Pig Diseases

Key Health Issues in the British Pig Industry



Thefarmpage brings this recent article on pig diseases in the British Pig Industry which appeared in an article on the web recently. With more pigs being kept by small part time farmers the farm page hope this information is useful. Follow more articles on animal health in our ‘News from the farming Community’ section.

The British pig herd is affected by several key health problems. Together these can have a severe impact on the farm profitability and performance, due to slower growth rates, poorer performance of the breeding animals, fewer pigs produced per sow per year or kilos of pig meat produced per sow per year, the ultimate measure of productivity in a pig farm.

The health problems that affect pigs in the UK can divided into three categories, those caused by parasites, those caused by infectious agents and those due to management issues e.g. poor quality of feeding, bedding, housing or stockmanship.

Parasites of pigs can be subdivided into internal parasites such as roundworms and external parasites such as mange. The most important roundworm is the Large Roundworm (Ascaris suum). The lifecycle of this parasite involves the migration of the larval stages of the parasite from the gut through the liver to the gut. The migration of the L2 and L3 larval stages through the liver can cause “White Spot”, while this has not been directly linked to reduced growth performance on farm, the “marked” liver does lead to liver condemnation at the abattoir. Ascaris suum as well as other roundworms found in pigs can easily be controlled through the use of anthelmintics such as injectable or in-feed ivermectins. The main external parasite of pigs is Mange (Sarcoptes scabiei var. suis) These tiny mite lives in burrows in the pigs skin. The feeding and burrowing of Sarcoptes can cause intense irritation and itching and produce lesions with exudates that dry to crusts. Infected pigs are restless and continually scratch and rub which results in reduced feed intake and poorer growth. Treatment of the whole herd with injectable or in-feed avermectins can be used to eradicate mange from the herd.

The Infectious problems can be subdivided in to bacterial and viral.

Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS, Blue Ear), this virus is widespread in the UK herd and is commonly associated reproductive problems and respiratory problems in the feeding herd, this virus have the ability to cause immunossupression, which predisposes pigs for other agents that other wise would not be able to cause disease.

Porcine Circovirus type 2 (PCV2), the virus responsible for Post Weaning Multi-Systemic Wasting Syndrome (PMWS) resulting in wasting in growing pigs, increased mortality and reduced reproductive performance in sows. PCV2 is present in almost all UK pig farms, it is responsible for immunossupression and is involved in a multitude of other syndromes. Both sow and piglet PCV2 vaccines are now available , the sow vaccine protecting both sows and piglets through the colostrum.

Parvovirus is a virus that is responsible for reproductive failure, it is also successfully controlled with vaccination.

Swine influenza is responsible as in humans for flu like symptoms and is responsible for reproductive failure and respiratory problems in the feeding herd.

Rotavirus is a virus that as in neonatal calves etc, causes mainly enteric disorders.

Bacterial diseases include enzootic pneumonia, responsible for huge economic losses, as well as predisposing for lung infections by other bacteria, in which mortality can take a heavy toll.

Another widespread disease is Ileitis, which is responsible for enteric problems in the feeding herd, also sometimes affecting replacement breeding stock brought in to the farm.

Streptococcus suis is an agent responsible for a multitude of clinical presentations, the best know being probably meningitis and it is quite widespread in the UK herd.

Pleuropneumonia can cause acute respiratory signs.

Coli is still a major problem for pig producers, affecting pigs from briefly after birth to generally the growing phase and it can have quite different presentations, including a neurological form called oedema disease.

Swine dysentery is a disease that causes severe enteric problems and is commonly recognised by the presence of blood and mucous in the faeces.

Glasser’s disease is responsible for systemic disease that can cause wasting and can be involved in respiratory problems.

Erysipelas is responsible by reproductive failure, arthritis, endocarditis and is commonly associated with typical rhomboid skin lesions.

The infectious agents mentioned before are not an exhaustive list of the agents present in the UK pig herd but some of the most common pathogens involved in health problems in the UK. To make swine health management more interesting, management practices can cause health problems that can mimic infectious agents and require a proper investigation work by veterinarian practitioners. It is well accepted that in many cases management practices can have a bigger impact on swine health than the use of medicines and when facing health problems, a multifactorial approach should be taken as in modern swine industry it is very rare to find a problem that can be attributed to a single agent.

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