International swine experts discuss health, management, consumer issues at congress

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IPVS Organizing CommitteeThe IPVS Organizing Committee: Front row—Drs. Norm Hutton, Hank Harris, Jeff Zimmerman, and Eileen Thacker. Back row—Drs. Howard Hill, Bob Morrison, Tom Burkgren, and Brad Thacker. (Not pictured—Dr. Bob Glock)

Everything from Animal welfare to Zoonoses was a topic of discussion at the 17th International Pig Veterinary Society Congress held June 2-5 in Ames, Iowa. In a state where pigs outnumber people five to one, Ames was a natural location for the event. Organizers concurred, choosing Ames for a second time as a host city. Never before in the 33-year history of the IPVS has a congress been held in the same place twice. The city of Ames previously hosted the 4th congress in 1976.

Science meets technology
In excess of 1,800 participants representing 54 countries heard presentations focusing on the congress theme of "Global Technology for Health Assurance." With 193 oral presentations and 500 scientific posters, this comprehensive program guaranteed its place as a first-rate educational conference.

"The congress is a catalyst for the scientific exchange of ideas and generation of new ideas," said Dr. Hank Harris, IPVS president, who is professor of microbiology and veterinary diagnostics and production animal medicine at Iowa State University.

"We selected papers and posters with an eye toward what information is most relevant, cutting edge, and practical for the swine industry to continue producing a high-quality, highly marketable product to feed a global population."

Many of the presenters looked at the past to predict the future direction of swine health and management.

Scientific sessions
The scientific program consisted of five concurrent sessions during the 2-½-day schedule. Presentations covered 17 categories—from antimicrobials to food safety. Emphasis was on new diseases such as postweaning multisystemic wasting syndrome and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, and new information on older diseases such as classical swine fever and swine influenza virus. Sessions were simultaneously translated into Spanish to accommodate an international mix of delegates, with Spain having the most delegates after the United States.

Evolution of diseases
Kicking off the congress, Dr. Roger Morris, professor at Massey University in New Zealand and one of three keynote speakers, talked about the evolution of diseases. Most of the major expansions of diseases in recent times have been a consequence of increased trade, rather than of intensification of production, Dr. Morris said at the congress.


"Pork production worldwide has more than doubled in the past 30 years and is part of the unparalleled improvement in the food supply."—Dr. Steve Henry


Dr. Morris stated that pigs used to be traded at the local level, ensuring that pathogens remained between farms in a particular area. Today, Dr. Morris says, through both legal trade and illicit movement of animals and their products, diseases travel long distances quickly. This produces new patterns in which diseases such as PRRS and PMWS can start in one area and, in a few years, become widely traveled.

Dr. Morris noted that veterinary efforts in the past have been directed at the impact of disease on animal productivity. More recently, he adds, that effort has been subsumed into the larger issue of net economic benefit from animal health interventions, which is a substantially different criterion for decisions and one that most veterinarians are gradually adopting.

The food safety risk to human health will become the driver in coming years, with animal impacts being secondary, despite the adverse implications of this change for animal welfare, Dr. Morris said. This, he notes, will shift the emphasis from clinical issues to monitoring and management of microbiologic and chemical hazards, which will cause an evolution in our approach to health care of pig herds.

This little piggy...
"Pork is the number one meat in terms of global production, accounting for over 40 percent of all meat produced. Consumption is the highest in Europe, with most countries consuming more than 50 kg. pork per person each year, compared with 25 to 30 kg. per person in China and the U.S.A.," said Dr. Christianne E. Glossop of Malmesbury, England, past president of the IPVS and another keynote speaker.

"The prime objective of the pig industry must be the humane, efficient production of appropriate quantities of quality pork [and other pig products]," Dr. Glossop stated.

Producers have two main areas of responsibility—the health and welfare of the animals being farmed, and the health of consumers, she said, by way of a challenge.

