By Peter Crichton

OUTDOOR pig units in East Anglia are in the grip of a swine dysentery outbreak. The disease is reported to be “hopping from farm to farm”, spread by animals, vehicles and birds.

Many outdoor units report large numbers of seagulls and starlings, which are scavenging on feed. Producers are advised by vets to try to make all feeding areas as bird-proof as possible.

This can be done by using hoppers with feed flaps and covers, and sow-feeding without any unnecessary wastage using large-size sow cobs or rolls rather than smaller nuts or pellets.

There are a number of ultrasonic bird-scarers on the market which are reported to be successful. But manufacturers advise that they must be used on a strategic basis and not left on for long intervals, as the birds soon become used to them – especially if they have been regular feeders on a site for an extended period.

Once dysentery strikes, it can devastate the young pigs and contaminate the finisher units. Medication is often an expensive and not always effective method of control.

In more severe cases, the only alternative is to clear the herd, before resting and disinfecting the equipment and re-stocking. This plays havoc with cash flow and there is no guarantee that the bug will not strike again.

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