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Articles from 2004 In July

Pesky Suis Problems Persist

While porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) grabs the majority of the headlines when it comes to swine diseases, Streptococcus suis and Haemophilus parasuis (HPS) have quietly (or not so quietly) stood the test of time.

The hog industry has tried management changes such as segregated early weaning (SEW), all-in all-out pig flow and multiple-site production to control and eliminate challenges such as strep and HPS.

However, our practice continues to deal with these bacteria almost daily, as we search for treatment methods to handle these disease challenges.

Case Study No. 1

We were called out to a 4,800-head contract finishing facility. The unit was comprised of four, 1,200-head, totally slotted, tunnel-ventilated buildings. Pigs were loaded into the facility over a two-week period, and had been on the site for 4-6 weeks.

The producer called on a Monday morning complaining that approximately 20 pigs had died in one barn over the weekend. The contract finisher reported some pigs exhibited labored breathing, but thought that the losses were primarily of a sudden-death nature. The system had no history of Actinobacillus pleuropnemonia, which can cause sudden death in pigs within a few hours to a few days.

When we arrived at the farm, we found multiple pigs thumping and lethargic and several more dead pigs.

Necropsy revealed an extreme amount of fibrinous pericarditis, or fibrin (a white, insoluble, fibrous protein) surrounding the heart. There were also large amounts of fluid and fiber in the abdominal cavity. Based on our necropsy, we suspected HPS to be the culprit. Tissues were hand-delivered to the University of Missouri diagnostic laboratory. A positive diagnosis of HPS was made within 24 hours.

Due to the severity of the case, we mass-injected the entire barn with ceftiofur hydrochloride and ran high levels of tetracycline in the water.

Oddly, only one barn out of three was affected. The company's fieldman believed that a thermostat/ventilation malfunction during the weekend stressed the pigs, allowing HPS to express itself. We were not able to confirm that observation.

Case Study No. 2

A 300-sow, farrow-to-finish facility was working through PRRS challenges. The sows had been mass vaccinated and the piglets likewise vaccinated for PRRS. Strep and HPS were also present.

In this case, healthy newborn pigs exhibited swollen navels and joints by 7-10 days of age. They were being weaned at 21 days and would fall out in the nursery, most 7-14 days postweaning. Fallout pigs continued through 10-12 weeks of age.

A consistent finding was strep in the joints of very young pigs and a combination of strep and HPS in the nursery through grower age pigs. Typically, pigs would appear to stop eating, become gaunt, long-haired and rough, and eventually be euthanized. Once pigs showed clinical signs, treatments were not effective.

Necropsies of nursery/grower pigs almost always revealed severe adhesions of the heart, lungs and chest cavity.

Antibiotic and vaccination programs were implemented simultaneously during the PRRS stabilization process. An autogenous strep/HPS vaccine was developed. This product was given to sows at five and two weeks before farrowing. Piglets were vaccinated at 7 and 21 days of age.

The antibiotic ceftiofur sodium was also given at birth and 7 and 21 days of age. Feed medications included tilmicosin followed by tiamulin/chlortetracycline. Pulse dosing of prescription water medications were also given to pigs at 5-10 days postweaning.

Hospital pens were provided for fallouts, and Solutein (APC, Inc.) was administered via drinking water.

These protocols were costly in terms of inputs and labor. In this case, the owner was willing to implement these protocols due to the severity of clinical signs taking place.

Our goal, as the herd stabilizes to PRRS virus, is to reduce the amount of intervention needed.

At this point, water medications have been dropped in the nursery, and less feed medications are being required. We have continued with the three-dose regimen of ceftiofur sodium through the summer months.


Strep and HPS continue to be common challenges on many hog farms. A combination of strategies and intervention can help reduce these challenges.

There is ongoing research in the veterinary community to stimulate immunity for strep and HPS within younger pigs via live bacteria.

Monitoring pig death loss with necropsies, accurate diagnosis and proper antibiotic sensitivity testing are all essential components in helping manage these problems correctly.

Pork Quality & Safety Summit

The biannual Pork Quality & Safety Summit, sponsored by the National Pork Board, is slated for Aug. 17-18, University Park Holiday Inn, West Des Moines, IA.

The program has three concurrent sessions on pre-harvest, post-harvest and pork quality. The Antimicrobial Resistance and Alternatives Summit is the afternoon of Aug. 18.

To register, call (800) 456-7675. To reserve a room, call (515) 223-1800.

Mechanical Ventilation Needs Backup System

Mechanically ventilated swine confinement facilities should have alarms or backup ventilation systems in the event of an electrical outage, which could stress or even kill pigs in a matter of hours.

A University of Illinois agricultural engineering group, led by Matt Robert, conducted three trials looking at the effects of temperature and carbon dioxide in a 2,000-head, 45 × 125-ft., totally slotted nursery barn. Shallow manure pits were flushed 12 times a day using recycled lagoon water.

