Porcine proliferative enteropathy causes increased death loss and slower gains.

The finishing pig can be compared to a high-performance race car. We are constantly trying to fine-tune it with facilities, genetics and nutrition to maximize profits. But unlike a machine, the pig is a biological entity with significant variables, such as health, that often prevent it from fulfilling its potential.

One of the most costly late finishing diseases fitting this description is porcine proliferative enteropathy (ileitis). Groups of pigs often approach the finishing line, then get hit with ileitis, causing increased death loss and slower gains.

To make matters worse, each dead pig in late finishing incurs the maximum cost without the benefit of any return. In severe cases, it seems the wheels have fallen off and the most profitable group turns into a nightmarish finish.

Case Study No. 1

A farrow-to-finish farm finishes pigs off-site in two, 1,200-head, double-curtain-sided barns. The site is managed all in, all out (AIAO). The sow herd produces 600 pigs/week, so it takes four weeks of production to fill the site. The pigs are high-health, lean genetics, negative for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) and Mycoplasmal pneumonia.

The farm has a young sow herd with excellent performance. Closeouts have averaged 1.85 average daily gain, 2.65 feed efficiency and under 2% death loss.

One group and site were doing well with a 1% death loss and marketing the first load at 95 days into the finisher. However, three days after the first market load, the grower called to report three sudden deaths and 10-15 pigs with bloody diarrhea.

We were called to do postmortems and to inspect the barn. The postmortem showed acute ileitis with another 2-3% of the pigs showing clinical signs.

We had another load scheduled for market, so we moved the load-out date up a couple of days and marketed another load before treatment.

Then we started the barn on water-soluble tylosin and tylosin in the feed at 100g/ton. We also identified sick pigs and instructed the grower to inject them with tylosin.

Even though we were very aggressive with treatment, death loss was high, growth rate slowed, and medication expense was increased. Death loss exceeded 4% for the group and days to market were extended 10-14 days.

The farm quickly instituted feed antibiotic control protocols for the pigs already placed in the finisher, and started vaccinating pigs in the nursery with an oral ileitis vaccine. Since the vaccinated pigs have entered the finishers, clinical signs and death loss have stopped.

Case Study No. 2

This farm is a 2,500-sow, farrow-to-finish farm with off-site finishing managed AIAO by site. The herd has had several health challenges, with respiratory disease being the most significant. Finisher death loss for some groups has exceeded 6%.

Through some sow herd intervention to stabilize PRRS, and an effective vaccination and medication program, progress has reduced some finishers to 3-4% death loss.

It is interesting to note that the finishing groups with the higher death loss rarely experienced clinical ileitis. In healthier pigs we are seeing some late finisher death loss and some diarrhea due to ileitis.

We have added a pulse dose of tylosin to the finisher feed at 100 g./ton for seven days and 14 days at 40 g./ton, and we are satisfied with the response.

Case Study No. 3

We were called to a 1,000-head finishing site where pigs averaged 230 lb. Death loss had increased with no apparent clinical signs. Postmortems of two pigs indicated a thickened ileum (small intestine) but no signs of blood. This was a classic example of “garden hose gut” or chronic ileitis.

These pigs had one pulse dose of tylosin six weeks after the finisher was filled. We had limited interaction and information on this group.

Our recommendation was to either vaccinate the pigs prior to entering the finishing barn or treat more aggressively with antibiotics. Although the acute death loss was minimal, subclinical losses can be quite costly.


Ileitis can be a frustrating and depressing disease. It can rob you of profit in small bites or explode and almost devastate a finishing group.

Proper diagnosis and identification when the disease strikes is critical to a successful prevention program.

The oral vaccine has shown promise in preventing the problem if administered correctly. Antibiotics used at the correct time have also been effective.

Consult your veterinarian to determine the correct diagnosis and formulate the most cost-effective control program for your operation.