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Pig Journal Volume: 69
Publication date: May 2013

General Section

Feed intake in young pigs and its importance for the ‘post antibiotic era’
P.Toplis, I.J. Wellock, K.Almond, P.Wilcock, C.L.Walk

Whilst diet composition is an increasingly critical factor for young pigs, as we seek to reduce antimicrobial usage, feed intake remains a key factor of overriding importance. Pig production remains an economic activity, not an academic one, and so it is pig producers who must embrace and deliver the required changes. Therefore, it is incumbent on us all to find cost effective ways to reduce antibiotic use which work not only at the test facility but also repeatedly at farm level. An antibiotic free era is being held out as a goal for pig production. However, as a scientific consensus is forming that the use of antimicrobials in human medicine rather than the veterinary sector is the driving force for antibiotic-resistant human infections, a more realistic goal would be to target ‘as little as possible, and as much as necessary’ in pig production. Some European countries appear nearer to this goal than others but the greatest differences appear in the attitudes and practices in the post-weaning period because this area presents the most difficulty.

The pig industry in many countries has evolved using lower quality, and lower cost diets supported by antibiotic therapy. Other countries have developed so called ‘safe’ lower performance diets which burden the industry with slower growth and added maintenance costs over the lifetime of the pig. Antibiotic reduction is more achievable and sustainable with higher cost diets that are highly digestible, but current levels of profitability prevent widespread adoption of this route. A step change is possible but only when consumers or retailers demand and fund it through sufficient margins by premium pricing. Progress continues to be made as a series of steps involving innovative feeding practices, novel ingredients and additives to improve feed intake and/or gut health. It is the objective of this paper to discuss key areas and nutritional progress necessary for a ‘post antibiotic era’, as well as present new research evaluating improvements in feed efficiency through the reduction of dietary phytate, an antinutritional factor and chelator of zinc oxide (ZnO) which may allow us to reduce pharmaceutical levels of ZnO by up to 30% with no loss of efficacy.

The breadth of this topic is huge, and this paper makes no claim to be an exhaustive review. In fact, we only make a passing comment on some key areas and wherever possible we point the reader to a relevant review. Our principle has been to include what we have found useful in guiding our thinking for farm advisory work. Our understanding of commercial practice is that the factor dominating both performance and gut health remains the level of feed intake pre- and post-weaning, with diet composition playing a vitally important yet less significant supporting role.

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Future environmental control for pig production – more of the same or radical change?
N.Bird, H.Crabtree

Some things don’t change. The fundamental physics that determine how energy is used and transferred in a system; how air moves, and how temperature is regulated has not changed. The thermal competence of a building is still assessed in the same way – how much insulation, how accurate the ventilation control. Whilst the detailed engineering of systems has moved on with respect to materials choice, improved mechanisation and the impact of the ubiquitous computer; the world’s most popular mechanical ventilation system for pigs – negative pressure, extract ventilation with motorised inlet control – has its origin in Bedfordshire in the United Kingdom (UK). The High Speed Jet system was developed at the National Institute of Agricultural Engineering 35 years ago and it remains the basis of all inlet control ventilation systems and the derivatives such as tunnel ventilation that can be found in every advanced market in the world.

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Immunological innovations in the future of pig health management
A.W. Tucker

Optimum pig health underpins the ongoing global supply of pig meat. As demand increases, mature and emerging livestock supply systems must focus on meeting this requirement in ways that are safe, economically sustainable and welfare-conscious. Excellent pig health, which lies at the core of these aims, is dictated by the equilibrium between microbes, the environment, and host susceptibility. This lecture will focus broadly on recent innovations across veterinary and human medical research that could have tangible benefits in reducing pig susceptibility to health compromise. Immunological innovations with respect to pig health will be considered in three categories: manipulation of the innate immune system, vaccine-related research, and optimised immunity based on understanding of infection dynamics.

Better understanding of the innate immune system is an area of great promise for long-term improvements to pig health. Aspects to be covered will include host genetics, nutrition, the role of immuno-dysregulatory viruses, and specific areas of emergent research including the role of pathogen recognition receptors (PRRs).

Vaccine induced immunity is a cornerstone of higher health production, especially on low health status units. What opportunities are there on the horizon for products yielding broader more effective immunity? How can pig responses to vaccination be optimised?

Finally, a better understanding of natural infection dynamics for important pig pathogens within and across pig populations is needed. This holds the promise of better integrating field-derived immunity with vaccine-induced immunity, and the exploitation of synergies between them.

