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Preparing for ASF - key lessons from a workshop focusing on this disease threat

14th May 2024 / By Katie Jarvis

NPA senior policy adviser Katie Jarvis outlines some of the key findings from a workshop with Livetec Systems on the UK's ASF preparedness.

Katie JarvisAs part of our African swine fever preparedness work, in early May we joined Livetec Systems for a workshop discussing contingency planning, biosecurity and methods for on-farm culling.

Livetec has a wealth of experience earned in the poultry sector during the avian influenza outbreaks of the last few years which we were keen to hear about.

In turn, they were keen to learn more about the pig industry from us. The aim was to gain a deeper understanding of the pinch points facing the pig sector relating to planning and preparing for a disease outbreak, and to improve connections between industry as we face the threat of ASF.

  • You can see Katie and NPA chief executive Lizzie Wilson join Livetech for a seminar on ASF preparedness on both days of the British Pig & Poultry Fair at the NEC.

The workshop was joined by several industry stakeholders and producers and turned out to be an enlightening day of discussions, which could easily have turned into multiple days, given the sheer volume of things to talk about.

Through presentations, discussions and an exercise looking at real-world farm scenarios, the day really drove home for us some of the practical issues producers could be facing, but fortunately also answered some of our questions.

As we have been saying to members, it is all about preparedness and developing the tools to manage if the worst does happen, but also about prevention, which in many cases will be about behavioural change.

It is important to remember that ASF is not foot-and-mouth disease. It can be kept off a farm with good biosecurity, and in the case of an outbreak, it can be kept ON a farm to prevent further spread to your neighbours.

Contingency planning was a key part of our discussions, as whether you end up with ASF on your farm or down the road from you and you are stuck in a restriction zone, it will be of a great help to yourself if you have a plan in place.

Aside from the possibility of having to keep pigs on farm for months at a time, have you thought about the wider business and income streams? If you have diversified businesses they could also be caught in the zone, for example farm shops or commercial units on site.

Do you have elderly parents living on site who need care, or children who need to go back and forth to school? Having considered alternative arrangements could help to alleviate some of the stress should the worst happen. If possible, you can fence off your house to distinguish it from the yard and maintain access.

As unpleasant as it is to think about, if your farm contracts ASF you will need to cull out your herd. Do you have an area where pigs can be moved to in order for this to happen?

This will be followed by cleaning and disinfection - the first round carried out and paid for by APHA, the second round by you - which is significantly easier if you have a concreted yard and access for machinery.

There is still work to be done on which methods would be employed for on-farm culling in the case of an outbreak, to ensure that it can be carried out safely, effectively, and in the most humane way achievable. On the back of the workshop the NPA will be engaging with this work over the next few months.

Finally, do remember that our increased communication and work around ASF is not designed to panic you, rather to prepare you. The more you can do now in terms of biosecurity improvements and contingency planning, the better off you, your business, your family and your staff will be in the case of a disease outbreak.