No ideal pig floor

11 June 1999

Absolute beginner… Hannah Podd from Hexham, Northumberland, entered this years Suffolk Show Young Handlers class. She did not win the class, but fulfilled a dream by competing with this friendly Texel. The show was hit by torrential rain on the first day, but overall show-gate attendance was up on last year, proving that traditional county shows still have much to offer the public. Full show report on page 33.

Tests reveal lepto extent in bulk milk

LEPTOSPIROSIS infection has been identified in over 80% of bulk milk samples submitted to Schering-Plough Animal Healths free screening service.

According to the company, it has tested 500 samples from unvaccinated herds through its Bovine Leptospirosis Screening Service – BLiSS – since January.

The service allows vets to check the level of lepto infection in a dairy herd without having to blood sample stock. The disease is known to reduce milk yields, impair herd fertility and can cause abortions.

Only 18% of herds tested negative for lepto and almost 40% were found to be heavily infected. The remaining 42% showed low or mid positive infection, it says.

The companys vet adviser, Sinead Kearney, says herds with low or mid-positive lepto tests are unlikely to have active infection unless exposure has been recent. "But herds with mid positive infection should be interpreted cautiously, monitored closely and blood testing should be considered."

Results should be interpreted based on the risk factors on the farm. Increased risks include use of shared bulls, buying in animals, close proximity of stock to water courses and where cattle graze with sheep, she adds.

Free lepto testing kits are available from vets. &#42

Dont panic over dioxin in feed – check supplier

By FWLivestock reporters

PRODUCERS have little need to fear feed contamination in the UK following the Belgian dioxin crisis, but should seek reassurance from suppliers about the origin of feed ingredients.

Feed imports from Belgium are limited, says MAFF. Last year, only 5172t of Belgian compound feed was imported. As far as it is aware, this is not contaminated because it is believed to be high quality piglet creep feed.

But it advises farmers to check whether feeds have been produced in the following mills: De Brabander, Huys, Rendac, Debrabandere, Voeders Algoet, Willaert, Versele-Alimex Sarl, Hendrix Voeders, Callewaert, Derco International. Where this is the case, these feeds must not be fed to poultry or livestock, says MAFF.

UKASTA believes the Belgian adulteration of a safe fat destined for inclusion in animal feed was the result of a criminal act, mineral oil being the most likely source of contamination.

The Feed Fat Association (FFA) says the Belgian feed fat company involved, Verkest is not on its approved list of suppliers and none of its members have reported importing any Verkest fats into the UK.

FFA spokesman Bill Harris says all its members, covering most UK fat suppliers, test regularly for the presence of mineral oils. Feed compounders including Dalgety and BOCM Pauls also test.

But how can producers be sure feed is safe? Pamela Kirby Johnson, director general of the Grain and Feed Trade Association (GAFTA), says: "There are many schemes, checks and tests in place.

"When an incident occurs, GAFTA advises members on where it occurred and the location of contaminated material. European law contains a safeguard clause stating that member countries must trace contaminated material, remove it from the market and destroy it."

Feed compounder BOCM Pauls is aware of possible risks. "We test for pesticides and dioxins in feed ingredients on a regular basis," says national ruminant adviser Bruce Woodacre.

"Although UK legislation is more comprehensive and applied more rigorously than anywhere else in the world, we cant rely on legislation alone. The company carries out tests and audits suppliers, only buying from those with documented systems."

Buying locally and uncomplicated rations is the key to feed safety believes Graham Loveday of smaller compounder, W & &#42 Marriage, Chelmsford, Essex. "We buy as much as possible locally; mainly cereals. Auditing of ports, warehouses and merchants premises is also carried out regularly."

But it is crucial that producers know whats in their feed, says NFU animal feedstuff adviser Stuart Thomson. "As consumers they are entitled to it."

Independent consultant Lesley Stubbings agrees: "The first thing producers should do is find out what ingredients are in the feed. It is now a legal requirement to put these on feed bags." The ingredients appear on bags in descending order of inclusion.

But feed ingredients do change. "It is worth asking feed companies what their policy is in terms of percentage change of raw ingredients and whether and when they will notify you of changes."

Under new FABBL guidelines members have to keep feed records, says its chief executive Phillipa Wiltshire. "To meet standards you need to keep bag labels from each batch of feed."

Feed should be purchased from a reputable source. Eventually this will have to be an Assured British Meat (ABM) approved source, she says.

But ABM is on the verge of settling an agreement which will give complete assurance from producer to retailer, including feed manufacturers. This should re-assure producers, says ABM operations manager David Clarke.

He expects most feed manufacturers will join ABM, adding another link to the traceability chain.

Campaign in wake of crisis

BRITAINS livestock industry should step up marketing campaigns to promote its products in the wake of the Belgian feed contamination crisis.

MAFF says it is already informing EU member states of stringent checks on welfare and traceability adopted in the UK which guarantees a high quality product.

But many in the industry feel this is not enough and producers are penalised by adopting high cost safety standards, a view echoed by BOCM Pauls Bruce Woodacre.

"The strong £ and increasing costs associated with delivering what government and consumers ask is responsible for the severe situation in agriculture," he says.

"Government and consumers must realise our livestock products will be more expensive than those produced under inferior standards abroad. But we must actively promote what we are doing to consumers and government."

Assured British Meat hopes to have its scheme in place soon, and British meat promotion is linked to the schemes remit, says operations manager David Clarke. But he is unwilling to give details of how the concept will be promoted.

"Clearly, once the whole chain is in place it is easier to have coherent marketing and an ABM label will be available to retailers." But retailers often want differentiation to identify their products, he adds.

"We cant speak for individual retailers but a generic ABM label will be available demonstrating common standards of food safety." &#42

No ideal pig floor

WHILE many finishing pigs suffer some foot damage associated with the type of surface they are kept on, there is no ideal floor, according to a report from the University of Bristol in the Vet Record, June 5.

The report followed a study of 4038 pigs on 21 units by Niki Mouttotou and colleagues. They found that pigs kept on partially slatted floors showed higher incidence of heel erosions, white line lesions and heel separations. Totally slatted floors resulted in more sole erosion and heel flaps.

But bedded floors did not eliminate foot problems, it says. Pigs on solid floors with straw bedding were found to have more wall lesions, false sand cracks, wall separations and toe erosions. On soft floors, claws tend to wear more slowly than they grow, so overgrowth can occur and wall lesions become more likely. &#42

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