Part 2 - 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

Day 2 is here and the swine health and nutrition principles are on fire! Check this out...


Day 2 - Swine Health Principles

Enter... Dr. Clayton Johnson


Swine Health Principle #3: Vet Med Cost Control

In our first three principles, we reviewed biosecurity, disease control and treatment and regulatory compliance.  Principle #3 is cost control of our overall health program – this is meant to ensure that we use our resources judiciously.  Any producer can have the best biosecurity, best vaccine program, best medication program and best compliance program with an unlimited budget, but the reality is we live in a world of constrained resources.  We must constantly evaluate the return on invested capital of our health expenses, ensuring that we set our producers up to be profitable in a competitive marketplace.

The expenses that define Vet Med Cost are not a universally agreed-upon list.  Most producers will include vaccination, medication, veterinary services and diagnostics within this budget but after that I see variability.  Is the disinfectant used at the truck wash a Vet Med Cost or a Transport Cost?  Are the air filters installed at the farm a Vet Med Cost or a Facility/Housing Cost?  There is no single answer to these questions, but I advise producers and veterinarians to use extreme caution when trying to “benchmark” or compare their Vet Med Cost to others – we need to make sure those comparisons are apples to apples and not apples to oranges before comparing our expenses.  Beyond the difference in line item inclusions, producers have wildly different health statuses which can greatly confound cost benchmarking.  One producer may be spending $2.00 per pig more than another in Vet Med Cost and that could be completely appropriate given the health differences between their herds.  Similarly, two producers could have the same Vet Med Cost yet one may not actually be optimizing their overall business profitability based on the health needs of their system.  Be very careful comparing Vet Med Cost across farms and production systems.

Creating annual budgets for Vet Med Cost is an excellent process – it forces both producers and veterinarians to critically evaluate each line item spend in their Health budget.  We put in a feed medication last year for a disease flair-up – do we still have the disease issue and do we still need the feed medication?  We dropped a vaccine last year to try to reduce Vet Med Cost – does the performance of the pigs appear to be impacted and if so, do we need to consider putting that vaccine back in place?  Vaccine programs and Feed Medications are easy to budget for – you should expect very little variance in actual expense vs budgeted expense.  Veterinary services, diagnostics, water medications and injectable medications are more difficult, many of these expenses are on an “as-needed basis” and it’s impossible to accurately predict your needs 12 months in advance.  For these cost items, I typically use historical run rates as a starting point, adjusting them based on my current disease situation as well as anticipated changes in product pricing on each line item.#


Swine Health Principle #4: Regulatory Compliance & Food Safety 

No matter how good our production efficiency may be, if we don’t stay in compliance with all pertinent national, regional and customer requirements we won’t be able to participate in the business of pig production.  Understanding what regulations and requirements exist for each farm in your operation is critical.  The list of organizations and groups providing oversight for pig producers can be daunting – producers not only need to be aware of national regulations but also local regulations that may be unique to their area.  Local regulations are increasingly difficult to navigate, states such as California and Massachusetts have adopted state-specific requirements not only for their producers to abide by but also encompassing of any producer anywhere in the world who wants to sell meat into their markets.  We may want to balk at this additional oversight, regulation and bureaucracy, but the reality is selling pork to consumers is a privilege and not a right, we must play by the rules. 

In addition to government regulations and requirements, producers must understand the commitments they have made to their packer.  Each packer has specific expectations for record-keeping, auditing, withdrawal times, antibiotic management, needle management and numerous other production processes.  Again, this list can be daunting to understand but it’s critical to know what’s expected of you for each farm in your operation as lack of compliance simply isn’t an option.  Should you market to multiple packers, I’d recommend you lay out the regulations and requirements of each packer to review where they are similarities and differences.  While it may be possible to customize each farm in your operation to the specific packer they market to, most of my clients choose to implement the same level of regulatory compliance across all their farms to make their protocols easier to understand and implement.  Withdrawal time management is critical and most people incorrectly think withdrawal times are set by individual countries.  Quite the opposite, packers are the critical drivers of withdrawal times.  Depending on what commitments your packer has made to their customers, you need to understand and abide by the specific withdrawal times your packer has placed on each antibiotic.  Certain packers will place an expectation on producers that they never use certain antibiotics above a certain pig weight – while these rules are complex you must take the time to understand them and most importantly, make sure your farms are in compliance at all times.


Pork has generally benefited from an excellent food safety reputation. Producer-led Pork Quality Assurance efforts from several decades ago have done an amazing job of reducing antibiotic residues, needles and bacterial contamination from pork meat sold to consumers.  Tracking treatments is essential for all pork producers.  No matter what your withdrawal times are, you must be able to demonstrate what medications have been used, at what dose and for what duration.  At the sow farm these are individual animal records, typically recorded on both a physical card that moves with the sow as well as within our electronic records systems.  These physical cards are often prepopulated with treatment information including what medication to use for each clinical sign and what dosage, duration and withdrawal time is appropriate for that medication.  For groups of growing pigs that aren’t individually identified with an ear tag, we often use room-level treatment sheets.  These treatment sheets contain the same information as the sow cards but list the number of animals treated daily instead of individual identification of each animal.  In both sow farms and growing pig farms, it’s imperative that producers use marking spray or chalk to physically identify treated animals.  This marking process ensures that even if our paper records are lost we still have a visual method to identify treated animals and ensure they aren’t marketed prior to their withdrawal time elapsing."


Day 2 - Swine Nutrition Principles

Enter… Dr. Kyle Coble

“Swine Nutrition Principle #4: Intake in research is different than the field 

When doing research trials, such as lysine titrations, remember that intake is a big part of the response. This can cause the impact of your research to have a different response out in the field where intake is typically lower. 


Swine Nutrition Principle #5: Follow up with research in the field 

The research barn is a great place to finalize a lot of work, but items like energy or mortality improving technologies must be followed up in the field with a much larger trial. This introduction of variables that are only present out in the field, into your research portfolio for that topic, will solidify or nullify the response. 


Swine Nutrition Principle #6: Mortality improvements are only real when the number of pigs studied has 4 zeros behind it 

To have repeatable mortality data, for example in nursery pigs, may take upwards of 25,000 + pigs to get solid, repeatable data. Some would say as high as 50,000 pigs are needed. Don’t expect a response from a technology or technique that was based on a trial showing a mortality reduction with 1,000 pigs."



What a wealth of insights...

I just love to see experts digesting their wisdom in a few words.

We will also be doing that at the SwineTalks 2021 in just a few days.

By the way, the last batch of tickets for SwineTalks Web Conference 2021 will be available on MONDAY, September 27, at 10:00 AM CST sharp. Tickets for The SwineTalks 2022 will be a bonus to the first 20 people that book their seat at 

Until tomorrow - Day 3,


P.S: again, the link to get on the waitlist is