China's swine herd has been rebuilt to 90 percent of its normal size--so we're told by the agriculture ministry. A perusal of the web site for the organization that counts livestock reveals that Chinese agricultural officials are in the midst of a major overhaul to address dysfunction in the pig-counting system at the same time the structure of pig farming is undergoing dramatic change. Here's a hypothetical series of conversations that make some of the problems concrete:
“Hi, Old Wang. This is Zhu Bingdu from the village veterinary station.”
“Hi Bingdu. How’s it going”
“Not bad. Can you tell me how many pigs you have on your farm this month?”
“Um, I’ve got 250 right now, but I’ll be sending 50 to the slaughterhouse on Monday.”
“OK, I’ll split the difference and put down 225.”
“Sounds good. Talk to you later.”
“Hello, Old Wang. This is Zhu Wuran from the county environmental protection department. I’m doing a survey of agricultural pollution. Could you tell me how many pigs you have on your farm?”
“Oh, I’ve got about 100.”
“OK. That’s good. My records show we ordered you to close the barns on the riverbank in 2017. Are those still empty?”
“Oh yes, of course, they’re still closed. I always comply with the government’s regulations.”
“Glad to hear it. Have a nice day.”
“Hi, Old Wang. This is Gao Daikuan from the county Rural Commercial Bank.”
“Hey Brother Gao. Did you get the box of pears I sent for the holiday?”
“Yeah, thanks. I’m calling about the pig mortgage loan we gave you last year that was secured with 2000 pigs as collateral. I want to make sure you’ve still got those pigs.”
“Oh yeah, they’re all there. And the price is still high like last year.”
“I drove past the farm last week and couldn't help noticing it was pretty quiet and I didn't smell anything. Could I come out and count the pigs just to make sure?”
“No, that’s not possible. We don’t let anyone inside the farm to keep disease out. There was just a new case of ASF reported, you know. Don’t worry, all the pigs are there.”
“OK, I’ll just write that down. Bye.”
“Hello, is that Zhu Bingdu at the Wang Village veterinary station?””
“Yeah. Speak up a little. I’m in a warehouse picking up some vaccines.”
“This is Chao Shuju from the county statistics office. I’m looking at the report on livestock inventories you filed. Are you sure you counted all the pigs correctly?”
“Absolutely. Everything is correct.”
“Listen, I’ve got the county finance office breathing down my neck. The province gave the county a target of 1 million pigs for the end of the year, and we’re running seriously short. If we don’t hit it, we’ll lose out on our subsidy for being a major pig county. I need you to find about 1000 more pigs in your village.”
“OK, I'll correct my report and call you back in the morning.”
“I need it now! Why aren’t you using the cell phone app we just gave you to send the data?”
“The screen freezes up every time I try to enter the password. Can’t I just call it in?”
“Alright, but I need the number today.”
- A few localities don’t pay enough attention to livestock statistics work, teams are unstable, and estimates are not adequately maintained.
- Responsibilities are unclear in some places, with multiple bosses, resulting in duplication or omission of livestock farm registration records and other information.
- In some localities statisticians do not feel the responsibility of their work, procrastinating in collection and verification of data, or reporting incorrect data.
- Some other places have multiple sets of data, confused numbers, and numbers that can't be justified, due to conflict between differing departments.
|November 2020 training session for pig statisticians.|
|Chart showing number of sows on the National Animal Husbandry Station web site. |
Data stop in mid-2019 after sow numbers plummeted 43%.