Safer pig vaccination

Vaccinating large numbers is easier with the Simcro VS as the centre of gravity is set over the rear handle providing user comfort and less fatigue over extended periods

Pig producers in the UK face a diverse range of disease challenges and with 40% of the national herd outdoors, rearing units have diverse challenges so individual farm specific solutions for disease prevention and control are essential. They largely focus on good biosecurity, husbandry, nutrition and a robust herd health plan, to prevent and control disease. However, a significant cornerstone of this is a strong vaccination strategy to protect breeding pigs, piglets and growing pigs from the main pig disease groups.

Vaccinating groups of animals also offers the protection of ‘herd immunity’ where the overall disease challenge can be lowered. This leads to long-lasting prevention of disease and less reliance on antimicrobials which is becoming an increasingly important factor in ethical and sustainable pork production. AHDB report the amount of antibiotics prescribed to treat pigs on UK farms in 2020 fell by 5%, bringing the total reduction since 2015 to 62%. A further reduction target of 30% by 2024 requires strong antibiotic stewardship by veterinary and farming bodies.

Another challenge to the pig industry is the removal of zinc oxide as a treatment for diarrhoea by 2022 in line with EU regulation. Post-weaned pigs can be susceptible to this and optimising gut health, good biosecurity and colostrum management are all preventative measures (Source; AHDB).

Vaccines at different life stages depends on the particular risks encountered at that time. Vaccines when given to pregnant pigs offers protection either to the unborn piglets or to the new-born piglets through colostrum which is also a key husbandry practise ensuring piglets receive adequate quantities. Vaccinating pregnant sows or gilts against Porcine Parvovirus (PPV), which can cause a range of reproductive problems including death of piglets before they are born has been a cornerstone to controlling PPV and has proven to be highly effective (Source; NOAH).

Another common infectious disease that can also be controlled by vaccination is Erysipelas – seen in large and small holdings alike. Erysipelas is a bacterial disease with a variety of clinical signs including skin lesions, arthritis and blood poisoning with death sometimes a result. Vaccination once again has proven key in disease control which can be picked up from the surrounding environment and a variety of sources (Source; NADIS).

Immunosuppressive disease in pigs can increase the complexity of diseases seen on farms by predisposing pigs to mixed infections when their immune response is suppressed. An example is Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) which has become a problem for many herds in recent years affecting pigs of all ages and in young piglets scours and weakness in particular lead to high mortality rates (Source; NOAH).

Many producers prefer to vaccinate small pigs around weaning time, as they are individually handled regularly. This is usually around 3 to 6 weeks of age. However, there can be a preference to spread out the stress that comes from weaning and vaccinations, and consider vaccinating a few days after the pig has been weaned. When weaning pigs at older ages, vaccination may be required prior to weaning to ensure sufficient disease prevention coverage is achieved. This can also be dependent upon the disease pressure that exists in the herd. Combination vaccinations are a good choice in particular for show pigs eliminating the need for multiple injections, reducing stress and the possibility of swelling or injection site lesions developing on the pig.

Erysipelas vaccinations should not be given before six weeks of age. Research suggests that the maternal antibodies that are transferred to the pig via colostrum and milk may affect the vaccine if it is given too early (Source; NADIS).

Occasionally pigs can receive an adverse reaction to a vaccine which has been administered. Instances include;.