THE importance of farms implementing strict biosecurity controls on the movement of pigs, people and pork products entering piggeries was highlighted by every speaker at an African swine fever information day at the University of Adelaide's Roseworthy Campus on Thursday last week.
African swine fever is a highly contagious viral disease specific to pigs, with no vet treatment or vaccine available. The virus is spread by nose-to-nose contact between sick and healthy pigs, or their contact with infected carcases or pork products.
The disease spread from Russia to China in August and has recently moved further southwards to Vietnam, placing the Australian pork industry on heightened alert.
The risks of ASF entering the Australian pig herd centre on the rapid rate of ASF spread in China since 2018, movements of people and pig feed ingredients between China and Australia, access to domestic pigs by feral pigs in some areas within Australia, and the potential for pigs to be illegally fed infected pork products - known as swill feeding.
We are probably at the stage now where industry should be considering constructing separate vehicle washing facilities located off-site from abattoirs.
Organised and chaired by Gawler-based pig veterinarian Barry Lloyd and sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim, the program attracted more than 100 pork producers, veterinarians, PIRSA and agribusiness representatives.
Lessons learnt through infectious laryngotracheitis control measures adopted within the SA poultry industry have reinforced the necessity for high quality cleaning of facilities and equipment to eliminate viral contamination and persistence within a farm environment.
Pig veterinarian Jon Bartsch recently completed a Pork SA-funded project focused on the adequacy of existing truck wash facilities at major SA pig abattoirs.
Related reading: Farmers on alert for African swine fever risk
"Cleaning and disinfection shouldn't stop with the stock crate," Dr Bartsch said. "The wheels, truck chassis and undercarriage should be cleaned as well.
"Truck drivers should be prevented from entering abattoir lairages and made to wear dedicated truck boots supplied by the farm and the abattoir when loading and unloading pigs.
"We are probably at the stage now where industry should be considering constructing separate vehicle washing facilities located off-site from abattoirs, designed with good drainage, bitumen roadways in and out, and with gas and electricity services."
People are what makes this virus move, so all piggery staff need to be educated on the risks around virus transfer.
Dr Lloyd highlighted the main points to be considered by farms when designing and implementing their site's biosecurity program.
"There should be regular communication between farm staff and their vet, to agree on the design and implementation of a site-specific program," he said. "But all piggeries should focus on restricting pig, people and vehicle movements on and off their sites."
"Consider pig-proof perimeter fencing if your farm is located near areas of known feral pig activity. Close your herd to live pig introductions and go in-house multiplication, as semen presents a lower risk for virus introduction that pig purchases.
"Provide a controlled single point entry to your piggery, have all necessary visitors sign-in, and provide boots and clothing to both farm staff and visitors."
Dr Lloyd said pig-free down-times of 48 hours for domestic visitors and a week for international travel meant nothing if visitors did not arrive clean and follow the farm's biosecurity rules.
"People are what makes this virus move, so all piggery staff need to be educated on the risks around virus transfer," he said. "Insist on no pork products being brought into your piggery, so that includes staff lunches.
"Australia has the advantage over most other countries of distance between farms, except for the people vectors. So adopt the attitude that other farms can break but make sure yours doesn't."