Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation

Study monitors feral pigs to understand biosecurity risk

A Graham Centre pilot research project is examining the biosecurity risk of feral pigs in transmitting animal diseases to commercial pig populations.

Bachelor of Veterinary Science student, Tamille Barrett  setting up camera trapsThe research by Dr Victoria Brookes and Associate Professor Marta Hernandez-Jover will provide important information for pork producers when considering the risks of emergency animal disease like African Swine Fever (ASF) or Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

Dr Brookes said the research is focused on interaction between feral pigs and domestic pigs in commercial enterprises.

“In Australia feral pigs are widely distributed, populations vary depending on seasonal conditions and they are extremely difficult to control.

“If an emergency animal disease outbreak occurred in the feral pig population in Australia it’s important to understand the contact between these feral animals and those in commercial piggeries and how to minimise any risk.”

As part of the pilot project Charles Sturt Bachelor of Veterinary Science student, Tamille Barrett has installed surveillance cameras to monitor feral pig activity around two commercial piggeries.

Dr Brookes said it’s testing whether this could be used in a risk assessment framework for the industry, something that could prove important to maintaining international trade.

In the event of ASF in feral pigs, the Australian pig industry could use this framework and the camera-trap system to demonstrate adequate separation of commercial and feral pig populations.

“At the moment we are seeing ASF sweep across Asia and it’s now been detected in Papua New Guinea,” Dr Brookes said.

“It’s been making news because the disease killed more than half the Chinese pig herd and understandably there’s concern about the potential impact of an ASF outbreak in Australia on our pork industry.

“The experience overseas has shown us that if ASF gets into wild boar populations, not all the pigs die, populations can recover and the disease can become endemic.

“If something like this happened in Australia and ASF became endemic in the feral pig population it would be important for the pork industry to be able to show that there’s no contact between feral pigs the commercial herd.

“This research is the first step in developing a framework that could demonstrate the low risk to trading partners, which would be important for the long term management and recovery from an animal disease,” Dr Brookes said.

 

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