Addressing ASF in Asia – Lessons from Europe

Addressing ASF in Asia – Lessons from Europe
Part 2 of 3

In the previous installment of this 3-article series, we discussed seven strategies for responding to the ASF threat in Asia. While there is no ‘good news’ when it comes to the damage recent outbreaks have inflicted on swine producers, is it reassuring to note that previous ASF outbreaks have been successfully eradiated. This time, HERMAN JANSSEN and SUPARLARK NUNTAWAN NA AYUDHYA* look at some lessons from European countries challenged with ASF outbreaks.

Governments can lead the change

Early support from governmental bodies mandating strict protocols and processes for animal health, animal movement and farm biosecurity is a key reason why some nations were able to eliminate ASF and restore ASF-free production environments.

EU initiatives to eradicate the ASF virus mandated the culling of thousands of pigs in affected regions. Once diseased pigs were removed, strong biosecurity practices helped with repopulation. Governments in many EU nations called for aggressive measures at the feed, farm and animal level to prevent ASF.  Additional measures regulating animal movement are credited with helping limit its spread.

Integrating biosecurity across the farm – a checklist

As pig industries in Asia move forward, biosecurity must be a 24/7 part of every function and position across the pig business chain and will require a series of small steps. Initial efforts should focus on keeping pathogens out of a ‘clean’ farm. Any affected farms must be closed, and the herds culled. The culling should be combined with a regional investigation.

Educating farm personnel on biosecurity processes and procedures is essential, but the learning must be put into practice in order to keep pathogens off the farm. Some good practices are noted below:

  • Restrict and enforce non-essential personnel’s access to the farm;
  • Regulate visitors’ access to the farm with ‘cooling off’ patterns between visits;
  • Mandate showering and hygiene protocols for all visitors entering/exiting the farm;
  • Clean and disinfect all vehicles entering/leaving the farm;
  • Monitor workers’ body temperature and health status (a body temperature reading above 37.7 degrees C and/or illness will result in denied access for a specified period of time);
  • Establish sanitation procedures for all apparel and equipment used by workers entering/exiting the production house;
  • Ensure the feedmill follows good manufacturing and quality assurance protocols.

Requiring showers for all visitors entering/exiting the farm is a key biosecurity practice.

The holistic approach implemented in various EU nations affected by ASF has historically included procedures for moving animals across the farm and to different sites, disease monitoring and citizen education. Here are some of the procedures implemented in the EU that can be considered for implementation on Asian farms.

 

Feed safety practices

  • Prohibit the feeding of kitchen waste to animals.
  • Implement feed quality management; HACCP/GMP approach for animal feed production
    • Define pre-requisites of quality and microbial risks
    • Define quality standards
    • Regularly analyze operational and critical control points
    • Benchmark with other facilities.
  • Invite on-site advisors to assess and tailor strategies. Trouw Nutrition has more than 60 personnel across China working with producers to develop animal health and nutrition strategies.

Clean and disinfect all vehicles entering/leaving the farm. (Photo from www.nationalhogfarmer.com/business/truck-wash-biosecurity-critical)

Farm management practices

  • Monitor and control animal movement using a unique identification and bin number.
  • Require a limited time license to transport pigs between farms. The license grants permission for pigs to be transported during a specified time period.
  • Limit the number of sow farms supplying piglets to a fattening farm to 12 different farms in a 16-week timeframe.
  • Require intensified vehicle cleaning for pigs crossing borders.

Animal health practices

  • Conduct monthly vet visits upon occurrence of an infectious pig disease.
  • Require blood monitoring from a sampling of pigs across various production stages.
  • Conduct vet investigations within 3-10km of ASF upon suspicion of a notifiable livestock disease which could include ASF, CSF, foot and mouth disease, etc.

Looking to the future 

When ASF strikes, efforts to rebuild can begin only after the farm and its perimeter are declared completely clean. Recovery and repopulation can only commence once cleaning and disinfection of affected farms is assured. Eventually, as the disease is eliminated in Asia, repopulation efforts will begin and will require innovative approaches to rebuild swine herds. For example, given an insufficient number of gilts, Trouw Nutrition is looking at how feed and management practices can support customers using fattening pigs to breed gilts.

Optimal animal health and performance relies on improvements in genetics, but also on good nutrition and management. To that end, Trouw Nutrition is investing in research to understand how mode of action and ingredient composition can support health, performance and even producers’ return on investment. For example, the use of different types of organic acids can improve digestion, optimizing producers’ feed investment. Research is exploring how drinking water acidifiers and nutritional interventions containing short and medium chain fatty acids can keep pathogens away by reducing pH levels and potentially lowering ASF pressure.

One encouraging insight is that as producers implement small feed and management changes, they often start to see improvements in other areas. For example, nutritional adaptations to support the sow diet are aligning with an increase in the total number of live-born piglets in sows’ litters. Researchers are also investigating how nutrition may support the birth process, increasing sows’ colostrum production and decreasing mortality rates, resulting in a higher quality of weaned piglet.

Once a farm is cleared of ASF, efforts should be made to develop a checklist and implement a holistic approach to feed, farm and health management.

Successful recovery from ASF outbreaks in other parts of the world suggests that a clean farm is the baseline for moving toward prevention and biosecurity on Asian swine farms. It is interesting to note that the integrated approach to eradicating ASF in Europe relied on feed safety, farm management and animal health protocols. This same approach was also helpful in allowing European farmers achieve dramatic reductions in antibiotic use in their herds. As antibiotic reduction is a key priority for many producers in Asia, the final installment of this series will examine how an integrated approach can help farmers defend against ASF while helping them achieve their antibiotic reduction goals.


* Herman Janssen, Senior Swine Specialist, Trouw Nutrition, Innovation Swine; Suparlark Nuntawan Na Ayudhya , Regional Program Manager, Trouw Nutrition Asia Pacific.

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Herman Janssen
Suparlark Nuntawan Na Ayudhya