In the first trial, the impact of temperature was evaluated for 50-lb. pigs. Three, 24-in. mixing fans located near the ceiling were left on while the ventilation system was shut off. With just the mixing fans on, the increase in temperature in the building was slow. It took about 60 minutes for the pigs to become stressed by temperature. Outside temperature was 57° F. Carbon dioxide levels increased to levels of concern of 4% in about 80 minutes. Stress from lack of oxygen was documented at about 95 minutes.

In this same trial, by 115 minutes, carbon dioxide levels approached 5% and temperatures reached 95° F. Results revealed that carbon dioxide affects pigs before they are affected by temperature. After 15 minutes at each of these temperature and carbon dioxide levels, pigs become stressed enough to seriously harm productivity.

In the second trial, also with 50-lb. pigs, the mixing fans were turned off along with the ventilation fans. Critical stress levels from temperature and carbon dioxide remained the same as in the first trial. Circulating air in the barn with the mixing fans could increase the time before pigs become severely stressed to 75 minutes for temperature and 95 minutes for carbon dioxide, the researchers suggested. Again, outside temperature was 57° F.

The third test was performed in a building with 15-lb. pigs. The critical temperature for this group was 100° F, but the temperature never reached a point where the pigs were stressed because the outside air temperature averaged 54° F. Carbon dioxide levels resulting in oxygen deficiency occurred at about 150 minutes into the test.

Overall, it took almost three times as much time for the 15-lb. pigs to be stressed by the environmental changes as it did for the 50-lb. pigs.

The three trials confirmed the need for backup electrical generation for mechanically ventilated swine units.

Researchers: M.J. Robert, C.S. Shaffer, T.L. Funk and Y. Zhang, University of Illinois. Contact Robert at (217) 898-8168; fax (217) 355-3775 or e-mail

Meat Quality Initiative

Monsanto Company has formed the Meat Quality Initiative to accelerate the growth of subsidiary Monsanto Choice Genetics' meat quality genomics discoveries.

Monsanto's swine genomics program focuses on both production efficiencies and meat quality.

Aiding that effort will be Monsanto's recent alliance with MetaMorphix, Inc., Savage, MD, giving Monsanto access to a database of over 630,000 markers of the swine genome.

This access, plus Monsanto's previous work, will continue the company's focus on genetic improvements in pork to create a product that is more flavorful, tender and juicy. More information is at

USDA Names Pork Board Members

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman has appointed five producers to the 15-member National Pork Board.

Appointed to serve three-year terms are:

  • Danita S. Rodibaugh, Rensselaer, IN, a family-owned and-operated 400-sow, farrow-to-finish and seedstock operation;

  • John Q. Adams, Snow Hill, NC, owner of a feeder pig finishing business that markets 5,000 head/year;

  • G. Steven Weaver, Elk Grove, CA, owner of a 60-sow, farrow-to-feeder pig operation;

  • Timothy A. Bierman, Larrabee, IA, owner of a wean-to-finish operation selling 15,000 hogs/year, and pig flow manager for eight custom feeders; and

  • Bruce A. Sampson, Three Forks, MT, owner of a 300-sow herd marketing 5,500 hogs/year.

Veterinary Conference

The 14th annual Carthage Veterinary Service Ltd. Swine Conference is Aug. 24 at Western Illinois University, Macomb, IL.

Sessions will highlight swine diseases, large group housing, optimal weaning age, boosting farrowing rates, managing wean-to-finish feed costs, marketing and managing finishing barns.

To register, call (217) 357-2811, fax (217) 357-6665 or e-mail

Producers Irate Over EQIP Shortfall

The deadline looms for pork producers designated as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to implement nutrient management plans. The catch is a lack of adequate cost-share assistance.

By the end of 2006, pork producers whose farms are designated as CAFOs must have a nutrient management plan in place to meet state and federal environmental rules.

To comply by the deadline, producers should get started planning projects now, urges Mark Berkland, consultant for Environmental Management Solutions (EMS), LLC. The Des Moines, IA-based company helps pork producers apply for funding aid through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and implement conservation practices.

Funding Roadblock

However, pork producers seeking to apply for EQIP funding have become frustrated by a regulatory roadblock.

Despite the fact that the pork industry has invested a lot of effort in getting the EQIP program off the ground, they have not received their fair share of EQIP dollars, says Tom Hebert, analyst for Capitolink, a Washington, DC-based firm that consults for the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).

The result is that some producers have stopped applying for funding, he says. Funds are administered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

“The swine industry has not boded well in capturing the cost-share funds that we need and anticipated that we would receive from EQIP,” charges Kirk Ferrell, NPPC vice president of Public Policy.

NPPC President Keith Berry, a pork producer from Greencastle, IN, recently sent a letter to the U.S. Senate after a hearing about EQIP problems.

