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Articles from 2014 In February

Canada's Hog Traceability Program Regulations Put Into Place

Canada's Hog Traceability Program Regulations Put Into Place

After years of development and research, on February 26, Canada announced that regulations were officially put into place instituting a national pig traceability system throughout the country.

Health of Animal Regulations, which have been published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, are regulations for a hog tracking system, which documents whenever an animal is moved from place-to-place.

Jeff Clark, the manager of PigTrace Canada, noted that the need for a mandatory traceability program first took shape in 2002, when producers worried that a large scale disease breakout could hit the Canadian hog industry.

He noted that the traceability system is a great tool to have in place, especially right now when most of Canada, as well as the U.S., is dealing with outbreaks of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV).


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"Any movement of pigs from one facility to another must be reported," Clark said, adding that records must be submitted on both the end of the shipper, as well as the mover.

Two separate parties reporting the pigs whereabouts allows for a double check to see if there are any errors in the system, Clark said.

"First and foremost the traceability program was built for emergency response" Clark said, adding that what took producers and veterinarian’s days and weeks to diagnose concerning PEDV, would only take a minute in the future.

Essentially the program is not only saving producers time, but money as well.

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Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica launches two PED initiatives for swine industry

In an effort to help swine veterinarians, as well as producers find effective measures for managing porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED), Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. (BIVI), is launching two PED-focused initiatives. At the recent American Association of Swine Veterinarians Annual Meeting in Dallas, BIVI announced a commitment to PED applied research and sponsorship of a PED information-sharing service called “PED News,” both starting immediately.

According to Greg Cline, DVM, technical manager for swine enteric disease at BIVI, these two initiatives are designed to help discover, coordinate and share information related to PED that may be useful in helping vets and producers better prevent, manage and control this disease. 

For 2014, the applied research commitment includes up to $50,000 in research funds supporting the development of knowledge and tools targeting the practical management of PED. “We will be focused on helping the industry to find answers to some of the most critical questions regarding PED,” explains Cline. “From our long research history with PRRS, Lawsonia intracellularis, PCV2 and other diseases, we continue our commitment to finding solutions through applicable research targeted toward the tough problems that plague the swine industry.”

In addition to the applied research commitment, BIVI is now sponsoring a PED News service to swine veterinarians. For years, the Center of Animal Disease Modeling and Surveillance (CADMS) at the University of California, Davis has offered a service called “FMD News.” BIVI has collaborated with CADMS to adapt this platform for PED. Similar to FMD News, PED News aggregates PED information from around the world, summarizes it in English, and sends the information to subscribers with a link to the original source. “We saw a need for this type of information-sharing service to help the North American swine industry stay as current as possible with the all the PED-related information,” notes Cline.

“Because this highly contagious disease is relatively new to the U.S. and its impact on producers can be so devastating, it’s critical that everyone work together to find effective solutions and share information,” Cline says. “These two initiatives should help us to better understand this highly contagious disease and how to more effectively manage PED.”

To sign up and view previous issues of the PED News, subscribers can go to

About Boehringer Ingelheim

The Boehringer Ingelheim group is one of the world’s 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. Headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany, it operates globally with 140 affiliates and more than 46,000 employees. Since it was founded in 1885, the family-owned company has been committed to researching, developing, manufacturing and marketing novel medications of high therapeutic value for human and veterinary medicine.

Social responsibility is a central element of Boehringer Ingelheim's culture. Involvement in social projects, caring for employees and their families, and providing equal opportunities for all employees form the foundation of the global operations. Mutual cooperation and respect, as well as environmental protection and sustainability, are intrinsic factors in all of Boehringer Ingelheim’s endeavors.

In 2012, Boehringer Ingelheim achieved net sales of about 14.7 billion euro. R&D expenditure in the business area Prescription Medicines corresponds to 22.5% of its net sales.

