A healthy pig is a happy pig and also a profitable pig. Hence, keeping pigs healthy is a goal not to be underestimated. There are a host of measures and even policies pig farmers can adopt to make sure that hygiene is optimal.
Both essential as well as practical, it is very important to remember the following four golden rules:
Limit pig-to-pig contact
Infections can be spread around the farm by pig-to-pig contact – as soon as this type of contact can be limited, then the prevalence of disease will be reduced. Of course there is direct contact, like e.g. nasal secretions, saliva, faces or urine. It is vital to remember, however, that pig-to-pig contact can also be established indirectly, e.g. by needles, surgical instruments, equipment, manure, vectors (rats, flies, birds, etc.) and even people.
A ‘sick pig’ policy, with the creation of a hospital pen, will avoid the likelihood that other pigs in the pen will become sick. Similarly, the limitation of group sizes will reduce the chance of pig-to-pig spread of disease.
Stress is a killer
Stressed animals are more likely to become diseased, for instance by exposure to micro-organisms or when an immune system being over-activated. Therefore it is necessary to think whether or not a certain procedure like e.g. teeth clipping, tail docking or castration can cause pigs to become stressed.
In that case, producers need asking themselves whether that procedure can be done in a less stressful way – or whether it is really necessary to actually perform that procedure, e.g. teeth clipping.
There is no substitute for good hygiene and biosecurity measures. For that reason, cleaning and disinfection will make a difference. These procedures need to be carried out with attention for detail (think of e.g. visitors, protective clothing, water and feed supply, human food, dead animals) and obviously not spreading disease by needles and other instruments. In addition, ideally there should be no other pigs within 5 km of the farm.
It goes without saying that purchased stock must also come from high health status units.
Good nutrition is not only important for growth but also for development of the immune system. For that reason, provide high quality diets, especially after weaning. In addition, high levels of anti-oxidants in weaner diets may help strengthen the immune system.
Colostrum is essential in providing protection against diseases present on the farm. It is therefore important to ensure that piglets get as much colostrum as possible during first 12 hours of life, ideally even within 6 hours of birth. Cross-fostering may help here as well, as some sows may have no antibodies.
Cross-fostering essentially is swapping litters within 6 to 12 hours of farrowing. It is essential, however, to allow newly born piglets to have at least one feed from their natural mother.
This article is the third in a series on how to design new pig farms? It is also a summary of a presentation given at the Pork Production Conference in Beijing, China, in early September 2016. In the next weeks, more summaries will be published. Want to read them all at once? Then simply download this whitepaper here.