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Press releases 2014

December 2014
Highly virulent Asian-American pig disease has spread to Europe


December 2014
Survey shows British pig producers
making quantum leap in biosecurity


September 2014
NPA appoints senior adviser


September 2014
NPA confidential reporting service will safeguard high animal welfare standards


May 2014
NPA appoints chief executive


March 2014
Pig industry moves to red
alert over transatlantic killer


February 24
Foot-and-mouth anniversary highlights the risks of feeding swill to pigs

February 2014
Time to say goodbye to the 'weakest link'


February 2014
Winter Olympics pose heightened disease risk for British farms


January 2014
Pig farmers call on Government to improve border defences against deadly African swine fever


Highly virulent Asian-American
pig disease has spread to Europe

December 2014

Highly virulent Asian-American Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea virus has spread to Europe. The disease is extremely infectious — a thimbleful of manure from an infected pig unit is sufficient to infect the entire British pig population.

It is impossible to guarantee Asian-American PEDv will not arrive in Britain on a traveller's shoes or clothes, or on the wheels of a lorry, says the National Pig Association. Therefore all pig-keepers must consider themselves personally responsible for ensuring it does not get onto their own farm.

Producers should pay special attention to vehicle biosecurity. In particular no pig lorry should be allowed onto any pig farm unless it has previously been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, says NPA.

The highly-virulent strain of PEDv is not in the European Union yet but it is in the Ukraine, which borders the European Union countries of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. It was discovered in mid-Ukraine by internationally-known British vet Dr John Carr, who has now had the strain sequenced in Britain to confirm his suspicion that it is the virulent Asian-American strain, and not the European strain.

Dr Carr cites a well-run commercial 5,000-sow unit in Ukraine where 
30,000 piglets died over a matter of weeks, equivalent to the loss of six weaned pigs per sow per year. He warns that with such high mortality, it is essential to be concerned for the mental health of all stockpeople when a unit breaks down with Asian-American PEDv.

His worry now is that the highly-infectious disease could easily spread to the European Union. He stresses it is essential that no live pigs are imported into the United Kingdom from countries with PEDv and he warns that all pig producers should introduce impeccable transport biosecurity routines.

The European Food Safety Authority has confirmed the disease has no zoonotic capacity and is therefore harmless to humans. But in the United States it has wiped out over a tenth of the pig population in the past two years, causing up to 100 percent mortality in piglets on infected pig farms.

However the Canadian pig industry has demonstrated it is possible to control the spread of PEDv if the disease is identified quickly and no movements on or off the infected unit are allowed by the farmer concerned. Working on the Canadian model of early identification and total industry cooperation, the English Pig Health and Welfare Council has been formulating a contingency plan since April and this is due to be rolled out soon.

Meanwhile the statutory pig levy paid by English pig-keepers is funding free testing of diarrhoea samples at government animal health laboratories, to help ensure the disease is picked up promptly if it arrives on a British pig farm.


Survey shows British pig producers
making quantum leap in biosecurity

December 2014, 2014

British pig farmers have made a quantum leap in their defences against foreign diseases this year, reports the National Pig Association.

Most have significantly stepped up biosecurity measures in a bid to keep out African Swine Fever which shows signs of becoming endemic in parts of the European Union, and highly virulent Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea virus in the States, Canada and much of Asia.

  • In a recent NPA survey, 84 percent insisted any visitors must be free from recent contact with other pigs, with 43 percent ensuring all visitors wear the unit's own protective clothes and footwear, and 24 percent insisting visitors also shower-in.

  • 82 percent of pig-keepers will no longer use imported breeding pigs from at-risk countries, with 69 percent also banning AI semen from at-risk countries.

  • Three-quarters now have a barrier between their pigs and incoming vehicles, with 21 percent allowing only essential vehicles past the barrier, and 19 percent not allowing any vehicles past at all.

  • And every producer in the survey insisted staff or visitors who have been to at-risk countries must be at least three days free from contact with pigs, with the majority also insisting they don't wear any of the clothes or footwear they wore whilst abroad.

