Meat & Livestock News

United Kingdom Enhances Defences Against African Swine Fever in Pigs

A closeup of a farm pig foraging for food on a muddy ground

The UK’s pig farming sector is intensifying its preparedness against African swine fever (ASF), a notifiable disease exclusive to pigs. This strategic approach is not just about swift action during an outbreak but also about significantly mitigating its potential impact.

Insights into African Swine Fever

ASF’s impact on pigs varies with the strain, potentially leading to fatal outcomes. Key early indicators of the disease include a high fever, lethargy, and a reduced appetite. The UK’s geographical status as an island provides a natural defence against ASF. Nonetheless, the industry remains on high alert, operating under the premise that ASF’s arrival is a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.

Preventative Collaboration

A collaborative effort involving the government and industry partners has been pivotal in raising awareness to avert ASF’s entry into the UK.

This initiative encompasses engaging with Border Force to prevent the importation of contaminated pork products, advocating for the thorough sanitisation of livestock transport vehicles, and working in tandem with Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). These bodies are tasked with keeping a close watch on the global ASF situation and adjusting preventive strategies accordingly.

Contingency Plans for ASF Detection

In the event of ASF detection within the UK, Defra would spearhead efforts to rapidly identify and isolate infected and at-risk premises. This action plan would include the establishment of protection and surveillance zones, coupled with the tracing and disposal of any meat products from affected sites.

While such measures might impact the trade of pork from unaffected regions, including potential export restrictions, they are deemed crucial for curtailing the spread and duration of an ASF outbreak, thereby reducing its overall impact on the UK’s pig industry.

Producers’ Role in Mitigation

Pig producers are integral to the frontline defence against ASF. Adhering to the Red Tractor standards, they are required to engage in regular contingency planning, including consultations with veterinarians. For detailed guidelines, producers are advised to consult Appendix DP.2 in the Pigs Standards.

Through these comprehensive measures, the UK’s pig industry is fortifying its preparedness against ASF, underscoring the significance of proactive planning and cross-sector collaboration in safeguarding the health of the national pig population.