Shoulder ulcers in sows can be prevented using risk assessments and rubber mats

The study, titled How effective are clinical pre-farrowing risk assessment and the use of soft rubber mats in preventing shoulder ulcers in at-risk sows?, was conducted by researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hanover, Germany.

The researchers, Daniel Meyer, Charlotte Vogel, Lothar Kreienbrock and, Elisabeth große Beilage, conducted the two-part study which was designed to evaluate how effective a clinical risk assessment could be in predicting at-risk sows and how rubber matting could be used to then prevent at-risk sows from developing shoulder lesions whilst in farrowing crates.

A total of 656 sows were clinically examined one week before farrowing and were scored on their body condition (1 = excessively thin to 5 = excessively fat) and semi-quantitative locomotion (0 = no clinical signs of lameness to 5 = avoidance of any limb pressure, exclusive adoption of relieving pressure). Sows with a body condition score of 2 or less and/or a locomotion score of less than 3 and/or scar tissue covering the tuber spina scapulae were classified as at-risk of developing ulcers.

At-risk sows were randomly assigned into one of two treatment groups:

  1. The prevention group: sows were stalled in farrowing crates with rubber mats.
  2. Non-prevention group: sows were stalled in standard crates.

The shoulder areas were photographed during the first two weeks of lactation.

The clinical pre-farrowing risk assessment was effective in determining which sows had a higher risk of developing shoulder ulcers. At-risk sows stalled in crates with rubber mats also had a significantly lower chance of developing shoulder ulcers compared to those in the non-preventative group. It was concluded that rubber mats had a statistically significant protective effect.

Read the full article here.

How important is water on the health and productivity of your pigs?

Water is considered by a majority of swine nutritionists to be the most important of all nutrients required by pigs. At birth, water makes up about 82 percent of the pig’s body weight and steadily declines to about 50 percent for a pig at market weight. While water is a vital component of any livestock diet, the question remains; does the quality of drinking water influence health and performance of pigs? University of Minnesotaresearchers are set to address this question by looking at the impact of water quality on animal performance, gut health, and livability of nursery pigs.

Many producers ensure water is available and fresh; however, little is known about the effect of water quality on pig performance. This project will compare three different water sources (two deemed “bad”, and one “good”) when fed to nursery pigs. Through a series of video recordings, water sample collection, and data analysis, researchers will dive deeper into how water quality might influence pig behaviour, gut function, and immune system function.

The study will be conducted at the U of MN West Central Research and Outreach Center, Morris, MN. The need for such a study was raised by producer concerns and echoed by the Minnesota Pork Board.

“Water quality is an important factor within livestock production, and often times, receives too little attention,” Brent Frederick, Director of Research and Development at Christensen Farms, stated. “While we focus on the essentials of our pigs every day, in providing them feed, air and WATER, this research will allow us to fully understand the effects that water quality may have on the overall performance of our animals.”

The research team will also evaluate the range of water qualities currently being consumed in the Minnesota pork industry; such a data set currently does not exist for Minnesota or any other state. To participate in our water quality survey, click here.

The results of the project will provide a more thorough understanding of gut function, which may allow producers to implement feeding programmes that encourage improved gut integrity, reduce negative impacts of pathogens in the gut, and therefore keep pigs healthy with less need for antibiotics. Improved pig performance and health will also reduce the carbon footprint of pork production which also garners support from customers.

Very likely, results of this project will have applicability to other livestock species.

Funding for this project is being provided by the University of Minnesota, Minnesota Pork Board, and Christensen Farms.

Impact of sow vaccination on piglet performance during lactation


The optimum vaccination plan for sows against Parvovirus, Erysipelas and Leptospira is during lactation, thus preventing future infections during pregnancy. Furthermore, the use of reproductive vaccines is common on most pig farms around the world due to the high prevalence of these pathogens amongst swine herds.1,2

The humoral immune response and difference in safety between commercial reproductive vaccines has already been reported,3,4 but the impact that these could have on sow feed intake, milk production and piglet performance up to weaning is still being evaluated.

The aim of this study was to compare how the difference in safety between two reproductive vaccines can affect the production performance of sows and piglets during lactation period.

