13 October 2000

Pig men demand movement action

MAFF officials are facing mounting pressure from pig farmers to formalise a proposal allowing movement of stock between farms in the swine fever surveillance zones in a bid to curb overcrowding and other welfare issues.

Earlier this month (Oct 6) MAFF announced it would consult industry on plans allowing stock movements under licence between holdings within the infected zones where no new cases had been confirmed for 30 days.

But producers in the eastern counties have been told by MAFF this week that is unlikely to happen for some time. "We need action and we need it now," says John Baxter, who runs 2000 sows from Tannington, Suffolk. "Three of our units are locked up. We have 4000 weaners weighing up to 50kg (liveweight) outside on heavy ground and the weather is getting worse. Its starting to turn into a serious problem."

Although producers can get pigs onto the industry-sponsored removal scheme, many are reluctant to do so. "The costs of getting a pig to this weight is not covered by the £35 wed get in compensation; it would be financial suicide," adds Mr Baxter.

The proposal was discussed with the National Pig Association a week ago (Oct 6), although MAFF could not say when consultations will be finalised.