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Small gains result in big savings for swine producers

March 24, 2009

Dr. James McKean, ISU Swine Extension, (515) 294-8792

Ms. Tracy Ann Raef, Veterinary Communications, (515) 294-4602


Throughout the year, swine producers need to evaluate the animal health status of their swine herds with special attention to feed efficiency and mortality. “Don’t except big gains at one time,” said Dr. Jim McKean, extension veterinarian at Iowa State University. “But making smaller gains add up, especially in tough economic times.”

Regarding animal health, he says, the most noticeable gains are preventing and controlling diseases that impact grown/finish pigs by reducing feed efficiency or causing late-term mortality. “It’s important that producers have their veterinarians conduct post-mortems and submit appropriate samples for diagnostics. There’s so much valuable information that can be gained that can strengthen the farm’s control and treatment program.”

During the grow/finish stage, the producer can’t afford to lose pigs due to diseases that can be prevented through vaccinations or controlled through enhanced management practices, says Dr. McKean. “By the time the pigs reach this stage, the producer has already spent a lot of money on them so a few more dollars goes a long way to decrease mortality and increase feed efficacy,” Dr. McKean said.

Producers can’t do everything at once, so prioritizing is important. Currently, producers are paying high prices for feed so they need to focus on preventing diseases that would affect feed efficacy such as proliferative ileitis, Actinobacillus pleuroneumoniae (APP) and porcine respiratory disease complex (PRDC). Producers should plan to discuss herd health programs with their veterinarian at least every six months, says Dr. McKean.

“Producers should think about management strategies now,” Dr. McKean said. “Many of the plans that can be implemented will be far less expensive than the alternatives such as late-term death loss and loss of feed efficiency. Veterinarians can help producers determine the cost/benefits of different health plans. Dr. McKean suggests that producers ask themselves whether they understand why they are feeding an additive. Are the problems the same now as they were when the program was implemented? Has more additive been added on top of the original one, without removing the original additive?

“It’s important for producers to work with their veterinarian to figure out what their problems are, what their risks are, and whether the current problems and future risks are being addressed,” Dr. McKean said. “If producers do that sort of regular evaluation, they can be comfortable that they’ve got a handle on the health controls.”