Pigs are an integral part of farming systems in rural Laos, particularly for poorer families who have limited land and capacity to invest in other produce. Currently, pig production in Laos is not meeting domestic or export demands. This demand is increasingly supplemented by importing piglets from Thailand, and selling fattened pigs to Vietnam. Reduced inclusion, or even exclusion, from these local and export markets by large and foreign-owned farms creates major disadvantages for Lao farmers, as pigs are one of the few cash income generating opportunities.
This project responds to the importance of livestock in the Lao economy and to the livelihoods of village households. Using participatory and field trial techniques, this project will address the limitations of current village-based systems in terms of feeding regimes and reproductive management for locally bred pigs. It will develop strategies to define and manage the risk of disease to livestock, farmers and traders, especially classic swine fever (CSF) and zoonotic diseases. This will increase the potential for village-pig production to become a better financial contributor to community well-being. This project merges with other ACIAR research and development projects by facilitating a multi-stakeholder alliance to scale-out research results on pig production, health and marketing systems.
This project will benefit smallholder-farming communities through a range of livelihood benefits. It will improve livestock product and management, and animal and human health. It will provide Australia with a better understanding of local pig production and marketing systems, which may be impacted by dynamic regional markets and disease incursions in Lao and beyond. This will help to provide an early warning system for Australia, and a greater understanding of the tropical agricultural research needs of partner countries.
Entering the first full year of this large project, all SPSP (Smallholder Pig Systems Project) MOUs were signed by June 2011. Component 2 completed and reported a baseline market chain assessment while Component 1 counterparts conducted a complimentary Ecohealth (ILRI funded) provincial survey for pig related zoonoses and disease exposure. With a consistent sampling approach, the ACIAR project was able to conduct a full pilot village baseline survey that integrated with the larger provincial study thereby providing important context for epidemiological findings and later extrapolation of the SPSP project findings. Surveys were conducted with ethical approval and all laboratory testing was conducted in Lao PDR.
The two pilot districts remain actively engaged with regular village consultation and visits to Xayabouli district (in Xayabouli Province NW Laos) and Mai district (in Phongsaly district, NE Laos). A comprehensive report was prepared by component 2 on the production baseline and the market chains associated with the two pilot districts
The SPSP and the broader ILRI animal and human disease baseline survey determined estimated prevalence rates for Human exposure to Japanese Encephalitis Virus (JEV); Heptatitis E Virus (HEV);Trichinella; Cysticercosis andTaenia and for Pigs to JEV; HEV; Trichinella; Erysipelas; FMD, CSF and PRRS. The associated questionnaires, that were conducted with village chiefs and individuals in the villages selected under the sampling frame, allowed an investigations of putative risk factors for the prevalence rates observed. Preliminary results of these baseline studies were presented and discussed at the project Annual Meeting held in late February 2012. Further analyses and follow-up studies based on the preliminary results are continuing. In particular, the HEV results, which indicated high apparent sero-prevalence of 61.4% and 64.5% in Humans and Pigs respectively, will be the subject of further investigations to determine the respective levels of pig-human adapted strains or human only adapted strains circulating in the villages and to further understand and refine the risk factors. Similarly, an apparent project village hot spot for taenia/cysticercosis will be confirmed and further investigated as to relevant risk factors and conversely other villages with apparent protective factors. Erysipelas infection was also surveyed for the first time in Laos indicating high exposure generally though clinical significance is yet to be determined. There are initial inferences for Onehealth in practical implementation of the project while more detailed analysis of the results is pending.
Review of the baseline results as analysed to date against Final Report AH:2006_161 has proven useful and concludes that most relevant SPSP findings were consistent and build on the previous project, mindful of the recommendations provided.
The Annual Meeting also involved an official opening by Laos Heads of relevant Departments, presentation of the outputs of the baseline survey for peer review, key risk and problem definition to inform remaining baseline needs and initial design of the workplan and most appropriate interventions, research questions and resource gaps. The outputs are detailed in a circulated meeting report and workplans were finalised and translated.
Workplans are now well underway and village based interventions and monitoring have commenced, with a focus initially on grower pigs in early 2012. CSF vaccination of village pigs and education of farmers was a priority. Serological assessment of various vaccination regimes (using locally accessible vaccines of different manufacturers) is being carried out and possibly PRRS vaccination will be soon undertaken, given a recent diagnosis (by project team and NAHC laboratory) of an outbreak of highly pathogenic PRRS in Mai district. District staff have been trained in disease outbreak investigation, sampling and reporting and provide real time disease surveillance for the project.
Component 2 has commenced design of further on station experiments focusing on both the direct nutrition of pigs but also the overall benefit of growing pig feeds on-farm, looking at it from a village farm-systems perspective. Several small experiments are planned during 2012 for on-station and on-farm to address these issues. This include the Annual report: Component 1: animal and human health Component 2: production and marketing Page 4
introduction of new varieties into farming systems, completely new crops but, most importantly the review and development of improved housing and management systems, both directly related to pigs as well as to the forage crops. Furthermore, extensive monitoring and capacity building approaches are in preparation and will help to collect data and strengthen the capacity of young staff to work in agricultural research projects.
These activities build on an on-station experiment, which was carried out in 2011 at the LRC, to assess the suitability of different locally available protein rich leafy fodders commonly available in northern upland smallholder systems in Laos. Tested were Cassava, Paper Mulberry and Tithonia diversifolia leaves for their suitability as feed for advanced weaner pigs (>11kg). All diets were adjusted to similar protein contents of about 16.3%, which was the maximum content achievable without risking energy deficiency. Feeds were cooked and feed intake varied clearly, with cassava leave being the most palatable, followed by paper mulberry and Tithonia. However, protein availability of all treatments was low and resulted in ADG of only 35-16% of that of soy bean meal (control). However, without any further supplementation a daily gain of up to 70g can be achieved with cassava leaves, which is still more than what many traditional farming systems achieve.
The Project Management Committee (PMC) is working effectively to maintain communication, coordination and collaborative efforts towards the planning and conduct of interventions, monitoring, staff performance, budget management and reporting of this new large interdisciplinary ACIAR project.