The occurrence of the African swine fever (ASF) virus across South Africa is a socio-economic issue and with more outbreaks reported outside the ASF controlled area, the importance of biosecurity measures once again moves to the forefront.
This is according to Dr Peter Evans, veterinary liaison at the South African Pork Producers’ Association (SAPPO), who believes that pig farming on smallholdings in informal settlements and peri-urban areas are growing in popularity as more people are buying pigs to make ends meet.
He says the ASF outbreak previously centred on warthog infections, but it has shifted to domestic pigs carrying the virus. The higher the stock density of pigs in communities, the more likely it is that people bought an infected pig, and that is why human behaviour is driving these outbreaks, says Evans.
“This comes after ASF was diagnosed for the first time in the Western Cape in February this year on two smallholder farms in Mfuleni, Eerste River. In addition, outbreaks have been reported across the country in Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Free State, North West, the Northern Cape, and the Eastern Cape. These provinces were previously outside the ASF controlled area and have been affected by ASF since 2019. To reduce the risk of spreading ASF, Evans says three basic minimum biosecurity measures need to be in place at piggeries.
Boundary fences must be in place to ensure pigs are well enclosed and stay away from any boundary fences of other properties. “We feel that free-roaming pigs are a bad idea,” says Evans. Pigs need to be behind solid walls to prevent access to other free-roaming domestic pigs from other farms, warthogs, or bush pigs. If free roaming is the only option, there needs to be a solid fence between the piggery and the outside world.
Farmers need to be careful where they source pigs from. “A high number, if not all of these outbreaks, can be attributed to people buying pigs with an unknown health status.” Evans says it is important to note that the incubation period for the disease is approximately three to 15 days, which boils down to the possibility that a pig brought into a piggery might already have the virus. If pigs are bought from unknown sources, they need to be quarantined away from existing pigs on the farm for at least three weeks, says Evans.
This is of utmost importance and farmers need to make sure they wear boots and overalls when entering their piggery. The same applies to visitors, of which the number should be limited unless farmers are certain that the person has not been in contact with other pigs or close to sick pigs in the past two days. Evans says access control as a biosecurity measure includes the collection and safety of feed and health products to avoid contamination.
He urges farmers to have a post-mortem done immediately after pig mortalities have occurred. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the sooner corrective actions and management of the disease can occur. State vets, animal health technicians, and private vets can assist with this.
Meanwhile, Luckas and Esther Matlhatsi, who farm with approximately 96 pigs on their smallholding outside Potchefstroom in North West, say they established Matlhatsi Piggery 25 years ago to earn an income. With three ASF outbreaks reported on smaller farms in the Potchefstroom area this year, the couple is now more than ever focussed on the importance of biosecurity measures. They are proud of their biosecure piggery. Luckas says ASF outbreaks are, however, a great concern as the demand for pigs in the market decreases when outbreaks occur, and while feed is expensive, the selling price of pigs is not good enough.
For more information, contact Dr Peter Evans at 082 416 7196 or email@example.com, or contact Luckas Matlhatsi at 072 360 2118 or 083 492 0731. – Christal-Lize Muller, AgriOrbit