Interviews in 2020 with Scottish smallholders and crofters revealed that those who are raising pigs (and often other livestock), are knowledgeable about good general biosecurity. They know how to disinfect equipment, trailers, and footwear, and to change clothes when leaving their holding. However, contrary to regulations, some reported burying fallen stock on their premises.
Due to the nature of their premises, mainly rural and often off the ‘beaten track,’ the smallholders and crofters reported very little interaction with other pig keepers or livestock other than their own, unless attending livestock shows or sales.
Smallholders and crofters that breed pigs tend to have a permanent cohort of sows and a boar on site. The offspring either leave their holding to go directly to the abattoir or are sold to other smallholders as breeding stock or for finishing for slaughter.
Most of the smallholders and crofters interviewed had heard of African Swine Fever (ASF) and although some were unsure of the exact signs and symptoms, they were all certain that they would be aware (via social media, general media, government announcements or from their vets) of an ASF incursion in the UK.
Due to the small numbers of animals kept, and that pigs are often seen more as useful pets than a commercial commodity, smallholders and crofters tend to have a ‘hands on’ relationship with their animals. They stated that they would quickly know if a pig was ‘off colour’ or obviously ill and would call for veterinary attention, particularly if ASF was a national risk.
Due to the geographical remoteness of many holdings (locally and nationally), the lack of contact with other livestock and the apparent absence of feral pigs, the keepers interviewed considered their pigs to be at low risk of contracting ASF.
An additional brief review of Facebook pet pig groups suggests that there are a cohort of pet pig keepers that are either unaware of the regulations around pig keeping or believe that their pet pigs are exempt. There are also some keepers that show a lack of understanding of pig behaviour and good welfare. This may be an area for further research.