DISEASE THREATS are very much on the Scottish pig industry's collective mind – and no less than 60 representatives from the sector came together last week to consider the biosecurity challenges now facing them.

But while it is undoubtedly African Swine Fever that is the 'big bad' currently ravaging Asia and lurking on the edges of Europe, the Scottish industry meeting, held at Lochter, focussed on practical measures that can be taken against Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome virus.

The event was organised by the Moray PRRS Control and Elimination Project, a one-year pilot which aims to control that virus, which leads to increased mortality and reduced productivity in pigs, as well as causing immunosuppression, and is widely recognised as one of the most economically significant diseases facing the industry.

PRRS project co-ordinator, Eilidh Corr from Scotland’s Rural College Vet Services, said: “PRRS virus is highly transmissible and easily spread through contaminated boots, equipment or lorries, as with many other pathogens. We sought to bring these groups together because improving biosecurity relies on collaboration."

The group heard from Dr Thibaud Porphyre, an epidemiologist from the Roslin Institute, who demonstrated the ease and speed with which diseases like PRRS and swine dysentry can spread, while vet Lysan Eppink, of Boehringer Ingelheim, highlighted ways in which other countries have tried to minimise the risk of such spread, as well as pointing out practical actions which could be taken immediately.

Ms Corr added: “I am delighted that this meeting was so well attended by producers and vets, as well as feed suppliers, hauliers, contractors, government agencies and assurance scheme representatives. PRRS control motivated us to hold the event, but biosecurity is important for control of all infectious disease, and clearly ASF is on everyone’s minds. It was reassuring to see how seriously both the pig sector and allied groups are taking disease threats, and hopefully everyone went away from the meeting with food for thought about how we can work together to continue to tighten up on biosecurity.”

A further meeting specifically targeting producers is planned in the new year. For more information on the PRRS project, contact eilidh.corr@sac.co.uk