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Taking Animal Health and Welfare to the Next Level

Mark W. Bienhoff, DVM — Pathogen Control Team Leader, Kemin Industries


Kemin Industries Vision

Introduced in 1998, Kemin Industries adopted a worldwide strategy summarized by their vision: We strive to improve the quality of life by touching half the people of the world every day with our products and services. The Kemin mission, as a global manufacturer of innovative nutrition and health solutions, is to meet the needs of the world's growing population. With this growth will come a greater need for reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious and safe food. The United States Department of Agriculture coined this term, "food security."1 Kemin believes continuous change is a way of life and sees needed livestock and poultry production changes to meet this new demand. The production of meat, milk and eggs for human consumption will not only need to increase but will also need to be more efficient. Production of animals in a healthy environment improves their welfare, which is a key driver for efficient livestock and poultry production. Kemin has established a Pathogen Control Team, which provides comprehensive environmental pathogen control products, technologies, services and programs that will decrease disease risk as well as increase the volume and improve the efficiency of global food production.



The production of meat, milk and eggs for human consumption is coming under increased pressure as the global human population continues to increase. Sporadic, acute disease outbreaks, caused by common pathogens or the introduction of new pathogens, increase food product costs and are risks to global nutrition. The University of Minnesota Swine Health Monitoring Project showed that with the entry of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV) into the U.S. pork industry, the number of sows farrowed decreased by 0.25%, the number of pigs saved per litter dropped by 3.2% and the number of pigs harvested dropped by 5.2 million during the period of September 13, 2013, to August 14, 2014.2 In poultry, the outbreak of High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) virus in 2014-2015 caused the death of an estimated 50 million birds, mostly egg-laying hens.3 Both of these acute outbreaks show diseases can have fast and dramatic effects on profitability and food production.     

Also of interest are the effects of ongoing, endemic disease in production facilities. Dr. Robert Desrosiers pointed out at the 2015 American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) meeting, "We have not gotten rid of any of the emerging pathogens of the last 40 years." He continues with, "...adding diseases without eliminating any is not a good long-term strategy."4 It has been estimated that Porcine Respiratory and Reproduction Syndrome Virus (PRRSV) results in annual losses to the swine industry of around $664,000,000.5 Ongoing losses from both of these endemic diseases can have dramatic effects on profitability and food production.    

Of even more concern are the possible effects of transboundary or foreign animal diseases entering the U.S. livestock and poultry industries. At the 2017 annual meeting of the AASV, Dr. Jeff Zimmerman noted that detection of African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV), Classical Swine Fever Virus (CSFV), or Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus (FMDV) would devastate the U.S. pork industry in a matter of hours. Rendleman and Spinelli (1999) estimated the 1992 U.S. dollar cost of ASFV at $4,500,000,000 to $5,445,000,000.6 Because this study took place back in the 1990's, the amount would be grossly low if repeated today. Transboundary disease introduction requires risk management programs to be put into place to prevent the entry and spread of disease in today's global market place.    

The Importance of Biosecurity and Pathogen Control Programs

It is well known that infectious agents are a threat to livestock and poultry health and at times, human health. With today's intensive production conditions, prevention is the most viable and economically feasible approach to the control of infectious agents. Biosecurity and pathogen control plans are utilized by livestock and poultry producers to reduce disease transmission through contact with infected animals, people, pests, manure, insects, trucks, air, water, feed and other vectors.7 It is known that manufactured feed can transmit pathogens into a production facility infecting the animals, causing disease, decreasing productivity and negatively affecting animal welfare.8 Salmonella serotypes potentially found in animal feeds have been shown to spread to humans; therefore, causing zoonotic outbreaks of foodborne illness.9

Biosecurity procedures at the herd level are put in place to reduce the probability of disease introductions into the herd. It should be noted that following the Swedish ban of antimicrobial feed additives in 1986, rising problems with infectious disease in pig production facilities were mainly controlled by improving external and internal biosecurity.10 External biosecurity involves assessing the prevalence of disease in the immediate geographical area surrounding the farm and minimizing the frequency of outside, between-farm contacts. Internal biosecurity involves minimizing the spread of disease among animals within the facility and the prevention of transfer of zoonotic agents to people visiting the farm or consuming their food products.       

