Neville Kingston MVBHons CertPM MRCVS, Senior Partner at Garth Partnership speaks exclusively to ThePigSite.com
Neville Kingston MVBHons CertPM MRCVS
Senior Partner, Garth Partnership
Short Biog needed here
Garth Veterinary Group provides veterinary services solely to pig farmers, with an emphasis on preventative medicine and how to maximise productivity from a unit.
Preventative medicine has greatly changed from 20 years ago where it was considered to be vaccination programme and strategic medication, now preventative medicine relates to how to optimise performance from a unit and minimise disease levels. We see our role as veterinarians as part of the team on the unit to motivate and stimulate change such that the limiting steps of production are identified and remedial activities can be implemented.
To survive in modern pig production healthy pigs are critical and the veterinarian is best placed to identify where substandard performance is occurring and then identifying if it is related to housing, feeding, management, breeding, technology application, genetics, stockmanship or disease. The veterinarian role is identifying these first rate limiting factors.
Our reporter recently caught up with Neville to ask him some pertinent questions.
Does the growth of outdoor pig production in some markets around the world give rise to new health and management challenges, and do you see the growth in extensive systems being curtailed by any of these problems?
Outdoor pig production gives rise to two diversely opposite health management challenges. Outdoor pig production means that it is difficult to maintain unit security as the pigs are spread over a wide area of land and it is very difficult to exclude birds and other forms of wildlife that may carry infectious diseases such as swine fever, foot and mouth, salmonella, Aujeszky's disease etc.
Another inherent health risk is that proper loading ramps are usually not available on outdoor units and tractors etc have to go from paddock to paddock and these may also then go directly onto public roads or areas populated by pigs.
The converse is that the animals are housed less densely and generally health is improved as commonly many of the problems of the intensely housed pig comes from too many pigs kept in close proximity.
Outdoor weaners when weaned into huts in fields often have very good health, many farms now create separate areas at least 100 yards apart for each weeks production of weaners, hence when they are well separated. Commonly these pigs will go through with very few health problems.
Also pigs post weaning tend to get off to a better start as they are used to eating some sow nuts from the sow paddocks and are "hardier" when weaned.
The Garth practise is one of the world's leading pig veterinary practises with a strong focus on health management and disease prevention, do you see a global trend developing that is placing an increasing emphasis on this approach?
Focus on health management historically has been in terms of controlling diseases already existent on a unit, particularly since the emergence of circovirus related disease (PMWS, PDNS). The global trend in health management is to establish herds free from the major diseases of intensification particularly Aujeszky's, enzootic pneumonia, PRRS, swine dysentery, lice and mange, streptococcus suis and atrophic rhinitis.
There is increasing emphasis on trying to eradicate diseases existing on the unit particularly with some of the programmes using sow medication and vaccination and removing of all the feeding pigs off site. A lot of these programmes have been relatively successful in reducing the disease burden on a herd and improving health significantly.
Historically veterinary disease and management was related to bacterial diseases where antibiotics and vaccines commonly had good effects. More recently diseases are principally related to virus's, circovirus related disease and PRRS being the major problem now in intensive swine production.
The EU is due to ban the remaining antibiotic growth promoters at the end of this year - what problems do you foresee arising from this and will EU producers be disadvantaged as a result?
The ban on growth promoters in grower pig feeds will have a significant effect on the economic performance. There are alternatives to the antibiotic growth promoters but these are more expensive and generally not as consistent in terms of performance. Also the lowering of copper levels in grower diets has an effect on the enteric conditions in grower pigs as well. The combination of these factors means that the cost of production of pigs is increasing.
Experience in Denmark has shown where antibiotic growth promoters are withdrawn for a longer period of time that the use of infeed antimicrobials has increased to some degree. There is a major disadvantage within the EU that if they insist on pigs being produced to a higher standard than other areas in the world and then allowing meat to be produced under different standards in the rest of the world that decrease the cost of production. This makes the EU production less competitive and must be questioned as to whether the EU believe that antibiotic growth promoter free pigs for members of the community is right. How they can allow meat produced from a different standard to be imported into the EU inevitably decreasing the production within the EU and thus allowing expansion of pork production in other areas of the world.
