Another victim of the African swine fever (ASF) virus that is wiping out a huge chunk of the global pig industry, with no sign it has peaked, is the feed additives industry. Unlike previous years when this industry made tremendous gains by siding with the movement to reduce antibiotic usage in the animal industry, there appears very little role left for it to play in the crisis.
Yes, some products may help pigs develop a better immune system, but that does not help if a pig farm falls within the quarantine zone. And, lamentably, there is no additive or drug that can prevent pigs from contracting ASF if it is in their neighborhood. Biosecurity is the only option, but this is not as much of an it-takes-two-to-tango situation as it is a well-choreographed ballet where thousands of players need to move in concert. And right now, we see the opposite.
I have been receiving reports that some feed additives companies are dealing with bleak times and facing an even worse future. After all, with China losing 25% of its pig production in such short time, the world pig industry remains in shock. Not only had many feed additives companies focused their energies in China and Southeast Asia (where ASF is now also spreading quickly), but pig producers elsewhere are thinking about their own livelihood in case their pigs are destroyed. Insurance policies pay only so much, and getting back to business in today’s financial world remains a difficult exercise. So, many pig producers have started cutting back on what they deem not essential, trying to keep their bank accounts as healthy as possible. Perhaps this is an overreaction, but fear does that to people.
All in all, ASF might be the beginning of the end of the high focus we have enjoyed in making feed better with additives. Perhaps it is a wake-up call to focus again in keeping animals healthy, and create a global system that will ensure we all focus in eradicating such powerful diseases the moment they appear instead of after they hit our own door. Such proposal coming from a nutritionist may seem like a paradox, but I have always said that health always comes before nutrition.
View our continuing coverage of the African swine fever outbreak.