Pig Health and Welfare Council: April 2019 update

Matters arising from previous meetings:
  • The council concluded that the level of risk to the pig industry from using human waste food for feeding pigs is currently unacceptable
  • Signage encouraging the public not to feed feral pigs, or pigs on farms near roads and footpaths
  • The introduction penalties by Defra for breaches in environmental monitoring of gases. Defra is likely to introduce these changes in 2020. The Tail Docking Action Group is discussing protocols with APHA to try to ensure producers have adequate guidance to help them comply
  • A plan to improve the recording of tail-docking and tail-biting levels through the Tail Docking Action Group

The main agenda

A. Genetic selection

As part of the council’s plan to publish a 2030 strategy, they are exploring new technologies. At the April meeting, the council listened to a presentation on what genetics may be able to offer the industry in the future. The changing of behaviour was discussed, as aggression is proving a problem, but this can be aggression to people or to other pigs. It was agreed that the Welfare Subgroup would provide clear guidance for the genetics companies to better understand the problems that have developed.

B. The Disease Surveillance subgroup update

The main areas reported were:
  • There have been no suspect cases of PEDV since January 2018
  • A campaign to raise awareness of the importance of cleaning transport is under consideration by NPA, AHDB, Red Tractor and PVS
  • An archive of porcine blood and tonsil samples has been created to enable retrospective surveillance, as well as a further baseline study
  • African swine fever continues to be a major issue. The risk to the UK is set by Defra at Medium. There is considerable concern from the subgroup about risk from Europe and China, prevention, the possible impact of an outbreak and risks from wild boar. ASF has now spread to Vietnam
  • There have been swine dysentery outbreaks in multiple regions across the country
  • A working group established by Defra is to develop a proposal for the control of PRRS, with an intensive work programme
  • The subgroup will hold a one-hour session on compartmentalisation at the next face-to-face meeting in September 2019

C. The Pig Welfare subgroup update

The main areas reported were:
  • The Tail Docking Action Group is creating a plan, which includes targets and a rough timeline so that progress can be monitored and demonstrated
  • Current welfare issues under consideration include space requirements and aggression
  • Consultation with DEFRA over the wording and content of the new welfare codes has continued. The codes are expected to go to Parliament some time in 2019

D. The Pig Meat Food Safety subgroup update

The main areas reported were:
  • A system has been identified to make a comparison of salmonella prevalence in the English pig herd in 2019 with the printed survey of 2014
  • The workshop on hep E, which was well attended by industry and by all the major retailers. The retailers have committed to continuing to support the ongoing work of this group
  • A working group was set up following the LA-MRSA workshop of April 2018. The group is waiting for the publication of an EFSA report before taking any further action

E. The Antimicrobial Usage subgroup update

The main areas reported were:
  • AHDB and APHA have contacted 50 of the highest users of antibiotics to offer post-mortem and diagnostic investigation as part of a Defra-funded surveillance project to inform these producers and vets and enable them to make improvements to health, management or infrastructure
  • Opportunities exist around genetic selection for resistance or tolerance of porcine pathogens to facilitate reductions in use of antibiotics. The opportunities and obstacles to progressing developments in genome editing or through exploiting natural variation in susceptibility to diseases such as PRRS are being considered. Further work is required in understanding whether testing herds for the WUR gene is an economically viable approach to controlling PRRS
  • Agreement was reached within the subgroup about the relationship between the subgroup and the RUMA Targets Task Force, which is no longer a task and finish group. Our proposal is that the subgroup will agree the targets for the pig sector
  • The 2018 data from the e-Medicines book is to be published in May.

F. 2030 vision

The council discussed ideas for the 2030 vision, its aim and objectives. Consideration is to be given to the best way of consulting the industry.