24 May 1996

Healthy housing break

GIVING housing a break reduces disease and mortality in a continuous system for growing pigs.

So claimed Oxfordshire vet Richard Potter of the Larkmead vet group. He advised producers dogged by a high number of days to slaughter and when mortality or drug use was above target to take one or more weaning batches out of the housing chain.

"Warm weather allows buildings to be cleaned out while outdoor temporary straw-bale enclosures are used to house pigs." Altern-atively, Mr Potter suggested selling at the weaning stage, for prices were currently good and profitable.

That would create a gap in the housing that would work through the system allowing all pens to be cleaned and to dry out, he claimed. "This break needs to be long enough for the diseases present," he stressed. "When the unit is suffering respiratory disease a few days rest may be sufficient, but for swine fever it may need six weeks."

He claimed one herd found that pig liveweight gains increased by 40g a day after a housing gap. "Mortality also dropped dramatically and pigs left the unit quicker, so it was kept emptier," he said.

"Another unit reduced days to slaughter by 20 and now a year later slaughter is still 12 days before it was at the peak of disease.

"Some herds also had a dramatic drop in the need for drugs and reductions in in-feed medication."

But, in the longer term, he advised reducing contact between batches of growing pigs.