April 2015: Get ready for the resistant pig

Whatever next? Scientists have managed to produce beef cattle that are genetically modified to be resistant to tuberculosis. Does that mean there’ll no longer be a need to cull badgers? I wonder if they’re working on anything with pigs to make them resistant to some of the porcine diseases?

I suppose by the end of this century humans will also be genetically modified to be resistant to all diseases, and wouldn’t it be something if they could make us resistant to the common cold. That would solve a lot of problems for the NHS, and wouldn’t politics take on a completely new look; we would have to be promised something else.

Seriously though, what would be the pig disease most pig farmers would like to find resistance to? I know we’re constantly working towards eradicating disease and we managed to do that with Aujeszky’s many years ago. I know that eradication is different from resistance, but we still have Blue Ear to contend with, erysipelas, various forms of E coli and parvo, all of which many units automatically vaccinate against. Just think of how much easier and cheaper it would be if resistance to those could be found.

No doubt if that happened the buyers of our pigmeat would want a substantial discount to take into account the cheaper production! Whenever feed prices fall, they seem to think along those lines, and when feed and other costs increase again, we’re told we have to be more efficient! There has certainly been a bit of a shake up in the retail sector recently, with margins somewhat reduced. For that to continue, does that mean they have to be more efficient to withstand the rigours of a turnaround in retailing?

I know nostalgia is a great thing and we can’t turn the clocks back to when most farms had some form of livestock, which was taken to the local market, bought by local butchers, taken back to their premises and killed in their own abattoirs. I sometimes shudder at the thought of the massive number of food miles now being used to cart both animals and product around the country, first to one destination and then to the various outlets. There has to be a huge transport cost in all of that.

Some people think that having animals in a livestock lorry means that they don’t travel very well. There was a suggestion, once upon a time, which may even still be in operation, that animals should be unloaded and rested after a certain number of hours, before continuing their journey. That was probably the worst suggestion ever made.

The most stressful part of any livestock journey is the loading and unloading. Of course the people who thought up this mad scheme will never have driven with animals, and may never have seen animals. They’ll be similar to the people, wherever they are, who continually laden farming and other industries with red tape. Mostly it creates more problems than it prevents.

> Sam Walton Yorkshire farmer Sam Walton is a former pig producer and the founding editor of Pig World

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Sam Walton is a Yorkshire farmer and former pig producer, and the founding editor of Pig World.