Pigs – health
Information about disease prevention and signs of illness in pigs.
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Pigs need to be protected against internal and external parasites and pathogenic and metabolic diseases. The risks will vary depending on the stock type, geographic location, stocking rates, frequency of stock movement and seasonal weather conditions. Treatments and vaccines should be administrated in accordance with directions and records should be kept.
Effective disease protection involves undertaking regular preventative measures such as vaccination, worming and monitoring.
A worming program should be constructed with the help of a veterinarian. Risk of worms depends greatly on the set up, routine and hygiene of the piggery. Indoor piggeries with all in-all out routines minimise the risk of worms and routine worming is not usually necessary. Regular hosing out of faeces also greatly reduces the risk of worms. Worms are more difficult to control in outdoor setups. There are a variety of chemical controls that can be used including oral and injectable varieties. Worming treatment needs to be based on the housing condition of individual groups of pigs.
Veterinarians can provide advice on vaccination regimes that are appropriate to the age and production stage of pigs. Off the shelf vaccines are available for pigs. Most vaccines are injected into the muscle of the neck but newer products can be given orally. The most common diseases in pigs that need to be vaccinated against are erysipelas, leptospirosis, E. coli and porcine parvovirus. Gilts should be vaccinated when selected for breeding before mating to ensure fetus protection, then 4-6 weeks after joining and 3-4 weeks before farrowing. Information on ages to vaccinate pigs can be found on packaging of vaccines. Boars should be vaccinated every 6 months against erysipelas and leptospirosis.
Advice needs to be sought from a reliable and scientific source, e.g. livestock officer, veterinarian. General advice is available through the following:
An annual parasite and disease control program should be developed and documented. All pigs should be vaccinated and treated for parasites prior to moving them to the school farm or introducing them to the school stock.
Whenever chemicals are used including drenches, vaccines and back-line treatments, care must be taken about the following:
- Reading all labels
- Maintaining appropriate storage
- Adhering to withholding periods
- Determining the weight of the animals to be treated
- Determining the correct dose rate
- Using protective clothing if required
- Using the correct equipment for application
- Disposal of chemical containers
- Documenting the dose, chemical name, batch number, expiry date, withholding period, identity of animal(s) administered to and date of administration
Signs of illness
Pigs health should be monitored at least daily. Young piglets require more frequent monitoring as they can dehydrate quickly. The first sign of illness may be a change in the pig’s natural demeanour.
A sick pig may display signs of:
- Changed feeding habits
- Ill-thrift or wasting
- Changed gastrointestinal functions such as diarrhoea, weight loss or loss of appetite
- Abnormal urogenital functions, e.g. abortion, infertility or abnormal discharges
- Changed respiratory functions such as persistent coughing, gasping or panting
- Skin conditions, e.g. lesions, abnormal growths or red blotchy patches especially on the ears
- A tucked up appearance, stiff gait, or abnormal posture
- Excessive scratching or rubbing
- Swollen joints or limping.
Pigs failing to thrive or grow is also a sign of illness. Common ailments include; mastitis, bladder/kidney infection, gastric ulcers and lameness.
If unable to identify the problem and begin suitable treatment, assistance should be sought from your veterinarian. Any illness identified and treatments given must be recorded appropriately.