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Chief vet praises collaborative approach to pig health and welfare

20th Jul 2017 / By Alistair Driver

Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens has welcomed the collaborative approach adopted by the pig industry in identifying and acting on threats to herd health. 

nigel gibbensWriting the foreword to the Pig Health and Welfare Council's (PHWC) biennial report into the main issues it addressed in 2015 and 2016, Mr Gibbens highlighted progress in areas such as tackling antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and actions to guard against Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea virus (PEDv).

The PHWC is a cross-industry alliance, chaired by former chief vet Jim Scudamore and representing every stage of pig production along the chain, which aims to promote a co-ordinated and integrated approach to improving pig health and welfare.

Mr Gibbens said the report highlighted the achievements of the industry in monitoring and tackling pig disease.

He said: "The development of the Electronic Medicines book is a major achievement which will allow an accurate assessment of antimicrobial use in the UK pig industry and enable benchmarks to be set for others to follow.

"Reducing antimicrobial use is a top priority for the pig industry and will be achieved through a variety of programmes and measures to improve herd health and prevent infections. The development of improved diagnostics and vaccines along with biosecurity will be important as will be the need to consider potential structural changes within the industry. 

He said the move to make PEDv notifiable were 'important measures' reflecting concern about the potential impact of the disease should it be introduced to the UK. "It is one of the first collaborative sector-led approaches to animal disease management in the UK and established a model which could be applied to other diseases should the need arise," he said. 

The report provides information on horizon scanning, detailing potential threats to the UK pig industry that were flagged during 2015/16

Mr Gibbens said: “This emphasises the importance of high quality and comprehensive surveillance in order to identify threats to the industry which can include emerging, exotic or endemic diseases or those which are of significant threat to trade. I am pleased that the industry is looking to identify ways of improving surveillance in partnership with the government.”

Partnership working

Mr Scudamore highlighted the partnership working between industry and government during the two year period, also highlighting the electronic medicines book and work on PEDv.

On the industry's repsonse to AMR, he added: "The pig industry has responded to these challenges with a range of initiatives to ensure the overall use of antimicrobials is reduced but at the same time recognising the importance of disease control and the role that antimicrobials must continue play." 

NPA senior policy advisor Georgina Crayford said the report highlighted many of the good things that have come out of joint industry working, singling out the publication of the Real Welfare report, alongside progress on AMR and PEDv.

The full report, which includes a useful statistical summary of the industry, can be viewed here