Unannounced site audits await pig farmers

US authorities are on high alert because African Swine Fever is creeping closer to the country. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

US authorities are on high alert as African swine fever is creeping closer to the country's shores. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Just weeks after African swine fever was first reported on farms in North West and the Western Cape, the South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO) has detected another case in the Potchefstroom area. Now pig farmers across the country are warned of announced site audits in an effort to curb further outbreaks.

The most recent ASF outbreak occurred on a commercial farm. While there is much speculation about how the disease ended up on the farm, SAPPO’s chief executive Johann Kotzé says no clear evidence has been brought forward.

“The most important considerations are welfare of the pigs and to address the risk of the infection spreading further,” he says.

Currently, the farm owners along with North West veterinary services and the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development, are formulating an action plan to deal with the re-occurrence of ASF in the province.  

‘Difficult to get rid of ASF-affected pigs’

Meanwhile logistical and environmental legislation appears to be prohibiting the killing of pigs in the ASF-affected area of the Mfuleni settlement, near Cape Town International Airport.

Dr Garry Buhrmann, state veterinarian in the province, says five smallholder properties and 270 pigs were affected. This, is however, causing some problems as the number of affected pigs represent about 4% of the provincial pig population.

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There are about 130 pig farmers and 6 000 pigs in the affected half-a-kilometer square area. “We are focusing on alternative solutions to burying the pigs as the water level is very shallow in the area,” Buhrmann states.

They are currently conducting talks with the department of environmental affairs and the SPCA to find an amicable solution.

Pig farmers to prioritise biosecurity

SAPPO has in the meantime communicated that in light of the recent ASF occurrences, it will action essential steps.

These include fast-tracking the international research commissioned last year into the South African compartment system. Also, it will urgently coordinate a meeting with a North Pacific fishery management council working group on ASF and the compartment system.

The most recent African swine fever outbreak occurred on a commercial farm in North West. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Additionally, SAPPO says it will begin unannounced audits on compartments and Pork 360 farms. This will be to evaluate their compliance to standards.

According to SAPPO’s veterinary liaison officer, Dr Peter Evans, biosecurity should always be a priority to farmers.

“We often hear and observe that many farmers become complacent, except when they are expecting an audit, at which time all protocols are followed,” says Evans.

Farmers are asked to critically evaluate the biosecurity measures on their units. Kotzé recommends farmers strongly consider approaching a competent veterinarian to do a biosecurity-specific audit on their farm.

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