It is feared that porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS, also known as Blue Ear) will be the last straw for some Irish pig farms, many of which are believed to have sows testing positive for PRRS.
In early April, positive tests for PRRS were confirmed at Hermitage Genetics in Kilkenny, which supplies boar semen to 70% of Irish pig farms.
It is believed that it is the less severe, easier-to-control European strain of PRRS. But coping with the disease will be a major test for the Irish pig industry, which is enduring severe market pressure due to relatively low prices (at only about one third of the carcase price for sheep and cattle).
High feed prices and the 2012 requirement for sow stalls to be removed from pig production have also hit the industry.
There were about 40 PRRS-positive pig herds in Ireland up to the recent rise in infection.
Stringent controls were in place to control disease spread. These included licensing of vaccine use in positive herds, restriction of slurry spreading and animal movements, and a ban on exports of PRRS-positive meat and animals to certain countries and markets.
Strategic vaccination of at-risk farms was also recently introduced.
Due to the recent potential increase in infection, official controls may be lessened until the outbreak has been dealt with by strategic vaccination.
Some farmers have put recently served sows in external quarantine facilities, to prevent the spread of infection.
Teagasc has issued guidelines for any farmers who suspect their herd may infected with PRRS. In the first instance, Teagasc suggests that you contact your Private Veterinary Practitioner (PVP) who will advise and guide you with regard to the general actions to be taken.
These measures include:
1. Identify the pig groups at risk, take 30 clotted blood samples and have them analysed for antibodies to the virus.
2. Depending on the result your veterinary consultant may advise you to vaccinate your herd.
3. The vaccine is currently available under licence and can be applied for through your PVP at the Medicines Section DAFM, Backweston, Cellbridge, Co Kildare.
4. The current DAFM policy is that your herd will be restricted by your District Veterinary Office and you will have to apply for a licence to move pigs off farm to factory, carcases to rendering and slurry for spreading.
5. These are the controls that are currently in place on a number of farms and are designed to minimise the risk of spread of the disease.
6. Points 4 and 5 may be subject to review as further information becomes available.
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