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Agri dept distributes “sentinel” pigs as prelude to repopulation

Author: DA Communications Group | 17 April 2021

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is distributing “sentinel” piglets in areas where there are no reported cases of the African Swine Fever (ASF) for at least 90 days, initially in eight regions, benefitting 8,000 small hog raisers.

“The sentinelling is a prelude to the Duterte administration’s swine repopulation program to increase hog production, and subsequently stabilize the supply and prices of pork,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar.

“A science-based approach, the sentinel protocol ascertains if a virus or disease is still present in an area. We will initially implement it in eight regions (1, 2, 3, 4A, 5, 11, 12, and CAR),” he added.

“We are currently implementing the sentinelling and repopulation program in the province of Batangas, where we also launched early this year the ‘Bantay ASF sa Barangay‘ or BABay ASF program, in partnership with hog raisers’ groups, Batangas provincial government, Lipa City and several municipalities, private sector, academe and veterinary associations,” Secretary Dar said.

“We are thankful to the provincial and municipal LGUs of Batangas for taking the lead in piloting the BABay ASF and hog repopulation program, also known as the Integrated National Swine Production Initiatives for Recovery and Expansion (INSPIRE),” he added.

Aside from Batangas, the DA through its national livestock program (NLP) is implementing the sentinel protocol in Benguet (Cordillera Administrative Region) and Camarines Sur (Bicol region), said DA-NLP Director Ruth Miclat-Sonaco, in a report to Secretary Dar.

Of the three provinces, Batangas is undertaking a more extensive implementation of the sentinel protocol as it hopes to regain a “pink zone ASF status” sometime in May 2020, said Sonaco.

For her part, DA 4A Director Vilma Dimaculangan, in a report to Secretary Dar, said the twin BABay ASF and hog repopulation program is gaining momentum in Lipa City and four municipalities of Nasugbu, Cuenca, Malvar, and Taysan.

DA-4A Livestock Program Coordinator Dr. Jerome Cuasay said they will distribute 400 sentinel piglets — at least 60-day old, weighing 15-20 kg each — to hog raisers in 18 barangays in Lipa, Nasugbu, Cuenca, Malvar, and Taysan. These are in addition to those earlier distributed in eight barangays in Lipa.

In Benguet, Sonaco said the DA-NLP has already distributed 62 sentinels in 18 barangays in 6 municipalities. In Camarines Sur, 56 sentinels were distributed in 26 barangays in two municipalities. She added that CAR and Region 5 are expected to be “released from quarantine” before June 2021.

In Batangas, Cuasay said more barangays would be “released” from ASF quarantine, as these had no reported ASF incidence in the last 90 days or more. Last year, at the height of the ASF outbreak in Batangas, 72 barangays were affected, he added.

The “release or cleansing” process starts with the proper culling and depopulation of all hogs in ASF “red or ground-zero” zones, which thereafter undergo a thorough 30-day cleaning and disinfection to lessen the risk of residual ASF virus, Cuasay said.

Thereafter, the farms should successfully pass another 30-day phase, during which bioassay or environmental sampling will be conducted at a two-week interval. If found negative, the farm qualifies to receive sentinel animals that will be grown for 40 days. Finally, BABay ASF technical team will conduct at least two PCR tests on each farm. When found negative, the farms and the whole barangay are “released” from ASF quarantine status.

“The DA will provide the sentinel package while the LGUs will provide the technical assistance and monitoring. Participating hog raisers will receive three to five ‘sentinel’ piglets, including feeds and supplies such as veterinary drugs, biologics, and anti-viral agents, during the six-month fattening period,” said Secretary Dar.

For his part, DA Undersecretary for Livestock Dr. William Medrano said all sentinelling program participants — hog raisers, farm owners, and personnel — should undergo training on biosecurity, and that farm facility should conform with the minimum biosecurity standards for both smallhold and commercial farms.

Further, sentinel animals must be sourced from ASF-free farms and must comply with their respective province’s policies for incoming stocks from outside the province.

“The only way we will be able to make the hog sentinelling successful is through the implementation of strict biosecurity measures in the farm, which is the primary duty of swine raisers to prevent the ASF virus from entering the farms,” Secretary Dar said.

The sentinelling component of the repopulation program has an initial budget of P400 million (M), which is part of the P2.4 billion (B) total budget under the Duterte administration’s swine repopulation program.

Another P200M is allocated for the swine breeder multiplier farms to ensure continuous source of piglets for the subsequent expansion of the swine repopulation program, while the remaining P1.2B is allotted for biosecurity and surveillance program of the BAbay ASF.

“The ASF incidence has significantly gone down from 3,060 incidences in the third quarter of 2020 to 935 incidences in the first quarter of 2021, but our fight is not over, we have a long way to go to get back to where we were. The DA alone cannot do it. That is why we are adopting a ‘whole-of-nation’ approach in the war against ASF to solicit everyone’s cooperation. Kaya natin ito, kung tayo ay sama-sama,” he concluded. ### (Rita dela Cruz, DA StratComms)

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