8 March 2002

Pig scheme will cut carcass loss

By Shelley WrightScotland correspondent

THE first steps towards creating a national pig health scheme in Scotland should be taken later this year, SAC vet David Strachan told a pig conference in Perth.

He believes that current disease control tended to be reactive and a lack of official disease surveillance meant no one in the pig industry knew the true extent of disease.

"We need to become pro-active in disease prevention and control because we need to improve pig health," said Dr Strachan. Improvements in health would lead to improved animal welfare, decreased use of antibiotics, lower production costs and high health replacement stock.

"Accurate estimates of the pig disease situation in Scotland are difficult for specific diseases, because producers, SAC and the Scottish Executive dont know whats out there. We need improved disease surveillance and disease diagnosis.

"It is virtually impossible to know what to do to improve health if you dont know what diseases you have on a farm."

Because the extent of diseases is unknown, the cost is difficult to estimate. But Dr Strachan used figures of condemnations at a Grampian Country Food Group abattoir to show that serious money is being lost.

"In one year, in one abattoir, total condemnation of pigs was 1464. With a weight of 111,000kg, they estimated the value to be £111,000. In addition, 7212 pigs were partially condemned, worth some £47,000."

The main reason for total condemnation was pyaemia – associated with tail biting, while abscesses and arthritis were the main causes for partial condemnations by far.

In a bid to cut losses, the first stage of a health monitoring scheme is due to begin later in the year, subject to funding approval from the Scottish Executive.

A system of abattoir lesion scoring will be also introduced, he explained. And, with 80% of Scotlands pigs slaughtered in just two abattoirs, this should be relatively simple to establish. It will give an indication of the presence and incidence of disease.

In addition, 10 commercial producers will be selected for a quarterly on-farm audit, with disease profiles established for each herd.

All herds in Denmark are health declared and Dr Strachan believes there is no reason why Scotland should not be aiming for the same.

"Here, we have the advantages of low pig density, geographical isolation, marketing groups, processors and much greater co-operation and communication among producers than in England." &#42