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Swill feeding risks and restrictions

Will Crosby, Veterinary Intern, Charles Sturt University (March 2015)

Feeding food scraps and other waste material to pigs is known as swill feeding.

This practice was widespread in the 1950's but has since been banned in all states and territories in Australia. 

There are a number food wastes that have been categorised as 'prohibited substances' or 'swill' and it is against the law to feed them to pigs, both feral and domestic. These include meat, meat products or anything that has been in contact with meat.

Swill feeding was banned because it can lead to a number of diseases such as foot and mouth disease, classical swine fever and swine vesicular disease.

Imported foods may carry the viruses that cause these diseases. The virus can survive in meat products even after it has been cooked and processed for human consumption.

The virus won't make humans sick but if the pigs eat this contaminated feed they can become infected.

If any of these diseases were introduced into Australia it would be devastating for the Agricultural industry - export markets would be lost, there would be shortages of animal products, large scale animal health and welfare issues which may be ongoing and devastating financial and emotional effects on rural communities.

The Australian government estimates that a foot and mouth disease outbreak alone would cost $13 billion.

There are many things that can be done to prevent an outbreak occurring. Pig owners are advised to make themselves aware of what is considered "swill" and ensure their pigs aren't fed those products. They can also request a Feedstuff Vendor Declaration from the feed supplier for all feeds used, to guarantee that the feed is safe for pigs.

Local Lands Services do regular visits to premises which keeps pigs to make sure that the owners are aware of what foods are prohibited and that the pigs do not have access to any of them.

They also inspect tips and rubbish dumps to make sure that they are appropriately fenced off so that livestock and feral animals do not have access to the garbage which may contain prohibited material.

Even if you don't have pigs you can still help to prevent swill feeding by ensuring that feral pigs or stock cannot get access to your food waste.