Does organic pig production bring it's own special problems to you as vets.
Organic pig production is mainly outdoors and normally relatively healthily but there is one area where organic pig production can cause increased disease conditions, that is where the farms are established from rare breeds of pigs. These animals are not normally from accredited breeding companies where they have a proper health control programme, selling pigs of a defined health status. Commonly these rare breeds carry diseases such as mange, lice, atrophic rhinitis, and PRRS in particular.
Where organic pig production is based on high health animals or defined health status then there are no particular problems in their production. Individual treatment of organic pigs is allowed with antibiotics but these animals must be tagged and they are not allowed to enter the organic food chain. Organic pig production is often seen as healthier pig production, this is not necessarily the case. It depends on the health status of the animals being produced. Also under organic pig production the buildings and facilities tend to be of a lower standard than standard production, which may pose some welfare issues.
PMWS has been the major disease problem affecting the industry in recent years, would agree that the impact of the disease appears to be reducing in some regions and if so what do you attribute this to?
PMWS appears to be reducing generally and there are a number of factors in this.
When we see PMWS initially break out in the unit there would appear to be a significantly higher level of mortality particularly in the first three to four months and then settles. Some of this may be attributed to the virus crossing the placenta and pigs being born already damaged with circovirus thus having increased propensity to other diseases and death due to circovirus related problems. We see farms where they have not improved hygiene or improved health status or management persist with relatively high mortalities particularly when they are integrated with units where all the pigs are housed from farrow to finish. There is major pressure on changing pig production in Europe to either batch or off site production because of the inherent increased disease problems with farrowing to finishing since PMWS/PDNS has come.
Recently we are seeing significant reductions in PMWS associated disease often in the region of 50% or even greater by changing boar breed to a total outcross commonly Pietrian or Hampshire boars.
Do you believe that the escalating cost of developing and licensing new animal health products will eventually dramatically impede our ability to tackle the new diseases that will inevitably appear around the global industry from time to time. Will there be increasing use of medicines on 'emergency' licenses and of autogenous vaccines?
As I have already alluded to the main emphasis on swine health and programmes and production now is too establish animals free of major diseases. Unhealthy pigs using high levels of antimicrobials and vaccines are just not viable for the future. As in the present market in the UK and across Europe where pig production is under increasing pressure in terms of profitability highly diseased farms are becoming unviable hence where we have severe disease problems then health upgrades or whole herd restocking has to be considered.
There is a major issue for farmers where the margin they are able to make from pigs for the last seven years have remained static or slightly reduced yet the cost of licensing of drugs and other pharmaceutical products is going up faster than inflation in the region of 5-7% per year. All parts of the supply chain to the pig industry has to try and reduce its costs yet the pharmaceutical companies do not appear to be tackling this issue to the same extent as other members of the supply chain.
We do not see in general terms an increase use of emergency of autogenous vaccines although this may become an issue if further new diseases come and certainly to date there are no vaccines where one of the major diseases identified is circovirus related PMWS/PDNS disease.
With the world's swine & poultry industries continuing to consolidate do you seethe emergence of global veterinary service providers as a likely outcome from this?
There is already a degree of cross over of veterinary service providers as there are good links between pig veterinarians throughout the world and a good common base with the international pig veterinarian congress every second year. There is already a good transfer of information and veterinarians visiting various countries.
As well as being a leading pig vet you are also well known as an international expert on antique carpets - how did you get from pigs to carpets or would you rather not say!!??
There is no link whatsoever between the central Asian tribal carpets and artefacts that I deal in and pigs. The pleasure in pig medicine is an interesting scientific and interpersonal challenge of how to create change on a pig unit. Tribal artefacts are a visual art where tribal people make the best quality items to show their status and artistic abilities. There is great fun in the "hunt of the chase" trying to find the oldest and rarest examples possible. It means that there are always areas to travel to find the great piece.
Source: ThePigSite's intrepid interviewer - July 2005