Pigs graze on farm in countryside. Pigs graze on a private farm

Our pork industry is facing a potentially catastrophic event, African Swine Fever (ASF) is a real concern for Australia and our livestock. African Swine Fever threatens our entire Pig population, the disease is highly contagious and spread virally with a staggeringly high mortality rate of 80%.

In this Article we will cover:

  • What is African Swine Fever?
  • How is it a threat to Australian Pork Products?
  • How does ASF Spread?
  • What can your facility do to protect itself from ASF?

What is African Swine Fever?

At current the African Swine Fever is running rampant in Asia, a handful of European countries and is heavily affecting our northern neighbours in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

This biosecurity threat would devastate our pig production and damage our trade and economy as a whole. It is critical we take sufficient steps to mitigate the risk of African Swine Fever spreading in Australia. The Australian Government understands the potential risk posed by ASF having announced $66.6 millions of funding in border security & other offshore measures. The disease is untreatable. We know all too well as we endure covid-19 that effectively containing a contagious biological hazard is extremely difficult and costly.

How does African Swine Fever Spread?

As the African Swine Fever virus is extremely contagious with a very robust capacity for defence, it can survive in the environment for months given its ability to resist physical and environmental factors.

ASF is most commonly spread via:

  • Blood, urine, saliva, semen, hides and skin and manure.
  • Contaminated food sources. (Don’t feed pigs meat)
  • The movement of infected animals or contaminated products. Vehicles, clothing footwear, medical equipment, workers and visitors.

What can we do onshore to protect our production facilities & Livestock?

From a livestock perspective, having healthy pigs and following the National Farm Biosecurity Manual for Pork Production requirements is critical. This Audit checklist can help you ensure that your pigs are best protected. However, the most notable advice is to ensure the pigs aren’t swill feed, all pigs are tracked & new livestock is isolated for at least 2-3 weeks.

Production facilities are slightly more difficult, as people can carry the virus into facilities unknowingly in various ways, like on the sole of their shoe for example. SKG recommend following, very similar safety protocols to covid-19. You can access our covid-19 preventative training here for reference. Both ASF and Covid are viruses and share similar characteristics, as a result, they can be treated similarly. Whilst ASF doesn’t affect people directly It can still be spread indirectly via people.

The safety mechanisms that work well for ASF include:

  1. Controlling external factors – this includes but isn’t limited to, people via logbooks for tracking, rodents via satisfactory pest control & livestock/product delivery via appropriate testing. Seek appropriate declarations and paperwork when purchasing livestock. Delivery vehicles should be immediately cleaned before and after animal transport.
  2. Controlling internal factors – such as hygienic PPE (stays on site), frequent washing cycles (clothing), thorough clean of the entire facility focusing on kill floor, Boning room, offal and other production areas unique to your facility. However, due to the virus’s high levels of resistance conducting periodic/deep cleans with higher chemical titrations is recommended.

SKG’s Hierarchy of controls post can help you understand safety mechanism implementation in your facility. Click Here to read.

A consistent disinfection regime that ensures a clean environment before & after production is critical to mitigating risks, Danish Entry System’s should be considered if not already present (see image below if unsure what a Danish Entry System is). They are very effective at mitigating risks of Biosecurity threats. Implementing engineering controls to create ‘lines of separation’ in your facility from ‘dirty’ areas to ‘clean’ areas are very important.

Conclusion

Due to the similarities in preventing/eradicating covid-19 and ASF virus, we stress the importance of a methodical cleaning regime in production areas and implementing or strengthening administrative or engineering controls to prevent any biological hazards from contaminating your facility. We encourage you to look at our Hierarchy of Controls post and brainstorm how you can implement other control mechanisms to create ‘lines of separation’ between the inside of your facility and the outside world.

Thank you for reading this article and please feel free to like, comment or share if you found value in this article.

Stay Safe – The SKG Team

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