MANHATTAN, Kan. – Commercial swine producers are not the only producers who should be concerned with diseases entering their herds.
Small herds can also contract devastating diseases.
At risk. According to Steve Dritz, swine specialist in Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, small breeders’ herds are at risk for contracting parvo virus, leptospirosis and erysipelas.
Though these diseases are serious, farmers can avoid them by vaccinating their hogs for each disease.
Parvo virus. Dritz said parvo virus should be vaccinated for twice, once at four weeks prior to breeding and again at two weeks before breeding.
Animals that should be vaccinated for parvo virus are boars, sows and pre-breeding gilts, he said.
Parvo virus can cause reproductive failure as well as mummified fetuses, Dritz said.
A mummy is the term used to define a fetal death that occurs after the construction of the skeletal system or 30 days after conception.
Other symptoms include irregular return to estrus and decreased litter size.
Erysipelas. Another disease that small herd producers should vaccinate for is erysipelas, Dritz said.
Breeders can avoid an outbreak of this disease with regular vaccinations of their boars, sows and gilts, just like they can with parvo virus.
He recommends two doses of vaccine a year, six months apart, for growing pigs and a booster vaccine twice a year for adult pigs.
Symptoms of erysipelas include diamond-shaped lesions on the pig’s skin, infected or swollen joints and lameness.
A pig is considered lame if it is alert, but can not or will not stand on its feet due to soreness in its joints.
If they are forced to stand, pigs will squeal with pain and quickly lie down again.
Leptospirosis. Unlike parvo virus and erysipelas, leptospirosis is more difficult to diagnose.
A history of abortions during late-term gestation and skin lesions on unborn pigs are some indications of leptospirosis, but observations of these symptoms can be inadequate for a diagnosis.
Leptospirosis can be controlled by injection of a vaccine or an antibiotic.
Dritz said piglets should be vaccinated for erysipelas and mycoplasmal pneumonia at weaning and then again two weeks later.
Mycoplasmal pneumonia is a chronic respiratory disease in which pigs develop symptoms of coughing, growth retardation and decreased feed efficiency.
The coughing symptoms will occur two to three weeks after the animal is exposed to the disease and may remain for weeks to months, becoming worse with time.
Injection techniques. According to the National Pork Board, the industry loses thousands of dollars every year due to improper injection techniques.
Each producer should know the proper way to vaccinate his or her pigs, including the correct place on a pig’s body and the right size of needle, depending on age.
When vaccinating intramuscular, first, pick a spot on the neck behind and below the ear and in front of the shoulder, as noted by the National Pork Board.
Second, remember to never inject a pig in the ham or loin since these are valuable cuts of meat and by bruising them, they become less valuable.
Third, use the correct needle size and length, according to the pig’s age so that vaccines are injected into the muscle and not in other tissues.
“Make sure that you select the proper needle size,” Dritz said. “Use a 16-gauge, 1 1/2 -inch needle for adult pigs and an 18- to 20-gauge, 3/4 -inch needle for weaning-age piglets.”
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