous improvement in the fight against foreign animals diseases. And running underneath and throughout it all, biosecurity is key. Key to high health status, key to increased production efficiencies which decrease a farm’s environmental footprint, and key to survivability of the pig, the farm and the industry.
Diane DeWitte is an Extension Swine Educator with the University of Minnesota based in Mankato. She can be reached at

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