Development of Kemin Pathogen Control Products and Programs

In livestock and poultry production facilities, the diversity of microbes, combined with their ability to evolve and adapt to changing populations, environments, practices and technologies, creates ongoing threats to animal health and challenges efforts to prevent and control diseases. Ongoing assessments and disease surveillance is needed for producers to know what pathogens are in their immediate area. Kemin believes there are three (3) environmental focus areas when drafting a Comprehensive Pathogen Control Program: 

  1. External biosecurity procedures must be put in place to reduce contact opportunities with outside pathogens and prevent entry into the production facility. You must prevent the pathogens from entering your facility. 
  2. Identify and implement interventions to reduce infectious disease. This involves cleaning and disinfecting products within the production facility to lower pathogen load. This may involve vaccines and controlled antibiotic treatments used strategically under Veterinarian direction. You must control and decrease pathogen load within the facility. 
  3. Prevent pathogen zoonosis to employees working within the livestock and poultry production unit and to humans consuming the end harvested food products. You must control possible pathogens from leaving your facility. 

Kemin Pathogen Control Team Objectives

In this era of continued disease threats, antibiotic controls through Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations imposed on nutrition programs and reduced overall antibiotic usage, preparing for efficient and safe livestock and poultry food production will take new tools and strategies. Animal health and welfare programs are changing from traditional diagnosis and treatment tactics, to prevention and control. Through direct work with livestock and poultry producers, the Kemin Pathogen Control Team can assess your production facility, identify areas that could be problematic, make recommendations and provide prevention strategies for your system. These strategies will focus on products and programs which will lower and control your production facility's pathogen load. By addressing animal health and welfare through comprehensive pathogen control programs, we believe we can help meet the Kemin mission to improve the quality of life by touching half the people of the world every day with our products and services.     



1 Accessed on March 14, 2017. Kneeskern, Samantha. "Economic Impacts of PEDV." National Hog Farmer, November 03, 2015. Accessed on March 18, 2017. "Report finds $1.2 billion in Iowa avian flu damage." Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, August 18, 2015. Accessed on March 10, 2017.
4Desrosiers, R. 2015. Emerging diseases: The past and the future. Proc 46th Ann Meet Am Assoc Swine Veterinarians. Orlando, Florida, pp. 519-537.
5Holtkamp, D., J. Kliebenstein, E. Neumann, J. Zimmerman, H. Rotto, P. Yeske, T. Yoder, C. Wang, C. Mowrer, and C.A. Haley. 2013. Assessment of the economic impact of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus on United States pork producers. J Swine Health Prod 21: 72-84.
6Zimmerman, J. 2017. Swine medicine in the 21st century: Immovable object meets unstoppable force. Proc 48th Ann Meet Am Assoc Swine Veterinarians. Denver, Colorado, pp. 14-19.
7Desrosiers, R. "Transmission of swine pathogens: Different means, different needs." Animal Health Research Reviews 12.01 (2011): 1-13.
8Davies, P. R., et al. "The role of contaminated feed in the epidemiology and control of Salmonella enterica in pork production." Foodbourne Pathogens & Disease 1.4 (2004): 202-215.
9Hald, Tine, et al. "Human health impact of Salmonella contamination in imported soybean products: A semiquantitative risk assessment."Foodbourne Pathogens & Disease 3.4 (2006): 422-431.
10Lewin et al. 2015. Risk assessment as a tool for improving external biosecurity at farm level. BMC Veterinary Research 11:171 DOI 10.1186/s 12917-015-0477-7.

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