11th July 2010

Scottish pig industry unveils new health project

The Scottish Pig industry and Quality Meat Scotland are taking action to promote high health status in the national pig herd and avoid thousands of pounds of losses through disease introduction.

The health declaration project aims to support Scottish producers by ensuring growing and breeding stock, and semen, imported into Scotland originate from a farm of known health status.

High health status is the gold standard for pigs playing a major role in maximising welfare, productivity, product quality and financial viability. Scotland has a strong history of good health in all its livestock, including pigs, and the penalty of disease introduction can be high. Introduction of a disease such as enzootic pneumonia, for example, could cost an average pig herd up to £30,000 a year.

A group of advisors to the Scottish pig industry including; Jamie Robertson (LMS), David Strachan (Wholesome pigs), Jill Thomson (SAC), Grace Webster (Meadows Veterinary Centre) and Allan Ward (QMS) have developed the health declaration form which requires the source herd of any imported animals to sign a statement of the health status of their herd to specific diseases, based on herd and abattoir inspections, and laboratory testing.

The recommendation will be that this form is provided with every transaction involving the movement of genetic material into Scotland, either in the form of live pigs – such as replacement gilts or weaners – or the semen trade for AI.

Pig genetics companies currently provide information on health matters to their customers, but the group identified the need to provide all producers with a standard, informative declaration that describes health status as accurately as possible before material is imported into Scotland.

Jamie Roberston said: “The majority of our pig exports are as prime foods, and most of the small volumes of imports are live animals for genetics. These animals represent one of the highest risks of importing disease to the Scottish herd.

“Whilst breeding stock tends to be relatively high health, the fact remains that the main route of pig disease transmission between farms is by live animals and their transport.

“Health declarations are a standard item in Denmark, with results from the four-weekly testing of all breeding herds being made available on open websites within 24 hours. The target in Denmark has been to provide transparency on disease issues.

“When producers are alerted early to health breakdowns in breeding herds it allows them to take early action to prevent or minimise the impact of any health issue on their own unit. The alternative is reaction when a health issue emerges on the unit, which is often too late to prevent significant losses or further spread.”

You can download the new form here QMS WPS Health Declaration Form [PDF, 87kB]

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