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Steve Dunkley

Head of Knowledge Exchange (Interim)

AHDB Pork KE

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Risk factors for pig disease

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Research partners: Newcastle University, SAC, Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Livestock Management Systems

Industrial partners: AHDB Pork, NPA, Assured British Pigs, Genesis Quality Assurance, Quality Meat Scotland, Agrosoft

Sponsors: Defra

Project duration: 2006 – 2009 

Aims and objectives

To generate information which would be useful to develop herd health strategies for the British pig industry that would promote animal health and welfare, lead to improved productivity and to a reduced incidence of foodborne zoonoses. 

Findings to date

  • The analysis showed strong regional differences in the prevalence of many conditions: enzootic pneumonia-like (EP-like) lesions, pleurisy, ascariasis (milk spot liver), papular dermatitis, pericarditis and peritonitis

  • Housing type affected different health conditions in different ways, with solid flooring and bedding being associated with lower risk of EP-like lesions, pleurisy, tail damage and abscess, but higher risk of milk spot, papular dermatitis, peritonitis and pyaemia

  • Similar variation was found in results for feeding system, with wet feeding associated with increased risk of pleurisy and abscess, but reduced risk of milk spot, hepatic scarring, and tail damage. 

To give further information on health conditions during the growing period which might not be reflected in final carcase assessments, a simple on-farm health monitoring system was developed. 

  • Results from the pilot study showed good agreement between producer and veterinary assessment of the different health indicators: sneezing and coughing for respiratory problems, scour on pigs and on floor for enteric problems, scratching to monitor skin problems such as mange, and tail damage for behavioural problems

  • The study showed very low prevalence of tail damage and scratching on pilot farms, comparable to the low overall prevalence in abattoir data

  • Coughing in older, but not younger, pigs was linked to EP-like lesions in abattoir scoring.