Materials and methods

This study was conducted in a swine herd of 4,800 sows in Mexico, operating on a one-week batch system, with approximately 240 farrows per batch. A total of 80 healthy multiparous sows from one batch were selected and randomly assigned to two groups (Group 1 [G1] and Group 2 [G2]) of 40 animals each. G1 was administered Vaccine A and G2 was administered ERYSENG® PARVO/LEPTO (HIPRA) by the intramuscular route (2 mL). Both vaccinations were performed 10 days after farrowing following the manufacturer’s instructions. Piglets from selected sows were individually identified with numbered ear tags and two different colours indicating the group they belonged to (891 piglets in total). Vaccine safety was measured indirectly through the absence/presence of fever (mean group rectal temperature [MRT] in °C) at vaccination (0 h), and 6, 12 and 24 hours post vaccination (hpv) (Figure 3). Sow feed intake was measured two days before vaccination (Day -2, -1), on vaccination day (Day 0) and three days after vaccination (Day +1, +2, +3). Piglets were weighed individually at farrowing day, at 9 days of age (one day before vaccine application) and at weaning (21 days of age).

Statistical analysis software (SAS) was used to check differences between the groups. Data are expressed as mean.

Results and discussion

Regarding the farrowing parameters, no statistically significant differences were observed between the experimental groups in terms of the number of piglets born alive, mean litter weight, mean body weight per piglet, number of piglets per litter at farrowing day (Table 1).

At Day 9 of the study, which was one day prior to vaccination, no statistically significant differences were observed between groups in terms of the number of piglets, litter weight, mean body weight per piglet, average daily gain, percentage mortality (Table 2) and mean feed intake per sow (Figure 2).

After vaccination, statistically significant differences were observed in MRT measured at 6 hpv (40.3 °C G1 vs. 39.5 °C G2) and 12 hpv (39.9 °C G1 vs 39.3 °C G2) between both groups (t-student test, P < 0.0001) (Figure 1).

Furthermore, a statistically significant difference was also observed in mean feed intake per sow between the experimental groups (t-student test, P < 0.0001) (Figure 2). Thus, G2 consumed, on average, 1.4 kg more than G1 on vaccination day (6.7 kg/day G2 vs. 5.3 kg/day G1); the next day, G2 consumed 0.5 kg more than G1 (6.3 kg/day G2 vs. 5.8 kg/day G1); and two days after vaccination, G2 consumed 0.4 kg more than G1 (6.9 kg/day G2 vs. 6.5 kg/day G1) (Figure 2). Consequently, statistically significant differences were observed between groups in terms of mean body weight per piglet at weaning (Day 21 of study) and average daily gain between Days 9 and 21 (t-student test, P < 0.05) (Table 3).


The present study was intended to explore differences in safety and the consequent impacts of different reproductive vaccines on sow and piglet performance during lactation. The results indicate safety concerns regarding the vaccine administered to G1 due to a significant increase in mean rectal temperature, which negatively affected sow feed intake during lactation. Reduced sow feed intake during lactation caused reduced milk production,5 which in turn, significantly affected piglet performance (mean body weight and average daily gain) up to weaning on G1.

Further studies should determine how the lack of safety of some reproductive vaccines could affect the reproductive performance of sows during subsequent insemination and gestation, since previous studies have already reported the negative impact of food restriction during lactation on ovarian development, as well as on ovulation rate and total number of piglets born.6

In future, reproductive vaccines should not only be evaluated by seroconversion of their respective antigens, but should also take into account safety issues that can negatively affect piglet and sow performance.

Ear, tail and skin lesions vary according to production flow

The new study is authored by Alessia Diana, Laura Ann Boyle, Edgar García Manzanilla, Finola Catherine Leonard and Julia Adriana Calderón Díaz from the Teagasc Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Cork, and the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University College Dublin.

The study investigated the association between production flow and tail, ear and skin lesions on a farm with an ‘all-in/all-out’ policy. The study was purely observational meaning pigs were managed according to routine farm practice – no treatment was administered and there were no changes to husbandry as part of the investigation.

A total of 1,016 pigs born within 1 week from the same batch were followed through the production stages and the presence or absence of welfare indicators was recorded at 4, 7, 9, 12, 16 and 24 weeks of age.

