Vets should be the primary unit advisers, believes Ross Kelly

UK - Modern pig units comprise several single but importantly linked activities and the relationships with service and product suppliers, such as genetics and feed, are key in helping managers to get the best from their units and animals, says Ross Kelly, Schering-Plough's Veterinary Adviser.
calendar icon 5 July 2006
clock icon 4 minute read
Schering-Plough Animal Health

Ross Kelly BVMS, MRCVS

One of the most important relationships is that between the farm, its staff and the herd vet. As well as performing health and disease management, vets are now seen as primary providers of independent advice.

During the past 10 years, most pig units in the UK have succumbed to new disease challenges. In many cases, the impact of these diseases has been dramatic and has required fundamental changes in the way pigs and units are managed.

PMWS and PDNS are typical of how new and quickly evolving diseases demand new thinking and skills. Without detailing the full epidemiology of PMWS and PDNS, the physical and financial impact on most units threatens their very viability.

In the early stages, the challenge became that of managing the problems through a radical overhaul of established practices. While many units remain badly affected by PMWS, the high levels of losses have been limited by improved health and disease management. Reactive responses such as these, however, can only be proven effective if the advising vet has full working knowledge of the unit.

Historically, veterinary input on most units has been by planned unit visits or emergency medication, the so-called ‘fire brigade’ treatment. Ideally, however, pig businesses should not view the vet’s visit as a stand-alone event or just to comply with legal or farm assurance requirements, but as a vital part of a continual communication process.

The diagnosis and associated prescribed treatment programmes for disease are better targeted and more cost-effective if the vet understands how the unit functions on a daily basis.

Preferably, the vet’s function is to work with the unit to establish disease prevention and control activities. In most cases, this will be a combination of established medication regimes and vaccination programmes, finely tuned according to the changing disease situation.

Pneumonia is a classic example where a strategic approach to disease control can work at its best. In a continually challenged herd, vaccination is the common method for control.

Schering-Plough’s M+PAC M hyo vaccine has become the fastest growing vaccine in the sector, primarily due to its effectively reducing lung lesions, its ease of use and its flexibility. Lung lesions at slaughter provide physical confirmation of the progression of disease in the pig, while poor growth and feed conversion rates are more easily recognisable at farm level.

Working with the unit and interpreting regular lung scoring, the vet can identify levels of infection and advise the most appropriate prevention and management program.

The use of up-to-date records is vital to monitor how well a herd performs. Minor changes can indicate future problems, just as minor improvements can show the beneficial effect of a previously implemented change in medication regime or management. Managed proactively, accurate recording data can be used to monitor critical areas of the unit’s operations and measure the effectiveness of medication programmes and routines.

Working with the latest records and a thorough knowledge of the unit, the vet is in the best position to recommend the most appropriate actions, targets and intervention points to maintain optimum health and productivity.

Keeping the vet in the picture, as a partner to the unit, will ensure they will be in the best possible position to advise and support. Good communication remains the key.

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