Weekly Overview: Looking for Some Good News

GLOBAL - A first case of African Swine Fever in Europe has hit the EU pig industry; although the disease has spread from its territory, Russia has banned imports of pig meat from all EU countries, writes Jackie Linden. In North America, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea continues its apparently relentless creep across the US. Canada is stressing the need for tight biosecurity to prevent infection, while one company is working on a vaccine. To find out what the headline picture here has to do with pigs, read on.
calendar icon 10 February 2014
clock icon 4 minute read

I make no apology for starting this week's newsletter with one of those rare, quirky, pig-related news stories.

It seems that US researchers have found androstenone - one of the natural chemicals responsible for boar taint in some male pigs - can stop barking and excitable dogs. Spraying a dilution of androstenone onto misbehaving dogs stopped them barking and jumping. The research abstract did not explain why the scientists considered this could be a possible solution or what the practical application might be but it just goes to prove the truth in the saying "Every cloud has a silver lining".

It's hard to think of a silver lining to the two leading global pig health issues today.

The discovery of African Swine Fever (ASF) in wild boars in Lithuania is plunging the European pig meat market into crisis.

One of the immediate effects was for Russia to immediately shut its borders to any imports of piglets, breeding stock or pig meat from any country within the EU. Ostensibly, the Russian authorities put the blanket ban on EU pig meat exports because the export certificates no longer fulfilled their terms and conditions. The certificates state that the European Union is free from ASF.

One of countries hardest by the new ban on pig meat exports is Denmark, which between January and September last year saw their exports to Russia rise by 40 per cent, to more than 56,000 tonnes. A statement from the Danish Agriculture Ministry said took an optimistic view that the ban was merely a technical issue.

Nevertheless, EU Health Commissioner, Tonio Borg, called on Russia to engage in constructive talks on solving the ban.

As part of the Global Framework for Transboundary Animal Diseases initiative, veterinarians from eastern European countries are to be trained in specialist laboratories to combat the spread of the ASF virus.

Russia has just recently reported another pig farm affected by the ASF virus, this time in the Bryansk region, which borders Europe. In mid-January, suspicion that a "peasant farm" had been affected arose during the epidemiological investigation of another outbreak at a breeding farm.

On Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PED), the total number of pig farms and case submissions testing positive for the virus in the United States stood at just under 3,000 in the most recent weekly report. This represents another record-breaking weekly increase and the first virus-positive environmental samples have been reported in Arizona and Wyoming.

In Canada, reports of new outbreaks of PED have been scant; the emphasis has been on tightening biosecurity to prevent further spread of the virus.

MSD Animal Health announced that it has entered into a research agreement with Utrecht University on the development of a vaccine against PED.

And finally, in 2013, commercial meat production in Germany was just under 8.1 million tonnes, an increase of 0.4 per cent over the previous year, according to provisional but official German statistics. A modest gain in pork output of 0.6 per cent was achieved.

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