Combined effort to “keep ‘em healthy”

The continued focus on the ever-increasing resistance to antibiotics and the need to reduce in-feed use of medication, should encourage us to examine all potential ways to reduce exposure to disease as well as interventions to combat it.
Antibiotics in German animal production more than halved between 2011 and 2015.
As an industry, we have to ensure pigs remain healthy with the multifactorial approaches available to us and as a result become less reliant on medicines, particularly antibiotics.
Good hygiene protocols should be a focus and a regular cleaning and disinfecting regime adhered to, however busy the team is. The benefits of housing pigs in hygienic conditions is well proven. An Australian study in 1999 showed a 48g/day improvement in growth rate, 28% reduction in dust and a 34% reduction viable bacteria when using all in all out, cleaned accommodation compared to continuous flow.
The use of showers on units, combined with boot dips, hand wash and changing clothes between departments is something used to ensure as much is done as possible to reduce transferable challenge. Advances in vaccination programmes have also helped considerably, as has consideration for partial or total depopulation.
Feed remains a critical component of maintaining healthy pigs; not just in formulation, or additives, but also in presentation.
A pig fed an unsuitable diet where it can’t express its genetic potential will be under stress. Excess protein in a diet puts pressure on the liver and kidneys, excess polyunsaturated fat and too little antioxidant can put pressure on the heart, and unbalanced mineralisation can impair bone growth and metabolic energy transfer.
Mycotoxin contamination will also have profound effects on the body – ranging from reduced feed intake to major toxic effects.
The feed ‘environment’ is important too. Waste feed can encourage vermin and they can act as vectors for disease transmission, and it can also be a reservoir for mould and bacteria. Therefore, we cannot be complacent about feed as a critical part of biosecurity.
Feed additives will be of greater importance in the quest to improve pig health, particularly the combination of essential oils and organic acids. The synergistic effects of these additives are known to improve feed intake and technical performance as well as making the feed an undesirable environment for bacterial contamination.
Enzymes will enhance digestible nutrients in the feed and reduce the amount of substrate entering in the hind gut, the niche area where pathogenic species could proliferate. Mycotoxin binders will reduce other toxic challenge.
Ultimately, the combined efforts for biosecurity and feed management will lead to improved growth and health, as more growth equals a greater production of growth hormone which is intimately linked to the pig’s immune function. A fast growing pig stays healthy and a healthy pig grows faster.

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About The Author

Editor of Pig World and contributor to LBM’s other farming publications. Also National Pig Association webmaster. Formerly political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years. Enjoy a bit of media punditry. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm. Work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Under-9 football coach and big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.