Five ways to control scours before they begin
Understanding the cause of scours can help reduce the negative impact of the condition on pig health and growth.
Writing in Farm Journal’s Pork Magazine, Scott VanderPoel of Pipestone Veterinary Services in Minnesota said the causes of scours tend to fit into five categories.
He gave his tips for tackling each of the categories so farmers have the best chance of controlling the condition before it begins:
1. Build piglet immunity
Colostrum is the main immune defense piglets have until they develop their own immune system, so it’s key to ensure they are ingesting the right amounts of good-quality colostrum.
Drying off piglets so they are warm and dry will make them more likely to search for a teat and suckle. Split suckling — which involves splitting litters for less than an hour to ensure all litter mates can suckle — can also help.
2. Limit improper movements
Look at how often piglets move between litters during fostering, VanderPoel advised. To control scours, the goal should be to restrict movement to reduce the transfer of pathogens. A form of block sizing can help.
People can also directly transfer scours between litters, so he advises using equipment such as piglet grabbers to avoid stepping into stalls.
Healthy piglets should be handled before those with scours during treatment and processing to limit the risk of pathogen transfer.
3. Manage the environment
Piglets need a warm environment, so if there’s a draft they’ll experience stress, which can lead to scours, he remarked.
Litters should be checked every day to ensure heat lamps, pads and mats are working properly and piglets are comfortable.
Ventilation is also important, so fans, controllers and heaters should be checked to make sure humidity, ammonia levels and air speed are correct.
4. Reduce the pathogen load
Cleaning and disinfecting farrowing stalls and hallways after each wean is key to reducing the transmission of pathogens to the next generation of piglets, the veterinarian said.
It’s also important to wash equipment used for pigs daily, including carts used for processing, fostering and mortality removal.
5. Check biosecurity
Biosecurity is the most important aspect in trying to prevent pathogens from entering the farm, VanderPoel said.
Take a look at operations to see if there are any areas for improvement, he advised, and work with your vet to develop a plan to control, prevent and eliminate scours if an outbreak occurs.