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ASF update: Germany’s pig business is getting nervous

In Germany, with every day that passes the understanding is growing that African Swine Fever may creep into German territory in the near future. The topic is all over the press and there is an increasing call for wild boar shooting.

The German Farmers’ Association (Bauernverband) recently asked to have 70% of Germany’s wild boar population shot to avoid the introduction of the African Swine Fever (ASF) virus in Germany. For instance German newspaper Die Welt reported about these requests.

Increased hunting in German states

Some German states appear more impatient. The German state North Rhine Westphalia, for instance, this month decided to allow the hunting on wild boars even in mating and spring season – hunting wild boars is usually only allowed during the summer months. Only female animals with striped piglets are exempted.

Read more about pig health in the Pig Progress Health Tool

In the German state Saxony-Anhalt, pig producers have collected about €75,000 to stimulate local hunters to shoot as many wild boars as possible to reduce the risk for the entrance of African Swine Fever (ASF) as much as possible.

Should ASF hit Germany, then a lot of direct and indirect consequences will hit the country, which is one of the EU’s largest swine countries and which is considered the motor of Europe’s swine business. Apart from being a direct health threat for pigs as there is no vaccine against the disease, it will also mean a halt to pig transports.

African Swine Fever in Poland and Czech Republic

The reason for the increased worries can be found in neighbouring countries Poland and Czech Republic. Mid-2017, African Swine Fever (ASF) popped up in the Czech Republic around the city of Zlín and ever since, new cases have continued to be found in carcasses around the city.

In addition, despite stringent controls, Poland has not managed to contain the virus just in the border zone with Belarus. At the end of 2017, also outbreaks near the capital Warsaw were reported – under 500km from the border with Germany.

One wild boar that is most likely not going to spread ASF virus: this one was held in captivity at the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut. Photo: Vincent ter Beek
One wild boar that is most likely not going to spread ASF virus: this one was held in captivity at the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut. Photo: Vincent ter Beek

A few years ago, leading scientists at the German Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI), a leading animal health organisation in Germany, already is mainly a man-made disease, as humans are responsible for its main spread. In itself, after all, the virus does not spread very quickly. Ever since the outbreaks in the Czech Republic, the FLI has referred to the risk of ASF introduction in Germany as ‘high’ and has asked for increased vigilance.

Increasing worries in the UK, Netherlands

Not only in Germany, is the march of ASF to the west causing concern. On social media, British agricultural organisations, like AHDB Pork, have been warning swine producers for some time already not to feed any swill to pigs at all.

Even in the Netherlands, ASF now makes headlines. Photo: Ria ter Beek
Even in the Netherlands, ASF now makes headlines. Photo: Ria ter Beek

In the neighbouring Netherlands, the topic of ASF has also hit national politics, with political parties asking about the fate of the Dutch pig business in case an outbreak would occur. Dutch daily newspaper Tubantia even brought the threat of ASF in a front cover feature mid-January. Although pigs are hardly ever transported from Germany to the Netherlands, the article stated, the virus can still spread due to empty returning lorries or littering drivers.

Outbreaks in Romania continue

Meanwhile other countries in Europe continue to report about African Swine Fever outbreaks. Romania reported an outbreak to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) of African Swine Fever on a backyard farm with 34 pigs in Micula, Satu Mare county. This outbreak occurred mid-December 2017. This is an area not too far from the border with both Hungary and Ukraine. In this area, earlier outbreaks were also found.

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