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Kansas State University
128 Dole Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506
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Prepared by: Steve Henry is a veterinarian in Abilene who works primarily with hogs. He also is an adjunct professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology at Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and earned his veterinary degree from K--State in 1972. He can be reached by e--mail at

Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2008


As a practicing veterinarian for the last 35 years, I have had a host of encounters with animal disease, mostly concerning swine. From helping the Chilean government rid its country of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus to being one of the vets who is "boots first on the ground" dealing with animal disease outbreaks in Kansas, my experience is far--reaching.

I have been involved in a number of cases where animals in Kansas showed signs of foreign animal disease, cases that triggered our U.S. response system. And it is because of my experiences I believe the system can be vastly improved. A new facility – the National Bio and Agro--defense Facility – is the best way to do that, and a central location like Manhattan, Kan., is ideal.

One example will explain my concerns with the remote location of Plum Island Animal Disease Center and the disconnect between the existing response system and the realities with which I deal.

On Sept. 1, 2001, a client of mine loaded a truck with slaughter hogs from a south--central Nebraska facility, bound for a slaughter facility in southern California. While awaiting slaughter, the pigs developed acute lameness and had lesions suggesting they might have foot--and--mouth disease. The animals were dying. Personnel from the U.S. Department of Agriculture began investigating the matter 98 hours after the pigs left Nebraska. Samples were sent to the Plum Island Disease Center in New York. The results came back negative, but that was 124 hours after the pigs had reached California. In the meantime, the truck that transported the pigs had taken a load of calves back to a Nebraska sale barn, where most had already been sold. This was before the diagnosis from Plum Island. Had this been a case of foot--and--mouth, the disease would have made its way deep into central U.S. livestock industry.

Time and speed are the most important factors when trying to stop a foreign animal disease from spreading. Response time is literally measured in "million--dollar hours."

The U.S. needs a system that is equipped to deal with the modern--day realities of foreign animal and emerging disease. Having such a facility located in the thick of the livestock industry will be key to response time. Nearly half of the nation's fed cattle, 40 percent of the U.S. hog population, and 20 percent of the U.S. beef cows and calves are within a 350--mile radius of Kansas.

The expertise of K--State's veterinary and livestock production scientists will also strengthen and augment the mission of NBAF. The direct interaction of NBAF scientists and veterinarians is critical to making sure cases are rapidly resolved. There is also a clear need to increase the number of people trained by the government to diagnose foreign animal disease. Those candidates will be found in the region's veterinary colleges. Location will be a powerful influence in the training of scientists for the future.

I am more than just an advocate for the new, improved NBAF facility. I am a user of the services to be offered at NBAF. How well NBAF functions has daily relevance in my world.

Modernization is imperative if excellence is our goal.