Thinking about ASF and its potential impact has been a valuable exercise

Red Robin, our producer and industry insider, on protecting the farm against ASF

We have been thinking this week about keeping ASF out of our unit and the effects it might have on us.

I have asked our insurance broker about the possibility of insuring against ASF, which inevitably means quite a lot of leg work on my part to provide them with enough information on which to decide if we can insure against it and what the premium would be. Although it takes a significant amount of time, it is a job well worth doing.

I have re-drawn our farm site plan, marked the perimeter and outlined the biosecure area within it. I was going to label them ‘inner sanctum’ and ‘outer sanctum’ but, although descriptive, I thought they might think I was being facetious.

It certainly makes me think about the number of movements we have in and out of our gates. Although we are predominantly home mill and mix, we still have straights lorries coming into the outer sanctum, as well as staff cars, tractors, the pig haulier and the knackerman.

While they don’t cross into the inner sanctum, we inevitably have people and vehicles that use both areas sometimes. We can disinfect lorries as they arrive on site but are we realistically going to be able to do that effectively?

As the NPA’s #MuckFreeTruck campaign highlights, we are reliant on the goodwill and good hygiene of those who cross our perimeter. As farmers, we have a role to play too – we must keep these outer sanctum areas clean and tidy so that lorries don’t drive through potential disease carrying material when they arrive and leave our farms.

It does worry me, though, because, like when washing pens, you can only wash the bits you can see.

We have had a ban on pork and pork products on site in lunches for a few years and that doesn’t feel like an over-reaction now that Australia and others have found ASF in imported pork products.

It is a shame our own government doesn’t take such a proactive role in keeping diseases out of the UK. When I came in through customs in January there was no enforcement agency there at all and you had to look really hard for the signs about what you are and are not allowed to bring in to the UK and, with no-one policing it, there isn’t much deterrent.

It is disappointing that our pig price hasn’t risen more sharply. I am hoping that we might have the perfect storm of high pig price and low soya price for a couple of years.

I certainly have a few jobs around the unit that could do with a bit of investment, but they will have to wait.

It certainly has been a good exercise to actively think about ASF and its potential impacts, but I am not looking forward to finding out what the premium would be.

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