Angry sow demonstrates the difficulties of tagging

By Ian Campbell, NPA regional manager

It is to the credit of Defra's working group on PRIMO review that they came
out in force on Friday to consider the implications of their proposals for
holding-of-birth tags to be applied to all pigs that leave their birthplace
for premises other than slaughter.

NPA recognise that it is difficult for Ministers, under criticism from the
EU for the handling of FMD, to avoid implementing EU legislation which the
British Government has already signed up to on ID tags for holding of birth.

That recognition is, however, tempered by concern over the effect on the
outdoor pig industry in particular if such a directive were enacted in the

Defra's visit to Mark Hayward's Dingley Dell pig unit was an opportunity to
graphically explain the problems associated with tagging pigs in an
extensive system.

It had been hoped that Fred Landeg would exhibit his prowess with tagging in
the farrowing paddock but the response from a distant sow when I captured
the first piglet from her hut convinced Fred that this particular point had
been absorbed and it was unnecessary for him to test his speed over the
twenty metres to the electric fence by continuing the exercise.

The weather was a disappointment in that the sun shone from beginning to end
but the saturated nature of the paddocks left no one in doubt as to what the
weather was like the previous day.

The day was completed with a working lunch provided by BQP in which they
were able to explain the changes they had enacted since CSF with regards to
pig movement and biosecurity.

Of particular importance to the PRIMO team was the evidence provided on what
these changes would mean to traceability in the event of a new notifiable
disease outbreak in a finishing unit.

Under the old system a total of 40 potential direct contacts would need to
be traced whilst in the new structure it could be limited to three as a
result of closed herds and batch systems.

In attendance from Defra with Fred were Terri Gurnhill who chaired the
working party and Graham Lewis from Livestock ID branch plus four other

Pat Gardiner comments: "Some very familiar names here.

At least they are anticipating a "notifiable" disease in a finishing unit. They have had enough in the past, it is about time they got ahead of the game.

Incidentally, there is implied criticism of the "old system" - damn right too. At the time, although they denied it, this was the cause of the uncontrolled spread of CSF - instead of owning up, they blamed the small farmers and smallholders and sent their Animal Health people and Trading Standards on the rampage.

The waste of police time alone was unbelievable....but at least Suffolk Trading Standards distingushed themselves by catching the biggest factory farming PLC breaking the movement rules. I think it was the only breach found.

Not quite the result that Page Street were after, but they did get all the records of the prosecution removed from the internet."