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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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Animal Husbandry and Disease Control: Swine

Animal Husbandry and Disease Control: Swine

Robert B. Morrison DVM, MBA, PhD
University of Minnesota
College of Veterinary Medicine
Swine Group


The official newsletter of the Land Stewardship Project
NOVEMBER 2000 VOL. 18, NO. 5

“The Frantzens used to raise hogs in closed buildings with concrete floors. The floors had special slots in them so that urine and feces could drain down into a pit below. All this liquid manure had to be pumped out and disposed of. Such a system was bad for the stressed-out animals (they fought each other and required lots of antibiotics) and the environment (liquid manure often finds its way into waterways), as well as members of the Frantzen family (who had to work in facilities full of dust and toxic gases). ‘In short,’ says Frantzen, ‘this system treated animals as machines, manure as waste, and farmers as barnyard janitors.”


Issues Facing Pig Farmers

Historically quite profitableRecently a $$ disaster
Farming is an investmentFarming is a way of life
Corporate farmsFamily Farm
Manure stinks & pollutesPig manure is a resource
Barns are large, white and made of steelBarns are red and have a silo
Intensive rearing is cleaner, efficient & humaneConfinement (stalls, pens, concrete floors) is inhumane

Issues Facing Pig Farmers

Antibiotics (therapeutic & subtherapeutic) are needed, valuable & worth the risksMass medication should be banned from agriculture
Vertical integration is the market place at workVertical integration is the root of all evil
Contracts (mkt & prod) reduce risk & facilitate growthContracts are only for the big & are ruining the industry


Factory Farms

Intensive agriculture saves land and preserves wildlife habitatNo person should raise more pigs than is needed to raise a family.
Pork is nutritious, tasty, and can be part of a balanced dietEating meat (e.g. pork) is unhealthy (fat, food safety) & immoral
Pigs are efficient converters of grains to meatPigs are inefficient and consume valuable grains, better fed to people


From the web site of: The Union of Concerned Scientists

Animal factories rely on antibiotics to promote growth. Photo: USDA


Picture of pigs outdoors

Picture of James Heriott

Picture of barn

Disease control:

  1. Biosecure location, bird-proof, rodent control


Picture of nursery

  1. Wean healthy groups of pigs.
  2. Provide high quality diets & fresh water.


Picture of sick pig

  1. Detect sick or lagging pigs.


Picture of sick pen

  1. Isolate and treat sick pigs.


Picture of nursery

  1. Keep pigs warm, dry and draft free.


Picture of nursery

  1. Daily attention to providing optimum environment.


Picture of clean finisher

  1. Clean, disinfected, dry barns.
  2. Move pigs as a group, all-in, all-out.


Picture of finisher

  1. Optimum stocking density.


Picture of finisher

  1. Fresh feed, water, air.


Picture of finisher

  1. Daily attention to keeping pigs healthy.


A barn full of growing pigs is similar to:
Choose one:

  • a day care facility.
  • a residence at a small, liberal arts college.
  • a nursing home.


A barn full of growing pigs is similar to:

  • a day care facility.
  • a residence at a small, liberal arts college.
    • stable population (all in, all out)
    • somewhat isolated
    • immunologically mature & responsive
  • a nursing home.


We diagnose a disease problem by evaluating:

  • records,
  • clinical signs & history
  • serology,
    • cross sections
    • serial bleeding (acute / convalescent)
  • post mortems
    • with culture & sensitivity


Mortality may be the tip of the iceberg

  • pigs that become sick and need to be culled
  • pigs that grow slower and are “light” at market

    We must consider the population when we treat or prevent disease.


As mortality increases, weight gain in survivors decreases

Antibiotic use is a short term expense.
Mgmt change is a long term investment.


  • air space / pig
  • ventilation
  • flooring

Health of incoming

  • acclimation at sow herd
  • health of sow herd
  • biosecurity
  • immune status
  • wean age

Pig flow

  • clean barn before entry
  • number of sources
  • all-in, all-out vs continuous flow
  • age spread
  • density

Feed & water

  • fresh, available, quality


We decide whether to use antibiotics or not based on:

  • What the particular disease costs?
  • The impact on pigs’ well being?
  • What will likely happen if I ignore it?
    • self-resolving, stay same or get worse
  • The cost of the proposed management changes and treatment?
  • The likelihood of resolving the problem with these changes and treatment?


Pros & cons of antibiotics use


  • Reduce pain & suffering,
  • Reduce incidence of sickness & death,
  • Reduce manure output,
  • May lower cost of production thereby increasing affordability of pork


  • Possibility of promoting resistance,
  • Possibility of residues,
  • Added cost of products,
  • Negative image for some consumers.


The antibiotic program is selected based on the following:

  • the presumptive diagnosis,
  • herd health history,
  • the prevalence and incidence of this disease,
  • compliance of owner / staff,
  • benefit : cost of treatment options,
  • laboratory results,
  • clinical experience and
  • antibiotic options available.


Considerations when using antibiotics

Valid Client-Patient Relationship

  • Veterinarians has assumed responsibility for making medical judgements
  • Has sufficient knowledge of the animals to initiate at least a preliminary dx (has recently seen or makes timely visits to the premises).
  • Vet is readily available ( as has made arrangements) in case of adverse reactions or failure of the treatment regimen.


Medicate in the feed?


  • Broadest coverage of the population at risk,
  • most labor efficient,
  • most simple,
  • may be the least expensive program,

Why not?

  • May be difficult to achieve therapeutic level in sick pigs,
  • potential for contamination of other feeds,
  • some pigs that are not sick will receive medication
  • may be the most expensive program,


Survey of veterinary programs for antibiotic use

  • Generally good awareness and compliance with guidelines,
  • Some veterinarians have detailed treatment protocols for clients,
  • Product selection based on effectiveness 1st & cost 2nd
  • Spreadsheet for comparing drug costs and routes of delivery,
    • via H2O if >10-20% need treatment
    • feed medication generally used for chronic or preventive situations
  • Spreadsheet for cost effectiveness of growth promotant
    • usage varies from none for >120 lbs to almost always


Thank you