April 2016: Stomach ulcers raise their ugly head again

I heard through the grapevine just before Christmas that stomach ulcers in growing pigs appear to be a problem again. Usually we see it occurring in finishing pigs and usually the signs are fading pigs and/or pale pigs. In contrast, this time the ulcers are apparently appearing in weaners and 50 to 60kg pigs. Pigs seem to be dying from the ulcers, which is also new.

Some of my colleagues from the Pig Research Centre started touring the country to present what we know about stomach ulcers to pig clubs, conferences and other producer events. However, what used to work no longer safeguards pigs from the problem.

At our wits’ ends, we started to see if we could identify some trends. Usually feeding pigs with pelleted feed and finely-ground cereals exposes them to stomach ulcers more compared to home mill-and-mix and coarse meal; but even the home mixers reported issues with stomach ulcers. We also know that wet feed is better in regards to stomach ulcers compared to dry feed, but even wet feed producers seemed to be having problems with ulcers.

We have been carrying out projects in this area for the past 10 to 12 years at the Pig Research Centre and consistently found tools to help prevent stomach ulcers in sows and growing pigs. Many of these tools, however, don’t seem to be guaranteed measures to prevent (or stop) stomach ulcer outbreaks any longer. We’ve now intensified our activities in this area, and I’m heading up a project that features assessing the effect of dry matter in feed on stomach ulcers and the effect (or otherwise) of vitamins and coagulation of blood. We’re also starting up projects looking at different protein sources and how to grind soya.

We can’t ignore this problem, which brings producers to the point of frustration where they even contact me through my private Facebook profile. They want us to look at their herd and their problems in order to try and identify factors that are causing stomach ulcers and a doubling in mortality rate in their herd.

I recently started a pilot study looking at haylage in finishing diets. We’ve created a pellet that includes finely chopped haylage and is a total diet meeting all the energy and nutrient requirements for a standard finishing ration. We know that feeding haylage to finishing pigs reduces the prevalence of stomach ulcers, but managing haylage in a normal, indoor finishing system is time consuming, and the haylage blocks the slats.

Can we achieve an effect (albeit slightly reduced) when compressing the haylage into the pellets? We’ll know later this month, when the first pigs fed the pellets go to slaughter.

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About The Author

Lisbeth Shooter is a former BPEX knowledge transfer manager who’s now head of department for feed efficiency at the Danish Pig Research Centre.