Three production flows were retrospectively identified:

  • flow one = ‘normal’ pigs that advanced through the production stages together ‘on time’;
  • flow two = pigs delayed from advancing from the 1st to the 2nd nursery stage by 1 week; and
  • flow three = pigs delayed from advancing through the production stages by > 1 week.

The trial results show:

  • The presence of ear lesions was highest in pigs in flow one, with pigs in flow two 4.5 times less likely to have ear lesions compared to flow one.
  • Pigs in flow one and flow three were more likely to have tail lesions compared to flow two.
  • The risk of skin lesions being present was dictated mostly by pig age in each production flow.

The study concluded that all production flows were associated with a high risk of lesions to ears, tails and skin, which raises concerns for pig welfare. Risks for lesions varied according to each production flow and the researchers believe this is likely due to the specific management practices inherent to each flow.

Read the full article here.

Replacement gilts and neonatal diarrhoea

The influence of replacement gilts on the severity or frequency of neonatal diarrhoea is not entirely clear, but farmers know that they have more problems in litters from first parity sows.

This has been shown by different studies: one study carried out in Sweden resulted in 81 percent of the farmers saying, when questioned, that the problem of neonatal diarrhoea was more common in first parity sow litters1. Other studies reported a higher presence of neonatal diarrhoea amongst first and second parity sow litters2.

Gilts tend to have a lower colostrum IgG content than other parity sows3, which could explain why their piglets are more prone to suffering diarrhoea. In fact, when the serum IgG concentrations of piglets affected by diarrhoea are compared with those of healthy piglets, those affected always have lower concentrations2.

© Sialelli et al, 2009

The correct management of replacement gilts will therefore be one of the points to be taken into account when monitoring this type of process. In order to reduce the risk of neonatal diarrhoea, the ideal would be not to have first parity sows, but we know that this is not possible, as sooner or later we have to replace the stock, so that constant renewal is preferable, whilst at the same time trying to work with the lowest percentage possible.

A farm’s gilt replacement rate depends on two factors:

  1. The maximum parity for culling.
  2. Involuntary culling (sows that are sent to slaughter before they have reached maximum parity).

The maximum parity of sows is based on the cost of production of their piglets. Although there are differences from one farm to another, it is generally considered that after parity 6, sows start to produce more expensive piglets and this is absolutely clear after parity 8. It is therefore common to establish parity 8 as the maximum parity, or even earlier on very strict farms: parity 7 or 6. As regards involuntary culling, this will depend on different factors:

  • Management of the gilt (age at first mating).
  • Health acclimatisation.
  • Reproductive management.

The better the management of the sows, and in particular the management of replacement gilts, the greater the retention rate will be and hence the lower the involuntary culling rate will be. When we looked at the data from different farms, we found that the average involuntary culling rate (average culling between different parities) is approximately 15 percent. Which means that the annual gilt replacement rate that is necessary to keep a constant number of sows on a farm with an average involuntary culling rate of 15 percent, and where the maximum parity for culling is parity 8, is about 50 percent. This means that in each group of sows mated (batch), the percentage of gilts will be approximately 20 percent, or what is the same thing, of the sows present on a farm, approximately 20 percent will be parity 1 sows (from first mating to post first-weaning).

Reducing the gilt replacement rate should never be done by extending the maximum parity for culling, but by reducing the involuntary culling of sows. For this it is essential to apply proper management and nutrition which should take account of the following points at least:

  1. Selection of a reliable source of replacement, with a health status that is superior or equal to that of the recipient farm.
  2. Regular introduction or production such that the policy of culling sows at maximum parity is not compromised.
  3. Proper adaptation by means of an appropriate vaccination plan that must include vaccination against the principal pathogens implicated in neonatal diarrhoea: E. coli and Cl. perfringens; and exposure to the pathogens present on the recipient farm. In order to achieve appropriate health acclimatisation, it is important to have separate units and sufficient space where the animals can be kept for at least 8 -12 weeks.
  4. Mating at the appropriate age for the genetics selected. But always prioritising their retention on the farm: mating at over 240 days of age and weight of over 140 kg.
  5. We should not forget that the nutrition of a gilt up to the first mating will be vital to enable her to develop her full potential for growth in a balanced way, paying special attention to mineral intake, as the soundness of her leg conformation will depend on this to a large extent.

