Strict biosecurity, feed hygiene should be everyone’s priority in fighting ASF

Food and agriculture multinational firm Cargill said everyone’s priority should be strict biosecurity and feed hygiene in fighting the much dreaded African Swine Fever (ASF), which already resulted in billions of losses in the Philippines’ hog industry.

Cargill’s recommendation came amid the Philippine government’s continuous efforts to contain the spread of the highly contagious swine virus, including the purchase of thousands of ASF test kits.

Sonny Catacutan, president of Cargill Philippines and managing director of Cargill Animal Health and Nutrition, said in a statement that “prevention is the only option because there is no cure”.  

Sonny Catacutan, president of Cargill Philippines and managing director of Cargill Animal Nutrition and Health

A statement showed that Cargill has recently embarked on an education and awareness campaign for both large and small-scale swine farm businesses and told them that it’s actually more important to focus on having strict biosecurity measures and feed hygiene within the backyard and commercial farms.

“Biosecurity is the first line of defense and it’s all about building multiple barriers,” said Jihoon Kim, senior technology lead for swine at Cargill Animal Health and Nutrition.

“Farm owners, caretakers, and people working in this industry often forget about biosecurity. Many cases of ASFv outbreaks stem from people carrying the virus into the farms. It’s important to protect swine farms from outside contamination and to keep a strict protocol for suppliers, workers, and animals entering the farms,” he added.

Meanwhile, when it comes to animal nutrition, while there are no cases that explicitly point to animal feed as the culprit for ASF infection, feed and feed ingredients have been identified as potential vectors of transmission and spread.

“Farm owners and hog raisers should pay close attention to the feed or food intake of the swine. Avoid feeding scraps or food waste, and be very conscious about the ingredients that your animal feeds contain," Kim said. 
"Make sure that the animal feeds come from a reputable manufacturer which employs strict biosecurity measures both for personnel and the manufacturing process itself,” he further said. 

Last year, Cargill has launched Cargill 360 Protection, a program that offers a holistic approach that focuses on biosecurity, feed hygiene, herd immunity, and pig growability.

The program includes a disinfectant solution that has been proven effective against the ASF which can be used to sanitize environments, a feed solution that contains in-feed prevention and protection with ingredients that have been found effective in inactivating enveloped viruses, boosts immunity, and encourages growability so that owners may realize better returns from their herd.

Since Cargill 360 Protection was introduced, several farms have already adopted the program and have so far been safe from the ASF.

As one of the biggest animal feed manufacturers in the world, Cargill has also implemented safety protocols that are being applied in every country where it operates, including the Philippines.

“Safety is of utmost priority in all Cargill facilities worldwide. Here in the Philippines, we have invested in enhanced biosafety policies to cover all aspects, from the trucks and truck drivers that enter our premises, the suppliers we contract, the sources of our feed ingredients, to all the employees working in our plants. We have also restricted access to critical production points to ensure that our environments remain safe and uncontaminated,” Catacutan said.

Since the 2018 emergence of the ASF, the viral disease has torn through Asia, leaving behind a trail of economic devastation for swine industries.

In the Philippines, the virus was detected in 2019 and now continues to spread, with recent cases confirmed in Visayas and Mindanao.

The country’s hog inventory has already fallen by 24 percent in January, its lowest beginning stock in 25 years as over 500,000 pigs have been culled to date.

Because of this, pork prices went up on an unprecedented rate, prompting the government to impose price ceilings in Metro Manila.

Catacutan said that for farms that have been affected, recovering from the ASF could take as long as eight months and that would take a toll on supply and demand.

The other day, the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) Board of Directors approved the proposal of its parent agency, the Department of Agriculture (DA), to relax its conditions on paying hog raisers for their losses due to ASF as well as cover future hog raising activities.

This is one of the efforts of the Philippine government to mitigate the impact of ASF on the local hog industry as well as encourage stakeholders to stay in the business.

As this happens, the DA is also hoping to bring in more pork imports into the country to help bring down the retail price of this farm commodity.  

To be specific, the agency proposed to lower tariffs on pork imports and increase its Minimum Access Volume (MAV) allocation.