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Pig producers rise to the challenge

January 28, 2019

Nobody likes change but if we don’t change, we don’t grow!  Pig producers have a great ability to adjust management on their units to adapt to changing demands.  This improved management has been rewarded by a significant increase in the performance of the local pig industry over the last decade.  Future challenges around pig health, including the removal of zinc from feed and reduced use of antibiotics, will mean that additional changes are inevitable.  Put simply, pig producers must adjust management techniques on their units to further reduce the disease challenge on pigs.  Now is the time to plan and implement these changes.

Mark Hawe discusses management techniques that can reduce disease challence in pigs with James Millar, Cookstown

First hand experience

While many disease control measures are already in place, such as effective cleaning and disinfection along with strategic ‘pig flow’, others need to be considered.  During a recent trip to Denmark, under the Farm Innovation Visits scheme, local pig producers saw first hand how changing management can reduce disease transfer. The result is healthier pigs at weaning and this improved health status can be retained to slaughter.

McRebel golden rules

Progressive Danish farmers have adopted a proven set management measures known as the McRebel rules and these can be summarised as follows:

  1. Only cross foster piglets when necessary as protection against infection is best when pigs remain with their mothers.
  2. If cross fostering cannot be avoided, it must be done within 48 hours of birth.
  3. Avoid handling pigs from different litters as this can transfer infection. Similarly don’t use the same equipment with different litters unless it has been thoroughly disinfected.
  4. When vaccinating or treating pigs, change needles between litters. Piglets which are unwell should be treated last in the litter.
  5. Sick pigs should remain with their mother and never be fostered off.
  6. Wean all piglets from a batch at the same time and never foster small piglets back to the next farrowing batch. Also, weaned pigs must be moved to the flatdecks and not left in the farrowing room after weaning.
  7. Operate a strict all-in / all-out system in farrowing rooms.
  8. After weaning, pigs of different ages must not be mixed. This includes housing pens of pigs of different ages in the same airspace.
  9. There must be no contact between sows and pigs up to six months of age. This is perticularly relevant to replacement gilts.
  10. Before entering the breeding herd, replacement gilts must be isolated and vaccinated. This applies equally to purchased and home reared animals..
Implement with confidence

Control and elimination of some of the most infective pig diseases have been achieved in Danish herds using these ten ‘golden rules’.  Not all of these techniques can be implemented immediately, but producers should incorporate some of them and plan to include others over time.

So don’t be afraid of change, especially when there are proven techniques to help.  As attack is the best form of defence, implement them now with confidence!