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Regional Disease Eradication Gains Momentum

by 5m Editor
10 February 2009, at 8:48am

UK - Pig producers and vets are increasingly lending their support to the idea of regional disease eradication, and are offering their own ideas into the mix.

Already, a producer-driven initiative is under way in East Anglia to control and then, maybe, to eradicate swine dysentery. And there should soon be an announcement that phase one of a Yorkshire and Humberside plan is to be rolled out, with help from public funds.

In due course the Yorkshire model may be adopted by other regions. The next bid for regional development funds is likely to be in East Anglia.

Even if in some areas funding is available only for phase one of the plan—the-mapping of disease status on pig units—it will be of immense value to producers, said BPEX and NPA chairman Stewart Houston.

Just by knowing the health status of your neighbours’ units helps with biosecurity, he said. “Currently there are some producers who would like to destock and repopulate but they are reluctant to proceed because they don’t know what is around them.“

Interestingly producers and vets have become more supportive of regional eradication plans now it is known there will be a gently-gently approach.

“I think initially we frightened people a bit by talking straight away about the end game," said Stewart Houston. "Everyone seems to be much happier with the idea that disease reduction and elimination is something that will have to take place in stages, and will take several years to accomplish.“

Producer Richard Lister made a similar point at the last meeting of NPA Producer Group when he said, “The likely outcome is that eradication will work in small circles and ripple out from there.“

Last week a meeting of the big players in East Anglia—David Black and Son, BQP, Bowes and M. J. and J. A. Easey—was universally supportive of BPEX’s disease eradication initiative.

Some useful points emerged. For instance, disease control is not just about stopping disease coming onto a unit. “We all think about disease coming in but in future we are going to need to look at producers also taking responsibility for not letting disease out,“ said Stewart Houston.

People had tended to lose faith in biosecurity measures during the peak of PMWS but as a result of the success of BPEX’s PCV2 project they were now seeing big improvements in health and were beginning to think about biosecurity measures again, he said.

Another point raised was the need to look harder, as an industry, at properly washing down wagons between batches of pigs.

“This was a compulsory measure during foot and mouth and classical swine fever, but for it to become vigorously and uniformly practiced during normal times we will need to persuade the abattoirs to invest in better facilities.

“We can’t expect a lorry driver who is trying to earn a crust to use washing facilities that are inadequate and time-consuming.“

Stewart pointed out that improved health status would help abattoirs as well as producers, with more clean plucks and fewer offline carcases caused by pleurisy and mange. And in due course a reduction in the use of medicines on farms would be attractive to retailers.

Once regional disease eradication plans are in place and mapping of pig units has taken place it will become necessary to decide which diseases to target.

This will be a fairly complex procedure which will involve identifying the diseases to be considered and then to ask how economically damaging they are, whether they would be easy or difficult to eradicate, and whether eradication would prove costly or not.