Dr. Glossop adds that consumers must be educated about pig production. She also believes that consumer education should begin in the classroom, noting that in the United Kingdom, there aren't the formalized "ag in the classroom" programs as many states in the United States have. "We should be proud of what we do. And we should be ready to promote rather than to defend our position," Dr. Glossop said.


"No man should be allowed to be president who does not understand hogs."—President Harry S. Truman


The future of pork production
"Pork production worldwide has more than doubled in the past 30 years and is part of the unparalleled improvement in the food supply. The predominant meat consumed by humans, pork will play a key role in human diets as population climbs from six to eight billion persons," Dr. Steve Henry of Abilene, Kan., another keynote speaker, said to the IPVS attendees.

"In the next 30 years, we must increase production further still. Ecological as well as societal considerations of pig production are now critically important in determining location, operation size, and housing types for new operations. In turn, the outcome of these decisions will influence animal health and productivity as well as the rate at which the industry will grow."

"The IPVS began with interest in international pig health and commitment to focus on swine disease limitations in production. While pig health remains their cornerstone, IPVS delegates are now a very broad and diverse technologic community. Technical achievements in swine health during the past 30 years are unprecedented," Dr. Henry said.

Some of the achievements he noted were the incorporation of population segregation and production flow control methods, development and implementation of medicated and/or segregated early weaning technology, production of novel chemicals, advanced biologics, targeted hygiene strategies, and recognition of the need for biosecurity measures on the farm.

"The pig industry is sharing pathogens on a global basis. The technology of biosecurity, rather than reliance on postinfection chemical intervention and vaccination, offers the best, most cost-effective strategy for disease prevention," Dr. Henry said.

"We clinicians struggle when dealing with new pathogens and syndromes through traditional medical means. More drugs, more vaccines, long our first-line clinical response, cannot be easily integrated with consumer expectations or the economic realities of production," Dr. Henry opines. "Securing the world's future food supply demands our diligence and our excellence through technical efforts."


"Planning this meeting is a lot like eating an elephant; it is done one bite at a time." —Dr. Tom Burkgren, IPVS congress secretary


Ingredients for a successful congress
Before the last delegate left the IPVS congress, the German organizers were already planning the next congress, to be held in Hamburg, Germany, in 2004. Is it too soon to plan? Not so, says Dr. Tom Burkgren, IPVS congress secretary. Preparation for the 2002 congress began in 1998 as Drs. Burkgren, Harris, and Howard Hill began preparing a bid for Ames at the conclusion of the 1998 AASV annual conference. His advice for meetings of this size is plan early, seek input from a broad and diverse number of people, maintain decision-making in a small committee, delegate to good people but maintain central control of the process, and document everything.

Members of the organizing committee were Drs. Hank Harris, Ames, Iowa; Howard Hill, Iowa Falls, Iowa; Jeff Zimmerman, Ames, Iowa; Eileen and Brad Thacker, Ames, Iowa; Bob Morrison, Minneapolis; Bob Glock, Tucson, Ariz., Norm Hutton, Marion, Iowa; and Tom Burkgren, Perry, Iowa.

The cost to put on the congress was $1.3 million, Dr. Burkgren said. Thirty-five percent of the budget went for food alone. "Feeding nearly 2,000 people is an event in itself." However, the most challenging aspect of planning the congress was selecting the scientific papers to be presented. Dr. Jeff Zimmerman, chair of the scientific program, organized three peer panels of experts from various universities and disciplines to review the submitted papers. With almost 700 papers submitted, the 23 reviewers had the task of selecting 175 papers for oral presentation, Dr. Burkgren said. "This was a tremendous undertaking that was accomplished with great perseverance within a rather short period of time."

The venue and hosts
The conference and evening events were held on the campus of Iowa State University. Besides the scientific program, IPVS delegates could partake in postcongress technical tours of a pork production unit at Iowa Select Farms, the ISU College of Agriculture, and the National Animal Disease Center.

The congress was hosted by the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, Iowa State University colleges of Veterinary Medicine and Agriculture, and the National Pork Board.

Proceedings available
Proceedings, a print version and CD-ROM, can be ordered soon through the IPVS Web site at