For more information please visit

High and Low Sow Longevity

High replacement rates for first- (P1) and second-parity (P2) sows have skewed current parity structures on most sow farms towards younger, less productive females. As a result, herd productivity is being limited because females are culled before they reach their peak periods of reproductive performance.

Teasing apart all the potential causes of reduced sow longevity is challenging, since many factors could be involved. One of the first steps would be to compare normal management practices between farms that differ in sow longevity.

Results presented in this report involve a commercial production system consisting of two 2,400-head commercial sow farms that receive replacement gilts from the same multiplication flow, yet differ considerably in terms of sow longevity. The high-longevity (HL) farm typically has 26% of its sows reach a sixth parity, while the low longevity (LL) farm usually only has 12% of its sows farrow six litters.

A total of 1,600 gilts were tagged at birth and monitored through the multiplication phase. In most cases, littermates were sent to either the HL or LL farms. Upon arrival at the two commercial farms, routine management of the sows is solely at the discretion of the farm personnel, and they make all feeding, breeding and culling decisions. A variety of information such as weight and body condition changes, feed intake and mating quality scores is being collected, in addition to routine management and environmental data. Finally, when females were removed from production on either farm, their reproductive tracts are being evaluated.

At present, sows have been rebred following their second lactation (Parity 2). Although the results are preliminary, there are some interesting trends when comparing the HL and LL herds.

After sows were rebred following their first lactation, the HL farm still had 78% of the gilts remaining in production, while the LL farm only had 58%. The majority of this difference can be attributed to the proportion of gilts that were bred and entered into production — which added up to 98% of the gilts on the HL farm, compared with only 83% of their contemporaries on the LL farm.


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Farrowing rates for P1 sows were comparable for the two farms. There was only a 4% loss of sows from weaning to rebreeding on the HL farm, compared with a 12% loss over the same period for the LL farm. This trend has continued during the rebreeding of sows following their second lactation.

Specific management activities at different stages of production are outlined in Table 1. While the manner in which these data are being collected does not allow for the establishment of cause-and-effect relationships, it does illustrate some interesting associations between specific management practices and sow longevity.

First, there are differences in the type of boars used for estrus detection and management. The HL farm uses a younger boar and collects heat check boars periodically, while the LL farm uses older boars that aren’t collected. This difference appears to be associated with increased libido of the heat check boars and enhanced standing reflexes for both sows and gilts on the HL farm. Most of the gilts that were delivered to the LL farm, but were never bred, had corpora lutea or corpora albicantia on their ovaries at the slaughter check. This indicates that they did ovulate at some point, and presumably their estrus was not detected.

One of the unique differences in how gilts are managed between the two farms is that on the HL farm a single person is responsible for breeding all the gilts and then moving them after breeding into their gestation stalls. On the LL farm, these tasks are performed by different members of the breeding barn staff as the need arises. During our daily observations of routine activities, there weren’t any obvious differences among the two farms in how the gilts responded to the farm staff while they were being moved. However, on the HL farm, movement of gilts from breeding to gestation took less time, and there were almost no incidences where gilts tried to escape from their handler while being moved. The significance of these observations remains to be seen, but it is tempting to speculate that if they are representative of animals that are calmer while being handled by workers, then this could have benefits not only in breeding but during farrowing and lactation as well.

Sows are assisted during farrowing on the HL sow farm fairly aggressively, compared with the LL sow farm. It is interesting to note that the HL sow farm has fewer sows with retained placentae and dead piglets, and fewer sows that experience transient decreases in feed intake, which were defined as a two- to four-day period of either not eating or having a reduced appetite.

From a physiological perspective, it is reasonable to expect that sows with retained piglets would experience discomfort and increased body temperatures, which could result in transient reductions in lactational feed intake. From a management perspective, the timely assistance of sows during farrowing should decrease the incidence of retained piglets. Hence, it seems plausible that there are direct relationships among these three parameters.

