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.
Antimicrobial medicines include antibiotics, anti-fungals and chemically synthesised drugs that selectively kill, prevent or inhibit growth of susceptible micro-organisms. Antibiotics are not used as growth promotants in our industry; they are used to treat illnesses.
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) is the regulatory authority that is responsible for the registration of chemicals and veterinary medicines in animal production. Australian pig vets are judicious in prescribing antimicrobials. Antimicrobials 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 and is a world leader in developing vaccines to provide producers with alternative treatment methods to prevent pig disease.
The industry recognises that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a serious global threat to both human and animal health. Evidence suggests that many of the antimicrobial resistance problems in human medicine are not related to antimicrobial resistance in animals. A recent AMR surveillance study of finisher pigs identified that bacteria were susceptible to antibiotics that are critically important for human health. This proof of concept study provides a baseline for the Australian pig industry and was a good report card for the Australian pig industry.
More recently, APL received funding from the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources ‘Rural R&D for profit’ programme to use robotics to improve the speed of testing samples for AMR; enabling rapid and cost-effective feedback of data for producers and assist in monitoring livestock, assessing risk and improving the health of Australian pigs. The research is expected to be completed in 2021.
Along with other livestock industries, the Australian pork industry has developed an Antimicrobial Stewardship (AMS) plan. The AMS Framework will shortly be rolled out to Australia’s producers, providing strategies to improve herd health and productivity, with a focus on reducing the reliance on antimicrobials. AMS is about the appropriate use of antimicrobials. Effective AMS to the Australian pork industry means using “as little as possible, as much as necessary”. This will ensure high levels of health and welfare are maintained throughout the entire life of all pigs.
APL is continually committed to improving the safety, quality and nutritional value of pork. Our focus on keeping our pigs healthy is at the forefront of the work we do and one that producers share with the community.
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.