Swine fever – The noose tightens

8 September 2000

Pig producers in crisis hit East Anglia are facing a whole new series of problems as the CSF outbreak spreads.

Over the past week four further pig units have been earmarked for compulsory slaughter. These include 1,100 pigs on a Norfolk nursery unit, 3,000 on a BQP Mid Suffolk finishing unit, 3,100 on a BQP Woodbridge area outdoor breeding unit and a further 4,300 on an independently owned neighbouring finishing unit.

Other farms in the region are also under suspicion and could also be declared infected at any time.

At this stage MAFF vets have tracked the spread of the disease in each of the four new cases. The Norfolk infection has been linked to a vehicle tracing and pigs from this unit had been moved to the mid Suffolk finishing unit. Both of the Woodbridge area cases are in close proximity to a BQP nursery unit included in the original infected pig slaughter programme last month.

However, the effect of the latest outbreaks has been to extend the standstill period on other pig movements in Surveillance Zones that were reaching the end of the “locked in” periods. In the Woodbridge area producers had been hoping to get pigs on the move again next week and now face a further month or longer before they have any chance of selling store and finished pigs on to the open market.

Rather than face the prospect of having large numbers of pigs held on farm, producers within the 10km zone set up around any pig unit tested positive for CSF are reported to be shipping large numbers of pigs out of the region as soon as they hear of any suspect premises under test.

This practice is within the law pending the result of blood tests taken on the suspect farm following service of the initial Form A. which puts movements from the farm in question only on hold. As it can take up to 4 days before CSF is confirmed any pig movements of this nature can lead to CSA spreading further outside the region.

The NPA claim that until the Minister can be persuaded to offer full market value compensation for any overstocked pigs held up in the zones it will be hard to monitor both legal and illegal pig movements.

The 35 per head offer made by Nick Brown last week was met with derision and despair and has resulted in the collapse of the emergency welfare slaughter scheme set up by MAFF.

Since then proposals have been put forward to raise the payments for pigs over 100kg liveweight to 65 per head of which only 50 would be met by MAFF and the balance by the industry. However pig industry lawyers have pointed out that it could take months to set up a levy scheme that could also require an Act of Parliament. This will come too late for producers who need help now and may have to resort to further unauthorised pig movements.

There are signs that MAFF may move to impose a draconian new set of pig movement restrictions throughout the whole of East Anglia. This could lead to all pig movements being subject to MAFF authorisation under special licence which could further disrupt normal trade in the area.

On the welfare and financial front reports are emerging of some cash strapped farmers breaching their credit limits with feed suppliers. UKASTA, the grain traders association, have warned their members that their industry could also be dragged down by the crisis as many compounders will be unable to fund the huge debit balances building up for feed supplied.

In the market place demand has remained at “stand on” levels with The GB AESA unchanged at 102.37p per kg. Spot and live market quotes have also been largely unchanged with live pigs traded around 80p per kg and deadweight returns in the 104p to 112p range according to weight.

Meat traders are pointing to “flat” demand at home and overseas. There are extra shoulders on the market throughout Europe and supplies to Russia have dropped off which will hit manufacturing values. The low Euro is also hitting export opportunities as well as encouraging imports on to the UK market.

Sows and weaners are also at similar levels with sow quotes between 67p and 70p per kg deadweight and the Farmers Weekly 30kg ex farm weaner average at 35.23 per head.

See more