November 2013 – Are you prepared for exotic disease

First things first, and it’s congratulations to Zoe Davies on the birth of Alexander Thomas Leach, born October 8 weighing in at 7lb 3oz. It’s a very exciting time and the NPA team wish her and Adam all the very best.

As I write, we’ve embarked on our autumn round of regional meetings, and so far so good. I think we’ve all found the AHVLA representatives to be knowledgeable and helpful. Their input has been valuable, particularly with regards to explaining how to prepare – insofar as one can – for another outbreak of exotic disease.

AHVLA advises maintaining a continuously high level of biosecurity (not just as a knee-jerk reaction to the latest scare), and preparing a contingency plan that should include a farm profile with information such as pig flow around and through your unit, site plans and so on.

The advice is to do this in ‘peace time’ as this will help facilitate a much swifter resumption of movements should there be a suspected outbreak on your unit.

You should also prepare for movement restrictions (which will apply to everything and everyone) to be imposed for at least a week. So ask yourself, how would you accommodate your staff? And would your family have to relocate temporarily to be able to continue with work and school?

One of the AHVLA officers was concerned about the risk posed by trade, for instance in recycled tyres. And what about the water contained in imported flowers? I’m not sure our chairman will ever sleep again!

Both industry and government acknowledge that pig expertise within Defra and AHVLA is not as good as it once was, but we’re committed to working together to help counteract any deficiencies and to ensure the difficulties experienced previously are addressed. 

The AHVLA was also categorical in its opposition to the reintroduction of swill feeding, with one representative stating that the ban was the single biggest factor in reducing the risk of both foot-and-mouth and classical swine fever, and that a complete ban was 100% enforceable, which sounds extremely sensible to me.

We’ve also been battling through the EU food labelling regulation and country of origin labelling recently. It would appear the EC is adamant that fresh meat should be labelled with ‘reared-in’ and ‘slaughtered-in’ only, as opposed to ‘born, reared and slaughtered in’. The animal in question need only have been reared in a particular country for two months before slaughter to qualify, which allows the meat from weaners imported into the UK for finishing to be labelled as British!

We’re currently working with the NFU to push Defra on the UK’s position as it also seems to be in support of the EC’s proposed ‘reared and slaughtered’ option, with both quoting cost implications as the influencing factor.

We’ll also be ramping up pressure on the food supply chain, including retailers, to commit to their public declarations on trust, traceability and support of British producers.

So there we go, I’ve nearly completed my first month in charge and the British pig industry appears to have survived. Hurrah! Although my wishes for a quiet first few weeks obviously haven’t come to fruition, I’m enjoying every minute.

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

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