Yeske: Provide better pig care — one animal at a time

Taking time to walk the pens, make eye contact with each pig and pull the sick ones for individual care seems to conflict with the basic tenets and efficiencies of population medicine.

“It is a big task, but we feel it’s a very important part of doing what’s right for the pig,” said Paul Yeske, DVM, Swine Vet Center, St. Peter, Minnesota.

“Individual pig care [means] to make sure we look at every pig every day — and that we evaluate them essentially from tail to snout — to try to identify any potential problems that pig may have as quickly as possible,” he told Pig Health Today.

Yeske says the approach involves three basic steps: Identifying the at-risk pig, being specific about its symptoms and effectively communicating the situation to others in the operation.

Practically speaking, he adds, that process begins with spotting the outlier — the pig that simply strikes you as somehow unusual.

“I encourage caretakers as they walk through the barn to develop a pattern as they go through each pen, to make sure they get an opportunity to look at every pig,” he said. “Basically, you’re looking for any of the clinical signs that the pig isn’t normal.”

For example:

  • Is he coughing?
  • Does he have diarrhea?
  • Is he gaunt and not eating?
  • Is there nasal discharge?
  • Does he appear stiff or lame when he moves?

Next, individual treatment protocols with an injectable antibiotic — typically already in place and specific for each farm and for each flow and system — can be called into use right away and used under veterinary supervision.

“Early intervention is really the key as we talk about individual pig care,” Yeske said. “We know that if we treat a pig later in the course of the disease, we have poorer response to treatment. If we can treat the pig earlier, we can have a better response.”

Research has proven that, particularly on farms with low health status, training caretakers to identify and treat sick pigs at an early stage of disease can improve growth and productivity during the all-important nursery and growing periods.1

“It does take time,” Yeske conceded, “but the payoff is very high. We get the pig back into production faster. The quicker we can identify that pig, the quicker we can get that pig treated and the better the response. The payback for the producer is very high because we get that early intervention ….  And we know it’s the right thing to do for the pig.”

1. Pineiro C, Morales J, Dereu A, et al. Individual Pig Care program improves productive performance and animal health in nursery-growing pigs. J Swine Health Prod. 2014;22(6):296–299.

Yeske: Mycoplasma elimination ‘always a good strategy’

Eliminating mycoplasma from a herd works well with a fast payback, even in hog-dense areas, according to research conducted by Paul Yeske, DVM, Swine Vet Center, St. Peter, Minnesota.

Research indicates mycoplasma can travel 6.2 miles to infect an unrelated hog operation, called lateral transmission. Yeske wanted to see how frequently this occurred, especially in pig-dense areas. At the same time, he could check the success rate of mycoplasma-elimination efforts.

Yeske’s field study used five different hog production systems in southwest Minnesota, and northwest and northeast Iowa. The herds were validated mycoplasma-negative. Researchers followed pigs at 10 grow-finish sites from each of the five production systems. They carried the study through two marketing seasons, summer-fall and winter-spring.

At the end of the finishing period, researchers looked at serology of the pigs to see if they were exposed in the field to mycoplasma.

Lateral transmission rare

“Only 6% of the sites had become positive,” Yeske told Pig Health Today, following his presentation at the 2017 Leman Swine Conference.

“We learned (lateral transmission) does happen but at an infrequent rate. This was a true field study…with lots of hog barns in the area.” One farm in the study was located within 6.2 miles of 120 finishing units.

Why the low transmission rate? “It’s a slow-growing organism and difficult to transfer in that mechanism,” Yeske suggested.

Mycoplasma elimination pays

The low transmission rate also proved mycoplasma-elimination programs work. “This should help people feel more confident going into an elimination program that they will be able to return their investment,” he said.

“Also, our data shows if you are having mycoplasma problems, it’s probably your production system and not the neighborhood,” Yeske added. “You need to look at your sow-herd stabilization and identify how to do a better job with gilt introduction. Try not to send a high load of mycoplasma through the grow-finish population.”

Overall, he recommends mycoplasma elimination instead of living with the disease. “My belief is it is always a good strategy,” Yeske said. “But in certain instances, some production systems will make a choice to live with the disease.”