People in pork production just as important as pigs

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While their schooling focused on pigs, veterinarians on the job spend a lot of time working with clients and members of their staff. After all, they must carry out a veterinarian’s health or production plan for the pigs.

“Our whole training in veterinary school is about the pigs, and we don’t spend a lot of time on the people,” reported Ross Kiehne, DVM, Swine Vet Center, St. Peter, Minnesota.

“We just kind of put the plan together and away we go. Then we might come back and wonder why it didn’t work…And not understand that there’s human reasons why it didn’t work out, not pig reasons.”

Stressful situations

Workers in hog barns generally want to see pigs do well, but difficult situations with the animals can lead to a breakdown in care.

“Some diseases are very devastating,” Kiehne said. “Sow death loss, for example, is really hard to watch.”

Veterinarians as well as clients should watch for signs of stress among staff. Kiehne said he sees some workers who exhibit their stress right away and then appear to get over it. But there are others who don’t show their stress and become quiet and introverted. These people may need to discuss the situation with someone else who understands such as a veterinarian or co-worker.

Veterinarian stress

Veterinarians aren’t immune to stress either. Kiehne said he’s seen colleagues experience great stress and family hardship. His response was to help pick up their work.

Now he realizes his colleagues also need someone to talk to and understand the situation. He said he needs to be more cognizant of situations when people are stressed and want to talk about it.

“How do I consult in all that and keep up on it?” he continued. “I think the stress level is probably higher [today].”

Change needed

Kiehne does see some changes occurring to help alleviate stress on veterinarians. For example, he’s hearing more colleagues take time off to coach a child’s team.

“It’s better realizing that there is some life outside of veterinarian medicine,” he said. “I think we need to continue to encourage that — not discourage [it by] saying no, you aren’t working hard enough or you’re not up early enough.”

Unfortunately, when younger veterinarians are struggling, they often won’t seek help from the more-seasoned veterinarians like Kiehne. Instead, he said older veterinarians need to make the first move to be available when someone looks like they need help.

Clients also become stressed, especially during down markets and in the winter when disease is more prevalent. Just offering to listen to the issues can help.

“Letting them understand that yes, they can be frustrated with it and they can be stressed, but they’re also very good at moving forward,” Kiehne added.



Chronic PED cases linger, setting the stage for elimination

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The wild run of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) striking the pork industry in 2013 has slowed substantially. But chronic versions of PED continue to plague some farms.

“I still get calls about farms that try to get rid of PED and they struggle,” reported Ross Kiehne, DVM, Swine Vet Center, St. Peter, Minnesota. “I’ve been asked to step in and see where [they] are going wrong in those cases.”

Handling chronic PED

Chronic PED problems occur when a farm initially did a good job gathering feedback to expose piglets to the disease. As PED quieted down, less material was available to continue the program, and the farm stopped the practice. This allowed the disease to survive, according to Kiehne.

One solution is to focus on meticulous cleaning of farrowing rooms, allowing the facilities to be disinfected and completely dried over a period of a few days. This may require an earlier weaning age for one turn of farrowing, Kiehne says, but it may stop chronic PED.

Another option is to go back to a feedback program, which Kiehne has used in some cases.

“I’m utilizing that feedback just to try and make sure we’ve got every animal covered,” he said. “This is something you’ve got to work with your veterinarian on because some [people] think it would reinvigorate the disease.

“But I’ve found that is necessary when you’ve been fighting [PED] for too long and not getting rid of it,” he said.

Vaccines also are available to boost immunity to PED. Kiehne suggests working with a veterinarian to determine the best way to use one in your system.

PED elimination from herd

Chronic PED isn’t as devastating as the acute cases, but it still hits the bottom line. For example, 1 day of scours in a baby pig sets it back 3 to 5 days, which is why Kiehne wants PED eliminated from herds.

“There are some farms that will continue to infect gilts because they know they’re in an environment [where] they might not be able to totally get rid of it,” he said. “But my goal always is to totally get rid of PED.”

Kiehne starts his PED-elimination efforts with an evaluation of management including gilt entry and pig movement. “If we’re moving a lot of pigs around and we’re not following a strict all-in, all-out [system], that can be part of the PED problem,” he said.

“I think we know way more about PED now than we did in 2013 and 2014,” he continued. “We can keep it out better now than we could then. We’ve been successful in getting rid of it in so many places.”

Kiehne also believes that someday, PED can be eliminated from the industry.

“But it’s going to be hard,” he added. “I think my outlook would be that we continue to move in that direction because we’re a progressive group of farmers who want to do better.”