Surprisingly, there really were no statistical differences in weight loss and body condition changes between the two farms during the first two lactations. The first lactation is typically viewed as the biggest hurdle for sows to overcome if they are to remain in production, and rather large differences between the two farms were expected. These data should not be interpreted as evidence that feed intake during lactation does not affect sow longevity. It has been well documented that the exact opposite is true. Failure to find differences in these two areas probably means that both farms do a commendable job feeding sows, so that they don’t lose excessive body condition during lactation; and having accomplished this, there obviously are other management factors that become important and influence sow longevity.

At the beginning of the second parity, there was a 20% difference in the proportion of sows still in production, which is about the same margin that normally is observed between these two farms in the proportion of sows that farrow six parities. Consequently, it appears that the periods of management of gilts from delivery to breeding, and then during their first lactation, are critical for the sow longevity identified in this production system thus far.

Some of the main differences between these two farms with historically good and poor sow longevity involve detection of estrus and assisting sows during farrowing. Consequently, these may be areas that deserve more attention on farms wanting to improve sow longevity.

For more information, email   

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Sow Lifetime Productivity Project Gains Traction

Sow Lifetime Productivity Project Gains Traction

When the pork checkoff’s Sow Lifetime Productivity (SLP) project kicked off in the mid-2000s, the effort admittedly languished for a few years until it was given solid direction in 2010.

“When staff reviewed the research programs, it was decided that there should be a research project that reached across all disciplines within science and technology,” says Chris Hostetler, director of animal science for the National Pork Board.

The focus was set on the two driving factors that define SLP:

• How long the sow stays in the herd

• How many pigs she weans during that time

If the sow fails to meet certain productivity standards, it is expected that she will be culled from the herd, Hostetler explains.

Back in 2010, the SLP project was seen as sort of an umbrella project due to its multifactorial makeup. Factors affecting sow longevity range from welfare, housing conditions and swine health to genetics, nutrition and reproduction.

“When I came on board in 2011, I was charged with getting the effort up and going. So one of the first things we did was to clearly define sow lifetime productivity as the total number of quality pigs that a sow weans from the time she becomes breeding eligible until the time she leaves the herd,” Hostetler explains.

The goal to improve SLP was set at 30% in seven years, arguably a “pretty ambitious” endeavor, he admits. “There are really only two ways you can do that — keep the sow in the herd longer and wean more pigs per litter.”

Taking that definition of SLP and the pork checkoff’s mandate to improve SLP, Hostetler organized an oversight committee including producers, academics and representatives of genetics and nutrition companies, and tasked the group to help outline research needed to achieve the goal of 30% improvement in seven years.

The first project assigned was nutrition during gilt development. The scientific oversight working group acknowledged that the nutritional program the gilt undergoes affects not only that period of growth, but also that there are also downstream effects as to how long she stays in the herd, and the number and quality of the pigs that she weans.

To carry out the actual research, a second group was organized as an SLP research consortium to focus on a key element that affects how good a pig is when it is weaned: the amount and composition of the milk that it has consumed.

Hostetler says the first project was to determine the effect of diet on body composition. In it, approximately 1,000 females were identified at birth, and placed on one of six dietary treatments (as described) at 100 days of age, and then those gilts were followed through puberty. The results of this project will be used to determine the three dietary treatments to be used in the follow-up study.

In the second study, there will be approximately 3,000 females fed one of three dietary treatments during gilt development. Again, these females will be identified at birth, fed the experimental diets beginning at 100 days of age and then followed through three parities to determine the effect of body composition on sow lifetime productivity. Those trials will be conducted at the Murphy-Brown research facility near Milford, UT.


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“We are interested in how those dietary treatments affect either fat or lean composition, and how we can use that preliminary study to narrow down our dietary treatments for the longer study, where we take the females out to third parity,” Hostetler observes.

Once that preliminary project is completed early this year, the primary study will begin, which will again involve identifying females at birth and narrowing the dietary treatments down to three.

The complete three-year project is being sponsored by the National Pork Board in collaboration with Murphy-Brown.

The plan to improve sow lifetime productivity must overcome some major deficiencies in sow productivity.

