This has been a slightly surreal week, with an enormous challenge to the industry creeping in, writes Annie Davis. While we have diligently been watching the inexorable spread of African swine fever across Western Europe, a by-products crisis has been quietly unfolding.
Straw, such a necessary by-product, has been in short supply for a while, with the cold snap earlier in the year further depleting dwindling stocks. Rumpelstiltskin is urgently sought to transform gold back into straw as prices rocket.
Consequently, alternative bedding materials are being used, some very successfully. In other cases
we have seen a rise in both enteric and respiratory disease, factors that have contributed to the poor growth rates we have seen recently.
The increasing drama surrounding the shortage of carbon dioxide will also start to hit home shortly. This was not on anyone’s radar. It didn’t come from left-field, but from out by the hotdog stand in the car park.
It seems possible, at the time of writing, that significant numbers of slaughter weight pigs might have to be held on farm due to interruptions in processing.
While this will allow extra time to achieve the higher weights that have been lacking, the silver lining will look less shiny as pig flow is interrupted.
At least we are in the summer, and temporary accommodation could be achieved with a little imagination.
Empty cattle barns, outdoor space, even space between buildings could be utilised. So far so good,
but – this invariably involves straw, which we don’t have…. a proper double whammy.
Hopefully, by the time you read this, the crisis will have passed. What has become clear, though, is that contingency planning must be something we address now and not in a ‘when it happens, I’ll deal with it’ manner.
Making plans for an interruption in pig movement looks very much like a sensible plan, whatever the reason and could avoid significant problems with disease and welfare.
Annie Davis has worked at the George Veterinary Group for 19 years. She is one of a team of seven pig vets, based in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.