African swine fever (ASF) has devastated pig farming in Estonia. Only 14% of the number of farms in 2014 remains, says UK daily The Guardian, with small-holdings especially ravaged.
Over the four years, the number of pig farms apparently fell from 920 to 125.
By law, even one ASF case means the slaughter of an entire herd. Following a minor outbreak affecting pregnant sows on his Lääne County farm in 2017, Ott Saareväli's 7,000-strong herd was gassed.
"It was emotionally very difficult for everyone," Mr. Saareväli said. "The worst thing was the silence after the last pig was gassed. Pig farms are noisy places, but here it was completely silent," he added.
"We have the strictest biosecurity measures here, and no one is quite sure how the disease entered – it may have carried from an infected farm by an inadequately-washed truck. However, if you find even one infected pig, everything has to go,'' Mr. Saareväli continued.
"We are very worried about our neighbours," said Maarja Kristian, Estonian Veterinary and Food Board (VFB) representative.
"We have a border with Russia; if we do not know what goes on there ... we cannot predict what will happen," she explained.
No new cases of ASF have appeared in 2018; VFB officials say Estonia's size facilitates better biosecurity than in larger European nations.
Notwithstanding biosecurity efforts, however, the current epidemic, beginning in Lithuania in early 2014, spread rapidly, reaching Poland, Latvia and Estonia throughout the year.
ASF doesn't directly affect humans, but brings a high mortality rate to pig herds, not least because, as noted, its presence means liquidation.
Editor: Andrew Whyte