19 May 2000

Most farms pay too much for vet service

PIG vet costs are higher than necessary on most units and many farm assurance health schemes are inadequate.

That was the view of vet Neville Kingston of the Garth Vet Group, Beeford, East Yorks, which attended the Pig and Poultry Fair. "According to MLCs 1999 Yearbook, the average vet and med cost is £2.27 a pig. But our focus on preventive medicine programmes means our clients spend an average of £1.15 a pig."

Prescribing drugs was the priority of too many in his profession, said Mr Kingston. "When a pig is ill, an average vet will simply treat it rather than look at the cause. We look at management issues such as improving hygiene, not mixing pigs, and isolating ill pigs."

Although many producers would have herd health schemes as part of their farm assurance protocols, many could be seriously deficient, he added.

Sometimes even seemingly basic tasks, such as vaccination, could be performed incorrectly, leading to drug waste and disease, said vet John Hayden of sister practice, Integra vet services. "Using the wrong needle and leaving vaccines in hot tractors can make them ineffective. Vet attention to these issues on-farm helps save money."

When drugs were required to treat disease, sometimes an unnecessarily expensive one was selected, said Mr Kingston. "In the case of pneumonia, vet lab results show that 95% of cases can be treated using a relatively cheap drug, such as penicillin, costing 20p a pig.

"But some vets choose an expensive drug simply because it is newer. These can cost as much as £4.84 a pig," he said. Using older drugs such as penicillin also caused fewer worries from a human health perspective, said Mr Kingston. "While penicillin is adequate for treating conditions such as pneumonia in pigs, many bacteria causing human diseases are resistant to it.

"Preserving newer drugs for use in humans reduces the likelihood of human resistance building up following their widespread use in animals." &#42