BPEX Pig Health Scheme: a Useful Monitoring System for Respiratory Disease Control on Pig Farms?

Lesion scores reported by the BPEX Pig Health Scheme (BPHS) may reflect the presence of respiratory pathogens and these lesions may be indicative of reduced productivity, according to researchers at the UK's Royal Veterinary College in an initial assessment of the scheme.
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Respiratory diseases account for significant economic losses to the UK pig industry, report Hannah R. Holt and colleagues at the Royal Veterinary College, London, UK, in a paper published recently in BMC Veterinary Research. They continue that lesions indicative of respiratory disease in pig lungs at slaughter, e.g. pneumonia and pleuritis, are frequently recorded to assess herd health or provide data for epidemiological studies.

The BPEX Pig Health Scheme (BPHS) is a monitoring system, which informs producers of gross lesions in their pigs' carcasses at slaughter, enabling farm-level decisions to be made. The scheme is used by farmers to monitor their within-farm prevalence of respiratory lesions, to identify potential outbreaks of respiratory disease in their herd and to assess whether different management interventions, e.g. vaccination, are successful at reducing lung lesions present at slaughter.

The aim of their study was to assess whether information provided by the BPHS regarding respiratory lesions was associated with respiratory pathogens in the farm, farm management practices and each other.

BPHS reports were obtained from a subset of 70 pig farms involved in a cross-sectional study conducted in 2008-2009 investigating the epidemiology of post-weaning multi-systemic wasting syndrome (PMWS). The reports were combined with data regarding the presence/absence of several pathogens in the herd and potential farm-level risk factors for respiratory disease.

Principal component analysis (PCA) performed on BPHS reports generated three principal components, explaining 71 per cent of the total variance.

Enzootic pneumonia score, severe pleurisy and acute pleuropneumonia had the highest loadings for the principal component which explained the largest percentage of the total variance (35 per cent) (BPHS component 1), it was thought that this component identifies farms with acute disease.

Using the factor loadings, a score for each farm for BPHS component 1 was obtained. As farms' score for BPHS component 1 increased, average carcass weight at slaughter decreased. In addition, farms positive for H1N2 and porcine reproductive and respiratory disease virus (PRRSV) were more likely to have higher levels of severe and mild pleurisy reported by the BPHS, respectively.

Holt and co-authors concluded that their study revealed statistical associations between levels of pleurisy recorded by BPHS at slaughter and the presence of H1N2 influenza virus and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) virus in the herd. They also highlighted some evidence that farms that submit pigs with these lesions may have reduced productivity. However, more research is needed to fully validate the scheme.


Holt H.R., P. Alarcon, M. Velasova, D.U. Pfeiffer and B. Wieland. 2011. BPEX Pig Health Scheme: a useful monitoring system for respiratory disease control in pig farms? BMC Veterinary Research, 7:82. doi:10.1186/1746-6148-7-82

Further Reading

- You can view the full report (as a provisional PDF) by clicking here.

Further Reading

- Find out more information on the diseases mentioned in this article by clicking here.

January 2012
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