BIOSECURITY SURVEY OF PIG FARMS IN THE DISTRICTS OF SOUTHERN BHUTAN IN RELATION TO RISK OF ASF OUTBREAK
Keywords:African swine fever, awareness, biosecurity, outbreak, pig farmers
African Swine Fever (ASF) is a viral disease of pigs traditionally localized in African countries but have spread into many continents in recent years. Bhutan experienced two outbreaks since 2021 both of which were effectively controlled by stamping out the susceptible population of pigs. Since there isn’t any study conducted to understand the on-farm biosecurity practices of pig farmers in the country, a rapid cross-sectional biosecurity survey among the pig farmers in the six southern districts of the country was carried out. The objectives of this study were to generate baseline information about pig farm characteristics, understand on-farm biosecurity practices and the risk of possible ASF outbreaks in future, and understand the level of pig farmers’ knowledge and awareness on ASF. Using a structured questionnaire, a door-to-door survey was conducted among 527 pig farmers of six districts viz. Samtse, Chukha, Tsirang, Dagana, Sarpang and Samdrup Jongkhar in Southern Bhutan from 14 – 30th May 2022. Data was consolidated, cleaned and analyzed using descriptive statistics, Pearson’s and Yetes’s Chi-squared tests in Microsoft Excel 2016. The study observed that about 67% of the farmers have less than three years of pig farming experience. About 97% of the pigs owned are exotic breeds and their crossbreeds. More than 39% of the farmers do not restrict visitors to their pig farms, and as many as 39% practice swill feeding of which more than 50% feed without boiling. While about 14% share feeds and farm equipment with other farms, only 4% disinfect incoming farm equipment before entering the farm, and as many as 74% do not maintain any records at the farm. Nearly 91% and 81% of the farms do not have perimeter fencing and footbath respectively. Similarly, 58% do not have designated foot wear in the farms. More than 50% of the farmers do not know anything about the ASF, while 26% and 55% are not aware of ASF outbreak at Sampheling and in the North-east India respectively. The level of ASF awareness or biosecurity compliance is directly proportional to the number of pigs the farmers owned. The outcome of the study suggests that there is a low level of ASF awareness and biosecurity compliance amongst pig farmers, especially among the subsistence farmers. There is a clear need for government authorities to educate the pig farmers using appropriate approaches that allow active participation of farmers in the design, planning and implementation of biosecurity practices to enable enhanced adoption. Further, the current situation demands active enforcement of the biosecurity requirements as immediate intervention considering the potential risk of the disease outbreaks.
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