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African swine fever forum

The NSW Farmers African Swine Fever Forum was held in Young, NSW, on Tuesday 22 October 2019. It was attended by 120 stakeholders interested in obtaining firsthand advice about the ASF virus and how it can be effectively managed. Local producer and Chair of the Pork Committee, Ean Pollard opened the proceedings and welcomed visitors for the day.

Another local producer – Edwina Beveridge from Blantyre Farms – gave an overview of their biosecurity plan, the improvements that they have made to the farm and what actions have been taken to reduce the risk of ASF entering or spreading between farms. For example, they have installed security fencing around their piggery, provided additional training to their staff on biosecurity measures and have colour coded gum boots for dirty and clean areas of the piggery. Dr Pat Mitchell from PIC, an industry expert in biosecurity, described in detail, an ASF scenario to get the participants thinking. This was about piggery employees introducing ASF to a commercial piggery though contact with feral pigs.

Pat also discussed the considerations around preparedness for a two week stock standstill and identified feed, vaccines, and semen for AI as potential issues needing further thought. APL biosecurity videos, brochures, and factsheets were also identified for further knowledge.

The testing procedure for suspected stock was discussed and identified as a molecular test which is sent to the state laboratory (in this case DPI Camden) which would then be sent to AAHL (Australian Animal Health Research Laboratory). This test identifies genetic material with ASF and can be completed within 6 hours before being sent to AAHL in Geelong.

Duncan Worsfold then provided an update on contemporary methods for mass disposal mortalities management. Duncan is a Senior Officer with Agriculture Victoria and an expert on destruction, disposal and decontamination (the 3 Ds) of stock in the event of an emergency animal disease (EAD) outbreak. He has extensive experience with EADs in NSW and VIC, and is the Chair of the International Animal Health Group consisting of Australia, USA, Canada, NZ, Ireland, and the UK.

Duncan discussed the sequence of activities for  infected premises, and the methods and options to carry out these steps, emphasising that the farm biosecurity plan is a very important part of the process. Farmers are best placed to know the workings of their farms and this information is integrated into the risk assessment undertaken by the regulator, particularly with regards best methods for addressing the 3 Ds. It is important to note that EPA approval will be required prior to disposal (on or off farm) and so engagement early in the process is critical. It is likely that if one pig were to become infected with ASF then the whole herd would be euthanised in order to contain the disease. Disposal options discussed included burial, burning, rendering, landfill disposal and composting. There are advantages and disadvantages and – as each farm is different – the best option will be different relative to environmental constraints such as ground water, location etc. Therefore, prior preparation and planning are essential for ensuring the best possible outcome.

Dr Sarah Britton, CVO (Chief Veterinary Officer) from NSW DPI  gave an ASF preparedness and response update. Sam Allan was introduced from AHA (Animal Health Australia) as the Custodians of the EADRA (Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement) Deed which outlines the framework and the AUSVET Plan, which details the actions on EAD. The AUSVET Plan and the overall national approach was discussed in detail.

In the event of an ASF outbreak, the state DPIs take the lead in managing an EAD, with help from local land services. A number of liaison officers were identified who would be appointed, and APL would act as a liaison to provide communications and messaging.

What happens – an ASF response on farm

  • EAD HOTLINE number is 1800 675 888. Put it in your phone, and call if you notice any unusual symptoms
  • Lab samples will be taken – blood, swabs, tissue in event of post-mortem
  • Advised of result in 6 hours
  • Movement controls in place for infected premises – regulatory agencies assist
  • Tracing and surveillance begins – Regulatory agencies assist (pigs, people, transport, feed, equipment, products)
  • Destruction/disposal/decontamination – need EPA permit

Sarah outlined that time spent on prevention and preparedness saves money and discussed the actions that DPI NSW were taking to reduce the threat of ASF, particularly, the ‘Don’t pack pork’ program aimed at foreign university students. Other important programs with the APL technical group within NSW and nationally were identified, along with engagement with processors in NSW and VIC. Another focus included the peri-urban program where pigs sold online were identified. A gap analysis was undertaken with APL and then local land services follow up with small holders to advise on PIC requirements. There are still ongoing issues with online distributors but swill feeding audits have increased, doubling local land services environmental health officers through the restaurant reuse campaign. NSW DPI are also furthering EAD awareness with abattoirs. In addition, NSW DPI are mapping landfill sites, rendering facilities and disposal sites. Again, it was emphasised that the local EPA assists with onsite burial approvals.

Eliz Braddon from the Riverina Local Land Services discussed the feral pig population and mentioned Feral Scan which overlays piggeries in NSW to identify high risk areas. She recommended fences to minimise contact with feral pigs and installing buffer zones. An economic analysis is currently underway to identify the most efficient program for feral shooting including aerial infra-red identification.

What you can do:

  • Biosecurity plan – control entry and keep visitor logs for 30 days, maintain clean and dirty areas, no swill feeding, prevent feral access
  • Consider readiness level (3Ds – destruction, disposal, decontamination)
  • Business continuity planning – feed, vaccines, fuel
  • Know where your pigs are – (PIC – pig identification code)

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