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Funding crisis delays pig carcase collection scheme

by 5m Editor
13 January 2004, at 12:00am

UK - A national carcase collection scheme will be introduced for sheep and cattle next month. But pigs and poultry will have to wait.

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There are two unresolved issues as far as the pig sector is concerned: cost, and whether there are sufficient carcase collectors in all areas to meet the stringent biosecurity needs of producers.

The news that the pig industry will have to wait a month or two before it gets a collection scheme will come as a major blow to producers, particularly those who have been hanging on for the new arrangements to be put in place.

Although the NPA will advise producers as best it can, each producer will have to take a view on whether to carry on with his or her present arrangements, wait for the collection scheme to be introduced, or invest in an incinerator.

Some of the rules surrounding incinerators have been clarified and this may make incineration slightly more attractive to those who were having difficulty making up their mind. For example, disposal of ash will not now be a problem. More details about this will be available on this page in a day or two.

NPA will be pressing for funds allocated to the pig sector to be used to subsidise the purchase of incinerators and/or biosecurity containers. It is impossible to estimate, at this stage, the chances of success, but if grants did become available, those who bought an incinerator now instead of in, say, three months could miss out.

The main reason a pig carcase collection scheme cannot go ahead in February is that the sums simply do not add up. The calculated shortfall from industry funding and Defra’s contribution leaves a sizable gap of close to 31m and this has clearly alarmed the collection scheme board members as they attempt to write a business plan.

The implication therefore is that either the banded charges will have to be increased or the carcase or weight charges will have to be increased, or a combination of both.

Those who are already using a collection service will still find a national collection scheme more cost effective but for those who have traditionally buried, the extra unbudgeted cost could impose a difficult strain, particularly given the extra costs already imposed this year by high feed prices.

Whilst NPA is deeply unhappy about the delay and the prospect of increased charges it recognises that putting figures to the pig industry’s collection requirements was never going to be straightforward.

The sector has been in decline for half a decade and for most of that time mortality rates have ricocheted all over the place depending on region and season.

Under these circumstances, determining how many producers will use the scheme, and how many animals will be put out for collection each week, is proving almost impossible.

The worst outcome would be for the scheme management company to go ahead anyway and hope for the best, only to run out of funds before the end of the year. The best outcome would be for Defra to properly underwrite the scheme, whatever the cost, which is what producers thought was being offered in the first place.

But cost alone is not the only factor. The collectors say there is sufficient infrastructure to ensure a good quality scheme but NPA regional manager Ian Campbell has serious doubts whether this is the case.

“My experience from attending NPA regional meetings round the country is that coverage is patchy,“ he said tonight. “It would be very helpful if members email me and let me know if the position has changed in their area. I have requested a full list of fallen stock collectors with their capacity, geographic coverage and ability to meet the biosecurity requirements.“

The question of coverage is perhaps even more crucial for the pig sector than the issue of costs, insofar as the pig sector must have a quality service with impeccable biosecurity protocols in place. A service with inadequate biosecurity would be considerably more damaging than having no national service at all.

“I know this is all very disappointing and confusing,“ said a profoundly depressed Mr Campbell tonight. “All I can do is promise that NPA will continue to work with Defra and with the collection scheme company formed by Defra, with a view to getting the issue resolved as soon as humanly possible.“

The poultry sector – which has also had its scheme put on hold – is considering a charge per tonne collected, and this may be one option for the pig sector to consider. The poultry industry would also like to see grants available for those making a capital investment in incinerators and other relevant equipment.

What will you do about carcase collection?

  • If you already use a carcase collection service you need take no action. In due course a national collection service will be available and it will cost less than you are currently paying.

  • If you have made provision to incinerate your dead pigs you need take no action with regard to a national collection scheme.

  • If you are considering incinerating some or all of your fallen pigs, but have not made a decision yet, see the points below.

  • If you have been using an alternative method of disposing of carcases in the expectation of a national collection scheme being introduced in January/February you will need to decide whether your actions are safe both legally and in terms of biosecurity. The decision must be yours but NPA’s advice has to be that you should do your best to find a stopgap carcase collection service.

Incineration

  • For some producers incineration is an excellent method of disposal. Large enterprises might choose to introduce a hybrid disposal system, for instance with incineration for breeding units and collection for finishing units.

  • If you have been putting off buying an incinerator until all the rules surrounding incineration are finalised, the good news is that the necessary information will be available shortly. In the main the rules have been interpreted sensibly.

  • It will be possible under transitional arrangements to spread ash on the land, from pig carcases burned in a non-specified-risk-material incinerator. The transitional arrangements end in December

  • If you have an existing incinerator you need to apply for a “general approval“ by March. The State Veterinary Service may take some time to carry out an inspection of your incinerator, but if your application is in, you are covered.

  • If your machine needs upgrading (or renewing) this will have to be done by December this year. For those thinking of buying a replacement, a list of approved types will be published on this website and in Pig World.

  • NPA will press for grants for capital investment in new incinerators. However there is no guarantee this initiative will be successful. If you wait to see the outcome, you could be paying for carcase collection when you could have been incinerating. On the other hand if you buy an incinerator now but grants are subsequently introduced, you may miss out on the grant.

Source: National Pig Association - By Digby Scott - 12th January 2004

5m Editor