Advocacy in action

2008 in review

The January-February issue of JSHAP is always a good opportunity to reflect on the challenges and accomplishments of the previous year. Following is an update on a number of the issues AASV addressed during 2008.

30-day health rule

I’m sure you are as tired of hearing about this issue as I am about talking about it. However, it appears we have finally reached an acceptable solution to this problem, which involves the issuance of Certificates of Veterinary Inspection (CVIs) for weaned pigs moving outside of an established production flow. Veterinarians had routinely interpreted the regulations to allow for the issuance of a CVI to weaned pigs originating from a herd participating in a herd-health program without having to revisit that herd between 30-day health inspections.

In early 2007, a USDA Area Veterinarian in Charge (AVIC) challenged that interpretation, suggesting that the regulation actually required the veterinarian to inspect the individual animals referenced on the CVI. The AASV argued that that was not the intent of the regulation and was eventually successful in convincing USDA to issue a Veterinary Services Notice informing the AVICs that veterinarians issuing a CVI referencing weaned pigs born into a herd in compliance with the 30-day rule did not have to individually inspect the pigs, providing the CVI accurately reflected the actions taken by the veterinarian. The AASV then requested that the National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials agree to allow the veterinarian to add a statement on the CVI that would explain the actions undertaken, thus allowing the veterinarian to sign an accurate official form. The assembly agreed unanimously. For a more detailed discussion of this issue, please read the news article in the AASV News section of this issue of JSHAP.

Pharmaceutical issues

Extra-label drug use – The ability of veterinarians to utilize antimicrobials in an extra-label manner was a hot topic for most of the second half of 2008. With the approval of Baytril in swine (in spite of the continued prohibition on the extra-label use of the fluoroquinolones) and FDA’s issuance of an order prohibiting the extra-label use of the cephalosporin class of drugs, AASV began an educational effort to inform our membership about the regulations governing the extra-label use of antimicrobials. The AASV Executive Committee visited with FDA leadership in Washington, DC, in June to discuss antimicrobial-use issues, including growth promotants, Veterinary Feed Directives, and antimicrobial resistance. The order banning the extra-label use of cephalosporins was announced approximately 2 weeks later, although FDA did not mention the impending ban during our visit. A group of AASV staff and practitioners again visited with FDA officials on October 8 to specifically discuss the cephalosporin ban and subsequently submitted comments questioning the assertions made by FDA regarding the impact on public health and requesting modifications to allow for the continued extra-label use in approved species. The FDA has decided to withdraw the order pending a complete review of the comments received and is planning to re-examine the data upon which the decision regarding the extra-label use of cephalosporins in food animals was based.

Antimicrobial use in livestock – This continues to be a significant issue both at the national level, with proposed legislation to further restrict or ban some uses, and within AVMA (a resolution was brought before the House of Delegates to restrict “non-therapeutic” use in livestock). The AASV remains active on both fronts to emphasize that antimicrobial access should be based on sound science and a thorough risk assessment analyzing the impact on both animal and human health.

Injectable iron – The AASV worked closely with FDA to facilitate the importation of injectable iron products during a recent shortage resulting from manufacturing shortfalls. Dr Tom Burkgren was instrumental in explaining to FDA the importance of these products to swine producers and veterinarians and the potential animal health and welfare impacts resulting from the lack of injectable iron. The FDA agreed to allow the importation of product from Canada until adequate domestic supplies could resume.

FARAD – The AASV has joined with AVMA and other allied veterinary and producer groups to secure funding to support the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank (FARAD). This unique program, residing at NC State University, UC Davis, and the University of Florida, collects residue-avoidance information about pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and pesticides. Since its inception in 1982, the program has never been adequately funded. For the first time, veterinary and producer groups were successful in getting FARAD authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill. Unfortunately, Congress adjourned before appropriating the necessary funding, and FARAD may have to shut down unless emergency funds can be located to support the program until Congress can act. The AASV continues to work with other stakeholder groups to secure the needed funding for this vital and unique program.

Animal welfare

Euthanasia – The AASV Pig Welfare Committee, in collaboration with the National Pork Board’s Welfare Committee, has undertaken an evaluation of the current swine euthanasia guidelines. As part of this effort, the AASV Foundation funded a systematic literature review to support a revision of the guidelines and offer scientific basis for recommendations to AVMA as they undertake a similar review of their guidelines as well. The revised guidelines were presented to the AASV Board of Directors during their fall meeting and approved for distribution.

PETA video – The AASV responded to the recent welfare abuses highlighted in a PETA video captured at a sow farm in Iowa. The AASV publically denounced the abuses observed on the video and worked with the National Pork Board to educate consumers and the media about efforts to insure proper husbandry practices that enhance animal well-being. Welfare issues continue to be significant topics at the national and state levels and within the AVMA.


Pig high fever disease in China – The AASV and the National Pork Board supported a team of veterinarians during a visit to mainland China in late 2007 to investigate pig high fever disease and to offer assistance with further diagnostics. Chinese researchers identified a PRRSV variant that they believe is contributing to the elevated mortality observed. Samples were submitted to Plum Island for analysis, and Plum Island researchers also isolated a PRRSV, which they have forwarded to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory for further analysis and genetic sequencing.

Classical swine fever – The USDA again funded an educational outreach effort to remind veterinarians and veterinary students about the impact of classical swine fever. Through this effort, we were able to conduct multiple presentations to veterinary association meetings, including AASV, AVMA, Indiana Veterinary Medical Association, Leman Swine Conference, United States Animal Health Association, Iowa State University Swine Disease Conference, and the Ohio Swine Health Conference. Student presentations are being planned at a number of veterinary colleges as well.

National Animal Identification System (NAIS) – The AASV has obtained a grant from the National Pork Board to utilize USDA funding to promote premises registration to AASV members and provide educational information regarding the veterinarian’s role in the NAIS. This is an effort to promote the AASV’s position in support of the premises registration phase of the NAIS.

These are just a few of the issues we addressed in 2008. As we begin to work with a new administration and a new congress in the face of a struggling economy and rising production costs in the pork sector, 2009 will likely be a very interesting year. Efforts to ban gestation stalls and curtail the use of antibiotics in livestock production will likely continue to be significant topics of discussion for our membership. The issues of welfare and antimicrobial use will continue to take on ever-increasing significance on the world stage as international groups such as the World Organization for Animal Health begin to address international standards. We’ll do our best to keep you informed regarding issues that significantly impact the swine industry or that may affect your ability to practice your profession.

-- Harry Snelson, DVM