Grow-finish mortalities require fast action followed by prevention plan


Nothing grabs the attention of a grow-finish unit and its veterinarian faster than an uptick in mortalities.

“Grow-finish mortality is one of the biggest things we deal with on a day-to-day basis in the pig veterinary world,” reported Ryan Strobel, DVM, veterinarian with Swine Vet Center.

Good mortality rates vary by regions and clients. But overall, Strobel says good units strive for mortality rates of 1% to 2% in the nursery and 2% to 3% in finishing.

“A total of 5% to 6% wean-to-finish mortality is a very achievable goal that can be consistently done,” he said.

First ‘put out the fire’

While all grow-finish units experience some mortalities, Strobel says most units set up indicators to signal when mortalities are higher than normal. An indicator may be anything over 0.2% mortality or 5 deaths per day in a 5,000-head facility. An increase in either indicator prompts a call to a supervisor or veterinarian.

“The first thing we do is put out the fire,” Strobel explained. “If we have an uptick in mortality, we want to handle that right away, whether that’s spot treating, water medications or feed medications.”

Farm supervisors are trained to perform necropsies and text photos of the animals to Strobel for an immediate look.

“You’ve got to make a medication decision right away if there’s a huge uptick in mortality,” he said. “I’ve got to make a tentative diagnostic estimation, based on what I’m seeing on necropsy.”

Medication decisions are followed with confirmation from a diagnostic lab.

Once an outbreak is under control, Strobel says they next look at how to prevent it from happening again. Maybe there was a biosecurity breach, an environmental issue or feed problem.

“Then we…put together a flow plan,” he added. “Is this flow out of this sow farm X always having scours 5 days in? We need to prepare for that by adding a different feed antibiotic or a different wean shot. [We are] always putting together the puzzle.”

Mortality causes

Streptococcus suis has become one of the more frequent causes of grow-finish mortality, especially in very stable systems, according to Strobel.

“We’ve got some clients who have been very successful with an autogenous vaccine,” he said. “They take isolates of that strep and implement it in their pre-farrow shots and [sometimes] piglets.

“Some people take the medication approach…by giving an antibiotic shot at processing and maybe again at weaning, and again trying to run meds in the nursery water.

“We’ve found that a few times too many we’re keeping those pigs too clean,” he added. “In some systems we end up just delaying that break until the end of the nursery where it’s probably better to have it happen a little bit earlier.”

Setting up a good system to spot early problems in grow-finish and putting a plan in place to prevent high mortalities will help hog systems keep mortality levels under control.




Prepare for African swine fever outbreak with Secure Pork Supply plan

Watch the video:

Listen to the podcast:


A growing threat of African swine fever (ASF) has convinced US pork producers to prepare for the worst with a Secure Pork Supply plan, reports Paul Yeske, DVM, Swine Vet Center, St. Peter, Minnesota.

“The Secure Pork Supply (SPS) plan was put together as a mission to improve biosecurity and to help make sure [if] a foreign animal disease enters the country that we have a plan for farms to survive,” he said.

The voluntary SPS plans help producers implement a more complete biosecurity plan to assure others that their herd is negative. This will allow the farm to continue business and move pigs, if needed, in the face of a foreign animal disease outbreak such as ASF.

SPS plans underway

In most cases, veterinarians are helping producers work through the plans.

“That’s been one of our roles — work with clients to set up the biosecurity plans, to help designate the sites, draw the maps of the sites and help make sure the program is set up properly,” Yeske said.

“Many of our clients have started the process and many have already completed it,” he added.

In some states, veterinarians are asked to validate the SPS procedures are correctly implemented.

Veterinarians also may be needed to train others on how to test for ASF if the disease is identified in the US. “It becomes a very big biosecurity risk to go out and do testing on the positive or suspect farms,” Yeske said.

“One of the things that’s being looked at is can we do like they did with avian influenza. They had trained people who were able to go out and collect samples. This will be once we’ve had a positive, and we’re in the situation where we need to know the status of many herds,” he explained.

Next-level biosecurity

Even without a foreign animal-disease outbreak, SPS plans are valuable.

“Secure Pork Supply takes biosecurity to the next level,” Yeske said. “I think these plans are a great opportunity to review some of the procedures you’re already doing and strengthen some of the weak areas.

“I hope we never have to use it,” he added. “The reality is that I think we all have to really pay attention to this one because we’ve seen just how fast it can move with other diseases such as porcine epidemic diarrhea virus.”

For more information about Secure Pork Supply, visit