Angry sow demonstrates the difficulties of tagging

By Ian Campbell, NPA regional manager

It is to the credit of Defra's working group on PRIMO review that they came out in force on Friday to consider the implications of their proposals for holding-of-birth tags to be applied to all pigs that leave their birthplace for premises other than slaughter.

NPA recognise that it is difficult for Ministers, under criticism from the EU for the handling of FMD, to avoid implementing EU legislation which the British Government has already signed up to on ID tags for holding of birth.

That recognition is, however, tempered by concern over the effect on the outdoor pig industry in particular if such a directive were enacted in the UK.

Defra's visit to Mark Hayward's Dingley Dell pig unit was an opportunity to graphically explain the problems associated with tagging pigs in an extensive system.

It had been hoped that Fred Landeg would exhibit his prowess with tagging in the farrowing paddock but the response from a distant sow when I captured the first piglet from her hut convinced Fred that this particular point had been absorbed and it was unnecessary for him to test his speed over the twenty metres to the electric fence by continuing the exercise.

The weather was a disappointment in that the sun shone from beginning to end but the saturated nature of the paddocks left no one in doubt as to what the weather was like the previous day.

The day was completed with a working lunch provided by BQP in which they were able to explain the changes they had enacted since CSF with regards to pig movement and biosecurity.

Of particular importance to the PRIMO team was the evidence provided on what these changes would mean to traceability in the event of a new notifiable disease outbreak in a finishing unit.

Under the old system a total of 40 potential direct contacts would need to be traced whilst in the new structure it could be limited to three as a result of closed herds and batch systems.

In attendance from Defra with Fred were Terri Gurnhill who chaired the working party and Graham Lewis from Livestock ID branch plus four other colleagues.