Tech Talk: Topical tips for better pig health

Tech Talk is produced by the Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC) on behalf of the British Pig Executive - Improving pig health and productivity was the hot topic at a Society of Feed Technologists (SFT) conference. The feed sector is a vital element in the pork production chain and conference delegates were presented with new information on nutrition and management in support of industry-wide objectives for sustainability and progression.
calendar icon 10 November 2004
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British Pig Executive

In collaboration with the Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC) and the Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA), the SFT conference delivered a raft of practical information including the following:


Production trial 1 of the Finishing Pigs Systems Research programme has already shown that substantial benefits in gut health and pig performance can be achieved through liquid feeding compared with feeding dry pellets.

MLC Senior Pig Scientist Dr Jayne Thompson, said: "The second trial went on to show that savings of 9p per kilo deadweight were made by including co-products in a liquid feeding regime." These are some of the findings from a Defra/BPEX-funded research programme taking place at the Stotfold Pig Development Unit (PDU).

The work has been co-ordinated by MLC Pig Technical Manager Dr Pinder Gill and delivered through the collaboration of a large team of experts from the Acorn House Veterinary Surgery, Liquid Feeders Research Group, MLC, SAC, Silsoe Research Institute, Stotfold PDU, Universities of Newcastle, Nottingham and Plymouth, and the VLA.


Feed-related factors have been linked to the non-infectious diarrhoea syndrome in growing pigs known as non-specific colitis (NSC). Poorer growth rates associated with diarrhoea mean that NSC could be costing producers as much as £5 per affected pig.

Dr Jill Thomson of SAC gave delegates an update on research towards the control of NSC. Funded by BPEX, the SAC study showed that the processing method (for example, higher temperatures and longer conditioning times) rather than feed ingredients per se, was the major factor associated with NSC. Work continues towards identifying control measures.


Diseases prevailing on a farm present a particular challenge for incoming livestock. Infectious agents such as Swine Influenza virus (SIV), Porcine Respiratory and Reproductive Syndrome (PRRS) virus and Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae (APP) are widespread on many pig units in the UK and can cause a reduction in performance, particularly where incoming stock has had no previous exposure to these diseases.

Alasdair Cook (VLA) gave a report on recent research conducted by BPEX, MLC and the RVC on the incidence of disease in breeding stock entering the herd at either 30kg or 90kg and compared their performance over three parities.

Findings indicate that there were no important significant differences in health or production parameters between the two groups, although age of gilts at purchase might still be an important consideration, particularly on units of higher health status or on PRRS-free units.


Health management and control of disease is critical to the success of a modern pig unit. E. coli, for example, can cause major problems in piglets after weaning and the control of Salmonella is of vital importance, not only for pig health but also for food safety.

Dr Andy Rycroft (RVC), reported on the results of a BPEX-funded study at Stotfold to identify effective points in controlling disease risk on pig units and to investigate the effectiveness of cleaning regimes. The study showed that breeding pigs can be a source for introduction of new Salmonella strains.

The effects of cleaning, however, were variable. Coliforms (such as E. coli) were removed to levels below detection in many cases while in others they persisted, particularly in corners of the room where physical cleaning was more difficult. Drinkers were a problem site where disease- causing bacteria could survive.

However, this became less notable as the study progressed, probably because staff paid extra attention to them once they realised they were a risk point. Reducing contamination through cleaning and disinfection can only ever be a part of an overall strategy, but there is a clear need for attention to detail in making sure resources aren't just poured down the drain.

Concerted efforts on those hard to reach places can make all the difference for a successful cleaning and disinfection programme.

Source: British Pig Executive - November 2004

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