The management of replacement gilts should be regarded as the greatest influence on the resultant output of a farm, but also on the manifestation of health problems, and neonatal diarrhoea is perhaps the most widespread problem on all types of farm, from those with a high health status to commercial ones.

Why is PRRS virus so genetically diverse?

A better understanding of the natural history of PRRSV can provide insights that can potentially aid in mitigating the impact of the emergence of new viral variants.

Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus, the etiological agent of PRRS, is one of the most important endemic viruses affecting the swine industry in the United States1and globally2. The economic impact of the disease in the United States alone was estimated at $664 million annually1.

PRRSV is divided into two major phylogenetic clades, PRRSV Type 1 (more prevalent in Europe) and Type 2 (more prevalent in North America)3. Genetic similarities between PRRSV isolates are often used as a tool to understand disease transmission and epidemiology4,5, and several strategies have been used for classifying isolates of PRRSV into epidemiologically meaningful groups. Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism, commonly referred to as “RFLPs”, have been broadly adopted by the U.S. swine industry as a way to classify PRRSV isolates. However, shortcomings such as the unclear genetic relationship between RFLP types, the potential for two distantly related viruses to share the same RFLP type, and the instability of RFLP-typing when assessing isolates experimentally related to each other6 hinder interpretation of RFLP types.

In 2010, a classification system based on the phylogenetic relatedness of one portion of the PRRSV genome known as the open reading frame 5 (orf5) was proposed7,8. This classification system aggregates isolates into phylogenetic lineages based on the ancestral relationships and genetic distance among isolates. These lineages can be thought of as “ancestral families.” As compared to RFLPs, the relatedness among lineages are more intuitive and evolutionary trends across space and time can be tracked more easily. There are nine lineages known for PRRSV Type 2, each of which are approximately 11% different from one another in the average pairwise genetic distance7.

Despite control efforts involving improved biosecurity and different vaccination and exposure protocols, PRRSV continues to circulate and evolve. High levels of genetic and antigenic diversity are one of the foremost challenges in its control. Prior exposure to PRRS viruses results in varying protection against homologous and heterologous challenges, albeit the exact definition of what constitutes a homologous or heterologous challenge is often not clear, especially considering the genetic diversity existing within PRRSV Type 2.

Using more than 4,000 PRRSV orf5 sequences collected from 2009-17 from a single U.S. region curated by the University of Minnesota’s Morrison Swine Health Monitoring Project, we investigated how the occurrence of different lineages of PRRSV changed through time. We were able to document the sequential emergence of several PRRSV sub-lineages, including a sub-lineage containing most 1-7-4 viruses, which rapidly grew in prevalence to the point in which they were the most prevalent phylogenetic group occurring in the studied area at a given time. These emergence events appeared to occur every four or five years. Our group continues to analyze data to further understand

The diversification and temporal dynamics of PRRSV observed in our dataset is consistent with the hypothesis that PRRSV long-term evolutionary patterns are at least partially modulated by immune-mediated selection. Veterinarians in farms might choose to expose their breeding herds and incoming gilts to different PRRS viruses (either from different vaccines or from wild viruses isolated on each farm). These practices combined with relatively high prevalence of immunity resulting from natural exposure likely create pig populations with high rates of PRRSV immunity, even if cross-protection is only partial. While high levels of herd immunity potentially diminish the odds or severity of future outbreaks due to “homologous” viruses, we hypothesize that partial immunity may also create selective pressure that might select for viruses that can “escape” or evade host immunity. As a virus evolves, immune responses generated against a past variant become less effective, resulting in a complex system where different PRRSV variants influence one another via the partial cross-immunity that they generate in the host population9,10. Theory predicts that due to frequency-dependent selection among co-circulating viral variants, rare genetic variants are expected to spread more widely in the host population but then subsequently decline as herd immunity rises.

