W Cape piglets back on auction floor

Minister of labour Membathisi Mdladlana incurred the wrath of the agricultural sector when he gave farmers a ”red card” for what he called their contemptuous ­attitudes towards their employees.
Issue date 18 May 2007

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Western Cape small-scale piglet producers are thrilled by the ­reopening of pig auctions in the province. Dale ­Hutchins, a small-scale piglet producer from Philadelphia, believes that the reopening of auctions was spurred by the article “Piglet producers pay price for auction closure”, featured in Farmer’s Weekly of 23 ­February this year. He said the article helped to resume discussions between small-scale pork producers, the Western Cape minister of agriculture and commercial industry.
Pig auctions had been banned ­following the outbreak of the highly infectious porcine reproductive and respiratory ­syndrome, more commonly known as blue ear disease, on the Cape Flats in April 2004. Apart from adding transparency to the market, auctions have always served as a price determination mechanism. “People knew what piglets were selling for and they used these prices as guidelines for selling animals privately,” Hutchins explained. He added that producers could get on ­average between R250 and R400 for a piglet during peak seasons while there were auctions. However, with the closure of auctions, producers were lucky to receive R80 a pig. Auctions will start again on 1 June. They will, however, be governed by the following strict regulations: pigs must be tattooed, and it should be easy to trace the owner of a pig even after the pig has been sold or slaughtered; and all pigs must be tested for diseases at farms before they are moved to auctions.

Dr Gary Buhrman, chief state veterinary surgeon for the Boland, said the new protocols would lead to registered farmers having access to animal technicians who would provide health services and advice to ­farmers. Animals would be tested for diseases on a regular basis. This preventative approach would be much more effective than what was happening with the closure of auctions, where producers started to sell their animals illegally. The illegal movement of pigs poses a far greater risk than auctions do, he said.

Hutchins said that small-scale farmers understand that the new stringent ­protocols are necessary to prevent the outbreak and spread of diseases. The department has been giving small-scale farmers some ­leeway while they are waiting to be ­registered. The state vet will go and bleed the pigs on the farm and then tag the pigs so they can be identified. – Glenneis Erasmus