Producers prepare for African swine fever

Pork industry lobbies for feral pig control and improved border security

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NSW Farmers pork committee chairman, Ean Pollard at his Young piggery. Producers have been told to improve bio-security at the farm-gate to reduce to risk of an African swine fever outbreak.

NSW Farmers pork committee chairman, Ean Pollard at his Young piggery. Producers have been told to improve bio-security at the farm-gate to reduce to risk of an African swine fever outbreak.

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Plans in place if Swine fever reaches Australia

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By the end of the year it's believed African swine fever will have killed close to a quarter of the world's pigs.

As the disease moves closer towards Australia, pork producers have been told to prepare for an outbreak of the infectious disease, which does not have a vaccine and only affects pigs.

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More than 100 producers gathered at a NSW Farmers event in Young on Tuesday to learn what would happen if swine fever reached our shores and what they could do to help keep it out.

NSW chief veterinary officer, Dr Sarah Britton, told producers the Department of Primary Industries' response if the disease was detected would be to eradicate it.

"It's called stamping out, getting rid of it as quickly as possible," Dr Britton said.

"If it appears on one pig, a quarantine would be placed on that property, preventing movements, all that property's pigs would be destroyed and disposed of and tracing would determine where was the source, how far has it gone and what do we need to do to prevent the spread."

She asked producers to plan how they would destroy and dispose of their pigs if the disease was detected on their property.

Producers were also encouraged to increase on-farm bio-security measures, keep thorough records of people, products, animals and vehicles coming and going, educate their staff and fence their properties.

Feral pigs and backyard operation risks

Dr Britton said swine fever being detected in a commercial piggery was only one of three scenarios for it entering the country. The others being infection of the feral pig population or via a backyard operation.

For pigs in backyards or peri-urban areas, the biggest concern was swill feeding, illegal feeding of food scraps that contain or have come into contact with meat.

"We do a lot of auditing to check that people aren't swill feeding, probably our biggest risk factor of getting swine fever is feeding infected meat to pigs," Dr Britton said.

Dr Britton said they were running education campaigns with vet clinics and even with buy and sell website, Gumtree, to try and spread the message in the backyard pig sector.

Australian Pork Limited chief executive Margo Andrae, presented at Senate estimates on Tuesday, asking the federal government to maintain increased bio-security measures at our borders and for a coordinated approach to control feral pigs.

"We are getting a message very clearly through to the federal government that our industry is a very valuable industry, we contribute 36,000 jobs across the country and we need them to be taken very seriously," Ms Andrae said.

"The simple fact is, if this disease gets in, it could wipe out our industry.

"If it gets onto a piggery those producers lose their livelihood."

Industry lobbies for improved border security

NSW Farmers pork committee chairman and pig producer, Ean Pollard said NSW Farmers were also continuing to lobby government for improved border security.

"We've asked for more signage and notification at leaving terminals that travel to Australia, education about not bringing pork products to Australia," Mr Pollard said.

"I think it's possible to keep it out, the harder we try and the better we get with national security the more chance we have."

"Today is about preparedness, I'm not saying when, I'm saying if we get it the more prepared the better."

Fellow pig producer, Edwina Beveridge agreed more thorough border security was needed.

"We would love to know that every person at the borders is being checked, that there are signs up telling people not to bring in pork in," Ms Beveridge said.

"You hear stories of people coming back from overseas and didn't get checked.

"We're all terrified about what might happen if we get an outbreak of AFS."

Further policy on bio-security measures are expected in coming weeks.

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