New on-farm salmonella tool aims to reduce risk

Pig producers are being encouraged to use a new salmonella on-farm risk assessment tool as pressure mounts from the EU to reduce salmonella risks to consumers.

Salmonella continues to be an issue in pigs, with 47% slaughtered in England containing some level of salmonella. However, despite a salmonella control plan being in place for the past 10 years under the Zoonoses National Control Programme (ZNCP), the level of disease has not changed.

Under new plans for the ZNCP, BPEX working in partnership with the industry has decided to redirect money and suspend testing for salmonella antibodies at the abattoir using the meat juice ELIZA test and instead will use the money for an on-farm risk assessment tool.

Speaking about the changes, BPEX’s veterinary programme manager Katrin Turvey said: “The new tool will provide farmers with clear information regarding the herd’s current salmonella risks. The farmer or vet can use the outcomes of the risk assessment to create a meaningful on-farm salmonella control plan, which is a requirement of the Red Tractor assurance.”

Salmonella facts

  • Salmonella are gram-negative human and animal pathogens

  • Salmonella can occur in all species of domestic animal and manifests mainly as diarrhoea, although clinical signs also include septicaemia, abortion, arthritis and respiratory disease

  • Many healthy animals can also carry the organisms in their intestinal tract and may be important in the spread of infection between animals, into the environment and into the food chain

“With there being more pressure from the EU to reduce salmonella, now is the time to refocus and step up what the ZNCP is doing,” she said.

The new online risk assessment tool will cover all areas of farm management. After producers have completed the online assessment, it will clearly highlight where the risk areas are for salmonella, which can then be used to inform the salmonella control plan.

“It’s important producers realise this does not replace the salmonella control plan, however,” said Ms Turvey.

Zoe Davies, of the National Pig Association, stressed the need for moving a way from a traditional “tick-box” exercise to a system that is accessible and can be useful.

“We don’t want salmonella control just to be a tick-box exercise and it’s not just about salmonella. By adopting this new online assessment tool it will cover management areas such as biosecurity and rodent control that can help address other health issues. This new tool fits nicely alongside the Pig Health Improvement Project (PHIP),” she said.

Although 90% of salmonella can be removed at the abattoir, Ms Davies said it did not “dissolve” a farmer’s responsibility for salmonella control.

“While abattoirs may be the most cost-effective and easiest place to remove and have an impact on salmonella, it’s important farmers still do their bit. It is not always the farmer’s fault as outdoor systems could be more at risk from salmonella due to birds and straw-based system able to harbour the disease compared to slatted systems, but a general improvement in biosecurity can help protect the future,” she said.

Control areas for salmonella in pig systems

  • Identifying problem areas for cleaning and disinfection
  • Pig flow
  • Control of pests, insects and dust
  • Management of replacement stock
  • Feed formulation and feed/water acidification
  • Vaccination and prudent use of antimicrobials
  • Management of waste and movement of pigs, people and equipment
  • Testing and evaluating the success of interventions

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