Part 1 - Swine Health and Nutrition Principles, with Dr. Clayton Johnson and Dr. Kyle Coble

biosecurity nutrition principles swine health swine nutrition swine nutritionist Sep 24, 2021

I am very excited to share some key swine health and nutrition principles from Dr. Coble and Dr. Johnson with you. Check them out: 

Day 1 - Swine Health Principles

Enter... Dr. Clayton Johnson

“Swine Health Principle #1: Biosecurity is the prevention of novel disease introduction into a farm

Where we can prevent disease, it is our most effective method of disease management.  Prevention of disease starts with identifying all potential risk factors for disease introduction into your farm and creating a specific plan for how to manage each risk factor.  Risk factors are anything that has potential to enter the farm carrying pathogens.  We try to group risk factors which will be managed similarly and common risk factors for farms include people, supplies and equipment, pig introductions, wildlife, feed, water and air.

When developing biosecurity plans for these risk factors, it is important to consider exclusion, sanitation and segregation.  Exclusion of a risk factor means we won’t allow it into the farm under any circumstances.  By definition, if we don’t allow the risk factor to enter the farm we know it won’t cause a disease introduction.  Examples of risk factors in which we use exclusion include wildlife and raw pork products.  While exclusion is 100% effective, it is not always practical and as such it’s not going to be utilized for all risk factors.  Sanitation is the process of applying at least one disinfection step to the risk factor prior to entering.  Sanitation often involves chemical disinfection, but it is important to note that time, temperature, UV and pH can all also be used as forms of sanitation. While most pathogens can be 100% mitigated through sanitation, it’s important to understand that perfect sanitation is really hard to do.  Trucks are hard to wash, tools are hard to clean and even in ideal labor situations, mistakes will be made. As such, it’s appropriate to use a “belt and suspenders” approach to sanitation, putting at least two sanitation steps in place for each risk factor in which sanitation is your only biosecurity plan. People entries are a good example of this, we require both downtime and shower in knowing either should be effective alone.  Segregation involves the acquisition of redundant assets that become dedicated to a farm or a group of farms that already share inherent disease transmission risk. Segregation prevents us from having to constantly rely on sanitation as our only means of protection against items that can’t be excluded from the farm.  Segregation works best with hard to clean items including items with motors and sensitive electronic parts.  Power tools are a classic example of risk factors in which we utilize segregation, we place power tools at all farms so we don’t have to worry about effectively cleaning and sanitizing them between sites.

It's important to value your biosecurity investments similar to any other capital outlay.  Biosecurity almost always costs money and often has a positive return, but every farm has unique risks and risk factors.  We need to make estimates of disease outbreak rates following our new biosecurity investment and use that economic forecast to estimate a return on our economic investment.  The reality is, pig producers in Alaska don’t need the same level of biosecurity as pig producers in Iowa – there is a huge difference in the risk between those producers.  Pig value should also be considered.  A small feeder to market site has less value than a large boar stud and as such the large boar stud should proportionally invest more in their biosecurity program.  Estimating the impact of your biosecurity investment is a critical step toward making an educated decision on whether the biosecurity investment is appropriate for your farm.


 Swine Health Principle #2: Disease Control & Treatment

While we should always strive to prevent new pathogen introductions via biosecurity, there are endemic diseases present within all swine herds we must manage.  The story of medicine is a history of practitioners applying the best available tools and technologies they have available to them at that time to minimize human and animal suffering.  Pathogens such as Streptococcus suis, Rotavirus and E. coli are present within all swine herds.  It is critical to understand that infection does not infer disease and with appropriate disease management strategies we can prevent the vast majority of our pigs from disease impacts, regardless of their infection status.  Managing stressful transition periods for the pigs are critical, birth, processing, weaning, sorting, movement and transport are all periods of significant stress for growing pigs.  Stress activates cortisol and the “fight or flight” response which shifts the bodies focus away from immune function, by decreasing stress we give the immune system a better ability to respond to both endemic and epidemic disease challenges.  The old saying “Take care of the pig and the pig will take care of you” has stood the test of time – providing a warm, dry environment with fresh feed and clean water sets the pig up for success while any compromises in those parameters will increase the percentage of disease pigs robbing you of performance opportunities.

Disease control focuses on using available tools such as to help usher from being susceptible to a pathogen through the infection phase and into a stage of immune competence in which the pig is resistant to that specific disease, even when exposed to the pathogen.  Our first and most critical tool is colostrum.  Colostrum represents the passive transfer of maternal antibodies from the sow to the piglet. This transfer is mother natures way of helping ensure our piglets have a fighting chance at survival post-birth.  Once in our newborn piglets, colostral immunity buys us time to develop the immune system via vaccination, enabling the piglet to create its own active immunity to withstand challenges throughout its life.  Even with well vaccinated populations, pathogen dose can overwhelm the immune system – this is where medications come in.  We strategically use medications to help keep disease incidence low in populations.  Through a well defined diagnostic program, we can understand disease epidemiology in our pig flows and establish critical timelines during which our medication program has maximum efficacy.

Disease treatment is a response to situations where our biosecurity and disease control efforts have not been enough.  Individual treatments are common in all phases of production. Typically, producers will have predetermined treatment protocols based on age and clinical signs of the pigs in question.  We typically break these up into Nursery (0-8 weeks post-weaning), Grower (9-16 weeks post-weaning) and Finisher (17-28 weeks post-weaning) phases with specific medications prescribed for pigs showing respiratory, enteric, CNS or musculoskeletal disease.  Similar to disease control, good diagnostic programs inform our treatment choices.  When disease incidence overwhelms our caretakers we utilize mass medication as a means of treating large groups of pigs.  Administered through the feed or water, it’s important to remember that individual sick pigs will still need individual treatments during these mass medication situations.  Simply put, sick pigs will generally not eat or drink enough to achieve a high enough medication dose to have a therapeutic effect.”


Day 1 - Swine Nutrition Principles

Enter… Dr. Kyle Coble

Swine Nutrition Principle #1: Data is King

Data is the substance that is needed to create repeatable and predictable outcomes. Whether the desired outcome is to reduce cost or improve performance, data is the compass to your desired destination. The trick is, not just any data is king. There are some data that can be a “joker” and fool you. Find data that is from good research parties, of reputable size and scope, and clearly defined. 


Swine Nutrition Principle #2: Suppliers always deserve your courtesy and respect, but not always your money.

Deciding when and how to use products and additives is a major part of nutrition. At times, the pressure provided by suppliers and vendors can be overwhelming and often frustrating. It can also at those times seem very easy to just “put the product in” your diets. Be careful that you are utilizing products based on good science and economic judgement. 


Swine Nutrition Principle #3: Energy must be known

Energy is the costliest part of formulating diets and your pig’s response to energy must be known. Over or under feeding energy can cost a production system millions per week. Genetics, feeder types, feed form, etc. can all have an impact. Do the work and “know” your energy levels. Fat doesn’t always pay, but your models will tell you when it does.”


What do you think about these principles? What can you implement today?



P.S: by the way... The SwineTalks Web Conference 2021 is almost here. This MONDAY, September 27, at 10 AM CST, we will offer the LAST batch of tickets for the SwineTalks 2021 Web Conference. The first 20 people to book their seat will also get a ticket for 2022’s event… Join the waitlist and check the complete lineup at: