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Good health 'not an option but a necessity'

by 5m Editor
5 December 2003, at 12:00am

UK - The official launch this week of a British pig industry health and welfare strategy heralds some tough decisions next year.

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NPA is active on members' behalf in Brussels & White-hall, and with pro-cessors, supermarkets & caterers – fighting for the growth and pros-perity of the UK pig industry.

There has been plenty of advance notice - at NPA regional meetings, in Pig World, and on this page - about the plan to improve herd health.

In the eight months it has been under discussion, no producers have voiced opposition to the idea, said BPEX chairman Stewart Houston today.

And Sir Ben Gill, who chaired the launch of the industry's health and welfare strategy on Tuesday, said, "This is not an option but a necessity".

The toughest decisions to be taken next year will be: who pays, and how can the majority of producers be persuaded to become involved?

Stewart Houston believes the cost can be met from various sources. Defra has already put some funding in place for epidemiology work and pig health and welfare research, and grants may be available from the Red Meat Industry Forum and Regional Development Agencies.

Pig producers' contribution could be made up from the existing MLC levy, an extra levy, an enrolment fee, or a combination of all or some of these. The main cost will be an abattoir lesion scoring programme, similar to the one being operated by Wholesome Pigs Scotland. This is likely to cost over 30.5m a year.

Stewart Houston believes most English producers would be willing to pay an enrolment fee because it represents good value for money, as indicated by Wholesome Pigs Scotland where participating producers are seeing an early payback from their enrolment fee of 3100.

The "Who pays?" issue will be put to consultation next year. Also to be discussed during the consultation will be the possibly controversial question of how to ensure a majority of producers take part.

Speaking at this week's health and welfare strategy launch, Sir Ben Gill advised the industry to "be bold" and decide whether improving the health status of the herd should be a requirement for quality assurance scheme membership.

Meanwhile Stewart Houston urges producers to recognise the hurdles ahead for the heath and welfare strategy.

"Understanding the extent of the disease burden is only the first part of the job. The more difficult part will be implementing a control and eradication policy, and for that we will be relying on the help and support of our excellent pig specialists vets," he said.

BPEX chief executive Mick Sloyan says the next stage in the strategy will be comprehensive consultation to tailor it to the needs of the industry. This will be followed by the creation of a Pig Health and Welfare Council which will develop and cost an implementation plan.

The strategy identifies nine priority areas for action.

  • Establish a national structure to provide the focus, drive and planning for a national pig health improvement programme.

  • Establish the present health, welfare and disease status of the British pig herd.

  • Enhance disease surveillance information available to pig producers.

  • Undertake intervention studies on disease control and eradication and support health improvement programmes with advice.

  • Develop nationally-recommended biosecurity protocols.

  • Develop national protocols for new disease prevention and eradication programmes.

  • Quantify risks and the consequences of emerging pig issues.

  • Enhance training in disease identification and treatment.

  • Increase the programme of targeted pig disease research.
These priorities will form the basis of the British Pig Health and Welfare Improvement Programme. The implementation of this programme will be the responsibility of a new British Pig Health and Welfare Council. The Council will consist of representatives of all stakeholders.

Whilst the strategy as a whole will be national, the Pig Health and Welfare Council may determine that some elements of it should be implemented regionally or supply chain by supply chain.

Source: National Pig Association - 4th December 2003

5m Editor