Small-scale keepers are less likely to engage with production organisations and may therefore be less aware of legislation, rules and biosecurity practices which are implemented in the livestock sector. Their role in the transmission of endemic and exotic diseases is not well studied, but is believed to be important. The authors use small-scale pig keepers in Scotland as an example of how important small-scale livestock keepers might be for national biosecurity. In Scotland more than two thirds of pig producers report that they keep less than 10 pigs, meaning that biosecurity practices and pig health status on a substantial number of holdings are largely unknown; it is considered important to fill this knowledge gap. A questionnaire was designed and implemented in order to gather some of this information. The questionnaire comprised a total of 37 questions divided into seven sections (location of the enterprise, interest in pigs, details about the pig enterprise, marketing of pigs, transport of pigs, pig husbandry, and pig health/biosecurity). Over 610 questionnaires were sent through the post and the questionnaire was also available online. The questionnaire was implemented from June to October 2013 and 135 questionnaires were returned by target respondents. The responses for each question are discussed in detail in this paper. Overall, our results suggest that the level of disease identified by small-scale pig keepers is low but the majority of the small-scale pig keepers are mixed farms, with associated increased risk for disease transmission between species. Almost all respondents implemented at least one biosecurity measure, although the measures taken were not comprehensive in the majority of cases. Overall as interaction between small-scale keepers and commercial producers exists in Scotland the former can pose a risk for commercial production. This investigation fills gaps in knowledge which will allow industry stakeholders and policy makers to adapt their current disease programmes and contingency plans to the reality of small-scale pig-keeping enterprises’ health and biosecurity status. We predict that some conclusions from this work will be relevant to countries with similar pig production systems and importantly some of these findings will relate to small-scale producers in other livestock sectors.
- Backyard pigs
- Small-scale keepers