The British Pig Executive (BPEX) has initiated a new scheme to quickly detect subclinical diseases in pigs.
First regions for implementation will be the North English regions of Yorkshire and Humberside – if successful a nationwide approach could be the next step.
The plans, made public at a recent National Pig Association (NPA) meeting in the town of Boroughbridge, Yorkshire, were welcomed as currently, subclinical disease increases UK pig production at an estimated £8 (€9) per pig.
The project, headed up by Dr Sam Hoste, of Quantech Solutions and consultant David Thelwall, aims to identify PRRS, enzootic pneumonia, mange and swine dysentery.
The scheme comprises of two stages: planning and action.
The planning stage will cost £300,000 (€335,000), with 70% of the finance coming from the Yorkshire Forward Organisation as part of the Rural Development Programme & 30% from BPEX.
This stage will involve mapping all the pig units in the area. The large ones will be easy to locate but the smaller operations will be harder to find, given the increase in hobby farmers who may have just a few rare breed pigs in a shed or paddock.
The next job will be to identify what diseases are present and to quantify the disease status of the herds. This will be done by Nigel Woolfenden of the Bishopton Vet Group and Prof Stan Done, VLA (Veterinary Laboratory Agency) Thirsk, North Yorkshire.
A steering group of producers, veterinarians, allied industry representatives including breeding company personnel will oversee the mapping and determine the eradication techniques and methods.
Hoste is hopeful that large pig operations will set the ball rolling in terms of disease eradication by means of partial or total depopulation/ repopulation.
Computer modelling will be carried out to show the cost benefits of disease eradication, to encourage producers to get involved. Since most producers belong to quality assurance schemes, disease eradication could be built into the protocols.
It is not the first time initiatives like these have been implemented. Some years ago the British industry organised an Aujeszky's eradication scheme in England, which was financed by a slaughter pig levy.
Hoste intimated this project on information gleaned from a similar initiative in France.