This has important implications in identifying patterns of emergence and re-emergence of genetic variants of PRRSV that have negative impacts on the swine industry. Although the data analyzed here come from a single U.S. region, the general pattern of emergence and turnover of different lineages over time reflect an evolutionary phenomenon that should also occur in other U.S. regions. A better understanding of the natural history of PRRSV can provide insights that can potentially aid in mitigating the impact of the emergence of new viral variants as well as serving as a basis for further work exploring the evolution of PRRSV and the effect this has on disease control, management and impact on the industry. To that end, constant surveillance on PRRSV occurrence is crucial. Further studies utilizing whole genome sequencing and exploring the extent of cross-immunity between heterologous PRRS viruses could shed light on immunological response against PRRSV and aid in developing strategies that might be able to diminish disease impact.

pigs at a feeder National Pork Board First five mitigants show promise protecting pigs from PRRS, PED, SVA

A separate FFAR-funded grant at Kansas State University will build on this research to test whether the additives can be added to feed to protect against African swine fever.

Initial results from a study conducted by Pipestone Applied Research have shown that five commercially available feed additives may stop the spread of three deadly viral diseases in pigs. Scott Dee, research director at Pipestone Applied Research, presented the results of the first phase of the study, supported through a Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research grant, during the National Pork Industry Conference in the Wisconsin Dells this week.

Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, porcine epidemic diarrhea and Seneca Valley A endanger animal welfare, cost the U.S. swine industry hundreds of millions of dollars annually and threaten the global food supply. These diseases can also spread through contaminated animal feed.

In this study, the Pipestone team tested whether specific feed additives, or mitigants, can deactivate the viruses and reduce the spread of disease. Researchers introduced the three viruses into animal feed and then individually added five mitigants to the contaminated animal feed. The research team then tested the pigs at day 6 and day 15 for the presence of the three viruses and evaluated the animals for signs of disease. Despite the presence of PRRS, PED and SVA viruses in the feed, the mitigants protected almost all animals from becoming positive for infection by PRRS, PED and SVA and significantly reduced the number of animals that developed signs of disease.

This study is one of the first to produce results in a research setting that replicates commercial conditions. Dee and collaborators suggest that pork producers consider using these mitigants to protect herds against these diseases.

“These results are a huge step forward in helping swine producers protect their animals from devastating diseases,” says FFAR executive director Sally Rockey. “This research helps producers control the spread of these diseases and improve health outcomes, all without antibiotics.”

Later this year, a second phase of the research will test five additional mitigants to assess their effectiveness in protecting swine herds from PRRS, PED and SVA. A separate FFAR-funded grant at Kansas State University will build on this research to test whether the mitigants can be added to feed to protect against African swine fever, a disease without a cure, which has decimated the Chinese pork industry and was recently detected in Europe. ASF virus can cross continents in contaminated feed ingredients. Scientists hope to understand how to control, or even stop the spread of this deadly virus.

“Pipestone Applied Research is excited to collaborate with FFAR. We are working to deliver a solution to the risk of the domestic and transboundary spread of viruses in feed,” says Dee.

Dee’s team received a grant through FFAR’s Rapid Outcomes from Agricultural Research program, which deploys funds research funding in response to emerging or unanticipated threats to the nation’s food supply or agricultural systems. The grant is being matched by ADM Animal Nutrition, Anitox, Kemin Industries, PMI Nutrition Additives and Swine Health Information Center.

Enhancing DDGS value for pigs via pre-treatment, pre-digestion

Heat pretreatment can be an attractive method of improving the digestibility of whole stillage, and hence DDGS, for pigs because heat pretreatment is cheap.

Corn distiller’s dried grains with solubles is one of the most widely used feedstuff in formulating swine diets. Corn DDGS has a higher content of amino acids than corn, however, it also has a high fiber content. Since pigs digest fiber poorly, the use of dietary fiber degrading enzymes has been shown to alleviate the negative effects of dietary fiber. However, the use of exogenous enzyme supplementation has been variable with respect to improving the digestibility of DDGS for pigs.

Pretreatment of whole stillage (slurry material that remains after ethanol extraction from grain, and which is dried into DDGS) with heat, diluted acids or alkalis may improve the nutritive value of DDGS by disrupting fiber structures, thereby increasing the susceptibility of said fiber fraction to subsequent enzymatic hydrolysis. Thus, the pretreatment of WS instead of DDGS could be an attractive technology for improving the nutritive value of DDGS as this technology can be integrated into currently existing corn ethanol production facilities with minimal cost.

