Hygiene practices can help limit spread of ASF

Source: Media release, Industroclean, 5 March 2021, photo credit: Lean Restaurant

The recent outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) is a reminder that the food supply chain is under constant threat of disease or contamination along the agricultural value chain.

According to a joint statement by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) and the Western Cape Agriculture Department on 26 February, small holdings in Mfuleni were recently found to be positive for ASF.

This is the first time that farmers in the Western Cape are faced with an ASF outbreak and it follows numerous outbreaks in Gauteng, the Free State and North West province earlier this year.

While a ban has been imposed on the sale and movement of live pigs from the Mfuleni area, 100 pigs have been culled following the outbreak in Potchefstroom in the North West.

“Strict biosecurity and farm management protocols could help minimise the spread of the disease and can enhance the health and productivity of pigs,” says Emma Corder, managing director of Industroclean, a supplier of industrial cleaning equipment to the agricultural sector.

ASF poses no risk to humans but any meat and products from affected pigs can be a source of infection for other pigs. The virus can be spread through contact with raw pig carcasses.  Carcasses must be disposed of effectively through burial or incineration in an isolated location. It is also transmitted through contact with contaminated people, vehicles, equipment, or shoes.

“To avoid cross contamination, all farm staff and visitors’ hands and boots should be disinfected regularly before entering the piggery. Equipment used in pens should be cleaned and disinfected before and after use,” Corder adds.

Cleaning equipment that is designed to work well in a farm environment such as industrial cleaners and sweepers is always recommended, according to Corder.

“They are powerful, robust and maneuverable and can effectively clean and remove contagious particles that are often spread by the movement of workers or equipment on site.”

According to the South African Pork Producers’ Organisation the December 2020 export value for was in excess R56 million. Sound hygiene practices in piggery can minimise the presence of disease and maximise production.

There are multiple points at which infection or contamination can be introduced unless stringent hygiene standards are maintained. Management, routine cleaning and disinfection, general housekeeping and even the design of the piggery can impact on standard hygiene.

Floor type and maintenance can impact on the pigs’ health and hygiene conditions in the pen. Fully and partly slatted pens are best, if fully slatted pits should be drained at least twice a day, solid floor pens should be fitted with a separate drain. It is important that the area where the pigs are kept has a washable surface. A high-pressure washer can be used to thoroughly clean this area of the piggery.

Regularly inspect the pen floors, walls, and ceilings to ensure they are free from cracks so that cleaning and disinfection can be more effective. Trough design should prevent pigs from walking, lying, or urinating in it and in this case trough feeding is better than floor feeding. 

Ways to keep pig environments hygienic and minimise the risk of contamination include;

  • Limit staff movement and encourage staff stay on the farm for a full shift.
  • Wash hands before and after entering the piggery.
  • At the entrance of the piggery, use footbaths with disinfectant and change the fluid daily.
  • Limit access and reduce visits to only those by essential visitors like vets who on arrival should wash their hands, change their clothes, and wear protective shoes.
  • All delivery vehicles should be disinfected after each trip focussing on the vehicle’s ramp and wheels.
  • Dry-clean and remove all organic matter from pens before disinfection as disinfectants could adversely react with organic matter.
  • Hose down floors, walls, and ceilings.
  • Apply detergent, ensuring sufficient contact time as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Rinse all surfaces, followed by applying disinfectant.

Feeding troughs should be cleaned routinely and be drained, thoroughly cleaned, and disinfected at least weekly.

The South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO) coordinates industry interventions and collaboratively manages risks in the value chain to enable the sustainability and profitability of pork producers in South Africa.