Understanding animal behavior helps ensure better piglet care
Watching 21-day old piglets that just left their mothers being placed in a nursery barn takes a special “sixth” sense to understand what they’re feeling.
“I just think I understand the perspective of the animal and can translate it into better care for them,” explains Matthew Turner, DVM, with Prestage Farms, in a video produced as part of the Vets on Call series.*
Noticing a few pigs don’t appear to be eating, he takes a handful of feed and scatters it on the floor.
“These young pigs are accustomed to hearing their mothers grunt to call them to eat, so we’ll walk them around the pen until they find the feed together using their natural behavior,” he says. “Pigs are very social animals and like to eat, sleep and play as a group.”
Videos of animal abuse are especially upsetting to Turner, who works hard to train employees in providing a safe, wholesome environment for the pigs in his care.
The three critical elements for life are air, water and feed, he says. “By providing these elements in a clean, warm environment, we’re already preventing many disease issues that may require antibiotics,” he explains.
Administering vaccinations at the correct time and in the correct manner is another way to reduce the use of antibiotics.
“When we do use antibiotics, we use them in a timely, targeted manner to stop the spread of disease,” Turner stresses.
Today, everything involved in pig production is monitored and recorded, including daily high and low temperatures in the barn, the type and date of vaccine use, and antibiotic treatments, he says on the video.
“I’m involved in feeding the state, the nation and the world, and I take that responsibility seriously,” he says.
Watch part 2″
Vets on Call is a video series presented by Zoetis to showcase the important roles veterinarians play in food-animal production.
* Dr. Turner has since joined JBS USA as head of pork live operations and is also serving on the board of directors at the Swine Health Information Center.