Recent research at South Dakota State University looked at the effect of pretreating WS with heat, diluted acids or alkalis; and of predigesting the untreated and pretreated WS with a blend of fiber-degrading enzymes (multi-enzyme) on digestion and fermentation characteristics of the WS using an in vitro (laboratory) porcine method that simulates digestion and fermentation of feed within the gastrointestinal tract of pigs.

South Dakota State UniversityTable 1. Effect of pretreatment and multi-enzyme pre-digestion on total content of fiber (non-starch polysaccharide; NSP) and individual sugars that form NSP of whole stillage,  and proportions of sugars that were released from the NSP

Effect of pretreatment and multi-enzyme pre-digestion on total content of fiber

The WS was obtained from a local ethanol plant. A portion of the WS was pretreated with heat, diluted citric acid, diluted sulfuric acid or diluted ammonia at 160 degrees C and 70 psi for 20 minutes. Half amounts of untreated and pretreated WS were predigested with multi-enzyme (1%) at 38 degrees C for 24 hours. The multi-enzyme used was from Canadian Bio-Systems Inc. in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and contained a combination of xylanase, glucanase, cellulase, invertase, amylase, mannanase and protease activities. The predigested samples together with untreated sample and pretreated but not predigested samples were subjected to porcine in vitro digestion. Undigested residues were subjected to porcine in vitro fermentation.

South Dakota State University In-vitro digestibility of DM of pretreated and pre-digested whole stillage

In-vitro digestibility of DM of pretreated and pre-digested whole stillage

The pre-treatment of WS with heat, diluted citric acid, diluted sulfuric acid or diluted ammonia reduced fiber content by 10, 46, 20 and 23%, respectively. The reduction in fiber content of WS by the pretreatments was due to partial degradation of fiber into short fragments that can be easily fermented or into simple sugars that can be easily digested by pigs. Predigestion of untreated or pretreated WS with multi-enzyme reduced its fiber content by an average of 37%, which was due to the partial degradation of fiber within WS by the multi-enzyme. Pretreatment of WS with heat, diluted citric acid, diluted sulfuric acid or diluted ammonia increased in vitro digestibility of WS by an average of 17%, which could partly have been due to increased digestibility of sugars that were released from fiber by the pretreatments. Also, multi-enzyme predigestion of untreated and heat-, citric acid-, sulfuric acid- or ammonia-pretreated WS increased in vitro digestibility of WS by an average of 14%, likely due to increased digestibility of sugars that were released by the predigestion with the multi-enzyme.

In summary, the nutritive value of WS, and hence DDGS, for pigs can be improved by the pretreatment with heat, diluted citric acid, diluted sulfuric acid or diluted ammonia. However, heat pretreatment can be an attractive method of improving the digestibility of WS, and hence DDGS, for pigs because heat pretreatment is cheap. The nutritive value of WS, and hence DDGS, for pigs can also be improved by predigestion with multi-enzyme product used in the current study. Predigestion of pretreated WS with multi-enzyme product used in the current study can further improve nutritive value of the WS, and hence DDGS, for pigs.

Frequently asked questions about erysipelas

For the chronic form of swine erysipelas, clinical presentation includes swollen joints, sloughing of the discolored skin and growths on the valves inside the heart.

Swine erysipelas is a disease caused by a bacterial infection named Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae. It has been around for well over 100 years. It is important to remember that this bacterium can cause disease within your breeding herd, as well as your growing pigs. Although the prevalence is low in the industry, it can have significant impact on your production, health and on the bottom line of your operation.

VanderPoel graduated from South Dakota State University with a degree in animal science, and then pursued his DVM degree at the University of Minnesota. He currently works as a swine veterinarian for Pipestone Veterinary Services and Pipestone System.

What are the symptoms?
This disease can be present either in an acute or chronic form. There is no clear distinction between the two forms, but please note for population health there may be animals in different stages of disease within your herd. The clinical presentation for swine erysipelas in the acute form can be sudden death, lethargy, high fevers, severe lameness and abortions. These sick animals often have reddened discoloration of the skin, and in the classic cases the animals will show raised diamond-shape lesions in the skin.

How can I prevent erysipelas?

