Outbreaks of swine fever affect many sectors

An outbreak of African swine fever will affect many agricultural sectors beyond pig farming. In the event of infection among wild boar, entire areas are blocked off for a longer period of time.

With the outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in early July at a breeding farm in Emsbüren, Germany, the dreaded animal disease is literally getting closer. In an initial response, the Expert Group for Animal Diseases is still mild about the risk of infection in the Netherlands in the short term.

The condition is that the outbreak remains in this isolated case. If wild boars in Lower Saxony become infected, there is a good chance that the population in Overijssel will also get ASF. For Heleen Prinsen, theme specialist Healthy Animals at LTO Nederland, keeping ASF out is all hands on deck. “It feels like Russian roulette: We know that contaminated material is circulating, but not when it will lead to contamination. That is why we are fully concerned with prevention.”

Considering the distance between the infection in Emsbüren and the other centers, ‘human action’ is the most likely cause, Prinsen concludes. The consequences for Dutch pig farming are catastrophic in the event of a major outbreak. But other agricultural sectors will also feel a possible outbreak.

ASF among wild boar in the densely populated Netherlands, how do we tackle it?

Heleen Prinsen, LTO theme specialist Healthy animals

For measures, the government is returning to the political scenario for classical and African swine fever from 2013, the scenario for implementing animal disease control from 2018, an action plan for ASF in wild boar and further legislation from Brussels. LNV Minister Henk Staghouwer promised earlier this month that changed scenarios will be available ‘in the short term’.

Transport ban

In the event of an outbreak of ASF among farmed pigs or in the case of serious suspicion, a standstill period of 72 hours follows, during which all transport to and from livestock farms throughout the Netherlands is prohibited. After three days, the Netherlands will probably be divided into twenty regions to enable or disable transport per subregion, according to the manuscript from the Dutch Food and Consumer Safety Authority.

The Prince: ‘According to the law, every livestock breeder must have feed available for three days, and this is also very necessary in the event of downtime.’

The government is expected to make some exceptions, such as the transport of day-old chickens or horses going to a specialized clinic on the recommendation of a veterinarian. Milk collection is still possible under certain conditions, but not on mixed holdings with pigs, according to the scenarios.

“Especially on the Veluwe, dozens of livestock farmers combine pigs with poultry or calves. The combination of dairy cattle and pigs is also quite common among our members, says daily director Evert Hendrikx of the Producer Organization Swineavl.


An infected farm and the surrounding pig holdings within a radius of 1 kilometer are culled in the event of an outbreak. In addition, a protection zone 3 kilometers around the source of infection and a surveillance zone within a radius of 10 kilometers will be created. This will provide the necessary restrictions on all livestock farming in an affected area for a period of at least forty days.

The government will also greatly restrict the transport of animals in a protection zone to a breeder or slaughterhouse outside that area. There is an extensive protocol for day-old chicks whereby the animals may only be transported within the Netherlands and under strict supervision and must remain at the same destination for at least three weeks after arrival. Collecting milk or transporting eggs is also accompanied by additional rules and conditions regarding further processing and the necessary packaging material.

Strict requirements

The requirements are particularly strict for farms with pigs. ‘It has all sorts of consequences for, for example, spreading fertilizer to livestock farmers and field farmers in the area,’ says Prinsen. Hendrikx: »Even the removal of calves, e.g. for dairy farms with pigs in an infected region, will not be possible everywhere quickly. In addition, livestock farmers must have suitable barn space available to house their animals for as long as necessary.’

If ASF breaks out among wild boar on Dutch territory, the consequences for farmers and gardeners in the affected region could be even more serious. There is a separate manual for this. Belgium and Germany have closed large areas to the public for months. ‘How are we going to deal with it in the densely populated Netherlands?’, wonders the Prince.

Options limited

‘For farmers who share livestock in nature reserves or sell manure, and arable farmers and gardeners who have land in closed areas, the question is what the options are,’ says Prinsen.

A buffer zone of at least 10 kilometers wide is also created around the ‘contaminated core area’. There is a transport ban in this area, depending on how long infected boars have been present. In addition, pigs in that area may only be slaughtered under strict conditions, and exporting the meat is virtually impossible.

African swine fever can run rampant

‘The consequences for other sectors are particularly large if African swine fever (ASF) breaks out among wild pigs,’ says Evert Hendrikx from the Producers’ Association Pig Farming. “In East Germany, you can see that ASF is endemic and continues to spread. It affects all landowners and, for example, nurseries and catering in the core area of ​​a source of infection.’ In the Netherlands, the risk is particularly high in Brabant, Overijssel, Limburg and Gelderland, where many wild boars and many livestock live. To prevent infections in pigs, Hendrikx points out the importance of precautions. ‘We know that biosecurity works to prevent spread. So use that shower and ensure good separation if there are wild boars in your area. And for all farmers and arable farmers the following applies: report damage caused by wild boar, this is the basis of a good wildlife policy.’

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