Killer pig diseases hit UK herd

By Peter Crichton

CLEAR evidence is emerging that the scourge of PDNS and PMWS has become far more widespread than earlier reports have indicated.

Porcine Dermatitis and Nephrophathy Syndrome (PDNS) and Post-weaning Multisystemic Wasting Syndrome (PMWS) are ripping through many herds in East Anglia, and can lead to mortality in growing pigs of up to 20%.

Veterinary sources have confirmed that spread patterns of the disease are still hard to forecast, but it seems to follow the same route as Blue Ear Disease, which has now infected most of the herds in the country except in isolated “non-pig” areas.

Although there was reported to have been an isolated outbreak of PDNS in Yorkshire way back in 1985, at that time there were no signs that it had spread to other parts of the country.

At this stage, there seems to be no established test for the disease, which is why it may be far more widespread than realised.

More than 50% of the herds in East Anglia are estimated to be infected at varying levels.

Trade sources point out that the fallout from PDNS and PMWS is already clear from a drop in numbers of slaughter pigs in the system.

The weekly UK kill is falling by the week, and is now close to the 250,000 mark, compared with over 300,000 a year earlier.

Vets are advising producers to step up their bio-security on their units, and to try and keep stress levels among young pigs in the vulnerable five- to 10-week old age range to a minimum.

For rearers and finishers who buy in all their stock, single “clean” sources are essential if they are to have any real chance of keeping the virus at bay.

Unless a magic cure is found it looks as though the diseases will become a UK-wide problem, and vets hope that herds will build up their own immunity levels.

There may also be a climate-related link, as with Blue Ear and Transmissible Gastro-Enteritis (TGE), both of which seem to be more virulent during the winter period.

  • Peter Crichton is a Suffolk-based pig farmer offering independent valuation and consultancy services to the UK pig industry

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