MSD Animal Health highlights new research & products featured at ESPHM

Learn the hot topics at ESPHM
calendar icon 27 June 2023
clock icon 7 minute read

Editor’s note: Dr. Rika Jolie, Head of the Global Swine Business Unit at MSD Animal Health, spoke with The Pig Site’s Sarah Mikesell to talk about new research that the company has conducted as well as industry themes heard at the European Symposium of Porcine Health Management (ESPHM).

MSD Animal Health presented a significant amount of research at ESPHM, can you share a few highlights?

One of our focuses during ESPHM was the evolution of The IDAL Way, our needle-free intradermal portfolio. One of the things that’s new with IDAL is we now have an opportunity to mix and match up to four different vaccines. Our IDAL device comes with its own line of vaccines for Porcine circovirus (PCV), Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae, Lawsonia intracellularis and Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). With that particular portfolio of antigens that can be used with the IDAL system, we allow the producer and veterinarian to design a vaccination program specific to their needs. We have two types of IDAL injectors - the IDAL 3G injector that holds one vial, and the IDAL 3G TWIN that has ports for two vials. If you use the 3G TWIN injector, you have three antigens that can be administered in one injection. If you want to add on the fourth antigen (PRRS), then you use the mono injector and place it on the opposite side of the neck.

The latest design of IDAL offers flexibility to the farmer and for the animal. From a welfare perspective, there are no needles involved which reduces the chance of transferring infections between animals, and a producer can administer up to four antigens in one animal handling which reduces the stress on the animal. From a producer's perspective, it saves on labor because they handle groups of animals fewer times. Finally, it's also good from a consumer’s perspective because we reduce the number of needles being used in the pig and there’s no risk of pork tissue damage. It's truly a win-win for everybody.

The IDAL system also offers a sustainability aspect. The vaccine vials are smaller because the dose is less at 0.2 ml, so it requires less product and space to refrigerate. You also have less packaging and eliminate needles, a medical waste, reducing the risk of pathogen transfer that you would have when the same needle is being used for a group of pigs. Essentially, The IDAL Way offers a more sustainable approach to vaccination, providing advantages for health, welfare, efficiency and sustainability. In addition, it preserves the effectiveness of the vaccines for the key diseases mentioned earlier.

Porcilis Lawsonia research was also featured at ESPHM. Lawsonia intracellularis is a disease that, in Europe, is often sub clinical, meaning it's not always obvious to the producer that they have the disease on their farm. It may be present and having a negative impact on growth and feed conversion, while eating away at overall pig health and productivity. This results in the producer spending more money on feed to get the same return in the pig. When we start vaccinating with Porcilis Lawsonia on farms that may be sub clinically infected, we see economic benefits for the producer - feed conversion rate (FCR) and average daily gain (ADG) are improved, and less feed is needed to produce the same amount of pork. Again, there's a sustainability aspect which is a plus for the farmer.

Respiratory disease is another portfolio focus area for MSD Animal Health. We're very strong with PCV and mycoplasma vaccines, and we continue to research and work on controlling respiratory disease on the farm by learning about the epidemiology of the disease and how the disease behaves in certain countries. Our interest in intestinal health is important because it is linked to respiratory health. We also published some microbiome studies because, in the end, optimal gut health in a pig goes hand in hand with an overall healthy profile.

Reproductive health is also a focus and we have introduced a new progesterone kit that is pig-side and helps producers determine the status of the sow’s or gilt’s estrus cycle. Sometimes producers are not sure where the animal is in its estrus cycle, and they will eliminate the animal from the farm. With our new diagnostic kit, which is a quick and easy test to perform, they can make better decisions about how to proceed with the animal.

How do producers benefit from MSD Animal Health’s research?

We do research with our products because we want to understand what we bring to the producer and what our products can deliver. That allows our team to be more prepared to speak with our producers and/or their veterinarians about what kind of results they can expect from our products. A big emphasis for us is to make sure that our team is well informed of expectations. Then we work together with our customers.

Sometimes research is initiated because of questions that producers have. We take questions back to R&D and follow up on it. As a result, that may lead to new product claims that come out. Or if I bring it back to our IDAL device, field feedback may result in us making changes to the device so that we continue to fulfill customer needs.

One of our taglines is “Transforming pig farms and pig well-being, together.” We look at the “together” part as the industry as a whole. It's everybody - it's not just about our company or within the company; it also refers to working with and listening to our customers and ensuring that we fulfill their needs. It’s also where all the research comes from, so we can be informed and can help our customers to understand what they can expect from swine diseases and our products.

Please share some of the topics that were discussed at ESPHM.

Economics: Our industry is under stress, so anything that can be done to help the producer be more efficient and reduce their cost of production is always at the forefront of people's minds, and this is especially true in the current environment.

Disease: African swine fever is another topic that is still very present. Particularly, because it remains a threat in Europe, even though it seems to be a bit more curtailed. It's a different picture than what we see in Asia, where it really went into commercial farms. In Europe, it's still very much associated with wild boars. In some Eastern countries, it has entered in commercial farms, but not to the same extent as what we've experienced in Asia. Then there's the existing diseases that never disappoint like PRRS. We’ve been doing industry research for years and there still is no optimal vaccine available. There's always more research, more understanding of the pathogen, but not necessarily resulting in a new and/or better vaccine.

Tech as a tool: Technology is also on the forefront of people's mind. We at MSD Animal Health are focused on technology, and so are some of our competitors. We are looking at opportunities to help improve the welfare of the animal and sustainability aspects, but also tools that help with tracing the animal from birth to finish. MSD Animal Health has invested in a company called LeeO Precision Farming that offers a traceability tool based on an ear tag and a reader. It allows a producer to tag the pig at birth, and then collect information on the pig with respect to its gender weight, genetics, vaccination history, health history, etc. A producer can essentially start to create and build a passport for that individual animal that continues to trace the animal all the way through finishing and to the slaughter plant. This is becoming more important as consumers are more and more interested in learning where their food comes from. We want to deliver toward that end goal, also knowing about vaccination status and antibiotic status, which is particularly important in Europe, where you have an export of nursery animals to other markets for grow-finish. On the receiving end, the producer wants to know what the vaccination and health profile is of the animals.

Artificial intelligence for early diagnosis: The use of artificial intelligence is growing in importance as well - recognizing when an animal has a change in behavior in the barn. As a result, does the animal need intervention? Does the animal need a follow up diagnostic sample taken to understand what's happening? As a company, we're also very heavily invested in bringing those types of tools to our producers. In the end, the purpose for those tools is for the producer to be better informed earlier in the process when changes are happening, so they can be more efficient at managing pig health and welfare and labor on the farm.

Sarah Mikesell


Sarah Mikesell grew up on a five-generation family farming operation in Ohio, USA, where her family still farms. She feels extraordinarily lucky to get to do what she loves - write about livestock and crop agriculture. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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