After a long and painful process (much like labour but possibly with less swearing), I finally managed to complete the five-year strategy for the NPA going forward. It has been quite a long time in the making, but important that the process that we went through to get there was the right one and that the end result is something we can be proud of. I’ve tried to make it as short and readable as possible so please do go and have a look on the NPA website and let me know what you think.
More Commission madness this month – they have been debating the new wording for Food Chain Information documents. For some odd reason, they want to include a requirement that you should let them know about any veterinary medicines that you have given the pigs in the last 60 days (currently 28), which is fine if you owned the pigs for that long but really why they need to know that is beyond me. Surely as long as you declare you’ve observed withdrawal periods that should be enough? But that’s not the worst of it . . . they also want to make you specify the exact date of birth for every pig you send for slaughter!
Not only is that a very odd thing to want to know, for I fail to see what useful information they can glean from that, but surely they can see that all they will get is a lot of pigs all born on the same day? You also will have to notify whether your mortality is over 5%, not why it was, just if it was. And they will do what with this exactly? Too many misguided officials with mischief on their minds if you ask me. Thankfully we have a good team at the FSA and Rebecca in Brussels fighting for us on this one, but with the UK the only country that seems to have an issue with most of this, it looks like it will be a hard one to fight. We’ll keep you posted.
I’m also happy to report that the Defra TB policy team have sent me the first draft of their new policy for dealing with TB in pigs. I’ve not read it yet but this has been 4 years in the making, so at the moment I’m just glad to have something at all! We’re meeting with Defra minister George Eustace next week so will be something to discuss as well as progress on border controls for ASF and it gives us an opportunity to promote all of the good work currently underway in the industry on contingency planning and biosecurity.
Talking about that, Martin Smith, the new veterinary projects manager at BPEX (ex RVC, practising vet and who I reckon will be an asset to the pig industry), popped into our Producer Group meeting last week to outline his plans for a general disease charter. Loosely based on the swine dysentery charter, but more about supporting producers who sign up rather than dictating a course of action, the charter would be an excellent tool if the majority of producers sign up to help us manage and control any new diseases that happen to grace our shores.
That reminds me – at a separate FSA meeting last week to discuss the nightmare that has become Trichinella testing, they happened to mention that a fox with Trichinella pseudospiralis was found in 2013 as part of their wildlife testing programme. Whilst it would have been useful if they had mentioned this to us in 2013, it did flag up a potential area of concern which I am following up with Defra. The fox was found near a landfill site, and the suggestion was that it had either eaten infected meat off the site or a bird that had.
Either way, that infected meat came from somewhere and as Bristol is a sea port, questions were raised about the treatment of international catering waste and where it ends up. This is potentially a massive concern when we think about how CSF potentially managed to get into the UK in 2000. Apparently strict controls were put in place after the outbreak, where landfill waste was cited as one of the potential causes (seabird dropping infected meat from the site onto the outdoor pig unit), but we really need to check if those policies need updating and of course if landfill sites are still operating to them. Anyone who has a pig unit near a landfill site should be aware of the risks, but rest assured we do our best to close that loophole if one has appeared!
It was excellent to see Ladies in Pigs presented with the David Black award the other week – I seriously can’t imagine another organisation more worthy. The inaugural National Pig Awards were also most enjoyable. Really good for once to be part of such a positive event where the hard working people throughout our industry are rewarded for the jobs they do. I’m looking forward to next year’s event already!
NB: This is an extended version of the article that appeared in the December 2014 issue of Pig World.
Dr Zoë Davies is chief executive of the NPA. For more information visit: www.npa-uk.org.uk