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Influenza pandemics: does the greater threat come from pigs, not birds?
K.Van Reeth

It is a central dogma in influenza virology, that pandemic influenza viruses come from wild aquatic birds. The classic viewpoint is that pigs are more susceptible to avian influenza viruses than people, and that they are essential intermediate hosts for the introduction of avian viruses or avian virus genes into the human population. The devastating outbreaks of ‘H5N1 bird flu’ in Asia in 2003 and the ensuing research, started to challenge many of the old theories about pigs and flu pandemics. Then, the first pandemic virus of this century did not come from birds, but it was a re-assortant of two well-established swine influenza viruses. The 2009, pandemic H1N1 virus is now a shared virus between humans and swine, and it continues to re-assort with endemic swine flu viruses worldwide. Some of these second generation re-assortants are also perceived as potential pandemic threats. It is reassuring though, that the human population will likely have partial immune protection against most of the H1 and H3 viruses that are endemic in swine, due to exposure to older human virus strains. Unlike other swine flu viruses, the 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus had the critical ability to spread efficiently from person to person. Researchers have tried hard to understand what makes this swine-origin virus so successful in humans. This paper discusses the major lessons from the complicated experimental studies with these viruses, as well as the caveats and difficulties. While it is impossible to make predictions about which animal influenza viruses may cause future pandemics, we can, for sure, improve our insights into the mechanisms of the species barrier. This requires: 1) pathogenesis and transmission studies with influenza viruses from various hosts in various domestic animal species, and 2) better surveillance for influenza in swine. Veterinary scientists can bring unique perspectives to this sort of research, and the success of surveillance relies very much on the co-operation of swine practitioners and producers.

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Microbiota, metabolism and immunity: the role of early-life events in determining piglet performance
M. Bailey, Z. Christoforidou, S. Grierson, M.Lewis, C.Stokes

Increasing evidence over the last decade has suggested that the complex process by which the intestinal tract is colonised with bacteria after birth has profound effects on development, both of the immune system, and of metabolism in human infants. Importantly, it is now apparent that very early-life events may have prolonged, sustained effects on both of these systems. This provides an opportunity for early life intervention in the process of microbial succession in neonatal piglets which may influence basic determinants of performance including response to infectious disease, vaccination, food conversion efficiency and fat deposition. However, our evidence is that the effect of interventions aimed at manipulation of the microbiota are strongly influenced by a range of environmental factors including diet and farm of origin. It seems likely that future strategies may need to take local circumstances into account, in a manner similar to the ‘stratified medicine’ approach in humans.

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Practical on-farm solutions to tackle swine influenza
G. Sandri

In Europe and Italy as well, Swine Influenza Viruses (SIVs) are endemic and are still considered major respiratory pathogens inducing acute disease in pigs. The author presents the results of a 10 year long Influenza Monitoring Programme in a large swine production system In Italy. Following a clear seasonal pattern, most of the observed outbreaks of Swine Influenza (SI) occurred in the autumn-winter season. In the production system described the clinical appearance of SI was mostly acute or epizootic. The prevailing serotypes are H1N1, H3N2 and recently also H1N2. Although rather obvious in its symptoms the correct diagnostic procedure for Swine Influenza, using a specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and virus isolation, requires the help of the laboratory. Aspirin and other Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are still the best therapeutic approach to treat affected animals. Antibiotic therapy is advised in case of concurrent bacterial infection. An ongoing surveillance programme is required to monitor the incidence of Influenza and the ever changing characterisation of serotypes on a regional, national and European Union (EU) basis.

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Structure of the UK pig industry

This report combines data from a range of different sources to present a picture of the current structure of the United Kingdom (UK) Pig Industry. It aims to answer a range of common questions about the size and organisation of the industry, the production methods that it utilises and the welfare standards that it adheres to.

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The threat of emerging and re-emerging diseases in pigs
J. Segales

An emerging disease is the one that has appeared in a population for the first time, or that may have existed previously, but, is rapidly increasing in incidence or geographic range. The number of new diseases in swine, included under the scope of emerging or re-emerging diseases, has increased importantly during last 20-30 years. Most of them fall into the category of infectious diseases, since their transmissibility and maintenance into a population is favoured by a number of factors, including current intensive rearing practices and international trading (globalisation). In addition, the last 10 years have provided a significant increase in the knowledge of newly discovered infectious agents, mostly viruses, with a not yet very clear pathogenic effect in pigs. The objective of this review is to discuss the general and particular causes of the appearance of new diseases or novel presentations of already known diseases in pigs, as well as to discuss recently recognised infections with a virtually, as yet, unknown impact on the swine industry. Therefore, mechanisms of emergence and re-emergence of diseases and the duality of ‘disease and infection’ are discussed in general, and particularly for pigs.

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