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Good hygiene key to health and performance in fattening units, scientists find

Investing in biosecurity in fattening units could see Europe’s pig sector increase its earnings by billions of Euros a year thanks to improved pig health and growth rates, say scientists.

Research carried out as part of the European Union’s PROHEALTH project found that pigs reared in good hygiene conditions achieve €15-24 higher returns thanks to better growing rates than pigs reared in poorer housing.

When scaled up across the EU’s entire production of pigment, that could equate to as much as €3 billion in additional earnings.

In one of the first studies to look at the financial implications of poor hygiene, researchers at the Natural Resources Institute Finland (LUKE) used data from an earlier study by INRA which compared pigs housed in dirty and clean conditions.

By analyzing information on growth rates, feed intake and disease lesions, the researchers were able to assess the economic return on pigs reared in the two different conditions.

“What we found in our study was that under good hygiene, the farm could [earn] about €22 higher per pig,” said Jarkko Niemi, PhD, one of the scientists behind the project.

“When you consider the economic situation of pig farming in Europe at the moment, that’s quite a lot of money.”

The results also indicate that under poor hygiene, pigs grow 20% more slowly than animals reared in clean conditions.

“[That means] pigs raised under poor hygiene were taking more time to get to the slaughter house,” he told Pig Health Today.

What’s more, pigs in poorer hygiene conditions also have higher incidences of respiratory problems such as pneumonia and pleurisy, he added.

To improve cleanliness, Niemi said it is important to clean pens before piglets arrive and are allowed to dry between successive batches. Pens should also be cleaned daily during rearing.

Farmers should also adopt all-in, all-out practices, ensure pig houses have good ventilation, and provide enrichment material for pigs, he said.

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Posted on April 26, 2019

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