Could adding an extra vaccine actually reduce the workload on farm?

Most farmers realise that vaccination is beneficial to the welfare and productivity of their animals but, on a busy pig unit, the prospect of introducing an additional vaccine can be daunting.

Maureen Prendergast, technical manager for MSD Animal Health, explained: “On farms that are already vaccinating piglets against the PCV virus, Mycoplasma hyopneumonia bacteria (M Hyo) and possibly PRRS virus vaccines, there may be a reluctance to take on another.

“Many piglets are vaccinated in and around the time of weaning and so this can be a busy time and very labour-intensive for staff.”

Less time vaccinating

As Lawsonia is present in most pig herds in Ireland, and where farmers believe that Lawsonia is a cause of poor growth rates, a new vaccine recently launched against Lawsonia intracellularis (the bacteria known to cause ileitis) could potentially allow farmers to spend less time vaccinating, freeing up staff for other essential tasks.

Administered once via intramuscular injection, it can be used in piglets from three weeks-of-age and offers up to 21 weeks of immunity.

“Intramuscular injections are relatively straightforward to give,” added Maureen. “And this particular vaccine can be used alongside antibiotics where they are necessary, so it’s easy to slot into your current management system.

“It can also be mixed with another vaccine that offers protection against both PCV virus and M Hyo, meaning that it’s possible to combine three vaccinations into just one injection.”

Ileitis is prevalent in almost all pig units and although the disease is most often sub-clinical, it still affects pigs’ well-being and performance.

The Lawsonia bacteria causes inflammation and thickens the gut wall, even in the absence of diarrhoea. Unlike short-term bacterial gut infections, part of the ileum becomes permanently damaged, causing long-term reduction in food absorption.

Consequently, feed conversion rates and average weight gain are lower for the rest of the pig’s life.

In the absence of vaccination, the most common way to manage this disease is increased cleaning and biosecurity and the use of zinc oxide or antibiotic treatment. As well as being costly, these approaches are time-consuming and may not control the disease. In fact, although there are no outward signs, affected pigs are likely to still have reduced growth rates.

“As an industry we are making great progress in reducing our antibiotic usage, especially with regard to routine preventative treatments.

“As we move towards the treatment of individual or small groups of animals, an increased burden will fall to vets, farmers and their staff,” observed Maureen.

Preventive solutions, such as vaccination, have a role to play in saving time and money on farm, as well as preserving antimicrobial effectiveness for future generations.

Farmers should always discuss their vaccination regime with their vet who can also advise on infection control and on-farm biosecurity. Special attention should be paid to the storage and application of all veterinary medicines including vaccines.

More information

Further information is available from your veterinary practitioner or MSD Animal Health, Red Oak North, South County Business Park, Leopardstown, Dublin 18, Ireland.

MSD Animal Health can be contacted at: 01-2970220; or emailed at: [email protected].