East Anglia Winning War Against Swine Dysentery

UK - The majority of East Anglia pigs are now in the region’s producer-run Swine Dysentery Eradication (Control) Scheme. And no breeding units in the scheme are positive for the disease, writes Digby Scott.
calendar icon 23 June 2009
clock icon 5 minute read

So to be sure the pigs they receive are are free from the disease, pig-keepers in other regions who import weaners from East Anglia, may wish to check whether the supplying unit is in the scheme.

Going forward, the target is to recruit all pig businesses in East Anglia and achieve 100 per cent coverage. The ultimate goal is to eradicate swine dysentery from East Anglia and then keep the region free.

The scheme is likely to be adopted by Yorkshire and Humberside Health, and in due course by all pig-producing regions of England.

At its heart are regular updates which are mailed, faxed or emailed to all members, notifying the status of affected units:

  • Suspect - clinical signs seen, samples taken, awaiting lab confirmation.

  • Active - disease diagnosed, unit may or may not have been depopulated, but either way has not been cleaned or disinfected; treatment may or may not have been undertaken.

  • Controlled, establishing freedom - unit depopulated, cleaned and disinfected or has completed medicated eradication programme; either the unit is within the six month period since cleaning and disinfecting, standing empty, or the first batch since cleaning and disinfecting has not yet gone the whole way to slaughter without showing clinical signs.

  • Free - the unit has undergone depopulation and cleaning and disinfecting. On breeding farms one batch from the unit has been reared from birth to slaughter with no clinical signs in any other pigs on the unit or derived from it; the pigs may be finished on the unit or elsewhere. On nursery/finisher farms, one batch of pigs has gone from entry to slaughter with no clinical signs of swine dysentery in any other pigs on the unit.

Members who have units that go positive are given a checklist of who they should contact, and the routines they should undertake.

The advice they are given on muck disposal is that it should be removed from the site at the time of cleaning and disinfecting, for holding, or for spreading on land known to be well isolated from pigs. However, this advice is not universally complied with.

"Apart from the obvious benefit of telling people where the danger farms are, the scheme has got people thinking seriously about swine dysentery and the actions they should take," said Mike Wijnberg, of BQP, one of the managers of the scheme.

"It has made us all realise that, as with a lot of these things, as long as you share information about where the dangers are, you are in a much better place.

"I think it is running well and proving its value, but I am always keen to get feedback from people who are in the scheme but not involved with running it."

The East Anglia project was born in late summer last year following a meeting of producers who were worried by the growing prevalence of the disease in the region.

With help from BPEX, registration and reporting forms were designed and circulated in the autumn and by the end of the year 25 pig businesses were registered and the first list of units reported as being positive was circulated.

At the time 11 farms were listed as positive. They were all, at the time, taking action against the disease. Currently only five farms are listed as being affected by swine dysentery.

Even in batch production systems it takes around six months from reporting the disease to being listed as clear.

Over the past few months the original membership of 25 business has almost doubled to 46 pig businesses. Members include Easey, Bowes, Rattlerow, Blacks and BQP, thus the scheme now represents well over 70 per cent of pigs in East Anglia, and probably over 70 per cent of pig farms as well.

And it is working - since January only one new case of the disease has been reported.

The benefits of membership are:

  • Managers of free units have access to information about positive units, enabling them to take whatever measures may be necessary to protect their own businesses.

  • Fewer units will go positive but managers of those that do, will have access to best practice on clearing out the disease.

  • Members are encouraged to introduce and maintain good biosecurity practices, to the benefit of all.

This isn’t to say there are no problem issues for the scheme managers. For instance if there is a fallout between a breeder and his contract finisher, the contract finisher may not be motivated to carry through the cleaning and disinfecting necessary to eradicate swine dysentery from a farm.

All the pig vets are supporting the scheme and it is hoped with their help to enrol the pig-keepers who have not, as yet, engaged with the initiative.

Once the scheme covers 100 per cent of pig-keepers (or as near to 100 per cent as it is possible to achieve) it will have a contacts and communications infrastructure that can then be used as a platform to work towards controlling or eradicating other diseases of economic importance in the region.

Further Reading

- Find out more information on Swine Dysentery by clicking here.
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