For the chronic form of swine erysipelas, clinical presentation includes swollen joints, sloughing of the discolored skin and growths on the valves inside the heart. I was taught in school never to describe disease lesions with food descriptors. However, for producers willing to post their pigs, it is easiest to describe as a cauliflower growth on the inside of the heart.

No matter which form of this disease may be presented, it is very important that you detect this disease as early as possible because treatment of this disease has a high rate of success. However, due to a significant withdrawal period on the treatment of choice, and the success of the vaccine, the overall long-term goal should be to stabilize and prevent disease through vaccination of your herd.

Like previously mentioned, vaccines can be very effective tools we have to control this disease. It can be administered either orally or as an injectable vaccine and that would depend on factors specific to your operations such as cost, labor, medication management or equipment. For the sow populations, I always recommend that vaccine is given at least twice per year as risk management of your sow farm and downstream health. As for the growing animals, there are multiple approaches; all groups receive vaccine or a seasonal approach where you only vaccinate to protect animals during the summer months. This latter vaccination strategy is due to a cost benefit analysis and seasonal disease pattern where it can be more prevalent in the summer months. Whatever your strategy may be, I would encourage you to have an overall goal to control this disease and prevent it from infecting other pigs.

How does it spread?
Swine erysipelas is spread when infected pigs shed these bacteria at high levels in their feces and contaminate their environment. Other pigs become infected when they ingest the infected feed, water or feces, as well as have direct nose to nose contact with infected animals. Like many diseases, to reduce the risk of spreading this disease between barns you will need to have strict biosecurity protocols, thorough sanitation and disinfection protocols, all in/all out site or room practices when able, vaccinate and timely medication when needed.

If you are struggling on your operation with any of the clinical symptoms previously mentioned or are seeing the classic diamond-shaped lesions, work with your veterinarian to develop a plan to identify and stabilize your herd from this disease. Again, when it comes to swine erysipelas and the long-term success of your operation, you can control and prevent this disease through strict biosecurity, hygiene protocols, vaccination and medication when needed.

Genetics of swine functional teats

The number of functional teats can be estimated prior to farrowing or quantified at farrowing.

By Audrey Earnhardt and Mark Knauer, North Carolina State University
Piglet survival is of great importance for swine producers throughout the world due to its relationship with animal well-being and farm profitability. Recent data in the United States indicate piglet survival has perhaps decreased as litter size has increased (Figure 1). Yet production systems and geneticists alike are working fervently to reduce this trend.

North Carolina State UniversityFigure 1: U.S. trends for total number born, number weaned and piglet survival.

Figure 1: U.S. trends for total number born, number weaned and piglet survival.


Availability and accessibility of functional teats on a sow is essential for enhancing piglet livability. Yet this has been known for some time. In 1961, Enfield and Rempel reported an increase in one functional teat improved number weaned by 0.27 piglets per litter and litter weaning weight by 11.7 pounds per litter.

Building upon these results, North Carolina State University partnered with Smithfield Premium Genetics to evaluate the genetics and importance of functional teats in a modern genetic line. Teats from over 3,000 sows were classified as functional or non-functional. Total teats, functional teats and non-functional teats at farrowing for the population were 14.93, 13.90 and 1.03, respectively. Similar to Enfield and Rempel (1961), our results showed each additional functional teat at farrowing increased number weaned by 0.27 piglets per litter.

Heritability estimates the proportion of a trait that is explained by genetics. For example, if the heritability of a trait is 0.25 then genetics are thought to explain 25% of the variation in that trait with the remaining 75% being explained by environmental factors. Generally, heritability estimates for litter size in swine are low (~0.10), growth rate is moderate (~0.20) and age at puberty high (~0.30). The greater the heritability, the faster genetic progress can be obtained.

In our current study, estimates of heritability for total teats, functional teats and non-functional teats at farrowing were 0.26, 0.22 and 0.12, respectively. Hence functional teat number was moderately heritable.


  • Results suggest
    • It is possible to increase the number of functional teats on a sow at farrowing.
    • Increasing the number of functional teats at farrowing will enhance piglet survival.
  • We recommend cross-fostering based on the number of functional teats a sow has. The number of functional teats can be estimated prior to farrowing or quantified at farrowing and written on the sow to aid workers when cross-fostering.