USDA’s feral swine livestock damage survey took on an added layer of importance this month.

The survey of about 18,000 cattle, hog, sheep and goat farmers in the U.S. wrapped up Aug. 18, about three weeks after the confirmation of African swine fever (ASF) in the Dominican Republic.

“It’s really gotten close,” Sophie McKee, of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said of AFS on USDA Radio. “We need to be able to better understand our risk in the U.S. to better target surveillance.”

Feral swine represent a significant threat as a pathway to the introduction of AFS, or other foreign animal disease, into the U.S. The AFS outbreak in Germany was first detected in feral swine while the recent finding in the Dominican Republic was traced to backyard animals.

The majority of feral swine live in 10 states in the U.S. – Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.

USDA launched a pilot program to control feral swine in 2019 at an initial cost of $75 million. Feral swine not only represent a disease threat to the domestic hog herd, but also cause an estimated $2 billion in damage each year, with about half of the damage occurring on farms.