ANALYSIS - More international cooperation is needed in the battle against African swine fever in both the Baltic States and in Russia.
This was one of the main conclusions from a group of international scientific experts meeting in Moscow this month at the same time as the European Food Safety Authority this month was publishing its scientific opinion on measures to control African swine fever in the Baltic.
Both the meeting of the international experts in Moscow and EFSA conclude that control of African swine fever is down to measures to control the wild boar population.
The team of experts had been called in to report on the situation across the whole region, including the Baltic countries, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. IT was reporting following inspections in Lithuania, Latvia and Belarus.
The scientists concluded that “now African swine fever is presenting a serious challenge to the pig industry in many countries, there is a clear need to create conditions for coordinated work, exchange of experience and the joint development of effective methods of combatting dangerous diseases”.
The Russian veterinary authority reporting from the meeting in Moscow said that the situation with the spread of African swine fever “remains tense”.
It said that the growth rate of the disease in Europe is much greater than when it was first discovered in Russia in 2007 and the main reason for this is the large number of small scale pig producers in the Baltic countries and Poland and the large population of wild boar.
The experts said that the problem was really no less serious in Russia when the virus spread to the wild board population in 2007 as the infected areas expanded and it started to move on to small private farms and large pig farms alike.
“It is necessary to take tough measures, entailing substantial economic costs to deal effectively with African swine fever,” the experts concluded.
The meeting in Russia heard that the Russian authorities had invested in biosecurity measures on pig farms and passed laws to reduce the number of wild boar. The authorities had also carried out a publicity campaign to explain to the public the importance of the fight against the disease.
The experts reported that the Russian veterinary authorities regularly hold training seminars to brief vets on handling the disease and the country is about to introduce a system of e-certification of products to bring in absolute transparency and traceability.
However, the Russian ability to deal with with African swine fever is heavily dependent on the climate conditions and national peculiarities. Together with the strict regulations the ability to act swiftly and localise the centre of the ASF problem are key to the way Russia is managing the disease.
The EFSA scientific study called for a combination of measures to control African swine fever, but it also painted a gloomy picture showing that it could take years to get the situation fully under control.
The study has shown that by frequent trapping and hunting the wild boar population could reduce the population by 60 per cent, but it can also lead to an adaptive behaviour in the wild boar, forcing them to move to adjacent areas away from the centre of the disease.
The EFSA study recommended that to reduce the wild boar population feeding should be prohibited and hunting rates should be increased, particularly of females because “all age classes of females are highly reproductive”.
However, other comments from ecologists and vets involved in the management of wild boar also concluded that there is no single feasible wild boar management strategy.
The EFSA study hit on two major strategies. The first is through rapid control measures to prevent infected carcases remaining in the environment through depopulation by more than 70 per cent and fast removal of infected carcases. This would be using faster methods other than conventional hunting. IN the long term there should be measures to reduce the population through a feeding ban and targeted hunting of females.
“In general, any wild boar management strategy aiming at controlling ASF in wild boar populations has to be applied both inside the area where ASF has been detected and in a zone surrounding this area. The critical extent of the surrounding zone depends on which strategy will be applied,” the EFSA report said.
The report concludes: “ASF control in wild boar may require strategic measures applied over areas of several hundreds of square kilometres, for at least two to five years.
“In theory, the following combination of alternative strategies would be effective in halting the spread of ASF in wild boar: immediate exclusion of contact with carcasses within a 50 km radius of the affected area of more than 50 km combined with intensification of conventional hunting, which would reduce reproduction in the following year by 30–40 per cent.
“The feasibility of these measures will depend on the characteristics of the area where it is applied.”
The international panel of experts reporting in Russia drew similar conclusions about the effectiveness of control measures as it said that “preventative measures against ASF can be different from each other in different regions of Russia”.
The experts’ report follows a visit to see how the disease is being handled in the Smolensk region bordering on Belarus, where control of ASF has been problematic.
While the experts found that the Russian veterinary authorities responded swiftly to an incident and were maintaining high standards of biosecurity of large pig farms and the control systems that had been built were in general effective, they called on the Russian authorities to do more in the way of prevention.
This call came as the Russian authorities were introducing changes in laws on veterinary medicine and the e-certification of products of animal origin as well as organising new monitoring, quarantine, assessment and analysis measures.
The Russian authorities also said that despite the complexity of control measures it was also working to reduce the population of wild board in areas with a high density population.
The Russian authorities said that the measures they have already introduced were helping the pig sector, which has seen pork production rise by nine per cent over the last year.
With a government initiated goal of eventual self-sufficiency, the Russian pig industry is investing heavily to increase the breeding herd and increase pork production.
As part of the expansion of Russian pig production, one of the leading pig sector integrators in Russia, Cherkizovo Group is to increase pork production by 70 per cent to 330,000 tonnes by 2022.
The project plans for the construction of new pig farms in the Voronezh and Lipetsk Regions for 46,000 sows and the capacity to process 145,000 tons of live weight annually.
The Voronezh region has recently been the target for strengthening of border controls by the veterinary authority, Rosselkhoznador, because of the increased prevalence of African swine fever in the area.
Sberbank CIB will provide 14.4 billion roubles to the group for up to 12 years.
Cherkizovo plans to launch first finishing facilities in late 2015. A feed mill with the capacity of 500,000 tonnes, which will provide feed for the complexes, has already been built.
In 2014, Cherkizovo produced 178,000 tonnes of pork live weight, finishing third behind Miratorg (370,000 tonnes) and Rusagro (186,800 tonnes). The launch of the new cluster will bring Cherkizovo close to Miratorg in terms of pig meat production.