With the recent release of the Mathews Report – A review of Australia’s Preparedness for the Threat of Foot-and-mouth Disease – Australian pig farmers are reminded to check that they are complying with swill feeding prohibitions.
Feeding swill to pigs is considered the most likely way a foot-and-mouth (FMD) outbreak could occur in Australia. The 2001 FMD outbreak in the United Kingdom was linked to swill feeding. Five million sheep, cattle, pigs and goats had to be destroyed, devastating whole industries. Dr Mike Bond, CEO of Animal Health Australia, says that all producers should make themselves aware of what swill is and what the prohibited products are for their state or territory.
“There is no ready way to identify infected or uninfected products, which is why all swill feeding is banned in Australia – it’s too risky,” Dr Bond says.
Currently, each state and territory has a slightly different definition of swill, however it can be defined as material of mammal origin, or any substance that has come in contact with this material. Milk and milk products, as well as products appropriately treated or approved, are not included.
“Viruses can withstand freezing, curing and boiling and can survive in meat even after it has been processed for safe human consumption,” says Dr Bond. “Particularly for those who keep pigs as pets, it might be very tempting to feed them scraps from the dinner table, but it is just too dangerous.”
Australia has been free of FMD for over a century, but an outbreak would result in the immediate closure of many of our major export markets for livestock and livestock products. It is estimated that a small FMD outbreak, controlled in 3 months, could cost around $7.1 billion, while a large 12 month outbreak would cost $16 billion.
“A single pig, once infected, can become an efficient FMD virus ‘factory’ and multiply the virus exponentially,” Dr Bond adds. “And because the disease is airborne and highly contagious, it may only take one pig.”
Australia’s response policy for an outbreak of FMD is to control and eradicate the disease through stamping out and to re-establish the FMD-free status of Australia as quickly as possible.
Anyone found feeding or supplying swill for the purpose of feeding it to pigs will face heavy fines.