Monday, December 14, 2020

Veterinarian dishes on China's hog recovery

A "Real P3" podcast featuring American veterinarian Wayne Johnson provides a rare glimpse of what’s happening on the ground as China’s swine industry recovers from its African swine fever (ASF) epidemic. Dr. Johnson offers a unique perspective, having worked in China for 16 of the last 24 years in training, consulting, and running a diagnostic lab. 

Last year, the ASF outbreak closed many pig farms and this year's “novel coronavirus” or “covid-19” prevents farm visits, but the doctor keeps his finger on the pulse of the industry through constant lab testing of samples submitted by customers, consulting and training.

Dr. Johnson observes that many Chinese pig farmers have shortcomings in their understanding of good nutrition, proper ventilation, and the exercise of “discipline.” They learn by doing, and farmers now understand biosecurity a lot better than they did. "ASF will teach you biosecurity in a hurry,” Dr. Johnson explains.

China hasn’t dealt with ASF “straight-up.” There’s a “great deal of posturing about it.”

China is dealing with diseases of both the past and present. Older diseases like classical swine fever and pseudorabies have eclipsed ASF as the main problems. Other problematic bugs are PED, 4 or 5 strains of PRRS, and diarrhea from e coli. 

ASF wiped out about half of China’s sows. This year farms have been breeding “anything that’s female” to restock their herds. Some gilts were rushed into the breeding program, bred too young without proper acclimation. Gilts brought pseudorabies from finishing barns into farrowing houses.

Some producers in China developed what they call “ASF-resistant” pigs. They are animals that have learned to tolerate the virus and they actually function as carriers. 

China is importing a lot of pork. Imports have been evident in the supermarket. Pork is imported and dumped into the market through a “bottomless" pork reserve. It’s bad PR to acknowledge that you’re importing so much. China shut down imports of German pork after ASF infected some wild boars, and now imports come mainly from the United States. 

China’s market has been volatile. With hog prices fluctuating around $2.40 per lb.—about five times the U.S. price—"it’s hard to do enough wrong to not make money." 

The doctor saw a commercial feed product last year that contained 5 antibiotics, none of them at the proper level. This year, China banned antibiotics in feed. Instead, farmers are putting the antibiotics in the water. 

The doctor warns that nutrition, care of animals, and various kinds of antibiotics are all part of successful management. Pigs are like machines, in a way. If you treat your machine well, it will treat you well, Dr. Johnson explained. 

1 comment:

Casey Bradley said...

Hi Dim, thanks for sharing!