The results are taken from a survey by NPA of 66 pig units and show commercial pig producers have an increasingly professional approach to biosecurity.

"This supports the findings of our regular dialogue with members about biosecurity," said NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies. "Professional pig-keepers — and we think most smallholders too — are aware of the damaging impact of imported disease.

"In the States, PEDv has wiped out over a tenth of the pig population in the past two years, causing up to 100 percent mortality in piglets when it gets onto a pig unit, and if African Swine Fever arrived in Britain from the Baltics — for instance in imported pork products — it would instantly jeopardise our growing export trade in high-welfare British pork."

But despite the high level of biosecurity awareness now evident in the British pig industry, NPA remains concerned about those pig units on the fringe of commercial pig production which are not represented in the survey results.

"Our problem is that whilst NPA has good communications with commercial producers and the British Pig Association fulfils a similar role with pedigree breeders and smallholders, neither of us finds it easy to reach those people who keep pigs but aren't members of either organisation — and that's our challenge for 2015."

There is concern also about the proximity of people and other pigs, with over a third of units having a public footpath or bridleway within 100 yards, and 18 percent being within half a mile of another pig unit.


NPA appoints senior adviser

September 24, 2014

Georgina Crayford, who is majoring on salmonella surveillance and control in her University of Liverpool PhD, is to join NPA next month as a senior adviser.

"Having closely followed the excellent work of NPA over the years I jumped at the chance of joining the team," she said. "I am really looking forward to taking on this role, which I anticipate will be as rewarding as it is challenging."

Currently welfare projects coordinator at Bpex, she will join the existing NPA team of chief executive Dr Zoe Davies, regions manager Lizzie Press and assistant adviser Katy Allen.

"I applied for the job with NPA because I wanted the opportunity to apply my knowledge of science and agriculture in a practical setting to drive positive change and achieve tangible results for pig producers," she said.

She has a first-class honours degree in bioveterinary science and when at University of Liverpool won the Pfizer Bioveterinary Science Prize for best academic record.

Her degree, and her PhD — which is near completion — have equipped her with a multi-disciplinary knowledge of food-producing animals, their production systems and the role of science in improving livestock production.

She has given a number of oral and poster presentations at conferences, including technical events in the States, Edinburgh and the Netherlands.


NPA confidential reporting
service will safeguard high
animal welfare standards

September 15, 2014

To help maintain high standards of animal welfare on British pig farms, the National Pig Association is introducing a Confidential Reporting Service. The service will also protect pig-keepers from bogus claims by vegan activists who periodically attempt to gain unauthorised entry to pig buildings.

It places an obligation on everyone employed on, or visiting, a participating pig unit to immediately report any disquiet they may have about any aspect of animal welfare, either directly to a senior member of staff, or using a confidential hotline.

The service is operated independently by a specialist provider and is free to farm assured pig-keepers. It will be funded from the statutory pig levy, which is administered by Bpex, a division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

"The British pig industry is globally renowned for its high animal welfare standards and this new service will help us demonstrate to consumers that our reputation is well-deserved," said NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies.

"Many of our members will want to sign up for the service because they, more than anyone, want to know if any aspect of their husbandry is falling below acceptable standards.

"Importantly it will help us deal quickly and responsibly with the claims of animal rights activists who from time to time trespass on livestock farms. In future, if they see anything wrong they will be under a moral and contractual obligation to report it immediately, so that appropriate measures can be taken."

The service guarantees caller confidentiality, and can provide translation services for Eastern European workers on British pig farms. It will also filter out vexatious calls (if any).

A poster will be prominently displayed on all participating pig units, giving the hotline number and advising all employees and visitors:

"Whether you are an employee or a visitor, by entering this site you accept that everything you see is confidential, except that if you observe any aspect of animal welfare that causes you concern you must report it immediately to the unit owner or a senior member of staff or to the confidential reporting service Safecall (where there is no need to give your name)."

In the event of being notified of any concerns about a pig unit, NPA will work with Bpex to determine a proportionate response, which may include asking Assured Food Standards to carry out a spot check using an independent auditor.

