UK - A partnership along the line in the pig sector from stockmen and farmers through to vets and workers in the abattoir is needed to meet the threats to the industry and build a sustainable future.
Dr Susanna Williamson, the veterinary lead for the Pig Expert Group at the Animal and Plant Health Agency, in receiving the David Black award at the House of Lords on Wednesday (2 November) called for cooperation along the line to deal with threats to the pig sector.
She said that the industry needs to do more to secure exports in the future and she added that the success in developing a plan for dealing with the threat of PEDv (porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus) has come about by partnership.
“By sharing expertise and knowledge the chance of the disease entering the country has been minimised,” she said.
“It is these threats that are not governed by legislation.”
Dr Williamson, who is also the president of the Pig Veterinary Society, received the award for “a significant and lasting contribution to the British pig industry”.
The citation for the award said: “Susanna is a valuable member of, and contributor to many industry groups including the Pig Health and Welfare Council.
“She was a key member of the team that developed the protocols for dealing with the potential outbreak of PEDv, a disease which had a devastating impact on the North American pig sector.
“She also contributed to achieving notifiable status for PED in England, which will enable the industry to act quickly should the need arise.
“The horizon scanning work in conjunction with APHA’s International Disease Monitoring Team is a vital part of the industry surveillance network that protects pig health and welfare and the country’s growing export market.”
The citation adds that she has “devoted he time, energy and considerable talent in the service of pig producers and she contributes greatly to keeping the country safe from the threats of existing and emerging diseases”.
In her acceptance speech, Dr Williamson added that “farmers and vets are at the forefront of addressing antimicrobial use”.
And she called for cooperation in the sector to increase the information being gathered on antibiotic use so that the problem can be assessed for the sake of pig health.
She also called for more to be done to ensure a succession within the industry so that the goals for pig health and welfare can be attained.
Dr Williamson said: “It is important to recognise that successful disease surveillance is about working in partnership and also requires access to a wide range of veterinary, scientific and technical expertise.
“This is especially important as the industry strives to address disease issues and minimise antimicrobial use.
“There is no one-size fits all approach, so producers need to consult their veterinary and other advisers to choose interventions customised to their pigs and their farm.
“I have been hearing from colleagues in practice of some excellent progress and would encourage examples of cost-effective solutions, but there is still some way to go.”
In presenting the award, agriculture minister Lord Gardiner, said that the British pig industry stood at a time of great opportunity.
He praised the work being carried out to reduce the use of antibiotics and he said that the improvements being made in improving genetics augurs well for the future of British exports.
He added that in welfare animal husbandry is something that all farmers care about and he said that there would be no compromise on health and welfare.
He called on the sector to emphasise the differentiation within the global market to ensure the British pig sector makes and impact.
One part of the differentiation, he said, was that around half the British herd is outdoor bred.
He applauded the progress being made in exports to China in particular and said that further export markets are being explored in sub-Saharan Africa.
He also called for new entrants into the British pig industry.
“It is the life blood for the future of the industry,” he said.
Meryl Ward, the chairman of AHDB Pork said that the success story for the British pig sector of eh last year has been the growth in exports.
She said that they have grown to £400 million or 35 per cent of the sector output.
One of the major factors that had helped protect trade has been the work that Dr Williamson has been conducting in the horizon scanning programme, helping in the early detection of disease.
She said the industry had been playing and important role in the reduction of antibiotic use by recording its use and meeting reduction targets as proposed in initiatives such as the Red Tractor scheme.
However, she said that food deflation has put pressure down the supply chain and producers have had a difficult first half to the year.
However, she said that if the industry is to reap the potential from future opportunities there will be a need for input from all parts of the industry.