Herd health plan including diagnostics helps monitor for disease

What signs or symptoms should pig producers or farm staff be watching for that would prompt them to contact their vet?
calendar icon 27 March 2019
clock icon 2 minute read

Bill Hollis, practicing veterinarian with Carthage Veterinary Service in Carthage, Illinois, USA, said in the simplest form it is call the veterinarian when pigs are sick. However, the broader view is that we want the veterinarian and the producer to establish a herd health plan and establish a long-term view of the health of the whole system.

"When pigs are sick or there's a deviation away from the results we thought we were going to get, now we're getting a change or we're seeing something different," said Dr. Hollis. "An example might be if we have a sick pen or a hospital pen where we're moving these pigs from the general population and that number has begun to accelerate or increase."

Vaccine use in a herd health plan

Dr. Hollis recommends establishing vaccine use as part of a herd health plan, noting many of his clients use a variety of different vaccinations as part of their protocol but none of them are 100 percent efficacious.

"When we use vaccines, commonly we're developing antibodies, which would cloud the ability to test for certain diseases. Therefore, we would go in with a more specific monitoring program, where the vaccine establishes immunity and develops protection," he explained. "But we need a very specific test to look for the presence of organisms. Those tests are quite different - if we're looking for just the antibody or the result from the vaccine, or if we're looking for the actual organism present in that population."

Diagnostics offer answers

Diagnostic testing can help define and offer answers to veterinarians seeking information. For example, do you expect there's been a change recently in the pig population? Is the organism changing now? Is the organism present at a higher percentage?

"In many cases, we're not trying to completely eliminate the organism from the population; we want to develop immunity," noted Dr. Hollis. "If we're developing immunity, we may actually expect that the virus or bacteria are gone from the main general population. But because we have a vaccine, we now have difficulty using some of the more simple diagnostics. We have to go in and look for the organism."

For more information about swine diagnostics, click here or connect to the Thermo Fisher Scientific Swine Resource Center.

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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