Pig health is on up-&-up

10 December 1999


Pig health is on up-&-up

OUR six-monthly veterinary advisory meeting took place on Nov 19, writes Jasper Renold. Those attending were Richard Potter from the Larkmead Veterinary Group, Mark Wilson and Graham Palmer from Pig Improvement Company (PIC) and the units veterinary surgeon Andrew Spurrell, together with farms manager John Lambkin and the unit staff John Knighton and Richard Pickard.

It was evident that there had been a substantial improvement in the health of the stock, particularly in the growing and early finishing stages and that had been helped by a more even throughput of pigs as a result of hitting farrowing targets more consistently.

Discussion focused on fine-tuning a number of areas, not least on ways to improve the grading of the finishing pigs which has now become a challenge following improved growth rates.

In the breeding herd, weaning age has risen to 26.4 days for the past three months and we now need to delay the first myco-plasma vaccination to ensure that there is no more than a14-day gap between the first and second dose which is given at weaning. In the present economic crisis it has been tempting to stop this costly vaccination altogether but we were strongly recommended against this.

Although well controlled by medication, serological examination of grower pigs has shown that Actinobacillus pleuropneumonia (APP) is still active in the herd, but it was recommended that we vaccinate the APP negative incoming gilts on arrival to give their litters some immunity to prevent a breakdown in the later stages. In this way it might be possible to reduce the use of Pulmotil in the flat deck.

The transfer weights of pigs leaving the rearing herd from the single solaris has improved from 40kg to 45kg with growth rates now in excess of 550g/day. Head stockman Mr Knightons trials in the flat deck for two complete batches, have shown growth rates of 407 and 448g/day over 26 days from weaning. Pigs are obviously responding well in this building to choice feeding and to the new floors.

In the single Solaris response has also been good to a ration specification change as well as repairs to the walls and floors. We have been using Tylan under prescription in these pens but it was felt that this could now be withdrawn.

Pigs in the finishing herd are also growing better, in excess of 800g/day, but this section, which comprises the Double Solaris and Straw-Flow, are where the pigs start coughing and we were advised to continue using Tetramin for the time being in the early stages.

Three rations are used in the finishing herd (see table). PIC analysed the distribution of slaughter weights and back-fat levels for 618 pigs sent for slaughter between Sept 27 and Oct 18 (fig 1 and 2). About 95% of pigs lay within the abattoirs target range of 63-82kg deadweight and 87% of pigs graded 14mm P2 and under and 65.4% 12mm and under for which we achieved a bonus payment.

However, that grading profile is getting very close to the minimum that is required to achieve a bonus and for the remainder of October and November the growth rate of the pigs and their grading has been such that this grading profile has not been achieved.

Fig 3 shows the upward trend in carcass weight and back-fat levels over this time.

Feeding the finisher 2 ration earlier has not improved things so that, for the short term, this ration has now been reformulated (lysine 1.15; DE 13.0) with much reduced energy and a potential excess of lysine to try to force the P2 measurement down.

For the longer term we will use higher genetic merit boars and more AI.

We are told that moving up one band from our present band C boars could yield a benefit of 1.25p/kg deadweight and if we went to 90% of matings using AI this could give us a net benefit of £10,000 a year.

We aim to go along this route using possibly up to 90% AI, but initially only on a quarter of the weaned sows to gain confidence in this new approach.

Rations used in finishing herd

Ration Weight range Lysine % DEMJ/kg Lysine energy ratio

Grower/Fin 40-70 1.2 14.00 0.86

Finisher 1 70-85 1.15 13.75 0.84

Finisher 2 85-100 1.05 13.50 0.78

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