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Monitoring breeding productivity helps limit disease impact

Taking a systematic approach to identifying changes in breeding productivity could help limit the economic impact of infectious disease, according to scientists.

Researchers at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine said closely monitoring key breeding performance indicators allows producers to detect diseases more easily, helping them monitor how they impact a herd, and how effective treatments are.

Writing in National Hog Farmer, the researchers said following the number of weaned pigs per week allows farmers to analyze their throughput, which they can easily translate into economic value.

Using a baseline period of 21 weeks (a single breeding herd production cycle) without a disease outbreak, they said farmers should record any significant changes — known as “signals” — in production that could be associated with disease.

The length and effects of those signals, such as a fall in the number of pigs weaned in a week, help quantify losses associated to a disease outbreak, they said.

As an example, the researchers looked at a 5,000-sow farm that became infected with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus and adopted a ‘load-close-expose’ approach to eliminate it from the herd.

The signal was identified in week 4, when the number of pigs weaned per week fell, and it took 28 weeks for the herd to recover the same level of productivity it achieved before the outbreak.

By accurately recording the drop in productivity and the length of time it took the herd to recover, the farm had data it could compare with other outbreaks and other farms to identify whether different protocols and disease management tools were more effective than others.

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