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Eradication of Pig Disease may not be Feasible

At this point, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), does not believe it is possible to eradicate post-weaning multisystemic wasting syndrome (PMWS).

This statement from Derek Belton, Director Animal Biosecurity follows two months of a MAF investigation into the possible spread and cause of the syndrome confirmed on a Waikato piggery. During the investigation 15 farms were visited and two other suspect cases are being followed up.

"This has been an extremely difficult investigation because of the lack of knowledge of what causes the disease, how it could have arisen in New Zealand and its association with two pig viruses already well established here."

"Attempts to destroy PMWS in other parts of the world through slaughter of affected pig herds have failed. No country in the world is adopting either a regional or national program of depopulation of affected piggeries to either manage or control the disease, in fact options of depopulation have been looked at and rejected," he said.

In light of MAF's decision, the Pork Industry Board is considering containing the disease through slaughtering affected herds. The cost of depopulation will be borne by the pork industry.

Should this be the case, Mr Belton said that MAF would support the initiative by imposing movement controls of pigs and pig semen between the North and the South Island while an investigation is underway to see whether the South Island is free of PMWS.

Mr Belton said that standard on-farm biosecurity measures such as reducing contact between pigs and other animals, ensuring a 24 hour stand down period between vehicles and people moving between farms unless they are cleaned and disinfected, will, amongst others, help protect against the introduction of infectious diseases.

Mr Belton is clear that there is still more work to do in understanding the complexity of this syndrome and welcomes proposals from the research community to evaluate new ways to manage and preferably eradicate PMWS from New Zealand.

Over the last week Mr Belton has attended meetings with pig farmers outlining the reason for MAF's decision. The response options for PMWS are available at:

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