Confidential reporting services are an accepted part of the landscape of commercial, construction, and industrial sectors these days. It is likely such services will increasingly be used in primary food production, as a way of ensuring high standards.


NPA appoints chief executive

May 20, 2014

Having urged its members to pay greater attention to succession planning, National Pig Association is putting its own house in order, by promoting general manager Dr Zoe Davies to the post of chief executive.

NPA chairman Richard Longthorp, an East Yorkshire pig producer and arable farmer, said that since Zoe Davies had joined NPA from Defra six years years ago, the NPA board had been increasingly impressed by her contribution to the betterment of the British pig industry, operating at a national and international level with a deft confidence based on her profound knowledge of pig production and pig industry politics.

In addition to being well deserved, the new appointment would take some pressure of future NPA chairmen, he said. "In the past, the elected chairman of NPA has tended also to take on the chief executive role, but this made it almost a full-time job, and that's not sustainable in today's highly competitive environment when pig producers need to devote the lion's share of their energies to their own business."

Dr. Davies said, "You'd be hard pressed to find a more dedicated and passionate team to support British pig producers than the National Pig Association, and I am honoured to be given the opportunity to guide it through future challenges and to take advantage of the opportunities. Our focus is, and always will be, to provide excellent value for our members."

Dr. Zoe Davies was a senior scientific officer at Defra before joining NPA. Before that she was farm and trials manager at BQP, Britain's biggest pig producer. For her PhD, she studied welfare in outdoor sow systems at Cambac JMA Research. A 2012 Nuffield Scholar, her subject was "Movers and shakers in global pig production" — an investigation into ways that small lobbying organisations, such as the National Pig Association, can maximise their effectiveness.


Pig industry moves to red
alert over transatlantic killer

March 11, 2014

The British pig industry is on red alert, in a bid to prevent an outstandingly virulent pig disease from entering the country. Until more is known about transmission routes of porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus, the industry is focusing in particular on a specialist feed ingredient for young pigs—spray-dried porcine plasma.

Positive polymerase chain reaction tests in the States and bioassay tests by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have pointed to spray-dried porcine plasma (SDPP) as an ingredient being capable of containing porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus (PEDv), but not that it is necessarily capable of actually transmitting the disease. Further tests are ongoing in the hope of getting a clearer picture.

But specialist pig vets say that if PEDv arrived in Britain it would spread quickly through the nation's naive pig population, causing incalculable damage, so industry organisations are urging producers to take every precaution, even though the case against SDPP is unproven.

Bpex, National Pig Association, Pig Veterinary Society, the Agricultural Industries Confederation and British Pig Association have joined forces to keep PEDv out of the country.

All pig producers are being urged to work with feed manufacturers, nutritionists and vets to identify and immediately isolate any feed products on farms that are labelled as containing SDPP.

SDPP is banned by Red Tractor assurance, which regulates over 90 percent of the nation's domestic pig supply. However it may be present in a few milk replacer and milk blend products, without producers necessarily being aware of the fact.

PEDv is harmless to humans but is killing up to 100 percent of piglets on affected pig farms in the United States. Nobody knows how the highly infectious virus spread to the States from China, and how it has subsequently spread to Mexico and Canada.

To help producers make the safest choices, National Pig Association and Bpex will be publishing on their respective websites a list of manufacturers that guarantee all their products, particularly milk replacer and milk blend products, are entirely free of SDPP.

Bpex and NPA are also reminding producers that they should only use feed that is monitored by UFAS, the animal feed assurance scheme.

"It is impossible to overstate the damage PEDv would cause if it arrived in Britain," said veterinarian Derek Armstrong, of Bpex. "The evidence from the States is that it is so outstandingly infectious that just one infected pig is all it would take to start an epidemic in this country which could kill as much as ten percent of the national herd."

NPA chairman Richard Longthorp said, "We are clear that we don't want to be looking back in a few months, and wish we had been more cautious. We are all agreed in the pig sector that we should close off every avenue of risk and potential risk for the time being."

Current estimates suggest that in the United States alone PEDv could kill as many as 5 million piglets before the national herd starts to develop antibodies against the virus, equivalent to 4.5 percent of all pigs sent to slaughter.

