Each summer our office receives questions about show pig challenges from parents of 4-H or FFA members, agricultural instructors or feed providers.
While show pig production doesn't represent a large part of our industry, it certainly represents big business, as noted by the growth of show pig sales and high-dollar boars sold at state fairs, the World Pork Expo and shows throughout the Midwest.
Since today's youth are the future of the swine industry, it behooves us to take these issues seriously, provide sound advice, wisdom and mentoring.
We were called to examine a 250-lb. barrow which had an extremely swollen hock joint and was putting very little weight on that leg. The barrow was still eating, but when palpated, the joint was red and warm to the touch.
Typically, the county fair was only 10 days away and pigs were to be slaughtered after the fair. Our diagnosis was that the joint was hot, red and swollen due to an infection. We had the youth inject the antibiotic ceftiofur and an anti-inflammatory agent. Both products had a withdrawal time of less than 10 days, and thus we felt comfortable with their administration.
These pigs were housed on concrete. We suggested the owners move them into a grassy lot and hose down the joint twice daily with cold water.
Fortunately, this barrow responded well to therapy and was able to be shown at the county fair with a minimal amount of swelling and no noticeable lameness.
We were called to investigate the sudden death of one pig and moderate diarrhea in several other show pigs within the same group.
This family had purchased show pigs from several farms and grouped them together in one large dirt lot. The pigs had been vaccinated for Mycoplasmal pneumonia and atrophic rhinitis.
Necropsy revealed signs consistent with acute ileitis. Other findings during the investigation also revealed roundworm and whipworm infestations. Multiple therapies were implemented for this group of pigs, including injectable tylosin and water-soluble tylosin for ileitis.
Fenbendazole was applied in the feed for roundworm and whipworm control. Feed-grade medications were used later for ileitis control.
We thoroughly discussed the risk of mixing multiple sources of pigs, and the importance of proper deworming procedures. Product withdrawal times were discussed. On follow-up, the pigs responded well and were in good shape by fair time.
A 4-H youth had recently purchased show pigs from another client. These pigs had been reared indoors and were moved to facilities with steel huts and dirt/pasture lots.
Pigs were on the new farm for a week when the student called to complain they were having “seizures.” The pigs would walk normally for several steps, and then fall to the ground as if they had pinched a nerve in their backs.
With several recent warm, sunny days, a diagnosis of sunburn was made over the phone. We had the owner inject a prescription anti-inflammatory product for pain, and apply Aloe Vera gel to the backs of the pigs. We also recommended more shade for the lots, and the use of water medications to help prevent secondary staphlococcus infections. Pigs were very young and had plenty of recovery time prior to the show season.
We were called to investigate sudden death of a pig two weeks before the county fair. The owner reported this had been the largest, fastest-growing pig within the group. The week prior had been extremely hot, and the youth had been watering down the pigs daily to keep them cool. While doing so, they also watered down the feed, hoping to improve feed intake.
Necropsy revealed signs consistent with Hemorrhagic Bowel Syndrome (HBS). While we felt this was probably an isolated event, we recommended using both water medications and feed-grade antibiotics. While not sure of the relationship of gruel feeding to HBS, we also suggested feeding dry feed only.
In this case, we advised the youth to retain pigs after the show until proper drug withdrawal times were met, then market them.
Show pig season can be a great learning experience and fun family project. It can also be painful when one of our kids has a sick pig or loses a pig they've been working with. Call your veterinarian when questions arise. Remember there are no stupid questions. Quick and early intervention is always our best hope for success. Continue to work with and mentor the youth in your community.