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Pig industry should make health improvement a priority

by 5m Editor
18 June 2004, at 12:00am

UK - says new president of Pig Veterinary Society. The new president of the Pig Veterinary Society is David Taylor, Professor of Bacteriology and Public Health at the University of Glasgow.

He succeeds Bedfordshire vet, David Chennells. New vice-president is Roger Harvey of the Stowe Veterinary Group, in Suffolk.

Professor Taylor, who qualified at Cambridge Veterinary School in 1969 and has spent much of his career researching pig diseases, says that ill-health is now resulting in a "huge under-production" on UK pig farms. However, the reduction in national pig numbers has provided a unique opportunity to improve pig health.

As herds have dropped out of production the remaining units have become more isolated which gives them a greater chance of maintaining good biosecurity.

In many areas, producers who take the option of restocking with high-health status genetically-improved pigs have a better likelihood of staying free of damaging diseases, he pointed out.

"On a national scale the industry could save millions of pounds a year by eradicating certain endemic diseases, such as mange and rhinitis, and this could also result in dramatic improvements in pig performance.

"The industries within certain continental countries are co-operating to overcome health problems and we should do the same," said Professor Taylor. "We did it with Aujeszky's disease 20 years ago and the industry is still benefiting. Although costly, it has saved a small fortune on vaccines alone."

David Taylor suggested that the industry as a whole had not made any dramatic progress since the early nineties. Growth rates of pigs between 35 kg and 100 kg were languishing at around 750 g per day whereas high health herds were capable of achieving more than 880 g per day.

Unless a serious effort was made to tackle the health issue performance could suffer even further when antibiotic growth promoters - which suppressed some sub-clinical enteric infections - were finally withdrawn.

"Health is the most limiting factor in pig production today. Pigs are simply not performing to anywhere near their genetic potential," said Professor Taylor.

Source: Pig Veterinary Society - 18th June 2004

5m Editor