In addition to the question mark over SDPP, the virus can spread rapidly through contact with sick animals, as well as through people's clothing, hands, equipment, boots, and tools contaminated with the faeces of infected animals.


Foot-and-mouth anniversary highlights the risks of feeding
swill to pigs

February 2014

On the 13th anniversary of Britain's most serious outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, National Pig Association is reminding Government and the public of the need for continued vigilance.

The reminder comes in the same week that African swine fever, another serious notifiable disease, is reported in Poland, carried across the border from Belarus by a wild boar, and putting the European Union commercial pig industry at increased risk of infection.

Foot-and-mouth was confirmed on February 20 at an Essex abattoir, in swill-fed pigs from Burnside Farm at Heddon on the Wall in Northumberland. Some estimates put the total cost to the nation at £10 billion, with more than 10 million animals being shot in the nine-month drive to stamp out the disease.

Government later confirmed the likeliest source of infection was meat contaminated with the foot-and-mouth virus being fed to pigs at Burnside Farm in inadequately processed swill. Swill-feeding has since been banned throughout the European Union.

NPA highlights the following lessons from the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak:

  • Pigs are not society's dustbins and the swill-feeding ban must stay in place because feeding pigs with waste food contaminated by meat leftovers will always be risky, as safety controls are bound to break down in the end, as they did at Burnside Farm (and the pork from swill-fed pigs doesn't taste very nice either).

  • Government must do its utmost to prevent passengers bringing illegal personal imports of meat into the country, particularly from high-risk countries, and Britain's pig farmers must remain vigilant in their attempts to ensure such products do not find their way anywhere near pig farms.

"A carelessly discarded ham sandwich is all it takes, or someone breaking the law and feeding kitchen leftovers to pigs," said NPA chairman Richard Longthorp. "If anyone thinks we are over-stating the risk, let them remember what happened on February 20, 2001 and the lives and businesses that were ruined as a result."


Time to say goodbye
to the 'weakest link'

February 2014

Tulip

Above: How it should be done—Dalehead's lorry-wash at Spalding.

National Pig Association is polling pig producers on lorry washes at Britain's abattoirs, with a view to publishing a league table. The association hopes when abattoirs see how they are rated against their competitors, the poorest performers will be encouraged to invest in improved lorry-washing facilities.

Many pig producers and hauliers consider sub-standard lorry washes to be the weakest link in the industry's armoury against endemic diseases such as swine dysentery, and imported diseases such as African swine fever and porcine epidemic diarrhoea.

Disease can be spread rapidly from farm to farm by livestock lorries, unless hauliers are able to properly wash and disinfect their vehicles every time they deliver pigs to an abattoir. But washing facilities at most abattoirs are reported by pig producers and hauliers to be inadequate.

  • Waiting times are too long because there aren't enough washing bays.

  • Lighting is non-existent or inadequate for dark mornings and evenings.

  • Water pressure is too low, and detergent is not provided.

  • Washing bays are too close, risking cross-contamination.

  • During cold spells, when viruses pose the greatest risk, the water supply can be frozen for days on end.

British pig producers are particularly concerned at present about the risk of foreign diseases entering Britain and spreading quickly through a naive pig population.

There is a threat of the notifiable disease African swine fever being imported from Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania. And in the States and Canada, highly virulent Chinese strains of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea are laying waste to hundreds of pig units.

Both viruses are harmless to humans, but they are fatal to pigs if they are carried onto farms on lorry tyres or on the boots and clothes of humans.

Early results from producer voting suggest the Dalehead Foods recently modernised and now world-class abattoir at Spalding in Lincolnshire will top the NPA league table with the best lorry-washing facilities. But it is too soon to say which abattoirs will occupy the bottom places in the league table as producers are still voting in the poll.

"Abattoirs may be reluctant to invest in modern lorry-washing facilities because they see it as dead money but this is short-sighted. They rely on a reliable supply of British pigs, so it should really be at the top of their agenda," said NPA chairman Richard Longthorp.

"By committing now to improvements in lorry-wash facilities, processors have an ideal opportunity to restore their credibility with pig producers and take biosecurity a quantum leap forwards.

