|Jacek Jagiełłowicz, CEO of Agro Gobarto
Artur Jabłoński, Assistant Professor at the Department of Swine Diseases of the National Veterinary Research Institute in Puławy
Breeders search for opportunities to increase the profitability of pigs production. Their biggest problem is the spreading of African swine fever (ASF)
The African swine fever virus, low pigs production profitability and the dependence of the domestic market on European prices are the major problems faced by breeders today. The much needed solution might be biosafety, which protects pigs from infectious agents. Its tightened regulations are one of the main tools used in fighting ASF and enable farmers to reduce the veterinary treatment costs and mortality rate of pigs.
“Today pig breeders are facing several problems. ASF, which is spreading across the country, is one of the most pressing issues. The line of the Vistula River has been crossed and now ASF is expected to spread west. Another problem is low production profitability, which is mainly caused by scale-related factors. Scale affects breeding profitability,” Jacek Jagiełłowicz, CEO of Agro Gobarto, told the Newseria Biznes news agency.
The outburst of African swine fever (ASF) in Poland dates back to February 2014. Since then the incidence of this disease among boars has reached over 1.6 thousand, with 108 foci identified among pigs. Attempts at fighting down the virus have cost the national economy over PLN 140 million. As reported by the Chief Veterinary Inspectorate, ASF has caused substantial economic losses in the meat and breeding industries resulting from pig deaths, epidemic focus elimination costs, and the discontinuation of trade and exports of pigs, pork and pork products.
“The price trends result from the current situation in China, the US, Latin America and Europe. The last two years have seen a boom on the market caused, among other things, by the Chinese market’s huge demand for pork, and Europe was one of the leading pork exporters to China,” Jacek Jagiełłowicz said.
Currently, the major destinations for Polish meat exports are Western Europe, Canada and Chile. Due to the spread of ASF, Polish producers have been excluded from the large and profitable leading Asian markets, such as China, Japan and Korea.
Biosafety is one of the essential tools in the fight against the virus. It covers a number of measures aimed at minimising the possibility of introducing and spreading infectious agents inside (bio-exclusion) and outside (bio-containment) an agricultural holding.
“Under bio-containment measures third parties are not allowed to enter the clean area and no cars are allowed in the holding. As for bio-exclusion, the first principle is ‘all in, all out’. This is meant to prevent the spread of infectious agents from one group of animals to another. For example, we breed animals in the piglet house, then we empty, wash and disinfect the room, and only then do we introduce another group of animals. It’s important for the person working with the animals to maintain clean shoes and clothes when moving from one room to another, otherwise the infectious agents might spread,” said Artur Jabłoński, Assistant Professor at the Department of Swine Diseases of the National Veterinary Research Institute in Puławy.
In February, due to the African swine fever the tightened regulations on biosafety were extended to cover the whole country by a decision of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Pig breeders now have to abide by a number of new requirements and biosafety has sparked a lot of controversy, especially in smaller holdings, which will be dealing with additional costs.
However, the expert from the National Veterinary Research Institute in Puławy stressed that bio-containment is of fundamental importance not only in the context of ASF. It is also a key factor in maintaining production profitability and the chief determinant of the price level of pigs for fattening. If they are bred in conditions preventing infections from other animals, they are healthier and breeders can save on treatment costs.
“Bio-containment is vital for production profitability and it actually reduces the costs. As a result, breeders have more money at their disposal. Every zloty spent on measures to increase the biosafety level will pay off repeatedly. We, as breeders and vets, can’t afford to treat animals. Once they get sick, breeders sustain huge losses. We wish to ensure biosafety in order to increase the breeding speed and to let animals grow quickly, without making farmers struggle with animal mortality,” Artur Jabłoński said.
According to the CEO of Agro Gobarto, in order to increase production profitability, Polish agricultural holdings must be professionalised and adopt an appropriate scale of production. Polish agricultural holdings breeding pigs are among the most scattered holdings in Europe. Around 172,000 farms breed about 12,000,000 pigs, whereas in Germany about 25,000,000 pigs are bred in less than 22,000 holdings.
“The difference is huge, It also affects the production level. It's enough to look at the levels for Germany, Denmark, or Spain and compare them to ours. Large-scale entities, such as ours, have very good production standards, but the national average leaves much to be desired. That’s why we should educate breeders. Breeding must be more professional and farms or agricultural holdings should be better organised and managed,” Jacek Jagiełłowicz stressed.
Agro Gobarto is a member of the Gobarto Group, one of the largest Polish companies operating in the meat industry, exporting to other European countries, Asia, Africa, Canada, and Chile. In March the company launched the Farmer’s Academy, a series of open meetings aimed at educating farmers about the latest developments and standards in pig breeding. The initiative was established in response to the current market needs.
The training courses will be conducted all over Poland and are designed to provide their participants with the knowledge of modern pig fattening techniques, efficient farm management, and highly profitable pig breeding. Breeders and veterinary medicine experts will discuss such subjects as ASF prevention, biosafety, proper pig nutrition, production economy, modern technologies in livestock buildings and environmental protection requirements.
“We also want to use these courses to reach the best and most active breeders, who could assist us in developing the Gobarto 500 programme. It involves a joint investment with a farmer in a fully professional, well-equipped, and biosafe production facility with a scale that provides enough profit to support the breeder and his family. We ask all farmers to pay attention to biosafety especially in counteracting ASF, but also to create the proper microclimate and provide top quality fodder for animals. This is the way to go if breeders want to stay profitable,” Jacek Jagiełłowicz said.
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