Industry tightens to combat viral disease

Keyneton pig farmer, Shaun Blenkiron said he will step up his biosecurity measures to eliminate African swine fever from being in the country.

Pig farmers across the region are stepping up their biosecurity measures in an effort to keep African swine fever out of the country.

African swine fever (ASF) is a highly infectious and contagious viral disease of domestic and wild pigs of all breeds and started in Asia and parts of Europe and continues to spread.

For Keyneton pig farmer, Shaun Blenkiron strict biosecurity measures are already in place but should the ASF present in Australia, they would have to get tighter in their practices.

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“We have things in place if ASF does come here,” said Shaun.

“But it will have to get tighter… feed trucks, stock trucks… we would have to look at going off site and something like an abattoir run would not be worth us doing,” said Shaun.

He acknowledged increased costs and more time these measures would take but in the same token also identified it as a cheap cost rather than lose their whole livelihood.

Shaun together with his father, Michael were at an information session earlier this month at Roseworthy which was attended by at least 80 people and backs up one that was previously held in February.

“There was more at this one… the risk is higher because it is getting closer,” said Shaun.

Shaun said it was important to educate the industry and those who are part of the industry because if African swine fever came to Australia it has the potential to destroy the sector.

“If it did happen… there are two major abattoirs in SA and if they both broke out with ASF we would have nowhere to get the pigs killed,” said Shaun.

“They would then have a six week shut off and once the pigs reach 100 kilograms they start putting on 10 kilograms a week and then they would be too big for market.”

Shaun described the ASF as savage and while grateful it hasn’t entered the country he said it still worries him and his fellow colleagues.

“They tell you what they find at the borders but it worries me what is it that they are missing,” said Shaun.

“It has spread so far in Asia. Their biosecurity is nearly non existent but some of the pig farms are clear of it. It is a virus that spreads by contact… people who travel in these countries are at risk of bringing it back.”

Shaun said pig producers are worth a lot of money to the Australian economy and saw positives to come out of the hardship of the ASF.

“There are positives to come out of it… pork will be worth good money for at least the next three to four years,” said Shaun.

“We have gone from having too many pigs to now not enough and we have noticed a lot of sales at the Barossa Farmers Market. There is a big issue with ham and bacon exports – 80 per cent of that is imported.

“We have noticed a lot of support and are doing extra bacon to keep up with demand.”

Shaun said consumption per person has grown and pork is equal second for the most eaten protein.

“We have got a good couple of years ahead of us while this disease is around, providing we keep it out of Australia,” said Shaun.

He acknowledged the potential for the import rate to drop which would result in more demand for local products.

Shaun said consumers can help the industry more by purchasing Australian pork products and in turn help to minimise imports and the biosecurity risk.

ASF has already claimed 200 million pigs throughout Asia and it’s rising rapidly.

Shaun said figures demonstrate how serious it is and conceded the threat will be here for a long time.