August 1, 2020
India's Punjab receives exotic imported pigs from UK
The animal husbandry department of Punjab, India has received 248 exotic pigs imported from the UK, which were to be originally sent to India's North East states, The Indian Express reported.
The plan got derailed with the ASF outbreak in the Seven Sisters States. The pigs were kept at the Punjab farm in Nabha of Patiala.
The disease, which has led to the death and culling of millions of pigs across the Asian and African countries with China among the worst affected countries, surprisingly came as a blessing in disguise for Punjab, which has been entrusted with the responsibility of being the 'custodian and caretaker' of the animals imported under the National Livestock Mission (NLM) by the Union ministry of animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries. The pigs will stay in Punjab, for at least the next six months, till the ASF outbreak is controlled in the North-east.
With 179 of the total 248 pigs being sows (females), it is expected that they will deliver at least 1,800 piglets (each sow on an average delivers 10-12 piglets). Punjab has been given the right to keep 50% of the first batch of the offspring, with an estimated worth of INR15 crore. Officials said that male piglets will be further used for local breed improvement in state. Once they gain adulthood, their semen will also be used for artificial insemination, which will further multiply profits for Punjab.
The animals are of three breeds: Hampshire (46 pigs, 123 sows), Landrace (7 pigs and 14 sows) and large white Yorkshire (16 pigs, 142 sows). Of this, the two breeds—Hampshire and Landrace—have arrived in Punjab for the first time. All animals are from eight to nine months of age, optimum for breeding.
Dr Inderjeet Singh, vice-chancellor, Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (GADVASU) and former director, Punjab animal husbandry department, under whose tenure Punjab got the custody of the pigs, said that 900 piglets worth INR15 crore is the minimum benefit that Punjab will get after taking care of the animals for six months.
"Situation turned really bad in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh (after ASF outbreak) so it wasn't safe to send them to the north-east. The Centre asked if Punjab can become their custodians till they reach their final destination and we readily agreed. Punjab is now having the right to keep 50% of their first litter," said Dr Singh.
Their worth has been reached at with an assumption that of 900 piglets, half would be males and rest females going by expected 50-50 ratio and calculation has been done at the price for which they have been purchased. "Each male has been purchased for INR2.5 lakh and female INR1 lakh and by that estimate, Punjab gets piglets worth INR15 crore. We will be spending around INR30-35 lakh over six months on pigs' caretaking," Dr Singh said, adding that since the state is not paying anything for original animals, the deal couldn't have been any better.
He said that there was no plan to slaughter any of the piglets that Punjab will keep. "While females will be kept at our government farms, we will use males for improving local breeds. Some males will be given to farmers. We will not be slaughtering any of the animals".
He added that there is committee of the experts in place to ensure that the sows give birth to healthy piglets.
Meanwhile, at the government's farm in Nabha, the pigs are being pampered by the staff and experts on different duties. Unlike local breeds that mostly feed on garbage and survive on swampy filth and mud, these exotic animals are keeping officials and vets on their toes.
Three expert committees—a two-member feed and nutrition committee, a three-member breeding plan committee (with experts from GADVASU) and another three-member health and disease control committee—have been constituted to look after each aspect of their caretaking. The routine medical testing of the pigs is also being done by the Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, Jalandhar.
Dr Vikas Kumar, one of the veterinary officers taking care of the pigs, said, "Our team is headed by the deputy director (piggery and poultry) and comprises and two veterinary officers, two veterinary inspectors, and nine class-4 employees and night guards, taking care of pigs 24x7. They are fed twice a day—each pig getting 2.5 kg ration, which includes maize, groundnut cakes, and soyabean. The feed comes from government farms only to ensure there is no adulteration. They are given bath twice a day. Fans, coolers and exhaust fans have been installed in each shed so that they do not feel the heat".
There are very strict biosecurity arrangements to prevent exposure to any disease causing agent and visitors aren't allowed. Disinfectants are also sprayed twice a day in the entire area. As part of daily health monitoring, the pigs have already been vaccinated for Foot and Mouth disease, swine fever and dewormed," said Dr Kumar.
According to the 20th Livestock Census 2019, Punjab has 52,452 pigs of which Sangrur, Ludhiana and SAS Nagar (Mohali) are home to more than 5,000. Pig population in Punjab increased by 55% from just 32,000, which was recorded in the 19th census.