Pig and poultry keepers throughout the Borders are being urged to remain on alert as the threat posed by devastating diseases remains.
For poultry keepers, restrictions have been lifted around the East Yorkshire unit that suffered a recent outbreak of Avian Influenza. However, there continues to be further breakdowns within Europe, the most recent incidents being in Italy and a further case in Germany. The route of infection still remains unclear, but is believed to be from indirect contact with wild birds.
For pig producers, a worrying development is that a virus that has had a devastating impact in the United States and has spread to Canada has recently been identified in the Ukraine.
While Europe has its own less virulent strain of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea virus (PEDv), the American/Asian is extremely infectious and has wiped out more than a tenth of the pig population in the USA in the past two years, causing up to 100 per cent mortality in piglets on infected pig farms.
Scottish and GB stakeholders have put their weight behind pig breeding companies, adhering to a voluntary import ban that would exclude live pigs arriving here from any PEDv-hit country.
NFU Scotland’s animal health and welfare policy manager, Penny Johnston, said: “The details of the latest European farms infected with Avian Influenza are, as yet, unclear, but certainly the first farms affected were all indoor facilities leading to the conclusion that infection is most likely to be via indirect contact through human activities, such as movement of vehicles and equipment.
“There are no direct migration routes from Asia to Europe, but the virus has probably been transmitted to other birds at stopover places, passing it into the European wild bird population. In the light of the probability that the virus is entering farms through human activities, keepers are advised to take a critical look at their biosecurity arrangements and practice and make improvements as necessary.”
She went on: “The threat posed to the health of Scottish and UK pig herds by PEDv is substantial and infection would be a devastating blow to the sector. To preserve the health of our herds from this deadly virus, a voluntary import ban to exclude live pigs from the USA and Canada was already an agreed priority from industry on both sides of the border. The news from the Ukraine is a worrying development, and the live pig ban requires to be revised and extended.
“The success of any approach in combating PEDv will be determined by the weakest link in our defences. Robust action and an all-island approach has the best chance of keeping us free of this dreadful virus.”
Ms Johnston added: “Were it to arrive, then Canada’s response shows us that speed is everything in disease control and in reducing the health, welfare and economic impact of a virus like PEDv. Prompt reporting or diagnosis must trigger an immediate response to shut down the disease.
“The industry has a role in highlighting the risk on grower units, the need to take episodes of profuse scour seriously and to test for PEDv. Clearly, high piglet mortalities on breeding farms must press alarm bells.”