Australia’s pork farmers face faeces ‘issue’

One expert said duck faeces contaminating pig feed could lead to salmonella poisoning

Free-range pig farmers in Australia face an emerging issue of pig feed becoming contaminated by duck muck, according to a livestock veterinarian.

Dr Kim Nairn, from the Western Australia-based Portec Veterinary Services, warned free-range pig farms could be at risk of duck faeces contaminating pig feed and infecting livestock with salmonella.

Nairn was speaking at an event in Bentley, Australia, organised by the West Australian Pork Producers Association (WAPPA), where 100 delegates gathered to discuss free-range farming – increasingly popular in Australia’s pork industry.

Talking through a range of emerging on-farm health issues, Nairn said unwanted waterbirds, especially ducks, were a problem as their faeces could contaminate feed and infect pigs with salmonella. The risk, he said, was “magnified” by popular free-range and ecoshelter systems that allowed unwanted intruders, such as ducks, easy access to pig feed.

‘Challenging’

Avian influenza, swine dysentery and mycotoxins from rain and straw, gravest in wet conditions, were other threats mentioned.

Pork CRC CEO Dr Roger Campbell also spoke at the event. The global competitiveness of Australian pork producers was “changing and challenging”, with progress dependent on how much prices fell by and astute management of production costs, WAPPA reported him to have said.

Having recently returned from a trip to Des Moines, US, Campbell noted the six million US sow industry was showing growth across production and packaging, with domestic pork demand increasing more slowly than population growth.

Trends apparent during my visit were continual improvement in reproduction, more judicious use of antibiotics, largely being driven by veterinarians and piggery disease loads remaining high for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, swine influenza virus and, to a lesser extent, porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus,” he said.

Deb Kerr, general manager of policy with Australian Pork Limited, said Australia’s pork production increased by 14% year-on-year in January 2017. Over AU$950,000 has been committed to market the versatility of Australian pork domestically and promotion campaigns are set to start in April.

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