16 November 2001

First visit for six months

WE were pleased to resume recently our six-monthly visits to Easton Lodge pig unit from Richard Potter of the Larkmead Veterinary Group, writes Jasper Renold.

For the first time since foot-and-mouth began, we held a meeting with Mr Potter, our vet Andrew Spurrell and Graham Palmer and Chris Barlow from PIC.

We particularly wanted to review progress on operating a closed herd using a two-breed rotational multiplication programme together with finishing house gilts as a stop gap measure. Those now comprise more than 35% of the units productive adult stock. With fingers crossed, the unit is still free of PMWS and PDNS.

The drop in breeding herd output from a near best ever achievement of 24.7 pigs reared/sow/year to 22.6 over the past six months has been a salutary experience. It cannot all be attributed to using finishing house gilts. Those have been giving 1.5 piglets born alive/litter less than the previous C15 gilts.

Total litter size has been depressed across all parity groups as can be seen in the table, but litter scatter is within the normal range at about 12% of sows having litters of eight total born or less.

The number of piglets born dead/litter hasnt changed but the number mummified has increased significantly from 0.2 to 0.3. The farrowing index is better and on target but there was concern that more of returns occur at an abnormal interval. That raises suspicions that sows have suffered an early embryonic loss which is caused either by stress in early pregnancy or due to an infectious cause of infertility. During our discussions, it was decided that serological examinations of sows that have shown poor reproductive performance or evidence of leptospirosis, PRRS virus and swine influenza would be worthwhile. Another idea was to submit mummified piglets for virology for parvovirus particularly as a reduced programme of vaccination is used. More effective mouse control, particularly in the old dry sow cubicle houses, was also considered.

Although the gilts looked well throughout the unit, the sows were too fit. That was borne out by the increase in sow feed consumption up from 1.21t/sow/year for the six months to August 2000 compared with 1.28t/sow/year for the same period this year. Agalactia could be triggered when sows come in to farrow and have been receiving the lactation diet.

Some recently farrowed sows showed oedematous engorged udders, which may explain why a number of piglets fall behind their litter mates and end up emaciated poor-doers. It was recommended we feed the dry sow ration until the end of farrowing. The problem will be eased in the long run when sows arrive in an optimum condition after a reduced level of gestation feed.

Pre-weaning mortality has crept up from 11.8% to 13.3% due partly to the reasons outlined above. Also older sows have been kept because their litter sizes are much better than the finishing herd gilts. Another contributory factor has been the flare-up of K88 e-coli enteritis since the gilt vaccination programme was discontinued when the herd was closed. That has now been reinstated and we switch to a combined vaccine such as Gletvax 6 which also gives oestridial cover in place of Heptavac.

Ideally, the new breeding gilts should be given an early erysipelas vaccine at eight to 10 weeks and two to four weeks later. That is in addition to the combined erysipelas parvo vaccine they receive two weeks before service.

Good growth rate and feed conversions were noted in the rearing and finishing herds and the pigs looked very well. We were reminded not to forget cleaning the ventilation louvres and fan blades in the flat deck. The task is particularly important when ventilation rates are low in cold weather and with young pigs in the rooms. Rectal prolapses have risen over the past year in both the rearing and finishing herds. Our attention was drawn to a short communication from Alistair Douglas in the Veterinary Record (1985) 117,129 about a simple method for dealing with the condition using corrugated plastic tubing and two rubber bands.

All in all, our first veterinary meeting since F&M began provided a useful opportunity to discuss the units health status and performance. Hopefully, in due course, it will help us to turn a penny. &#42

Making a hole lot of progress at Easton Lodges new eight-place freedom crate farrowing house. Pig housing specialists AM Warkup from Driffield, East Yorks, began work on the foundations on Nov 5.

Period 1.2.01 to 31.8.01 Period 1.11.99 to 30.4.00

Sow Born Born Mumm % of Born Born Mumm % of

parity alive dead litters alive dead litters

1 10.0 0.9 0.2 15.9 11.6 0.9 0.2 22.4

2 10.7 0.8 0.4 13.8 12.2 0.8 0.1 17.9

3 11.2 1.1 0.3 15.3 13.1 1.0 0.2 17.6

4 11.6 1.1 0.3 14.8 12.3 0.7 0.1 12.8

5 11.6 1.1 0.4 11.1 12.9 0.9 0.3 13.4

6 11.9 1.0 0.4 11.1 13.7 2.0 0.2 9.0

7 11.3 0.9 0.1 7.4 13.2 1.8 0.5 1.4

8 11.5 1.3 0.7 6.0 12.5 1.8 0 1.9

>8 11.3 1.2 0.3 4.6 10.7 1.9 0.1 3.6

Ave/Total 11.2 1.0 0.3 100 12.4 1.0 0.2 100