“The sad fact is that roughly 40% of females that are bred for the first time have less than nine pigs, and so 40% of the females that get bred get culled after their first parity,” Hostetler laments. “Then there is another 20% that get culled at second parity, so you are up to about 60% of the females that never have a third parity.”

The pork industry is currently producing an average of about 35 pigs in a sow’s lifetime, meaning that a 30% improvement would boost that figure up to about 42-43 pigs per sow lifetime, he says.

Failure to reproduce is the No. 1 reason for culling, much of which is underscored by issues with lameness.

“Most producers will just check off that the sow failed to reproduce, and won’t specify that it was a lameness issue,” Hostetler says.

“One of the things that this project will do is it will track our reasons for culling, and tell us specifically if the reason she was culled was because she was lame or because she was reproductively incompetent.”

Current projects take SLP through early 2015. A parallel project developed by the research consortium, which kicks in sometime this year, is the brainchild of University of Alberta research scientist George Foxcroft, professor emeritus. It looks at the effects of litter of origin.

“This is a term that producers may not understand. The litter that a sow is born in has great implications for how productive she is as a sow,” Hostetler says. Work by Billy Flowers at North Carolina State University has found that gilt litters raised in litters of eight stayed in the herd longer, weaned more pigs and had higher lifetime productivity than did gilts that were raised in a litter of 12.

The other part of the Foxcroft project will look at such things as whether the ratio of boars to gilts in a litter affects how females perform as sows in the herd, and how the amount of colostrum that a female consumes as a baby pig on day 1 affects her performance as a sow. This project, including data collection and analysis of females at birth, will be conducted at Holden Farms of Northfield, MN.

This project will also evaluate litter birth weight, which is a repeatable phenotype. “If a sow has a light birth weight litter the first time she has a litter, there is a very good chance that her subsequent litters will be low birth weight as well,” Hostetler says.

“Then we may be able to identify those females early and see if there are management practices that we can do that will increase the weaning weights of those pigs — more attention to nursing, or split suckling,” he adds.

All of these research projects should return DNA data (blood and tissue) that should be able to be mined for years, Hostetler says.

Over the seven-year life of this research effort, the $3 million contribution for the projects being made by the National Pork Board will serve as an investment that will buttress the pork industry and the future of the U.S. sow herd, he affirms.

In the end, the knowledge gained will provide some sort of a standard operating manual for how pork producers need to raise their females to ensure the highest likelihood that they will become sixth-parity sows.

“Ultimately, for each individual farm, whatever pieces of this ‘manual’ producers can use, the greater the potential that their sows will be in the herd for six parities,” Hostetler says.

As it stands, if sows stay in the herd until third parity, 90% of the time they will stay in the herd through their sixth parity, he says. “That’s why we only do trials that take sows out to third parity. It is a milestone to reach third parity.”

Preliminary results on sow lifetime productivity projects at the National Pork Board should be available for discussion at World Pork Expo, set for June 4-6, 2014 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, IA.      

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New Pump Simplifies Oral Vaccine Delivery

The administration of oral vaccines has always been relatively easy, but now a new pump delivery system is making that process even easier for hog producers.

The Vaccinator peristaltic pump from Stenner Pumps allows for a consistent release of vaccine solution into a barn’s water line over a set period of time. The pump is specifically designed to administer oral vaccines continuously for six hours, assuring vaccination accuracy while simplifying the process and minimizing wear and tear on the pump itself.

As hog producer Trisha Deppe Kuenzel of Deppe Farm, near Washington, MO, explains during a recent farm tour and demonstration, she no longer has to be there during the treatment process. Now she starts the process, generally goes back to check on it after about three hours, and then forgets about it until later that day — or even the next day when she rinses out the plastic gallon jug for future reuse.

Kuenzel says she used to have to watch the clock to make sure she was back in the barn about an hour before delivery concluded, so she could tilt the bucket to make sure the pigs got every last drop of the vaccine solution. Likewise, she had to be present to turn the system off when delivery was done.



