Russia has been in a battle with African Swine Fever (ASF) for over a decade now. In 2020, the majority of cases occurred in wild boar and on backyard farms. Yet, occasionally an outbreak is reported from a commercial pig farm.
Recently, Russia’s veterinary watchdog Rosselhoznadzor confirmed an outbreak of the deadly virus at the Severny Klyuch farm in Samara region. It is believed to be one of the few times this year when the virus hit an industrial pig farm in Russia.
17,000 pigs had to be culled
Severniy Klyuch had to cull half of its pig population – roughly 17,000 animals. The affected production units could be converted to breed dairy cows, Sergey Denshikov told the local press. He said most likely ASF had been brought to the farm by rodents during their seasonal migration. Denshikov added, “The outbreak occurred locally, in one building. This excludes the version of feed contamination. Otherwise, ASF would appear among all pig population at once.”
Gestating sows on a farm in Russia. This is not the farm that was affected by ASF. - Photo: Henk Riswick
Not all industrial farms are the same
Despite this news, commercial pig farms were not at the heart of the ASF outbreaks in 2020. Most problems were associated with wild boar and backyard farms, according to Yuri Kovalev, chairman of the Russian Union of Pork Producers (RUPP), in an article in the journal Agroinvestor.
“Yes, we have an outbreak at the Severny Klyuch farm, but still, this is not the scale we had in the past,” he said. “The farm produces from 3,000 to 5,000 tonnes of pork per year, and, as a rule, it is the complexes of such capacity that are most at risk of ASF outbreaks because they do not have a high level of biosecurity. In terms of production scale, they are close to backyard farms, and there is no surprise that ASF affects them first.”
Commercial farms like Severny Klyuch currently account for 5% of pork production in Russia. Kovalev said that, in the future, they will have to invest in security, cost improvement, and genetics, or they will be pushed out of the market.
ASF is still found in sausages
In addition, Rosselhoznadzor has recently discovered a batch of sausages containing the ASF genome in Voronezh region. Several ASF outbreaks have been reported in this part of the country during the past few months, but there is still no information on how ASF made its way to the grocery shelves.
Meat products containing the ASF genome are continuously being found in Russia. According to Rosselhoznadzor, in most cases, the products contain no live virus, which means they pose no danger even to pigs.
ASF in meat processing plants in October
In a follow-up statement, Rosselhoznadzor said that ASF had been found at 2 meat-processing plants in Voronezh region. In early October, ASF was found at a Kalackeevsky pig farm, where the entire pig population of 36,000 animals has been culled. The regional authorities also culled 1,200 pigs at local backyard pig farms to avoid the further spread of the disease.