5 Lessons Russia Learned from African Swine Fever

A double fence around the farm territory is a must to achieve the highest compartmentalization status in Russia. ( PIC Russia )

Is it possible to live with African swine fever (ASF)? Although no one wants to live with this devastating virus that has no cure or vaccine, Ilia Zubtsov, genetic and technical services manager for PIC Russia, said it’s possible. But, there are several things the industry will need to do to make it happen. 

In 2007, the first reported case of ASF struck Russia. The number of outbreaks grew in Russia’s domestic herd by over 400% in 2016. At the Iowa Pork Congress, Zubtsov said despite ASF, Russia consistently grew pork production from 2007 to 2019. 

During this time, backyard production dropped from 58% of Russia’s pig production in 2007, to 12% in 2019. Backyard production was the major reason why the virus spread so rapidly in south Russia, he said.

Source: PIC Russia

“We had to make a lot of changes to biosecurity policies, vet policies and training people,” Zubtsov said. “We also had to increase people awareness because that’s so important.”

Zubtsov shared five major lessons Russia learned from dealing with ASF for the past 12 years.

1.    Protect your farm.
ASF is a tough enemy because it doesn’t take a lot of virus to infect the pig and the virus lives in the external environment for a long time. To protect your farm, you must do everything possible to step up your biosecurity protocols from daily procedures to training people, he said. 

2.    Build a culture of transparency.
If you suspect ASF on the farm, Zubtsov said you have to pick up the phone and report it immediately. Producers must take action right away to build a culture of openness and honesty with fellow pig farmers.

3.    Adopt regionalization and compartmentalization measures.
The Russian government takes ASF seriously and has implemented regionalization and compartmentalization measures. Farm sites can fit into four different compartments depending on their biosecurity protocol. Being compartment 4 status allows your farm protection against restrictions during an outbreak. Regionalization establishes borders where increased testing would take place if your farm is within a region that has a high ASF risk. These measures reward producers who go the extra length to achieve the highest level of compartmentalization, he said.

4.    Get meat out of the food chain.
Get infected meat out of the food chain as fast as possible. He said it’s mandatory to euthanize pigs on the farm if a farm is struck by any cases of ASF. You must euthanize pigs on site, Zubtsov explained. If you follow all of the disposal procedures, infected meat never gets into the food chain and the risk of the virus continuing to spread decreases.

5.    Listen and learn.
People need to become more open with each other in order to stop ASF from spreading. Among Russian producers, there is no competition anymore, Zubtsov said. Producers meet on a regular basis to talk, listen and learn.

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