Descriptive and Multivariate Analysis of the Pig Sector in North Macedonia and Its Implications for African Swine Fever Transmission

Kathleen C. O'Hara, Daniel Beltrán-Alcrudo, Mark Hovari, Blagojco Tabakovski, Beatriz Martínez-López

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

North Macedonia, a country in the Balkan region of Europe, is currently bordered to the north and east by countries with active African swine fever (ASF) outbreaks. The predominantly traditional backyard pig farming sector in this country is under imminent threat of disease incursion. The characteristics and practices of such sectors have rarely been described, and thus the implications for these factors on disease introduction and spread are poorly understood. Using a semi-structured questionnaire, 457 pig producers were interviewed, providing information on 77.7% of the pig population in North Macedonia. In addition, a pilot study of 25 pig producers in Kosovo was performed. This study aimed to provide a detailed description of the North Macedonian pig sector, to make comparisons with nearby Kosovo, and to identify areas with high-risk practices for targeted mitigation. Descriptive data were summarized. Results of the questionnaire were used to identify farm-level risk factors for disease introduction. These factors were used in the calculation of a biosecurity risk score. Kernel density estimation methods were used to generate density maps highlighting areas where the risk of disease introduction was particularly concentrated. Multiple correspondence analysis with hierarchical clustering on principal components was used to explore patterns in farm practices. Results show that farms were predominantly small-scale with high rates of turnover. Pig movement was predominantly local. The highest biosecurity risk scores were localized in the eastern regions of North Macedonia, concerningly the same regions with the highest frequency of wild boar sightings. Veterinarians were highly regarded, regularly utilized, and trusted sources of information. Practices that should be targeted for improvement include isolation of new pigs, and consistent application of basic sanitary practices including washing hands, use of disinfection mats, and separation of clean and dirty areas. This study provides the most complete description of the North Macedonian pig sector currently available. It also identifies regions and practices that could be targeted to mitigate the risk of disease incursion and spread. These results represent the first steps to quantify biosecurity gaps and high-risk behaviors in North Macedonia, providing baseline information to design risk-based, more cost-effective, prevention, surveillance, and control strategies.

Keywords

  • African swine fever
  • biosecurity risk score
  • kernel density estimation
  • Kosovo
  • multiple correspondence analysis
  • North Macedonia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)

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