There are not many topics over which all pig farmers in the U.S. would agree, but two things they would agree on are: no one likes dead pigs; and the worst type of dead pig is a market-sized pig.
Death loss in market hogs is frustrating for farmers. It’s difficult to move a market-weight dead pig out of a pen, and it’s also a significant loss in feed, labor and animal health expenses when a pig goes on the compost pile instead of the truck.
Because everyone agrees with these points, all producers need to have an ileitis plan in place the day a weaned pig arrives at their farm.
Ileitis breaks generally occur in the weeks prior to and around the time of marketing. They manifest as both sudden death loss in good animals; and fall out, pallor and brown to red or black stools in the general population. Ileitis generally has significant costs in loss of pigs, medication of remaining animals, and changes to marketing plans to accommodate treatment plans and withdrawal periods. In general, ileitis breaks are some of the most costly disease issues I see regularly in the finishing period.
Tools are Available
The good news is there are many tools available for prevention of ileitis. These tools fall into two categories. The first is prevention via vaccination. There are two vaccines on the market for effective ileitis control. The second plan is a medication-prevention strategy. Medication plans are generally not my first choice for ileitis prevention. Based on research out of the Pipestone Applied Research (PAR) barn, medication plans are not as cost effective. In addition, with the pressure on the industry to be responsible when using antibiotics, it is difficult to justify significant use of medically important antibiotics when excellent vaccines are available.
Having said that, I do believe there is a time and place for the use of preventative medication plans.
My first recommendation is to use a vaccine strategy. Both vaccines, in my clinical experience, and from the Pipestone Applied Research (PAR) data, are efficacious. There are pros and cons to each.
The BIVI Enterisol Ileitis vaccine has been on the market the longest. It is extremely easy on labor to complete the vaccination process, as it is run through a water medicator. The person vaccinating the barn does need to be educated on the product and does need to follow certain protocols to make sure the product reaches the pig in an appropriate state. Because the product is a modified live vaccine, it cannot be run through the medicator at a time when there are any antibiotics in either the feed or water. There must be a non-medicated window in which to administer the vaccine.
The Merck Porcilis Ileitis product is newer to the market. It is administered via a 2 cc injection in the neck. Although the product requires more work in terms of labor, it does not require a non-medicated window to administer the product.
Depending on the facilities, care givers, health status and a range of other factors, producers tend to choose one vaccine over the other and stick with it. My field experience is both are effective.
Don’t Leave the Door Open
Despite the excellent tools available for mitigation of ileitis concerns, I am still involved with diagnosis and treatment of dozens of ileitis cases each year. Those cases are extremely costly to the caregiver and owner of the pigs.
If you don’t have an ileitis prevention plan in place at your finishers, please work with your veterinarian to develop one. Leaving the door open to such a costly and preventable pathogen is ill advised.
Written by Cara Haden, DVM, at Pipestone Veterinary Services. If you have any questions regarding ileitis control please contact her at
firstname.lastname@example.org or a swine specialist at 507-562-PIGS (7447).
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