ASF outbreaks strike most-protected Russian pig farms

By Vladislav Vorotnikov

- Last updated on GMT

Russian farmers cull pigs over ASF outbreak
Rusagro and RPBI have reportedly had to cull thousands of pigs following outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF) on their production facilities in the European region of Russia.

These are the first outbreaks reported on commercial pig farms in Russia in 2018. Both facilities claimed to have the highest level of biosecurity possible, so it is still unclear how the virus broke through.

Rusagro, the third-largest pig producer in Russia, confirmed an outbreak at one of its sow farms in Belgorod Oblast on 16 July. Russian veterinary watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor will cull the entire stock of 12,500 pigs at the farm, but has no idea where the virus originated.

Our facilities​ [industrial pig farms in Belgorod Oblast] have the highest level of biosecurity. They were designed to keep standing like fortresses even if the entire territory of our region were to catch fire​,” Tatiana Ausheva, director of Rosselkhoznadzor in Belgorod Oblast claimed during a press conference on 19 July.

As well as advanced protective measures at the farm, regional authorities had also undertaken steps aimed at reducing any risk of ASF coming into commercial facilities from wild boars and smallholdings, Ausheva stressed. So it was impossible for the virus to arrive on the farm without some ‘help’ from workers at the facility, she suggested.

However, so far the investigation has not revealed that any Rusagro employees could be responsible for the outbreak.

Rusagro promised in a statement that the company would use the quarantine time at the affected farm to rebuild it.

Outbreaks ‘only a matter of time’

The incident at an RBPI pig farm, Pravdinskoe Svinovodstvo in Kaliningrad Oblast, was very similar. The farm was the biggest pork production facility in the region and had the highest level of biosecurity, in terms of Russian veterinary standards. It was designed to house 6,200 sows simultaneously and process 190,000 live pigs per year.

Natalia Shvetsova, regional agricultural minister, claimed that with the epizootic situation as bad as it was in Kaliningrad Oblast, no protection measures would withstand ASF.

No​ [Russian] regions have avoided that scenario. As soon as the virus enters a region, it is only a matter of time before it gets onto the farms. That farm​ [of RBPI] had the highest​ [level of biological safety in Russia], so the virus was not able to penetrate the production complex for a long time​,” Shvetsova said.

However, it seems the highest level of biosecurity only works to prevent ASF if there are fewer wild boars than are present in Kaliningrad Oblast, Shvetsova added. No explanation as to how the virus could actually penetrate the production site has been given. 

Related topics: Russia, Industry & Markets, Pork

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