The UK Voluntary Monitoring Schemes for Pig Health and Welfare: working towards improved health status

Correia-Gomes, C.
Eze, J.
Borobia-Belsué, J.
Tucker, A.
Sparrow, D.
Strachan, W.
Gunn, G.
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A pork industry with high health status will have less disease, use fewer antibiotics and present less risk to public health. The United Kingdom has three voluntary pig health schemes (PHS); Wholesome Pigs Scotland (WPS) in Scotland, the BPEX Pig Health Scheme (BPHS) in England and Wales and the Pig Regen health and welfare checks (NIH&W). They capture information on different macroscopic conditions detected in slaughter pigs. In this study, the prevalence, seasonal variations and year trends of eight conditions as assessed by these PHS were compared and evaluated. Data collected between July 2005 and December 2012 were used. In total 2,061,779 pigs, from 4,420 pig units in 46,321 batches of pigs supplied to 25 abattoirs were examined. The respiratory conditions assessed were: enzootic pneumonia-like lesions, pleurisy, pleuropneumonia, abscesses in the lung; while the non-respiratory conditions were: pericarditis (PC), milk spots (MS), papular dermatitis (PD) and tail biting. The shape of year and seasonal effects among schemes were visualised and the effects were quantified across schemes. The shapes of year trend differed between the PHS for respiratory conditions but were similar for non-respiratory conditions. WPS and NIH&W had a lower prevalence of respiratory conditions than BPHS. This was also observed for PC and PD; however, BPHS had a lower prevalence for MS compared to the other schemes. Non-respiratory lesions showed marked seasonal effects. Continuous standardised monitoring of lesions at slaughter is an effective tool for monitoring disease incidence. Early detection of changes, when combined with comparison of similar schemes in countries with a similar profile of pig production and management, could enable prompt investigation and ultimately lead to ‘safer’ pork.