While South Africa battles to contain African swine fever (ASF) outbreaks in at least four provinces, tens of thousands of pigs across the globe are being culled after similar waves of the viral disease.
In the northeast Indian states of Assam and Mizoram at least 100 000 pigs deaths were attributed to ASF last month. This week, the disease has also struck the Dominican Republic, Germany and China.
In Mzansi, the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development confirms that since April 2019, the country has recorded a staggering 101 ASF outbreaks. Most were in the Western Cape and Gauteng with 11 and 41 outbreaks, respectively.
Meanwhile, small-scale pig farmers in South Africa were particularly urged to safeguard their enterprises against the disease.
According to Dr Dorothea Mostert, a veterinarian and production consultant at CS Vet, outbreaks can “remain open” because of the nature of the disease.
Controlling ASF is extremely difficult, she explains, largely due to the virus remaining in environments for extended periods of time.
As a result, pin-pointing the source of the infection is often challenging. Furthermore, due to the virus persisting in pig meat, thriving on manure and the underside of soles of shoes, it can travel with pigs and people across the country.
Mostert says often in the event of an outbreak, farmers sell their animals as quickly as possible because they fear that government will cull their pigs. This, she says, creates a “super spreader” event which is detrimental to the rest of the pig population.
“It is crucial that pig keepers and farmers are educated in biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of the disease as well as to get them to understand how the disease works,” she says.
ASF tips for small-scale breeders
ASF poses a significant risk to, especially, small-scale pig farmers in South Africa, says Mostert. She encourages them to employ measures similar to those used by commercial-scale farms to protect their pig herds against the disease.
1. Good biosecurity
Good biosecurity starts with fencing in the production area. Mostert urges farmers to limit the possibility of contact with contaminated sources, including pigs, warthogs, bush pigs and humans who can carry ASF on their shoes and clothes.
2. Access to the piggery
Access to the piggery should be controlled, Mostert points out. Anybody who wants to access the piggery, whether it is staff or visitors, should only do so after undergoing at least a boot change and foot dip. “A full change of clothes is advisable. Visitors should be kept to the absolute minimum,” says Mostert.
3. Check your feed
ASF can also live in animal feed. Therefore, it is advisable that farmers only buy feed from a reputable source. “Then, when storing the feed, do so in a manner that no contamination can take place,” adds Mostert.
4. No to swill feeding
Swill feeding is highly discouraged and stock should only be purchased from reputable sources. Auctions should be avoided at all costs, Mostert cautions. When purchasing stock, farmers should do their homework and ensure that they do not buy from those who might put the enterprise at ASF risk.