Producers work with a number of specialists and have tailored plans to ensure pigs receive the highest standard of care.
Veterinarians play an essential role in the maintenance of good herd health and work with producers to design a health program for their farms.
An effective health program for pigs includes:
- veterinary consultations on all health issues required to provide the best health and welfare for all the pigs on the property
- routine vaccination programs, specific and relevant to all pigs on-farm
- prescribed antibiotic treatment for sick animals
- recording systems that track medication and vaccine use (including the date used and amount administered)
- training to ensure appropriate care for stock people looking after the pigs.
Following consultation with the farm manager and employees, the vet will advise on and develop treatment and vaccination plans for the different age groups of pigs.
The Australian pig veterinarians have developed the Sick and Injured Pig Guidelines to help improve the health and welfare of pigs, reduce suffering and to increase the chance of recovery.
Antibiotics and Hormones
Antibiotics are not used as growth promotants in our industry; they are used to treat illnesses. The antibiotics used in Australian pig production are not the same as those used for human health.
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) is the regulatory authority for the use of chemicals and veterinary medicines in animal production. Australian pig vets are cautious in prescribing antibiotics; vets and producers rigorously monitor how these products are used. Antibiotics are expensive, especially on a large scale, and unnecessary use does not make sense.
The Australian pork industry is continually adopting better ways to treat diseases in the pig herd. This includes vaccination to prevent disease and to reduce the need for antibiotics.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has become a very topical subject. Along with other livestock industries, the Australian pork industry has developed an Antimicrobial Stewardship (AMS) plan. AMS is about ensuring quality use of antimicrobials, including antibiotics. Good AMS means using “as little as possible, as much as necessary”. This will ensure high levels of health and welfare are present throughout the entire life of all humans and animals who might require antimicrobials to treat infection.
As a pig grows around 600–650 grams a day on average, it will require a scientifically formulated diet. A pig nutritionist tailors the diet to the pigs phase of growth or reproduction, specifically considering age, weight, sex, genotype and environment. This ensures every pig is well fed and looked after.
A balanced pigs diet will depend on the life stage of the pig. Pigs require energy, protein, amino acids and lysine to meet their needs for maintenance, growth, reproduction, lactation, and other functions. Until weaned, piglets will consume a diet based on sows milk – fats and lactose. Younger pigs need a diet higher in amino acids than older pigs so they can grow proportionally more muscle tissue. Young pigs also have a small stomach capacity and need more nutrient dense diets.
The diet fed to pigs will determine the health of the pig and the quality of the meat. Pigs must be fed a highly digestible, functional and nutritious diet. This is usually cereal based, with grains such as sorghum, wheat and barley.