By Peter Crichton

UK pig producers still face challenges, according to veterinary sources.

Vets report a resurgence of PRRS (Blue Ear Disease) on many units.

This virus can be just as devastating as the combined effects of PDNS and PMWS and has to some extent become a “forgotten” disease.

Affected herds often first display signs in the farrowing house with increased abortions and stillbirths.

Surviving piglets may be weak and “poor doers” and pre-weaning mortality will rise.

Growing pigs will also have flu-like symptoms and this can lead to respiratory coughing and in severe cases death.

Poor or overcrowded continuous housing can allow the bugs to thrive. The farm drug bill will be pushed up and growth rates will collapse.

According to most pig vets, ways in which the threat of PRRS can increase include buying Blue Ear-positive pigs into negative herds, mixing pigs, failing to isolate incoming stock, allowing unnecessary vehicles and visitors, continuous use of sick pens and poor bio-security measures.

Pig-market analysts advise that with many of the major retail buyers now looking for antibiotic-free pork, the industry needs to address all health issues now and move towards drug-free breeding and finishing systems rather than continuing to rely on medication as a preventative remedy.

  • Peter Crichton is a Suffolk-based pig farmer offering independent valuation and consultancy services to the UK pig industry