Overview of This Week’s Pig News

19 March 2012, at 11:45pm

ANALYSIS – Prolonged periods of below–average rainfall in Europe may lead to water shortages in the coming months, even affecting drinking water for housed pigs, according to the latest warning from the UK, writes senior editor, Jackie Linden. Another study indicates that eating red meat and processed meats can shorten your life, although the validity of the findings have been questioned. Taiwanese pigs at two locations have tested positive for FMD and outbreaks of African swine fever have been reported in two regions of Russia.

According to the Environment Agency, the current drought conditions could soon impact supplies of drinking water for livestock in the UK. Drought across a large part of the country is already preventing water abstraction affecting crop farmers but the Agency has warned that things are going to get worse, with grass growth limited as well as water shortages that could affect supplies of drinking water for livestock.

The Agency’s Drought Prospects report, published last week, warns that the drought could spread as far north as East Yorkshire and as far west as the Hampshire–Wiltshire border if the dry weather continues this spring. The whole of the south–east and East Anglia are already in drought.

The report states that prolonged dry weather in parts of England over autumn and winter has resulted in restrictions on summer and winter abstraction, soil compaction and bare ground.

Continued dry weather could also increase risks to supplies of drinking water for livestock, particularly housed pigs and poultry. The Environment Agency and NFU are working with water companies to ensure that emergency plans are in place for this eventuality.

Due to an extremely dry winter, the Spanish fodder industry is also facing few challenges, which include reduced supplies of water for irrigation.

Spain represents over 50 per cent of the total dried fodder production in the EU and 80 per cent of the area is devoted to the production of alfalfa (lucerne). Although not directly impacting pig production, the drought could reduce water supplies to farms later in the year.

A new study at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has found that red meat and processed meat consumption is associated with an increased mortality risk overall and from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

However, the study has brought a swift response from the American Meat Institute Foundation, which says the research relies on “on notoriously unreliable self-reporting about what was eaten and obtuse methods to apply statistical analysis to the data”.

Betsy Booren, AMI Foundation Director of Scientific Affairs said: “Red and processed meat continues to be a healthy part of a balanced diet and nutrition decisions should be based on the total body of evidence, not on single studies that include weak and inconsistent evidence and stand in contrast to other research and to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.”

Turning to pig health news, outbreaks of foot and mouth disease (FMD) have been reported in cattle in Egypt, Libya and Russia. During routine surveillance, pigs have tested positive for FMD in the north-east and south west of Taiwan. The Russian veterinary authority has reported two further outbreaks of African swine fever in the Republic of Karelia and in Volgograd Oblast.