First Ever Pig Health Service Launched

UK - How many pigs are near my unit? Where exactly are they? Who owns them? Can their owners be persuaded to work with me to improve health status and cut production costs? These are some of the questions the new Yorkshire pig health service will soon be able to answer, writes Digby Scott.
calendar icon 13 May 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

Yorkshire and Humberside producers are to get their own pig health service. Unlike the National Health Service it won’t provide free treatment, but it will help producers get better value from the expensive health measures they already have in place, predominantly vaccination and periodic destocks.

The problem for pig-keepers, particularly in an area such as Yorkshire, is their health status is invariably compromised by the proximity of other pigs, some of which they may not even know about.

So this year a pig map of the county will be prepared, to show where the pigs are and who owns them. To date there has been almost universal support for the project which will be paid for from modulated money from regional development agency Yorkshire Forward, with help from BPEX.

By mapping pigs in the county and then allocating a health status to each site, the Yorkshire and Humberside pig health service will be able to bring like-minded producers together to fight specific diseases.

The end game is to help Yorkshire producers become more competitive by cutting their costs of production by up to 38 a pig.

"We cannot rely on the current favourable euro-sterling exchange rate for out future profitability," said NPA and BPEX chairman Stewart Houston.

"We have all got to work on our key performance indicators—pigs per sow per year, feed conversion and growth rate—and that is what improved health through the county will help deliver."

When plans for the the Yorkshire and Humberside pig health service were unveiled at a recent NPA northern region meeting producers were supportive.

But some were sceptical about persuading all producers to collaborate.

This would be one of the biggest problems to overcome, acknowledged consultants David Thelwall and Sam Hoste who are leading the project for BPEX.

However a number of ideas could be bought into play, for instance peer pressure, financial inducements, and abattoir-imposed price penalties.

As the pig health service is being introduced with the support of producers and will be run for the benefit of producers, it is hoped the vast majority will elect to be actively involved and will have suggestions for overcoming the many vexing issues that are bound to arise with such an ambitious project.

If you wish to join the Yorkshire pig health service email and text list and receive updates, including the dates of forthcoming meetings and workshops, please email Digby Scott.

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