Keeping pigs in their pens and a continuing education credit opportunity for learning about poultry

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board of animal health

Animal Bytes

November 2022

What are "feral swine" and why do we care about them so much in Minnesota?

Feral Swine

Is a pig, just a pig? Well no, there are many different terms for members of the suidae family of mammals. What many people think of when they hear "pig" is a portly animal raised in a pen. However, sometimes those farm animals can break out of their fence and find a new home in the wild, which is not a good thing for our state. Pigs can cause significant damage to ecosystems and introduce disease concerns for domestic pigs. They are also difficult to remove once established. These are some of the terms you may hear when we talk about pigs in the wild:

  • Feral swine:  swine that live in the wild.
  • Wild boar:  generalized slang term used to reference anything from loose domestic pigs (any gender) to confined or unconfined swine of the species Sus scrofa, native to Eurasia and Northern Africa.
  • Eurasian Wild Pig:  swine with Sus scrofa genetics.
  • Russian Wild Boar:  generally the same species as Eurasian Wild Pig.

Minnesota is currently considered free of established herds of feral swine. However, loose pig sightings are becoming more common. All “livestock at large” fall under the regulatory jurisdiction of local law enforcement and sightings should be immediately reported to the local county sheriff's department.

The Board and DNR are additionally contacted for support and guidance due to the vested interest in both agencies to prevent establishment of invasive species with negative impacts on domestic livestock and the environment in the state. Board staff investigate sightings in an attempt to reunite loose pigs with their owners and pen. When owners cannot be identified, the DNR take on the case as a potential invasive species incursion. With help from USDA Wildlife Services, they remove the loose pigs from the landscape.

The Department of Agriculture restricts import of Eurasian Wild Pigs to zoologic/educational facilities and only with a permit pre-movement as well as site inspection for proper containment. The Board further prohibits importation into the state of feral swine or swine that were feral during any part of their lifetime. Importation into the state of feral swine carcasses is also prohibited except for cut and wrapped meat, hides, teeth, and finished taxidermy mounts.

If you see loose pigs, report them to local law enforcement. DO NOT attempt to shoot or trap them yourself.

Keep reading...

Supporting the science to stop the spread of CWD

The Board of Animal Health, University of Minnesota and cervid farmers are collaborating on the science to help stop the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Two major efforts are underway thanks to funding from the USDA.

Preventing the introduction of CWD to cervid operations

The University of Minnesota received USDA CWD Cooperative Agreement Funding to work with cervid farmers to identify their farm’s specific risks of becoming infected with CWD. With those risks identified the researchers then help them develop a biosecurity plan to reduce the risk of CWD introduction to their farm. Dr. Scott Wells, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine Faculty, and his team, continue to work with cervid farmers to identify farm and environmental factors associated with CWD in their herd.

The most recent study published by the U of M researchers showed most CWD infections on Minnesota farms since 2015 did not result from moving CWD positive deer from another infected farm. Most of the infected farms were located in regions with CWD-positive wild deer, which could serve as a source of infection through indirect contact with farmed cervids. Additional research is needed to help cervid farmers reduce their risks of becoming infected through indirect exposures from infected wild deer. Farmers are encouraged to participate in this research by completing a CWD Biosecurity Assessment which provides a framework to evaluate and prioritize CWD at their farm.

Determining Genomically Estimated Breeding Value to identify animals least susceptible to CWD

The Board of Animal Health is utilizing USDA CWD Cooperative Agreement Funding to determine the Genomically Estimated Breeding Value (GEBV) in more than 3,000 Minnesota farmed white-tailed deer. The GEBV looks at genetic markers to reduce the animals' susceptibility to CWD. To determine the susceptibility of an individual animal, more than 100,000 regions of the white-tailed deer genome are analyzed using computer modeling and machine learning to identify regions unique to animals known to be CWD positive. All genetic information for animals with a GEBV calculated are saved in the North American Deer Registry database and used for comparison. A computer scans this genomic data and provides a score related to the degree in which it is similar to CWD-positive animals. This allows geneticists to classify animals into three categories: highly susceptible, moderately susceptible, and minimally susceptible. Farmers can use those ratings to make breeding or culling decisions on their farm.

Veterinarians: earn some CE and learn about poultry

More people are raising backyard poultry flocks these days. Unfortunately, the popularity of these hobby flocks is outpacing the veterinarians with expertise available to help them care for their birds. The majority of poultry veterinarians work for commercial companies. A lot of mixed species practicing veterinarians may not feel comfortable treating poultry or writing prescriptions because they lack the expertise. However, in 2017 new Veterinary Feed Directive regulations restricted common medications and made it a requirement to get a prescription.

How can more veterinarians step up to help out avian clients? One small way would be to earn some CE from this online course. The purpose of this course is to provide knowledge on poultry health with the hope of educating more veterinarians interested in serving the small flock owners.

The course consists of a series of individual modules, which allow each participant to advance at their own pace. At the end of each module, there is a short quiz consisting of true/false and/or multiple-choice questions.

To receive CE credits, each participant must achieve 70% or higher on each quiz. Upon successful completion of all modules in this course, 8 RACE-approved continuing education credits will be granted.

Register for the course on the American Association of Avian Pathologists website. If you do not have an AAAP account you'll be asked to create a free one to take the course.

December 6 Quarterly Board Meeting

The final quarterly Board of Animal Health meeting of 2022 will take place on Tuesday, December 6 at 9:30 a.m. both in person at the Oliver Kelley Farm (15788 Kelley Farm Rd, Elk River, MN 55330​) and on Microsoft Teams.

Find the meeting agenda and remote meeting details on the Board website.