Biosecurity upgrades at pig health unit

UPGRADE: DEPI principal veterinary officer Trish Holyoake at the pig health unit. Picture: JODIE DONNELLAN

UPGRADE: DEPI principal veterinary officer Trish Holyoake at the pig health unit. Picture: JODIE DONNELLAN

SIGNIFICANT changes are ahead for Bendigo's Pig Health and Research Unit.

The state government has agreed to increase staffing numbers from 4.4 full-time equivalent to 10 within three years and invest $120,000 to fund repairs to the vaccine unit this year.

The unit, to be renamed the Pig Specialist Centre as part of the upgrade, is regarded as Australia's leading centre for developing and producing pig vaccines, diagnostic services and specialist industry training.

Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) president John Bourke announced the funding commitment at the VFF Pig Group annual meeting in Shepparton on Thursday night.

He said the upgrade would give the unit, based at DEPI in Epsom, the opportunity to set the standard nationally and internationally for pig health and research.

"This is the result of more than five years of lobbying government to ensure better and more transparent use of our $250,000 plus contribution to the unit, via the Swine Compensation Fund," Mr Bourke said.

"It's great to see the state government has backed the pig industry and we thanks Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh for his efforts in getting this across the line."

The State Government had a memorandum of understanding with the Swine Industry Projects Advisory Committee.

The committee would also provide $250,000 a year for three years to the centre.

The government contributed $270,000 in 2014/15 to fund the additional staff.

The new positions created include an additional experienced pig veterinarian and a manager of vaccine development.

Mr Walsh said the upgrade would boost biosecurity in the pig industry.

"The Pig Specialist Centre will significantly increase the level of support for the industry by providing diagnostic services and undertaking disease surveillance, and developing and producing new vaccines," he said.

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