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“It is a good process, a good idea and a good change,” says Kuenzel, who started using the new process several months ago. In addition to saving labor, swine veterinarian Steve Patterson, DVM, of Northeast Veterinary Service, Shelbina, MO, explains the new delivery technology eliminates the need to premeasure stock solution and helps assure vaccination accuracy.

Ileitis, associated with Lawsonia intracellularis, is a common diarrheal disease of grow-finish pigs. It can cause a sudden onset of diarrhea, with inflammation of the ileum in the small intestine and colon. Ileitis can affect pig performance, cause persistent diarrhea and result in mortality if not kept in check. Patterson explains that at Deppe Farm, the pigs are treated for ileitis at around eight weeks of age with Enterisol Ileitis, a Lawsonia intracellularis vaccine from Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc. (BIVI).

The avirulent live-culture vaccine generally arrives at the 1,200-head sow farm the day prior to the planned vaccination. It is packed in dry ice, and upon arrival must be placed in a chest freezer: packaging, dry ice and all.

About 15 minutes before administration, the vaccine is removed from its packaging and run under cold water to thaw. The next step involves adding a reload pack, water and then the vaccine to a gallon jug. The reload pack neutralizes any chlorine in the water and turns it blue to allow for easy visual tracking of the solution throughout the delivery process. The final step is to attach the jug and turn the pump on. No further attention is needed.

As Patterson explained, a benefit of this particular pump system is that it is a totally automated process, with auto shutoff and auto flush. An added benefit is that the vaccination solution never touches the pump itself, which helps lengthen the lifetime of the pump. While BIVI recommends the Vaccinator peristaltic pump system for administration of Enterisol Ileitis, it does not sell the pump directly.

“We support a delivery system that promotes effective delivery while reducing errors and helping save time on the farm,” says Mike Steilen, BIVI oral vaccines brand manager. He explains that the company can get producers connected with a local distributor of Stenner pumps if they so desire. On average, the whole system runs less than $400.

Patterson encourages his clients to routinely vaccinate against ileitis and says the investment brings at least a threefold return. He says in addition to more uniform pig growth and size, most producers find that when they treat for ileitis, they have fewer cull pigs and overall mortality is reduced.

Just because there are no clinical signs of the disease, or because antibiotics are being given, doesn’t mean ileitis vaccination isn’t necessary, says Patterson. “There is enough data out there to show the benefits of the investment. Vaccinating for ileitis is a no-brainer,” he says, noting that the disease can be negatively influencing pig performance even when clinical signs are not visible. Care also should be taken when vaccinating pigs that are receiving feed medications. Prior to vaccination, feed medications should be withheld for three days. Another three-day withdrawal period is necessary following vaccination.    

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Impact of Sow Feeding on Pig Birth Weights

Impact of Sow Feeding on Pig Birth Weights

The average number of pigs born per sow has increased steadily over the years. As sows continue to increase the total born, the total litter weight rises — however, not at the same proportion as the number of pigs born. Therefore, the average birth weight has a tendency to be lowered with larger litters. Data demonstrate that lower birth weight pigs have a higher chance of piglet pre-weaning mortality. Lower birth weight pigs are also delayed when it comes to days needed to reach market weight. In response to the concern of birth weights, nutritionists and reproduction specialists have been investigating ways to improve birth weights through sow feeding programs.

Recent research data demonstrated that gestating sows require 14 grams of digestible lysine at around 40-50 days of gestation (Pairat Srichana et al). However, at 90-100 days of gestation, gestating sows require 17g of digestible lysine. One way to increase the lysine allowance per day is to increase feed allowance at the end of gestation through what has been termed “bump feeding” in the industry.


