Protect your farm from a serious disease outbreak

This story originally appeared in the June 4, 2020 online edition of Michigan Farmer Magazine.

A man standing in a field

Secure food supply planning is the effort of animal industries to protect as much of an industry as possible from losses if a highly contagious animal disease with severe consequences were to occur. The pork, beef, milk, egg and poultry industries have developed and promoted secure food supply planning programs nationally to encourage producers to participate.

Producers are encouraged to share the locations of all farms (or premises) with their state governments by requesting a premise identification number associated with each specific site, employ effective biosecurity plans, and be prepared to respond with even greater protections if disease were to "break" nearby, statewide or nationally.

In the past few years, African swine fever led to the loss of millions of pigs in Asia and Europe, and the devastation and economic losses have the attention of pork industries around the world. In the U.S., pork producer organizations, state and federal governments, Extension, and pork industry allies encourage pig farmers to become fully aware and committed to secure supply planning practices where primary attention is given to farm identification and biosecurity.

Biosecurity protects your farm from disease, and secure supply planning is the extra effort to keep your farming business productive during a highly consequential disease outbreak. In some cases, depending on the location of an outbreak, a permit to move will be required from state officials to continue business.

By investing in secure supply planning, farms will be able to quickly fulfill the requirements needed for permitted movement and work with state government to secure the continuation of business as quickly as possible.

In 2014 and into 2015, the Michigan State University Extension pork team compiled an exhaustive set of criteria and questions to achieve compliance in secure supply planning. Next, the team conducted secure supply plan audits of 12 Michigan swine farms.


From these audits, the farmers learned what they needed to do to improve their preparedness for a consequential disease. The MSU Extension pork team, along with the Michigan Pork Producers Association, learned where Michigan’s swine industry stood regarding secure supply planning and identified areas to address. 

They also learned that the nearly 700 criteria points were not all critical. Some were good practices but not necessary for a farm to remain in business during a consequential disease outbreak.

Based on what was learned from the audits, in 2018-19, state officials, MPPA staff and members of the MSU Extension pork team worked together to identify essential items or biosecurity practices that must be followed by a farm or premise to be granted permission to continue business in a disease outbreak and state response situation.

These essential practices align with the national secure pork supply guidelines, as well as the “lessons learned” from states that have addressed highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreaks. To assist producers and veterinarians in completing secure supply planning, a questionnaire was developed consisting of about 40 key items.

The questionnaire, available from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, MPPA, and MSU Extension, assists pork producers and their advisers with prioritizing the changes they need to make on their farms to be better prepared and validates the effectiveness of biosecurity plans. 

During the past five years, the MSU Extension pork team has developed expertise in secure supply planning by identifying all possible biosecurity practices, learning what practices are most difficult for farmers to employ, and working with state officials and leaders to identify practices critical to a farm’s operation in the event of a serious disease outbreak.

The team has been invited to work with farmers and complete walk-throughs to discuss biosecurity and secure supply planning achievement. This service is one that the MSU Extension pork team provides and is willing to be "another set of eyes" for the farmer, helping to determine readiness for disease outbreak and further preparation.

Having someone who is not part of day-to-day operations view your farm is an effective way to make improvements in secure supply planning and potentially protect your farm, animals, investment and livelihood. It helps you see or realize potentially critical shortcomings in current biosecurity practices or plans, leaving the operation at risk.

Because of African swine fever, secure supply planning efforts in the U.S. have accelerated exponentially this past year. State officials, industry leaders, universities, Extension and farmers have been preparing for this costly contagious disease. Hoping to keep it out of the U.S., each entity is working to become better prepared for the possibility of a disease outbreak.

Recent discussions have concluded that a farm’s veterinarian is "another set of eyes," vital to a farm’s continuity of business, and requires an effective veterinarian-client-patient relationship. The veterinarian will determine the effectiveness of your biosecurity and is responsible for validating your practices for the state government if there is an outbreak.

It will be your veterinarian’s responsibility to validate with state officials that your farm is biosecure and uninfected to continue business and complete animal movements, including across state lines. Veterinarians must be acquainted with the most critical aspects of biosecurity and the critical concepts of secure food supply planning.

Farmers will need to assist your veterinarian in knowing your farm, your biosecurity plan, and your secure pork supply plan. Veterinarians, you will need to know the farm, and whether the biosecurity and secure supply plans have been effectively developed and implemented.

To contact an MSU Extension pork team member or to learn more about pork producer education and research at MSU, visit online at

Rozeboom is an MSU Extension pork specialist. He can be contacted at Ferry is an MSU Extension swine educator. She can be contacted at 

Did you find this article useful?