Welfare issues and antibiotic usage will be two of the key areas addressed in tomorrows Irish Pig Health Society’s (IPHS) Symposium in Mullingar.

The lectures begin with Dr Mari Speijers, a researcher based at AFBI, Hillsborough, who will share her findings from studies conducted in other European countries, where she explored various methods of provision of environmental enrichment.

According to IPHS President, Alison Kirwan, this highly controversial and important welfare issue needs to be addressed at all opportunities, in an attempt to find practical and convenient solutions that will satisfy our pigs, our farmers and, importantly, our customers.

Progressing Pig Production is the theme of the symposium and the topic of prudent and responsible use of antimicrobials is high on the agenda of all personnel working within the human and animal healthcare industries, within the developed world. Dutch pig farmer Eric Van den Heuvel and Professor John O’Doherty (Associate Professor, School of Agriculture and Food Science, UCD), will give their own ideas on methods that may further reduce antibiotic usage in pig farms.

According to Professor O’Doherty, the considerable intensification of the livestock industry has resulted in higher growth rates, increased stocking density and larger production units. With this, he says, the increased pressure on production has resulted in an increase in the use of antimicrobial growth promoters to improve performance and (or) health.

The primary effects associated with the inclusion of antimicrobial feed additives include the prevention of digestive disturbances, improved feed utilisation and animal performance. As part of his presentation, he will review some commonly employed alternatives to antibiotics.

The symposium takes place in the Mullingar Park Hotel from 2pm and first speaker of the evening will be Dr Laura Barista, with 20 years’ experience in bio-security. She will deal with PRRS, other endemic diseases, and the next epidemic the pig industry will have to deal with.