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Bump feeding involves increasing feed during the last 21 days of gestation. It has been one practice that many believe improves birth weights. Research results were presented as part of the 2009 Kansas State Days, indicating that increasing feeding levels at the end of gestation improved individual birth weights in gilt litters, but not in sow litters (Nick Shelton et al.). Additional research published in 2011 demonstrated similar findings, suggesting that increasing feed allowance improved birth weights in pigs born from gilt litters, but not sow litters. The data from Jose Soto suggest that feeding 3.9 lb. the last two weeks of gestation, compared to 1.9 or 0 lb., improved the average birth weight to 3.17 lb. compared to 3.0 lb. vs. 2.8 lb., respectively (See Figure 1).

Although studies indicate that sows require additional lysine at the end of gestation, and increasing gestation feed appears to have a benefit on piglet birth weight in gilt litters, the question remains as to whether there is economic value. Nick Shelton discussed that even though increasing feed intake in gilt and sow litters resulted in improved gilt conception rate and second parity litter weight, and improved sow lactation feed intake, economically, there was no benefit.

If improving birth weights by 0.28 lb. shifts 5% of the population of pigs out of the less-than-1.9-lb. category, their chances of survivability improves 42%, according to research. The value then lies with the cost of feed and the value of the weaned pig. Other factors to consider are that a heavier pig at birth will result in a heavier pig at weaning, and also will improve the reproductive performance for the weaned gilt. In 2012, the return on bump feeding gilts an additional 3.9 lb. of feed for two weeks prior to farrowing was 2.15:1, based on piglet survivability.     

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Setting the Right Feeding Program

Setting the Right Feeding Program

It used to be that swine feeding programs were simple in nature, according to John Patience, Iowa State University Extension swine specialist. Those feeding programs were in place whether corn was $1.50 a bushel or $2.50 a bushel. Diets were basically corn and soybean meal, with added minerals and vitamins and probably some added fat. The life of a swine nutritionist was relatively simple.

But the volatility of the feed ingredient marketplace featuring $7 corn, the expansion of the corn-based biofuels industry and the recognition that pigs of differing genotypes or with differing health statuses require differing diets meant that the use of those ingredients needed to be dictated by the broader marketplace — and not just the cost of the ingredient itself, he says.

“For example, right now if we look at lowering feed cost per pig, compared to even a year ago, we typically set diets to maximize barn throughput, because with lower feed costs, that is where profits may be maximized. Of course, the profit point will vary among farms.

“Increasingly, producers are looking at what is their return per pig place in the barn, and what is their return for the overall farming operation; because when feed costs are high, it may be cheaper, especially when corn is $7 a bushel, to feed a lower-energy diet. This may reduce barn throughput, but net income for the overall operation might be higher. Producers adjust by putting down more grow-out capacity to account for slower growth,” Patience explains. That allows producers to use myriad byproducts, such as wheat midds, corn bran or field peas.

“By doing so, the energy level of that diet may go down, growth rate probably will suffer, but the net return over feed costs or the net return for the farm over the year will go up.

“Then the question becomes if that increased return over feed costs is enough to allow us to have additional grow-out space to accommodate the slower growth, because in our overall operation, to reach our target market weights, we get a little bit slower growth rate, but we make more money,” Patience explains. “Essentially, the feeding program for most farms is dictated by a variety of factors; unlike in the past, changes in pig growth rate and barn throughput are variables that play into the equation. Years ago, barn throughput had to be maximized. Period.”

Patience observes that feeding programs for pigs need to be based on what the pigs require to achieve the overall performance that a producer expects of them. That is called getting predictable performance — understanding how the pig will respond to differing energy levels or lysine levels in the diet.

“We need to know what the ingredients are going to cost and what the nutrient composition of those ingredients are, as well as look at the hog markets, financial markets and what the packer wants from us in terms of carcass quality,” he says.

Taking those various considerations into account has helped many producers come up with a feeding program to maximize their net income or minimize their losses as markets fluctuated, Patience says.

Being able to react quickly to market changes is also essential. A good example: a year ago, no one would have envisioned corn prices ranging from $3 to $4 a bushel.

