While the pork industry shifts toward preventative health practices and proactive management, veterinarians are still often called to “put out fires.”

That fire may not seem related to improving overall production flow and performance, but in reality, our efforts should lead to solving the challenge and improving performance throughout the system.

In the following case studies, I'll focus on improving overall production flow and performance through strategic medications and/or vaccination protocols.

Case Study No. 1

We investigated sudden death loss of 4- to 5-month-old finishing pigs and poor performance from 150 lb. to market weight, including reduced daily gain and lower sold weights. The 150-sow, farrow-to-finish farm was single-site with all-in, all-out (AIAO) management of nursery and finishing. Death loss was 3% in the nursery, 2-3% in the finisher.

Necropsies revealed sudden deaths were attributable to hemorrhagic bowel syndrome (HBS). Serology revealed pigs were negative for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), ileitis and swine influenza virus (SIV), but positive for Mycoplasmal pneumonia at 4-5 months of age.

Steps to improve flow, performance:

  1. Mycoplasma vaccination is delayed until pigs are 6-8 weeks old.

  2. Feed antibiotics effective against mycoplasma are being given in the nursery, and pulse-dosed through the finisher at weeks 1, 5 and 10. We believe this will help reduce HBS.

  3. Paylean is added at 4.5 grams/ton to the final finisher phase rations to improve daily gain and bring up the lowest percentage of pigs.

The goal of this program is to improve mycoplasma control and ultimately improve finisher performance and profits.

Case Study No. 2

A client purchasing 400-500 weaner pigs every 6-7 weeks reported over 40% sick pigs in finishing and 10-12% death loss in finishing. The owner has had difficulty maintaining single-source weaner pigs and in the past four years has used five sources.

The nursery is run AIAO and is 400 yards from the finisher complex. Nursery performance has always been acceptable, with death loss under 2%. The finisher is challenged, operating continuous flow and may house 3-4 groups of pigs.

A cross-sectional survey of tissues and serum from the farm revealed multiple pathogens affecting the pigs: PRRS, mycoplasma, ileitis, salmonella, Pasteurella multocida, HBS and most recently, circovirus. Control measures include:

  1. Oral vaccination for salmonella and ileitis in the nursery.

  2. On arrival, pigs are vaccinated with a PRRS modified-live vaccine to deal with the multiple pig sources.

  3. Mycoplasma vaccine is used at 6-7 weeks of age.

  4. Pulse-dosing prescription antibiotics in the water for the first three weeks in the nursery has helped control Hemolytic E.coli and strep.

  5. Finisher feed protocols include pulse-dosing products to control ileitis and mycoplasma.

  6. Paylean is used to increase average daily gain and reduce the percentage of tail-enders.

Even using strategically placed vaccinations and feed antibiotics, it can be difficult to achieve good performance with so many pathogens challenging the pigs. The goal is to buy single-source pigs, depopulate the site, have 2-4 weeks of downtime and start over with healthier pigs.

Case Study No. 3

A 350-sow, farrow-to-finish, single-site operation reported poor-milking sows and poor piglet quality, over 12% mortality in the nursery and over 10% death loss in the finisher.

Diagnostics revealed active PRRS virus infection in sows and nursery. This was complicated by a toxigenic F-18 E. coli and Haemophilus parasuis infection in nursery pigs. Finisher performance was challenged by mycoplasma and ileitis.

Efforts to solve problems:

  1. Immediate PRRS vaccination of sow herd and piglets;

  2. Mycoplasma vaccination in the nursery;

  3. Pulse-dose water medications for Hemolytic E.coli and Haemophilus parasuis in the nursery;

  4. Feed antibiotics in the nursery to control mycoplasma;

  5. Pulse-dose feed medications in the finisher for mycoplasma and ileitis, and

  6. Pulse-dose water medications in the finisher for other bacteria.

Once we stabilize the PRRS infection, there will be greater opportunities to “whittle away” at the other pathogens.


Especially during times of financial pressure, make sure to focus on the “big picture,” perform the necessary diagnostics and formulate a complete program to help improve your production flow and bottom line.