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Home > News > Swine flu, pig behaviour, food safety - fascinating insights from the PVS conference

Swine flu, pig behaviour, food safety - fascinating insights from the PVS conference

28th Mar 2024 / By Katie Jarvis

NPA senior policy adviser Katie Jarvis highlights some of the highlights from the recent Pig Veterinary Society meeting.

Katie JarvisThe first Pig Veterinary Society meeting of 2024 took place in York on March 21 and 22 and it was, as usual, a packed and fascinating agenda.

Swine flu

The first morning kicked off with a couple of excellent presentations on swine influenza. Since swine influenza was found in a human in November last year, there has been an increased awareness of the disease and interest in how it can spread between humans and pigs.

APHA and SRUC have a free testing service in place and are always scanning for changes to infectivity and virulence of different strains. It was interesting to hear that there is a body of evidence suggesting that humans are actually infecting pigs rather than the other way around. This type of reverse-zoonotic infection is likely underreported.

Pig behaviour

A series of presentations on pig behaviour also drew a lot of interest from those attending. One hypothesis posed, and tested, is that behaviour is always linked to feed. By ensuring the best possible layouts and access to feeders producers can minimise negative behaviours and prevent situations whereby some pigs in a group are not feeding enough or at their preferred times.

It was also noted that in one study comparing pig behaviour in enriched vs barren pens, more negative behaviour was seen in enriched pens as they encourage more social behaviour, and therefore more cases of aggressive or vice behaviour.

It is important therefore to ensure that enrichment provided is sufficient to stimulate pigs in nature behaviours, but also that they are well monitored by staff so that individuals can be separated from the pens if necessary. We have heard that auditors have been picking up on a lot of units only providing chains and nothing else. Producers need to ensure they are consistently on top of this issue, not only when an inspection is due.

Food safety

Another area where a lot of activity is taking place is food safety. AHDB and the University of Hertfordshire presented at the meeting a study on the Collaborative Action for Pork Safety (CAPS) study, which is a collaborative project between AHDB, APHA and University of Hertfordshire.

Pigs can harbour pathogens that can affect both animal and human health, either through direct transmission, through pork food products or through the environment. Guidance on the best practices to reduce the risk these pathogens pose is limited because of a lack of information about how they are introduced, carried, and transmitted at all levels of the food chain from farm to abattoir.

If we can understand which pathogens contaminate at which points, we will gain a better understanding of how to mitigate the risks.

The study is focusing on Clostridioides difficile and Hepatitis E, and is still recruiting the final few pig producers to take part in the study. If you are an independent producer and would be interested in taking part in the study, please contact Miranda Bowden-Doyle (