“The point is, when market prices are high and feed costs are low, it might be economical to feed a little higher-quality diet in order to push the pigs a little bit more to have more weight on them going out the door,” he says. “But when market prices are low and feed costs are high, it might make more sense to spend a little less on feed, because you are not going to get that same marginal return on your investment in feed.” 

Plant Extracts May Offer Anti-Inflammatory Relief for Sick Pigs

There are many diseases in the pork industry that are invasive, as well as expensive for producers. When looking on a global scale one of the most intrusive and invasive diseases is porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). Even though PRRS is not occurring on every farm, it is still one of the biggest disease problems in the swine industry.

E. coli has also been a problem historically and continues to be on an industry-wide basis, said James Pettigrew, a researcher with the University of Illinois. Either one of the diseases can sweep through a farm so their alleviation would substantially reduce production costs. Although, many management practices have been used in the swine industry, these practices can’t guarantee freedom from disease for pigs, he said.

Consumer concerns about bacterial resistance to antibiotics have prompted the swine industry to seek additional methods to protect the health of pigs, including special feed additives. This interest led Pettigrew and his team to explore the potential benefits of selected plant extracts

The researchers conducted two experiments to test the beneficial effects of adding plant extracts to pig diets to combat PRRS and E. coli. In both experiments, researchers used four diets in weanling pigs, including a control diet and three additional diets that included garlic botanical extracted from garlic, turmeric oleoresin extracted from ginger, or capsicum oleoresin from pepper. In both experiments, half of the pigs in each dietary treatment were challenged with either E. coli or PRRS virus while the other half of the pigs were non-challenged.

It’s been known for a long time that plant extracts, also called essential oils or botanicals have certain biological actions, mentioned Yanhong Liu, a doctoral student who led the studies.

Liu noted that the oils can act as antioxidants or as antimicrobials, so her research team wanted to test whether or not individuals could get a benefit from feeding those products in very low doses to pigs that may be challenged with specific diseases, such as PRRS and E. coli.

E. coli, a bacterial illness of the gut, is marked by diarrhea, decrease in appetite, decrease in body weight, and in some cases, a higher mortality rate. E. coli is especially dangerous post-weaning as pigs adapt to new feed and new environments, Pettigrew said.

The pigs in the study challenged with E. coli that had been fed any of the three plant extracts had a lower frequency of diarrhea (20 percent) than the pigs fed the control diet (40 percent). The pigs fed plant extracts were more efficient (40 percent) in feed use than the pigs fed the control diet in the E. coli-challenged group, and challenged pigs fed plant extracts had sounder gut morphology compared with the challenged pigs fed the control diet.


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Liu noted that even the pigs in the non-challenged group, with a low frequency of mild diarrhea, benefited from the plant extracts. Typically, there is a relatively high diarrhea rate in post-weaning pigs when they are moved from their mom and started on all solid feed, she mentioned that the extracts could also be used to help reduce this occurance.

Common symptoms of PRRS, a viral infection of the lung, include fever, lethargy, trouble breathing, loss of appetite, and decreased growth performance. The disease can also lead to spontaneous abortions and higher pre-weaning mortality rates in pigs.

After feeding the pigs challenged with the PRRS virus the three plant extracts, the researchers observed that the pigs were more efficient in week 1 (55 percent) and week 2 (40 percent) than the pigs fed the control diet. The pigs continued eating and gaining weight. They found this to be especially true with turmeric, Liu said.

When they checked blood samples from the pigs with the PRRS virus, they found that the pigs fed plant extracts also had a lower blood viral load (13 percent) and lower concentrations of inflammatory mediators than pigs fed the control diet. These observations also suggest that feeding plant extracts could suppress ongoing inflammation and prevent secondary infections.

The researchers believe the benefits resulted from the effects on the pigs’ immune systems because feeding plant extracts reduced the inflammation caused by E. coli and the PRRS virus.

When dealing with production animals, inflammation is quite costly, because inflammation reduces feed intake, and it diverts nutrients away from growth to the animal’s immune system, Pettigrew said.

