Pork producers need to be vigilant throughout the year in evaluating herd health status with special attention to feed efficiency and mortality, says Jim McKean, extension veterinarian at Iowa State University.

Small gains can add up, especially in these tough economic times, he says.

The most noticeable gains in animal health are preventing and controlling diseases that impact grow-finish performance by reducing feed efficiency or causing late-finishing deaths.

“It’s important that producers have their veterinarians conduct postmortem examinations and submit appropriate samples for diagnostics,” McKean stresses. “There’s so much valuable information that can be gained that can strengthen the farm’s control and treatment program.”

In grow-finish, producers can’t afford to lose pigs due to diseases that can be prevented through vaccinations or controlled through improved management practices, he adds.

“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,” McKean points out.

With feed still high-priced, start by focusing on diseases that affect feed efficacy such as porcine proliferative enteropathy or ileitis, Actinobacillus pleuropneumonia and porcine respiratory disease complex. McKean urges producers to discuss herd health programs with their veterinarian at least every six months.

“Producers should think about management strategies now,” he says. “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 figure out the cost/benefits of different health plans.

McKean says producers should question the feed additives they are using and whether they are still needed.

“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,” he comments. “If producers do that sort of regular evaluation, they can be comfortable that they’ve got a handle on the health controls.”