The combination of the words swine and flu in the media over the last 12 months has caused widespread concern for both the general public fearing that pigs could be harbouring a disease that could result in numerous human deaths and, consequently, by producers who feared for the future of their industry.
While we now know that the fears were misplaced, the damage was done, not only to pig producers, but also to other companies, for example the types of company listed across the following pages of this directory, that support the pig industry.
Of course, following this damage, it is only natural that producers have wanted to restore their image, but this does not mean that production is problem free.
Research presented at the recent International Pig Veterinary Congress Society Congress revealed that the prevalence of swine influenza in England and France is much higher than previously thought.
A study conducted by the UK’s Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and COSI (Combating Swine Influenza) in 2008/2009 involved 146 farrow-to-finish farms representing some 17% of the English herd.
On each farm, 20 animals of different age groups were tested for the H1N1, H1N2 and H3N2 influenza viruses. At least one pig tested positive on 59% of the farms, with avian-like H1N1 being the most common strain found in England, followed by H1N2. 18% of the farms tested had both H1N1 and H1N2.
The farms that tested positive for swine influenza virus were also more likely to be infected with other pig pathogens, and had poor respiratory scores in slaughterhouses monitoring programmes.
In a separate study conducted in France on 29 farms in 2009, nearly 97% of the farms tested were positive for at least one influenza virus subtype.
While not all respiratory diseases attract the same media interest, they are all of economic importance, and the more tools that producers have at their disposal to prevent them the better.
Although not looking at influenza viruses, a research project in the UK which received funding earlier this year, could offer producers new tools in the fight against other respiratory diseases.
The six year project, being conducted by the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, the Royal Veterinary College and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is aiming to develop a way to diagnose key respiratory diseases in pigs and develop a new vaccine.
The team is targeting four of the most common bacterial infections in pigs: Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, Haemophilus parasuis, Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae and Streptococcus suis.
According to the consortium co-ordinator, Professor Paul Langford of Imperial College London, the worldwide economic and welfare burden of bacterial respiratory diseases in pigs is enormous, but controlling infection has been hampered as there is neither an effective vaccine nor good diagnostic tools.
Professor Andrew Rycroft of the RVC added that the vaccine that the consortium hoped to develop would provide an alternative for pig farmers to the use of antibiotics in controlling pneumonia in their animals. He continued that the consortium would be working with producers, veterinarians and the pharmaceutical industry in finding better ways to combat these diseases.
Assuming the research proves successful, the launch of commercial products remains some time away. Yet, the pig is industry is well supported by a variety of technologies and the listings running across the following pages should provide a useful reference – be it to medicines, housing or genetics – over the next 12 months.