Defra gives green light for £3m PRRS project

Defra has approved £3 million of funding for an ambitious industry-wide project to tackle PRRS, set to get underway in 2020.

A joint industry-Defra working group prepared a bid for the ring-fenced funding from the Rural Development Programme for England. It has now been signed off and a tender to run the project will be issued shortly. The intention is for the initiative to commence early next year.

While the scheme is for England, Scotland has already embarked on a PRRS project and it is intended there will be some collaboration.

Stewart Houston, a member of the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England (AHWBE), which has been making the case to Defra, said the aim was to adopt a holistic approach to tackling PRRS, the UK pig sector’s most damaging endemic disease, costing an estimated £80 per sow or £3.50 per finished pig.

The project will focus on areas like testing and mapping the disease to give a clearer picture of its spread, the link between farmers and vets in preventing and tackling it, improving biosecurity and communicating the key messages to the industry. Under the scheme conditions, the payments issued must be completed by the end of 2021.

In parallel with this project, discussions are continuing between Defra and the industry on a wider Pig Health and Welfare Pathway, which will be funded under a post-Brexit agricultural policy. The plan is for a circa six-year project, with one of the main goals being PRRS eradication. Strategies will also be developed for swine dysentery, Salmonella, strep suis 2 and swine flu.

A workshop involving the whole industry will take place in December or January to discuss how to take the project forward.

Mr Houston said: “This is a really exciting work stream and we are delighted to have secured funding for the PRRS initiative.

“This damaging and costly disease will only be eradicated if everyone gets on board and we leave no stones unturned in our strategies to prevent and treat it.”

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.