On its way to infect zones more inland in China, African Swine Fever has been reported once more in Gansu province. Total amount of culled pigs due to ASF has exceeded 900,000 now according to Chinese figures. Worryingly, earlier this week the virus was also found in pig-low Mongolia.
To start with the case in Mongolia – it was found in Bulgan province, at a location about 270 km in a straight line west of the capital Ulaanbaatar. On a backyard farm, in total 85 pigs were found infected and 214 had to be culled, a report from the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) reported.
Mongolia: A remarkable ASF discovery
The discovery of African Swine Fever (ASF) in Mongolia is remarkable in a few ways.
The first remarkable thing about it is the location: The country shares borders with Russia in the north and China in the south. Seeing that the most recent outbreaks of ASF have all been reported from China, it would sound logical that the virus was brought into Mongolia from China. The nearest-known outbreak location of ASF, however, is in Russia. In Irkutsk, a backyard farm with 40 animals was found infected in March 2017. This location is still about 450 km away. The nearest reported outbreak locations in China’s Inner Mongolia province are both 1,000 km away from this location. Time will tell whether the origins were from Europe or from Asia.
Mongolia: Not exactly a pig country
The 2nd point that is remarkable to be made is that, unlike China, Mongolia is not full of pigs at all. Following 2017 FAO data, there were just under 32,000 pigs registered in the country, which can be seen in the Global Pig Statistics Tool. Most of the country’s agriculture revolves around nomadic or semi-nomadic pastoralism, with an emphasis on sheep, goats, cattle, horses and camels. According to this analysis at Wikipedia, most livestock are privately owned, there are only a few meat plants, so meat exports are constrained.
Livestock production in Mongolia: Sheep are amongst the much-kept animals, rather than pigs. Photo:Felix Andrews | Wikipedia
Nevertheless, the Mongolian ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry, sent out a warning to be aware of ASF and take all precautionary measures to avoid further spread.
China: 2nd outbreak in Gansu province
In China, in the meantime, reports of new outbreaks continue to come in. The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) reported a new outbreak in inland Gansu province – from where the 1st outbreak was reported last week. This time, the virus was found on 2 smaller farms near Lanzhou City with a total of 190 pigs, on which 143 were found infected and 37 had died.
Total number of pigs culled: 916,000
Meanwhile, the debate continues as to how many pigs have been culled due to African Swine Fever. Chinese officials said that so far the country has culled 916,000 pigs in order to spread the disease, according to press agency Reuters. There is a general belief that the number of reported outbreaks may not be the entire story.
Substantial as that sounds, it is only a fraction of the country’s total pig population, which in 2017 was over 440 million pigs, as can be seen in the Global Pig Statistics Tool.
Just to make sure that pig supplies will not drop and pork prices will not grow, the country is actively encouraging pig farmers to replenish their farms, Reuters explained.
ASF vaccine development in China
The country’s ministry also announced to have started the search for developing a live vaccine against African Swine Fever, according to Reuters. It set up a project to that end, while also studying the origins of the virus and the way it spreads.