Pig farmers in Illinois and the U.S. should focus on keeping African swine fever (ASF) out of their herds.

But they should also make plans now for the possibility of an outbreak to limit the spread and potential destruction to their herds and markets.

“We’re working to keep it (ASF) out,” Illinois Ag Director John Sullivan said at Illinois Swine Day in Springfield. “If it does come, we have to be prepared for it.”

Mark Ernst, Illinois State Veterinarian, provided the following tips pig farmers should consider as soon as possible to prepare for an outbreak of ASF or other foreign animal disease.

1) “The first thing you need to do is register your premises identification and validate it,” he said. Premises ID data will be loaded into the emergency response management system and will save time in the event of an ASF outbreak, which likely would generate at least a 72-hour stop-movement order for all swine.

2) Update and consider enhancing biosecurity plans. Veterinarians consider added layers of biosecurity as one of the top defenses against ASF and other viruses.

3) Consider what to do if there’s a stop-movement order and how to manage pigs at each location.

4) Evaluate the best plans in the event a herd must be depopulated. “Humane care is going to be a big issue. There’s going to be a lot of eyes on us (in the event of an outbreak),” Ernst said. “Make contacts for a disposal plan. A lot of landfills don’t accept carcasses.”

5) Involve your herd veterinarian in all biosecurity and disease response plans.

What happens to pigs not on the farm at the time of a potential ASF outbreak and subsequent stop-movement order?

Pigs on trailers en route to other destinations at the time of a stop-movement order would be dealt with on a case by case basis, but likely would be allowed to reach their final destination, according to Staci Slager, Assistant State Veterinarian.

Meanwhile, if a stop-movement order happened during a pig show, the animals would be kept at that premises until the next steps were determined.

Signs of AFS include high death loss, abortion, high fever, piling, diarrhea and skin discoloration.

If you suspect an ASF infection, quarantine your herd. Contact your state or federal animal health official to report the concerns. Contact information can be obtained by calling 866-536-7593. Or call USDA’s Veterinary Services National Center for Animal Health Emergency Management, which offers 24-hour assistance, at 800-940-6524.