Management Over Medication: Alternative swine farm management videos

Useful videos from the MSU Extension Pork Team help alternative swine producers to be more effective with their herd health and management.

two pigs in an enclosure
Photo by Casey Zangaro, Michigan State University Extension

As today’s swine industry modernizes with advanced herd proficiencies and higher breakeven lines, it is essential to effectively manage livestock operations to ensure a healthy and efficient herd. Effective management is especially important for small-scale swine producers, as they cater to a specific clientele. The MSU Extension Pork Team has created videos based around a concept called “Management Over Medication” to help small-scale producers manage their herds more efficiently and effectively while limiting the need for antimicrobial uses by using simple tips aimed at improving small farm swine production systems.

Some key aspects of the medication management concepts for swine production discussed in this video series include:

  • Ventilation systems for indoor, mechanically ventilated barns: Ventilation, including temperature, humidity and wind flow, is essential for an animal’s well-being. Whether a pig is housed indoors year-round or has access to the outdoors at some point, it is important to understand how your ventilation setup can affect pigs comfort, health and growth rate.
  • Rodent and pest control for swine facilities: Pests, particularly rodents, can have many impacts on your daily operations in any livestock system, including contaminated feed, building maintenance and potential disease vectors. These are just some of the factors that can ultimately affect the economic viability of any swine operation and if a pest control program is not implemented, that facility is at risk for a major infestation.
  • Vaccination tips for your swine herd: Protecting your swine farm from entry and spread of disease is critical. Vaccines prepare your pigs for that possibility by priming their immune system to help them fight off or neutralize diseases, thus minimizing damage they may cause to the pig’s organs and quality of life.
  • Parasite control for your swine herd: The use of proper deworming techniques will help keep your animal free of internal and external parasites. A parasite-infected pig can lead to decreased health and limited growth rate, as well as organ condemnation and loss of carcass value at slaughter. 
  • Alternative cooling systems for outdoor and niche barn systems: When temperatures and humidity reach high levels for livestock, particularly pigs that have outside access, comfort can be compromised, which will in turn compromise herd health. Research indicates that as heat and humidity increases, so does the body temperature of animals. The effects of heat stress can lead to reduced feed intake, decreased weight gain, and potentially lead to higher mortality rates.
  • Herd health surveillance with oral fluid testing: Many diseases can be extremely costly to producers in terms of pig health and performance. The pig’s saliva can be used to test and identify many diseases at early stages of infection. This method requires little time or skill and involves no additional animal handling, so animal performance is not adversely affected by the sampling process.
  • Developing a herd health plan with a veterinarian: The primary aim of an animal health plan is to promote health by managing identified health issues to prevent foreign animal diseases and contaminants from coming onto your farm and potentially increasing the risks of your swine herd getting sick. Swine producers can improve the health, welfare and productivity of their pigs through health planning with a livestock veterinarian.
  • Small herd animal well-being: Producers have a responsibility to meet the well-being needs of the animals they care for. Good animal well-being requires disease prevention and veterinary treatment, appropriate shelter, management, nutrition, humane handling and humane slaughter. Protecting an animal's welfare means providing for its physical, mental and instinctual needs.  
  • Secure Pork Supply plans for small swine farms: Secure Pork Supply is a business continuity plan designed to provide opportunities for swine producers to voluntarily prepare for a foreign animal disease before it happens. Pork producers who have voluntarily prepared a Secure Pork Supply plan, that has been submitted and approved by the state veterinarian, can utilize this respective plan for enhanced biosecurity measures during a foreign animal disease outbreak. Topics such as a Premise Identification Number (PIN), biosecurity planning and enhanced biosecurity measures are essential steps towards preparedness in the event of a disease outbreak. This topic is separated into two videos to emphasize the importance of this subject matter.

Effective and efficient herd management is the key to a healthy swine herd, no matter the size. It is important for producers to keep up to date on biosecurity measures, good nutrition, proper housing and regular veterinary care. Regular communication with your veterinarian is crucial for maintaining the health and well-being of your swine herd. These simple, yet useful, tips will assist a small and niche swine production farm keep the swine herd healthy and profitable. 

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