In July this year, for the second time in its history, the premier global meeting on pig health will have a Danish flavour. The 19th congress of the International Pig Veterinary Society or IPVS is to take place in Copenhagen, Denmark, between 16th-19th July 2006. It is expected to receive over 2000 participants for discussion of the latest worldwide evidence about important pig diseases and the wider scene of pork production systems.

The last time Copenhagen hosted IPVS was back in 1980. Since then the congress has ranged far and wide in its schedule of visiting a different country every 2 years. After Denmark the honour of hosting it went in turn to Mexico, Belgium and Spain. Then it was on to Brazil, followed by Switzerland and the Netherlands, Thailand and Italy, the UK and Australia. Most recently this top veterinary gathering has been held in the USA and (last time, in 2004) in Germany.

The first of the congresses was held as long ago as 1969, in the UK, followed by a delay of 3 years before the modern biennial sequence started in Germany in 1972. En route to Denmark 1980 the IPVS had visited France, the USA and the former Yugoslavia.

For Denmark 2006, the setting will be a specialist conventions complex known as the Bella Centre that is located about 12 minutes by train from the downtown area of Copenhagen. The Danish capital city's famous Tivoli Gardens amusement park supplies the backdrop for an opening reception, while its newly opened Opera House will stage the ending festivities.

The 3 days between those functions have a scientific programme packed with invited lectures and parallel sessions. The line-up of 8 keynote lecture themes has been announced to comprise ileitis (Lawsonia intracellularis) by Dr Connie Gebhart, USA; genetic improvement of pig health by Professor Merete Fredholm, Denmark; porcine health data recording and analysis by Katharina Stärk, Switzerland; influenza by Professor Kristien Van Reeth, Belgium; PMWS by Dr Gordon Allen, UK; PRRS by Dr Jeff Zimmerman, USA; food safety by Professor Scott MacEwan, Canada; and pig welfare by Professor Linda Keeling, Sweden.

Now established as a popular feature of the IPVS congress is a series of Practitioners Line sessions, consisting of 15-minute presentations devoted to the interests of practising veterinarians around the world. Over recent years, too, the congress itself has been supplemented by various seminars arranged by the companies who are the meeting's main sponsors.

For July 2006 the main sponsorship is by partner companies that are listed alphabetically as: Bayer HealthCare; Boehringer Ingelheim; Intervet; Janssen Animal Health; Merial, Novartis; Pfizer Animal Health; and Schering-Plough Animal Health. Those categorised as sponsors are: Pharmacosmos, PIC and Vitamex.

Register of specialists


Another name to note in relation to the 2006 congress is that of the European College of Porcine Health Management. This organisation was founded at a meeting held after the 18th IPVS in Hamburg, Germany and its second annual general meeting coincides with Denmark 2006 by taking place at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in Copenhagen on Sunday 16th July.

Over the past 5 years or so the European Union has created a so-called European College system to establish specialist credentials in species or subject medicine that can be recognised through the EU-25 community of countries. Pig health's ECPHM is part of that process. Essentially a virtual college in that it has no physical presence to match that of a conventional university, it represents a Europe-wide extension of the diploma certification previously available to veterinarians only on a national basis. Now those qualifying as its diplomates enjoy the title of veterinary specialist in porcine health management.

Qualification depends on having at least 5 years of involvement in pig medicine and candidates must demonstrate their continuing activity in the business. Unlike the national veterinary diplomas that are mainly practice-oriented, however, recognition from the European College of Porcine Health Management is open to both practitioners and academics. Those receiving its approval join a register that is intended to become an essential reference across Europe to the people most specialised in matters of pig health.

Facing the future

Veterinary education and job opportunities are sure to be discussed during the intervals between the formal congress sessions in July. Current IPVS president Dr Bent Nielsen, from the veterinary and food advisory service attached to the new Danish Meat Association, set the scene recently when addressing a convention in Portugal on challenges to the swine veterinarian.

The evolution of pig production in Europe is already clear, he argued. It is part of a globalised business in which only the most competitive producers and slaughterers or processors will survive. Pork production enterprises in the future will be larger, 3-site in form and using all-in/all-out systems. Against a background of an industry in Europe that comprises fewer and larger herds run by more educated people, one probability is that fewer swine veterinary practitioners will be needed. They will have to be more specialised than in the past.

"Farmers who have a pig health problem will not necessarily call the veterinarian who lives nearest to them," Dr Nielsen declared. "They are more likely to call the specialist who they consider to be the best adviser. So I think the veterinarian of the future must specialise in a species pigs, in our case and must be capable of a rapid implementation of new knowledge."

Continuing education will play a vital role in maintaining and improving the individual's know-how, he went on. The veterinarian who wants to survive will have to engage in local seminars and experience-exchange groups and in international congresses such as the IPVS.