Research Alliance for Farrowing, the Weak Link in Alternative Swine Systems
The SARE-supported Research Alliance for Farrowing (RAF) is addressing information and communication deficiencies around young pigs in alternative production systems. Intensive case studies have provided farmers and veterinarians a better understanding of the health threats in different kinds of alternative production systems. Two field days and seven workshops have taken place. A herd health toolbox guide for alternative swine systems will consolidate current knowledge of best health practices for alternative systems and through case studies will provide examples of effective vet-producer relationships and successful health management strategies in alternative swine production systems.
The project plan called for an initial 16-month period of data collection followed by an evaluation and outreach phase. Data collection focused on a limited number of case study farms on which farrowing records, environmental conditions, and carcass information was to be collected. Outreach was planned for the entire project, but was to increment in the second phase of the project around production of a farrowing “toolbox” for producers and veterinarians working in alternative swine systems.
An important objective of the project is improvement of the working relations between alternative swine producers and veterinarians. Pre-project and post-project surveys of producers and vets were scheduled to track changes in attitude and awareness. Events for veterinarians were planned in order to help build a supportive community among those service providers. Both veterinarians and farmers were nominated to the project Steering Committee and to the group of responders for drafts of the herd health toolbox.
As reported in the 2005 annual project report, The RAF project Steering Committee suggested that the project join forces with a National Research Initiative (NRI) herd health project involving many of the same producers and scientists. To that end, in 2006 additional veterinarian farm visits and diagnostics were covered under the SARE RAF. The diagnostics is delivering a clearer picture of which diseases are found more frequently in alternative swine systems and which are less common in alternative systems than conventional ones. In March 2007, the RAF and NRI projects will jointly host four-to-five farmer-veterinarian meetings in Iowa and Nebraska to present results of diagnostic and record keeping work and to host discussions of the draft herd health toolbox.
The NRI project also retained a veterinarian, Dr. Kurt Van Hulzen, to complete the herd health toolbox. In 2006, however, it became apparent that Dr. Van Hulzen’s schedule was not permitting him to make progress on the guide. Consequently RAF project staff Derrick Exner and Ronda Driskill took over the project, consolidated multiple versions of the toolbox, and sent a new draft to the reviewer circle. This reviewer group presently consists of eight veterinarians, five farmers, and two swine management specialists.
The draft toolbox includes sections on: principles and strategies (all-in-all-out, closed herd, separation by age, separation of units, stockmanship, and partner with a vet); biosecurity, pig flow, and introduction of stock (closed herd, all-in-all-out, separation by age, separation of units and multiple sites, and introduction of new livestock); breeding herd (depop-repop, sanitation, vaccination, feedback, nose-to-nose inoculation, diagnostics, and parasites); farrowing (management, vaccination, diagnostics, and parasites); nursery/grower (management, vaccination, diagnostics, and parasites); and appendix tables of 1) most significant swine diseases, 2) vaccination scheduling, and 3) additional references. The text will also be interspersed with case study examples taken from the RAF project and the experience of contributors.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Through the period of this project our thinking, and that of a number of producers, has turned to the value of basic principles of herd health – and the challenges of applying those principles to alternative swine systems. Nevertheless it is clear that biosecurity and stress management only increase in importance when antibiotics are out of the picture. Today there is a growing appreciation of the value of closed herds, all-in-all-out, and other practices that manage exposure of livestock to disease and parasitic organisms. The effectiveness of this project in bringing about these changes in thinking will be reflected in the end-of-project surveys of vets and producers.
Once the value of a closed herd is recognized, other practices naturally gain interest. Among these are practices that maintain herd genetics, avoiding inbreeding. Consequently, in 2006 the RAF project organized two workshops on artificial insemination. Attendance at the seven workshops and two field days held by the project totals more than 200.
Extension Swine Specialist, Northwest Iowa Area
Iowa State University Extension
209 Centennial Dr., Ste. A
Cherokee, IA 51012-2203
Office Phone: 7122256196
Suidae Health and Production
2200 Hwy 18 East
Algona, IA 50511-0598
Office Phone: 5153410110
Distinguished Professor of Veterinary Microbiology
Iowa State University, emeritus
2134 Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011
Office Phone: 5152947630
Director, ISU Outlying Research Farms
Iowa State University
B1 Curtiss Hall, Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011
Office Phone: 5152944621