The resource helps producers and preserves health interests of the national herd, swine vet said
By Jackie Clark
B.C. Pork has published a new resource for pasture-pig farmers with small herds, to help guide their production and provide advice on animal health.
Small Lot Pork Producer Management & Production was published June 1.
Dr. Kelsey Gray, a veterinarian from Prairie Swine Health Services, provided much of the technical expertise in putting together this resource.
“Occasionally we’d get called from small-lot” producers, she told Farms.com. Other veterinarians tended to have limited experience with pigs, and specialized swine vets focus mostly on large-scale commercial producers.
Small-lot farmers “just had different questions,” Gray said. They were focused more on individual animals, whereas commercial operations focus on whole herd health.
The combination of questions from small-scale, outdoor swine farmers with biosecurity concerns from ag organizations in B.C. provided impetus for the project.
B.C. Pork and the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture “started getting really concerned about outdoor production because in B.C. they have over 1,300 known small-lot producers, which means there’s probably two-and-a-half times that unknown. So, in B.C. they were the ones that really wanted to get a program developed,” Gray explained.
“Historically when we look back at foot-and-mouth outbreaks in Europe, those happened because of scrap-feeding garbage to outdoor pigs. And so with African swine fever taking off, that fear really got reinvigorated,” she added. B.C. Pork officials “really wanted a very comprehensive manual made so that producers had something if they couldn’t find a vet around.”
Small-lot hog producers are intelligent, creative and passionate about their pigs, however, they may have less familiarity with information that is important for swine health, Gray said.
“A commercial producer is living and breathing the swine industry,” she explained. “Whereas for the small-lot (producers), it might be a side business, it might be a hobby, so they’re not always in tune with what is going on internationally. Sometimes they don’t see themselves as being part of the national herd.”
However, small-lot herd management has the potential to impact pigs all across the country.
“I see them very much as part of the national herd because it only takes one pig to change a health status,” Gray added.
Through the Small Lot Pork Producer Management & Production resource, she was able to outline important management practices, and emphasize aspects like not feeding garbage, implementing biosecurity protocols, and recognizing foreign animal disease.
“The material that I could provide for (small-lot producers) was written for them, because they have different questions, needs and concerns. But I had the goal of the big industry in mind,” she said.
The resource is being shared in pasture and small-lot producer groups and organizations across the country and in the United States.
“I’ve received some really nice feedback which felt good because it was a really big project,” said Gray. “It turned into a much longer manual than I originally intended it to be.”
The availability of this manual is particularly timely, because the small-scale pork producer community is “growing quickly,” she added. COVID-19 has increased interest in producing and consuming locally grown food, including pork.
Interest in homegrown pork in the face of the pandemic may be a fad that dies down, Gray said, but she expects the trend of increasing numbers of small-scale and outdoor swine operations to continue.
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