NADIS Pig Veterinary Report and Forecast - October 2007

UK - This is a monthly report from the National Animal Disease Information Service (NADIS), looking at the data collected from their UK farm inspections.
calendar icon 31 October 2007
clock icon 6 minute read

With the livestock industry once again in the grip of restriction to movements and distortion of usual markets the range of problems reported under the NADIS surveillance system has taken on a different light in the last month, although a wide range of problems have been reported unrelated to these commercial constraints.


A wide range of fertility problems was identified with varying associations. Examples included:
  1. Problems with service techniques
  2. Disruption to sows after insemination as a result of mixing, promoting adrenalin release which affects sperm transportation in the uterus.
  3. At least 2 herds seeing a drop in conception rates during the change over to batch farrowing. It is not clear whether these are a direct result of increased workload or whether there is a physiological effect of deliberately delaying oestrus in 66% of sows as the switch over is made.
  4. Mouldy feed and/or straw were implicated in 3 reports of breeding failure and in one of these vulval discharges where prominent. This feature is generally uncommon since the demise of stalls and tethers but highlights the damaging effects that mycotoxins can have on breeding animals.

Sow condition problems were identified in several instances with both excess condition (probably associated with the liberal use of high quality palatable barley straw) and excess loss of condition in lactation leading to shoulder sores. The latter condition was linked in some instances to overproduction. Pig herds have come under incessant financial pressure and maximising output has been the mantra for many years. However, a tendency to overserve and not cull out excess sows in pig (unrelated to FMD restrictions) leads to excess farrowings with several potential consequences:

  1. Increased numbers of pigs on sows as the ‘extra’ litters are redistributed leading to uneven growth of piglets, increased mortality and drain on the sows resources.
  2. Earlier weaning to create room for the next farrowings, reducing piglet quality/size at weaning.
  3. Reduced cleaning of farrowing pens as turnaround is accelerated.

With the current difficulties in removing cull sows but with gilts still in the pipeline, there is a tendency to overserve now and this will lead to all sorts of difficulties in 4 months time.

A clinical outbreak of Parvovirus was reported – rather surprisingly given the availability of highly effective, cheap vaccination.


Reports of piglet clinical problems were exclusively restricted to scouring with coccidiosis widespread and Clostridia and E.coli scours both being seen. In some cases overt breakdown in hygiene were identified as the trigger factors. Chilling from draughts was deemed responsible for one non-specific outbreak of scour and highlights the fact that under the modern tendency to remove covered creep areas to improve observation on pigs, draughts can be a major issue.


This sector of the farm has been most affected by the management constraints with overstocking a common feature. Not surprisingly, vice (in the form of tail, ear and flank biting) was a constant niggle whilst respiratory disease and scour were prevalent. Gastric ulceration – a condition in part often associated with excessive stress levels, featured. Size of pig at weaning was commented upon by some reporters - in some cases associated with overproduction described above.

Inevitably PMWS continues to feature widely with comments such as mortality levels “only 13%” highlighting how perceptions change of what is acceptable after years of intractable disease problems.

On the disease front meningitis (CLICK HERE for bulletin) – a condition that is often associated with high humidity – was highlighted as a serious problem occasionally and one small outbreak of mulberry heart disease acts as a reminder that when pigs grow well they can outstrip their Vitamin E supply.


A wide range of health and other problems have been reported during September some of which relate to restrictions on movement and particularly the reduced demand for slaughter pigs – as a result of the export ban – leading to carryover of animals due for slaughter. A novel approach to cutting feed costs by reducing slaughter weight is likely, at least in the short term, to be thwarted by reduced demand.

Reports of clinical benefits as a result of Circovirus vaccination of sows are starting to filter through but the downside is that with dramatically reduced feeding herd mortality, more pigs are kept in the system. When added to reduced numbers moving out for slaughter and/or increased outputs it is no surprise that problems with vice, respiratory diseases, late onset PMWS are reported.

Scouring in the form of mixed disease, ileitis and swine dysentery were all seen. In specific cases, outbreaks of scour were accounted for by the presence of new season cereals in diets and mixing and uneven production affecting hygiene and stocking levels. Reference was also made to the levels of pen contamination causing dirty pigs which has important implications in pre-slaughter (ante mortem) inspection which is currently particularly focused on examination of feet for FMD lesions. Washing of pigs feet has been demanded by at least one abattoir.

Parasitism featured in reports as well in September. As well as the now usual abattoir generated reports of milk spot livers (the result of migrating Ascarid larvae) a single report of lungworm was received – a disease that is extremely rare. The developing larvae requires maturation within an earthworm as the intermediate host and as such is only ever going to be seen in outdoor condition or in yards with earth floors.

Other specific conditions were reported:
  1. Erysipelas in yard finishing pigs (as previously highlighted in NADIS health bulletins - CLICK HERE).
  2. Atrophic Rhinitis – another modern rarity seen in an old established herd now being depopulated
  3. Enlarged livers of dubious pathological significance (detected on the slaughter line) and thought to be related to the feeding of beer waste.
As weather conditions change into autumn and winter, and movement restrictions and marketing limits remain, watch out for :
  1. overstocking leading to disease and vice
  2. reduced hygiene and secondary disease
  3. cost cutting as feed price rises start to take effect
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