Posted on

African Swine Fever risks genetic diversity of pig populations globally

dangers of africa swine fever and how to prevent it biosecurity

We’ve all seen the awful images of thousands of pigs being destroyed across Asia recently from countries that have been hit with African Swine Fever (ASF) and it is not only devastating for their agricultural producers, it threatens the food security of those nations. Small scale farmers are the hardest hit as they can lose their entire herd in one day.

This isn’t only a global crisis in terms of food production. It also has widespread implications for the genetic diversity of pigs around the world as up to one quarter of the world’s pigs have been culled by September 2019 to try and halt the spread of the disease.

Australia has been lucky so far and African Swine Fever has not been detected in Australian pig herds. However, two Western Australian men were jailed very recently for illegally smuggling boar semen from overseas through our airports – and they have been doing it since at least 2009.  ASF was detected in Europe as early as 2007.  It would only take one batch of infected semen to wipe out most of our domestic herds as well.

Imports of pork from affected countries have been restricted as the disease can also be spread through infected meat.  But we’ve all seen the TV shows where tourists are found trying to bring all sorts of biosecurity hazards in their suitcases – and those are just the people that get caught on camera at airports.

NSW DPI Biosecurity says:

“East Timor has become the latest Asian country to be hit with African swine fever, following China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, North Korea, South Korea, Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines.

ASF is a highly contagious viral disease of domestic and wild pigs.

Australia is currently free of ASF but meat products containing these pathogens may be illegally imported into Australia undetected by quarantine.

Feeding food scraps ‘swill’ that has been in contact with these products may lead to serious diseases in pigs including foot and mouth disease and African and classical swine fevers.

Banning the feeding of prohibited food waste to pigs and ruminants provides an important defence against these and other serious livestock diseases to Australia.

For more information, visit

So, Vivsters, for the sake of our farmers who are already struggling so much to survive, for the sake of our own national food security and the global effort to feed the world and keep the peace, and for the sake of science and strong genetic diversity in all the world’s species – be alert, be a little be alarmed, be informed

and spread the word about how vitally important biosecurity is to the future of all nations.

post by miss vivi at dissection connection

3 Oct 2019

Posted on

Top Tip: How to use live semen with digital microscopes and SmartBoards

microscope image of live boar semen

This Top Tip comes from Tamara Daus, Science Operations Officer at Kingston State High School, in August 2013.  Thank you, Tamara!  This is a specimen we don’t see enough of in schools and the collective wisdom of lab techs is the best source of info for others to learn from.
microscope image of live boar semen microscope image of live boar semen
images courtesy T Daus

Semen from Dissection Connection, new digital microscope… Movies worked really well too

I’m taking the semen into the first Year 8 classes tomorrow. We’ll be able to have the digital microscope up the front with the image on the SmartBoard for the whole class to see, and then the groups will be able to use their own microscopes to focus and check out their own slides.

Thanks Miss Vivi J

Got a Top Tip you are willing to share with other techs? Have a squeal to Miss Vivi and see your name in lights.

Posted on

Top Tip: keeping slides warm for viewing semen motility

Now that the weather has cooled down it’s going to take a bit more to keep semen samples warm enough to view motility.  Live semen is sensitive to thermal shock and the glassware will need to be warmed up in a water bath to at least 35C before you introduce the sample.

A top tip from the supplier to keep the slide warm and slow down the rate of cooling of the glass:

  1. cut a piece of cardboard the same size as a microscope slide,
  2. cut a hole in it the same size and position as the cavity to allow the light through,
  3. mount the cardboard on the microscope stage,
  4. mount the warmed slide on top of the cardboard.

When you order the live semen sample I will send you an info sheet so you are prepared before it arrives, so don’t panic if you’re not sure what I’m talking about here.

And if you’re wondering whether or not to order the sample in the first place, why not have a look at what a labbie had to say about how they managed it and what the kids got out of it?


Posted on 1 Comment

Top Tip: live sperm in the classroom

This is a guest post by Deb Barnett who was the lab tech at the first school to order live boar semen.  This post puts Deb in the running to win our t-shirt competition.

The kids love it!!

It gave us a relevant and interesting resource for the unit. We even had the most disengaged student managing the microscope and getting the best view of the goings on the slide.

The sample maintained viability through the week even though the ice brick had defrosted on arrival and it was warmer than the suggested 15-20 degC in the esky. Arrival time was approx. 12.10pm Monday. I followed the recommended storage conditions throughout.

Just a few notes on how the prac was run here….  A small vial and dropping pipette (1 for each class) was placed in the incubator at 38degC until required. When the class had set up the ‘scopes and warmed their slide between their hands, I aliquoted approx 1mL into a vial and took it straight to class where the teacher kept it warm in their hand whilst walking around the lab putting 1 drop directly on the slide for each group. No “lab accidents”

So, thanks again – a good time was had by all.

Good luck with the business, you’ve certainly hit the spot with it!