"We need good lorry washing facilities which in turn will encourage all hauliers to ensure their vehicles are thoroughly washed and disinfected before they depart to collect another load of pigs."


Winter Olympics pose heightened
disease risk for British farms

February 2014

Border Force officers will be paying special attention to passengers returning from the Winter Olympics in Sochi, in a bid to prevent African swine fever entering Britain in contaminated meat products, according to food and farming minister George Eustice.

In a letter to National Pig Association chairman Richard Longthorp—in which he commends the association's proactive stance on keeping Britain free of imported diseases—he says the Border Force recognises the Winter Olympics as a period of particular importance.

Following the recent discovery that some shops in Russia have been selling meat products contaminated with the African swine fever virus, NPA is particularly concerned about passengers innocently returning with food from Russia and eastern European countries.

African swine fever can survive in raw, cured, cooked and even frozen meats for months, and if any infected meat found its way onto a British pig farm—for instance in a discarded ham sandwich—it would cause havoc in the nation's pig industry.

African swine fever is harmless to humans but fatal to pigs and if it arrived in this country it would mean the compulsory slaughter of pigs in affected areas and the loss of Britain's fast-growing pork export market with non-European Union countries.

Noting the recent spread of the virus from Russia to the Ukraine and Belarus, and now across the European Union border into Lithuania, George Eustice has promised that if the situation deteriorates and the virus spreads from wild boar in Lithuania to domestic pigs, Brussels will introduce extra controls and Defra will work with the Border Force "to ensure the travelling public are aware of the restrictions and to undertake checks on passengers".

NPA has called on Government to introduce in-flight announcements on flights from Lithuania and to introduce leaflets and warning posters at all border posts.

Welcoming the minister's prompt response to NPA's concerns, and his pledge to introduce extra measures should African swine fever continue to spread, Richard Longthorp said, "We—that is the pig industry and Government—must do all we can to ensure African swine fever, or any other exotic disease, does not get into the United Kingdom.

"The loss of exports valued at £350m would be devastating to the pig industry, a loss to United Kingdom trade, and would undermine all the great work that the pig industry and Defra have put into developing export markets for British pork and high-performance breeding pigs."

British pig farmers have been on heightened alert ever since African swine fever was carried into Lithuania by wild boar, as many British farms employ east European workers who pose a risk when they return from holidays or receive gifts from home.

NPA is in the process of preparing its own leaflets and posters and will be contacting airlines and airport authorities for help deploying them.

George Eustice letter.


Pig farmers call on Government
to improve border defences
against deadly African swine fever

January 2014

The National Pig Association is calling on Government to step up defences against African swine fever, which is harmless to humans but fatal to pigs. It wants Britain to increase security at border posts to prevent contaminated meat being carried illegally into the country.

Otherwise, it warns, Britain could lose its fast-growing pork export market with non-European Union countries.

The disease, which can survive for months in raw, cured, cooked and even frozen meat, has advanced from Russia and Belarus into Lithuania, and now threatens to be carried further into the European Union by infected wild boar.

NPA chairman Richard Longthorp has called on food and farms minister George Eustice to press for a poster and leaflet campaign at border posts, and in-flight announcements on planes arriving from Lithuania.

African swine fever is a notifiable disease and if it arrives in this country it has the potential to seriously damage the nation's pig industry, with animals being slaughtered en masse and a ban on British pork exports, which account for nearly a quarter of pig farmers' income.

"The United Kingdom pig industry is just emerging from its own recession created by high feed prices, and to be struck with African swine fever now would be a blow from which some would not recover," he said in a letter to the minister.

"We—that is the pig industry and Government—must do all we can to ensure African swine fever, or any other exotic disease, does not spread to the United Kingdom.

"The loss of exports valued at £350m would be devastating to the pig industry, a loss to United Kingdom trade, and would undermine all the great work that the pig industry and Defra have put into developing export markets for British pork and high-performance breeding pigs."

If Britain does not act quickly, there could be a repetition of the personal and financial trauma the country's livestock farmers suffered in the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001, he warned.


 

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