If the aide of the extract can help bring the inflammation back down to normal quickly, than it helps can bring that quickly than that helps in production.

Although previous studies have looked at using plant extracts in pig diets, Pettigrew said Liu’s study, which looked at the effects of three different extracts on two different diseases, had not been done previously. He also added that the low concentration of the extracts used while still producing beneficial results set this study apart.

The researchers will continue to study the mechanisms behind the beneficial effects they observed, including conducting gene expression studies. They are looking to see the big picture Liu said, including how the plant extracts affected the challenged and non-challenged pigs.

“Dietary plant extracts alleviate diarrhea and alter immune responses of weaned pigs experimentally infected with a pathogenic Escherichia coli” was published in the November 2013 issue of Journal of Animal Science and can be accessed online at Co-authors of the study were Liu, Pettigrew, M. Song, M. Che, J.A.S. Almeida, J.J. Lee, D. Bravo, and C.W. Maddox.

“Dietary plant extracts improve immune responses and growth efficiency of pigs experimentally infected with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus” was published in the December 2013 issue of Journal of Animal Science and can be accessed online at Co-authors of the study were Liu, Pettigrew, T.M. Che, M. Song, J.J. Lee, J.A.S. Almeida, D. Bravo, and W.G. Van Alstine.

Pancosma SA, Geneva, Switzerland, provided funding for the research.

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PEDV Fears Push USDA to Avoid Farm Visits to Collect Hogs & Pigs Report Data

In an effort to respect biosecurity protocols and reduce the risk of spreading porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV), USDA is asking pork producers to complete U.S. Hogs & Pigs Report data via online or mail-in forms instead of gathering data from on-farm visits.

USDA is currently seeking information on the U.S. pig crop. Pork producers are the only source for accurate on-farm inventory, birth, and death rates that are included in the quarterly report.

USDA would prefer not to send people to farms to collect data. Producers who are located in the survey area will be asked to take a moment to complete a questionnaire and return it via mail or the internet.

Producers who receive a questionnaire and do not return it by February 28th, will receive a follow-up phone call from USDA to help with data gathering.

Any data that is gathered is held in strict confidence and can never be shared with anyone under penalty of Federal law. The data is also exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests, according to USDA.

Results from the March Hogs & Pigs Report will be released on March 28, 2014 and will be available on the Internet at

Pork Consumers Asked to Express Their Love for the True Star of the Dinner Plate

meat on a grill

Whether it's served as a barbeque sandwich or straight off the grill, pork is a versatile, family-favorite meal, which is why it comes as no surprise that it has captivated the hearts of people all across America.

On Valentine's Day, the Pork Checkoff began a celebration of the love that consumers have for pork, through an integrated marketing program, which includes a national pork share-a-thon.

"Our consumer target is growing, and they love pork," said Randy Brown, vice chair of the Pork Checkoff Domestic Marketing committee and a farmer from Nevada, Ohio. "By sharing that pork passion, we engage with our biggest pork advocates to remind and help them enjoy pork more often."

The national pork share-a-thon encourages pork fans everywhere to share their pork love by tagging their declarations of pork love on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #PorkLUV. A real-time online engagement aggregator will track #PorkLUV as it crisscrosses the nation.


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Pork fans who share their #PorkLUV will be helping their state compete for a food bank donation of 30,000 meals of fresh pork. The state that shares the most #PorkLUV from February 14 to March 7 will receive the pork, divided among food banks throughout the state. In addition to supporting the cause, everyone who shares a little #PorkLUV will receive a $1-off coupon to use when buying fresh pork.

"#PorkLUV is all about giving our fans a chance to declare their passion and share it among friends and family - all in the name of a great cause," said Brown.

Share the #PorkLUV

Sharing your #PorkLUV is as easy as visiting or the Pork Be inspired Facebook page. Once there, simply:

· Click "Share your #PorkLUV"

· Select your favorite pork cut

· "Share" the love to add your #PorkLUV to the interactive map

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