Pre-weaning jab for piglets will knock-out M hyo

Elanco Animal Health’s one-shot vaccine to combat Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae (M hyo), Stellamune Once, is now licensed for use in piglets from just three-days old, the first M hyo vaccine in the UK to gain this licence. For producers, it gives even greater assurance that young piglets will be protected, and the timing helps many units by fitting in even better with other management tasks

The infectious agent M hyo is one of the most challenging to pervade global pig production. The viral and bacterial conditions it triggers can spread through a herd with frightening speed, disrupting production and eating away at unit profitability.

For a start, the M hyo pathogen is the causal agent of enzootic pneumonia (EP) and one of the primary pathogens involved in the porcine respiratory disease complex (PRDC). It gives power to the severity and duration of some diseases and makes pigs susceptible to secondary bacterial infections.

All this comes at a cost. Feed efficiency and growth rates of affected pigs are reduced, adding significantly to producers’ feed bills. Infected pigs take longer to reach slaughter weight, either causing crowding problems in finishing accommodation or losing money by marketing underweight animals.

The value of vaccinating against M hyo and the benefits of a one-shot vaccine were detailed in a paper presented recently at a Pig Veterinary Society conference by Dominiek Maes of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Ghent University, Belgium. He has produced more than 400 papers on animal health and is regarded as a leading authority on EP.

“In many countries more than 70% of herds are vaccinated to control M hyo,” he says. The major advantages include improved daily weight gain (2-8%), better feed conversion ratio (2-5%) and sometimes reduced mortality. Treatment costs are reduced and pigs reach slaughter weight more quickly. Vaccination also reduces lung lesions and clinical signs of respiratory disease.

“One-shot vaccines have been shown to confer similar benefits to two-shot vaccines and are more often used now,” he adds. The method requires less labour and can be implemented more easily in a unit’s routine management practices. He advises that as only one injection is given, skill in vaccinating is more critical, to ensure vaccine compliance.

The target for producers is to implement a control strategy that focuses on reducing M hyo infection in young pigs. Animals infected at or shortly after weaning pass on the health challenge to other piglets in nursery accommodation. Convalescent carriers can remain infectious for up to 200 days, highlighting why M hyo can spread like wildfire.

In some studies in the US, the severity of the disease on a unit can be predicted by its prevalence at weaning. “This is a stressful time for piglets, and it coincides with a drop in maternal antibody levels,” Mr Maes says.

Early intervention with a single dose of Stellamune Once provides piglets with protection at weaning. The one injection induces a long-lasting protective immunity and reduces the severity of lung lesions. The ability now to vaccinate piglets from three-days old adds to the proven efficacy of the product.

Producers have the assurance, too, that when piglets vaccinated at three days are challenged by infection, their antibody response and protection is not adversely affected by the serological status of sows. The immune response to infection is similar in piglets born from vaccinated or unvaccinated mothers.

In a practical presentation to the PVS, consultant pig vet Adrian Cox, of the Garth Partnership, gave the results of a field case study comparing Stellamune Once at seven days with a two-dose vaccine on an M hyo-positive 400-sow farrow-to-finish unit. Pigs vaccinated with the Elanco product gained an extra 3.2g/day (574.4g/day) from weaning to slaughter compared with those on the two-dose regime. Similarly, they gained 33g/day more in the finishing period (713.4g/day).

The result was the quicker production of heavier pigs, saving an average 4.3 days per pig on finisher accommodation. And Stellamune Once was effective in controlling lung lesions caused by M hyo.

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