Red Robin, Pig World’s producer and industry insider, explains how their farm successfully treated its pigs’ long- term post-weaning diarrhoea problem
We have had a good month or so, I think. I hardly dare say it, but our post-weaning diarrhoea problem seems to have finally been halted.
We are trying the PRRS vaccine before weaning. Although the first weeks of pigs that had received the vaccination showed no immediate signs of improvement, we persevered. It is difficult to know what is real and what is your imagination, but I think they recovered more quickly with the vaccination (from whatever pesky virus is afflicting them) than without.
We had a number of alterations to our production planned and they happened to fall together; so in the following week, we decided to try taking the zinc out of our diets and we also managed to get the probiotics into the water, as we had been planning.
The one thing that we had felt defined the problem we faced was anorexia – the pigs seemed to stop eating post-weaning. We’ve tried everything from different diets to gruel and nothing improved it. We have been weaning a good pig but it seemed to make little difference.
The probiotic theory, in a nutshell, is that if you fill the environment with good bacteria there is no room for the bad bacteria to expand. This is wholly believable but you have to go with the programme wholesale.
You pressure wash with the probiotics and then spray the environment with the same probiotics to drive the bad bacteria out. What we found by swabbing our environment and growing the bugs on agar jelly was that a significant number of bugs were found in supposedly clean water.
After finding someone to help us pump the probiotics into our water supply, the result was as expected – drinker nipples started to block as the biofilm started to erode. It eroded so much that we realised that in our old gilt house, the biofilm was the only thing holding the water system together.
The last thing we tried was removing zinc from our diets – but not as a result of a sudden brainwave. We tried it because we were looking at pre- and post- weaning creep consumption and took it out because it was bitter and could reduce feed intakes.
I do not have enough evidence to say which one worked or whether it was a combination of all three, but we have not had any trouble since – and it had been a problem every week for at least eight years.
We are about four lots of weanings in now and the problem seems to have gone away. I am pleased enough that I will not be hurrying to remove either the PRRS vaccine or the probiotic and I won’t be rushing to put zinc back.
All of these things need to be tried on your own units before you comment on their efficacy, but I won’t be changing anytime soon.