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Pigs Management Notes – December

November 25, 2020

Preparing for winter!

It is only a matter of time until night time temperatures drop below freezing and the Met Office issue weather warnings. Although you can’t prevent low temperatures and freezing conditions you can prepare for them!

When preparing for winter weather most people are aware of the need to protect the water supply system. As a farmer there is nothing worse than not having any water due to frozen or burst pipes. Fixing dripping water taps or leaking pipes now and insulating exposed pipes will help ensure this doesn’t happen this winter.

However, heating and ventilation systems are often overlooked when preparing for colder weather. It is extremely important these systems are in ‘tip top’ condition, as there is a fine line in winter between providing good air quality and keeping the pigs warm and comfortable. To ensure they are in ideal condition:

  • Clean fan grilles and ducts to improve air flow.
  • Check fans are running freely at minimum ventilation rates and motors are not overheating.
  • Clean and adjust air inlets. If vents are dirty or pull cords stretched they will not close properly leading to heat loss.
  • Clean heaters to increase efficiency of the reflectors and prevent fire risk.
  • Check alarm temperature settings are appropriate for colder weather.
  • Check and replace batteries in backup systems/sirens.

If you have a back-up generator now is the time to check it is working. There is no point checking it when the electricity is off!

The do’s and don’ts of taking a water sample!

Both the quantity and quality of drinking water for pigs is important. Inadequate water affects feed intake, growth rate and feed efficiency and bacterial contamination can affect pig health. It is therefore a good idea to check the quality of drinking water on a regular basis. This can be done by taking a sample and getting it analysed at an accredited lab for bacteria such as E. Coli, Coliforms, Enterococci and Clostridia. 

When taking a sample of water it is important to avoid contamination. The following are a few do’s and don’ts of taking a sample:

  • Do use a sterile sample bottle.
  • Don’t use an empty milk cartoon, even if rinsed out.
  • Do wear disposable gloves and change gloves between samples.
  • Do keep the bottle closed until you are ready to fill it.
  • Don’t touch the mouth or cap of the bottle.
  • Don’t let the water flow over your hand when taking the sample.
  • Do fill the bottle to the top to eliminate air.
  • Do label the bottle with your name, date and time of sampling.
  • Do keep the sample chilled (3-5oC) until ready for delivery and during delivery to the lab.
  • Don’t freeze the sample before delivery to the lab.
  • Do deliver the sample to the lab as soon as possible after collection.

African swine fever

If you are a regular reader of the pig management notes you will know that I have written about African swine fever (ASF) before. Due to the devastating effect an outbreak could have on your business and the industry I make no apology for writing about it again!

In mid-September ASF was confirmed in wild boar in Germany. At the time of writing the number of wild boar testing positive to the disease had increased to 170. Thankfully it has not been found in commercial pigs in Germany.

Irrespective of the number of pigs you keep, whether it is one or thousands, you are responsible for keeping ASF out of Northern Ireland. This means taking biosecurity serious, not just paying lip service to it but actually putting strict measures in place. It also means educating your family, your staff and others about the risk of feeding food waste to pigs. The ASF virus can survive for weeks and even months in meat products, with frozen meat posing a very high risk.

Visit the DAERA website at www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/african-swine-fever for more biosecurity advice and the latest news on African swine fever.