Importance of pig herd health is emphasized

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This week, PigRegen published the results of its summer pig herd health survey.

The study, which was conducted in two abbatoirs between July and August, saw over 16,000 carcasses from almost 140 different producers examined by experienced pig veterinary surgeons.

While the results of the survey showed that in general, most herds in Northern Ireland have a high degree of pig health, there was a slight increase in disease levels which may be evident of on-farm pressures due to poor profitability over the last 20 months. These poor returns may have resulted in producers cutting back on vaccination and endoparasite treatment programmes.

While using less vaccines and wormers will reduce veterinary bills and on-farm costs in the short term, decreasing herd health can have a serious impact on both the welfare and feed conversion of your animals in the longer term. Depending on the condition and level of disease present, the deterioration in feed conversion can be as high as 15%. In practical terms, this means that an unhealthy growing pig could require 30-35 kg more feed than a healthy pig to finish.

Once again, the main area of concern highlighted by the survey was the high level of Milk Spot in Northern Ireland (caused by the roundworm Acarius suum) which was present in 13% of the pigs and 47% of the batches examined. This level of Milk Spot is particularly disappointing when compared to GB (which has a prevalence of around 5%) as it is a condition that can be relatively easily controlled by a combination of good management and effective use of an appropriate wormer.

Increasingly frustrating is that fact that many herds show no prevalence of Milk Spot, whereas other herds repeatedly show 100% of animals being infected suggesting that they are doing little to address the issue.

For reference, if the level of Milk Spot in your herd is more than 10%, it is highly recommended that you talk to your vet in order to formulate an effective control policy in order to improve your pigs’ welfare and your farm’s profitability.

As the level of Milk Spot has been repeatedly highlighted as a priority for the industry, CAFRE will be delivering a series of workshops on parasitic and pig respiratory diseases in the New Year through the Farm Family Key Skills (FFKS).

Under the Farm Business Improvement Scheme, the FFKS Pig Health workshops will aim to inform producers of the practical steps they can take on their own farms to reduce the prevalence and costs associated with these diseases.