The impact of non-commercial producers on disease spread via livestock movement is related to their level of interaction with other commercial actors within the industry. Although understanding these relationships is crucial in order to identify likely routes of disease incursion and transmission prior to disease detection, there has been little research in this area due to the difficulties of capturing movements of small producers with sufficient resolution. Here, we used the Scottish Livestock Electronic Identification and Traceability (ScotEID) database to describe the movement patterns of different pig production systems which may affect the risk of disease spread within the swine industry. In particular, we focused on the role of small pig producers.
Between January 2012 and May 2013, 23,169 batches of pigs were recorded moving animals between 2382 known unique premises. Although the majority of movements (61%) were to a slaughterhouse, the non-commercial and the commercial sectors of the Scottish swine industry coexist, with on- and off-movement of animals occurring relatively frequently. For instance, 13% and 4% of non-slaughter movements from professional producers were sent to a non-assured commercial producer or to a small producer, respectively; whereas 43% and 22% of movements from non-assured commercial farms were sent to a professional or a small producer, respectively. We further identified differences between producer types in several animal movement characteristics which are known to increase the risk of disease spread. Particularly, the distance travelled and the use of haulage were found to be significantly different between producers.
These results showed that commercial producers are not isolated from the non-commercial sector of the Scottish swine industry and may frequently interact, either directly or indirectly. The observed patterns in the frequency of movements, the type of producers involved, the distance travelled and the use of haulage companies provide insights into the structure of the Scottish swine industry, but also highlight different features that may increase the risk of infectious diseases spread in both Scotland and the UK. Such knowledge is critical for developing more robust biosecurity and surveillance plans and better preparing Scotland against incursions of emerging swine diseases.