April 2014: Meeting the retailers to discuss current issues

And so onto my last column before passing the baton back to Zoë on her return.

Our chairman Richard Longthorp and I have embarked on our quarterly round of retailer meetings, which we use to discuss any current pertinent issues. This time we’re pressing them on their commitment to British by presenting them with their Porkwatch figures, the fall-out post-Horsegate, DAPP, their supply groups and impending disease threats, among other issues.

The retailers we’ve met with so far have been extremely supportive of the DAPP. Internally, they use it as a pricing benchmark, and without it they would be in the dark. Which begs the question, did Cranswick and Karro misjudge the climate?

We’ve also raised our concerns about the standard of abattoir lorry-wash facilities and this too met with a supportive response. Co-op, Tesco and ASDA have all agreed to assess lorry-wash facilities during their regular site visits.

Following the demise of the Dent enterprise, we have also stressed that in such cases it’s up to the entire supply chain (retailer, processor, assurance scheme and industry bodies) to help the administrators avoid any welfare issues while buyers are being sought.

Since my March column, there have been reports that contaminated blood plasma could be responsible for the spread of PEDv in Canada. Tests have isolated PEDv in blood plasma, but subsequent testing in Canadian laboratories has failed to demonstrate that it’s capable of transmitting the disease.

PEDv is such a highly infectious disease that if it arrived in Britain the chances are it would take out 10% of our herd, so we absolutely must take every sensible precaution.

On the NPA website we’re highlighting the possible risks of using blood plasma. We have also issued a press release and we are contacting UK feed suppliers to request details of any blood plasma products they supply.

Furthermore, we’ve been working closely with BPEX and AIC to identify any other potential suspects. Our advice to any producer using blood plasma is to liaise with your nutritionist and feed supplier to ascertain the provenance.

Quite rightly, our chairman has stated that, as an industry, we must not find ourselves wishing, in six months, that we’d done more.

In the United States, PEDv has now spread to 26 States and more than five million piglets have been lost in the past few months, with 1.3 million lost in January alone.

To put this in context, the US breeding herd is about 5.8 million and latest productivity is about 10.16 pigs weaned/litter. If we take the PEDv outbreak to have been underway for almost six months, this indicates that it has knocked out about 8% of production so far.

I’ve really enjoyed my time at the top and have found the experience immeasurably valuable. I would just like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported me throughout my six-month stint, and to my team in particular. I wouldn’t have been able to achieve a fraction without Richard Longthorp, Digby Scott, Katy Allen and Peter Cottney.

Over and out!

> The NPA’s regions manager, Lizzie Press, has been standing in as general manager during Zoë Davies’ maternity leave

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