“The total cost-share assistance provided by EQIP in 2003 was almost $483 million, of which $314 million went to livestock producers,” he said in the NPPC letter. “Of this latter figure, only 3.5%, or $11 million, was provided to pork producers. Pork producers received less cost-share assistance than all other categories of livestock for which the NRCS has reported data, including the category representing ‘Other Livestock’ (goats, elk, bison, emu, ostrich, etc.).

“Of this $314 million that went to all livestock, about $105 million was clearly identifiable as going to animal feeding operations with confinement facilities. But again, pork producers received only $7.6 million of these funds, or about 7.5%. This is the case even though according to NRCS estimates, swine operations represent about 22% of all confined livestock operations in the U.S.,” said Berry. The allocation shortfall is illustrated in Figure 1.

Table 1. U.S. FY 2003 EQIP Contracts for Livestock Operations
Livestock Type Total Cost-Share Obligateda Confined Cost-Share Obligated Unconfined Cost-Share Obligated Practices Indistinguishable Cost-Share Obligated Total Number of Contracts
Swine $10,909,450 $7,583,072 $556,878 $2,769,500 632
Beef $201,093,316 $33,085,622 $56,432,653 $111,575,041 13,416
Poultry $15,106,068 $13,185,037 $394,306 $1,526,725 895
Dairy $68,794,862 $48,849,508 $4,211,015 $15,734,339 1,987
Sheep $3,451,785 $307,268 $1,294,614 $1,849,903 258
Horse $2,725,949 $917,837 $782,238 $1,025,874 200
Otherb $11,675,905 $1,325,680 $1,332,287 $9,017,938 905
Subtotal $313,757,335 $105,254,024 $65,003,991 $143,499,320 18,293
Non-Livestock $168,951,094 $0 $0 $0 13,251
Total $482,708,429 $105,254,024 $65,003,991 $143,499,320 31,544
aTotal cost share obligated was sorted by practices linked to livestock rather than by contract.
bUndefined, but could include goats, elk, bison, emu, ostrich, etc.

The NPPC president added that there are thousands of pork producers who need help in adopting conservation practices to meet applicable regulations “without incurring debt levels that could place their operations and families at considerable financial risk.”

EQIP Problem Uncovered

Last fall, the NPPC surveyed the top 10 hog states and learned of the EQIP funding problem, says Hebert.

EMS' Berkland says EQIP funding has not kept pace with the flood of applications. In fact, there is a $3 billion backlog. Current funding is $800 million/year. By 2006, funding is expected to be $1.2 billion.

NRCS has proposed 22 action points for better coordination of state and national efforts for allocating EQIP funds.

Berkland says another problem is that some producers don't intend to worry about meeting the CAFO rules until they go into effect. He stresses that producers need to start planning now.

By having a nutrient management plan, producers qualify for EQIP funding that provides cost-share assistance for soil, water, animal, plant and air agricultural-related improvement projects. EQIP also provides funding assistance for installation of waste storage facilities.

EQIP may cost-share up to 75% of the cost of certain conservation practices and may provide incentive payments for up to three years to encourage producers to carry out appropriate management practices. About 60% of cost-share support is to be allocated for livestock-related conservation practices.

Applications are approved on a local level by NRCS officials, says Berkland. They weigh the environmental needs of a particular area and rank projects for funding accordingly.

Contact your local NRCS office or EMS' main office by phone (515) 278-8002 or fax (515) 278-8011. For program details, go to

Iowa Court Reverses Nuisance Ruling

The Iowa Supreme Court has reversed a nuisance ruling against a Sioux County, IA, family's 4,000-head hog operation.

Joseph and Linda Gacke sued neighbor Pork Xtra, claiming the operation was a nuisance by causing emotional distress and reducing property values.

The court provided a mixed ruling, says Eldon McAfee, attorney for the defendants.

“The ruling allows for a new trial because hearsay evidence was allowed to be admitted at the trial which was prejudicial to Pork Xtra,” says McAfee. “The court found that written questionnaires submitted by the neighbors included a description of the odors and contained inflammatory statements, which should not have been admitted into evidence. This means the Iowa Supreme Court reversed the judgment against Pork Xtra and returned the case to the district court for a new trial.”

World Pork Expo Wrap

Thousands of producers from across the U.S. visited Des Moines last month during World Pork Expo, touring more than 500 exhibits.

They learned about the new Legislative Action Center developed by the National Pork Producers Council ( to contact members of Congress, and participated in a straw ballot for U.S. president, which showed President George Bush leading Sen. John Kerry by 78% to 22%.

The National Pork Board celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) program, launched at World Pork Expo in 1989.

“During the past 15 years, PQA has helped pork producers improve their on-farm production practices and assured consumers both in the U.S. and around the world that U.S. pork is a safe, wholesome product,” says Ionia, IA, producer Leon Sheets, chair of the National Pork Board's Producer Education Committee.

Also at Expo, Mike and Beth Wozniak of Brimfield, IL, were named grand champions in the 17th annual Great Pork Barbeqlossal. They received the $3,000 grand prize and a Kingfisher Kooker valued at $1,700.