What is best practice when it comes to vaccinating my pigs?

“Vaccines are essential to keeping pigs healthy and productive, but you risk wasting your money if you don’t take care when administering them,” is the stark warning from Maureen Prendergast, a technical manager at MSD Animal Health.

“Vaccines are a large part of the budget on a pig farm, so farmers need to make sure they are stored and administered correctly and that all their staff are following the guidelines,” explained Maureen.

She recommends that all farms regularly review vaccination protocols and ensure all staff are properly trained.

Vaccines must be carefully stored in the fridge at a temperature between 2°C and 8°C and kept out of direct sunlight. Ensure the vaccines are removed from the fridge about 1.5 hours before use to allow them to come up to room temperature and read the instructions carefully.

Vaccines that are not stored correctly, may not have expected effectiveness and you may risk a disease outbreak.

Regularly check over equipment (replacing if necessary) and ensure that injector guns are clean and needles are suitable for the age of pig that you are vaccinating before you start.

It’s essential that needles are changed regularly when vaccinating, as changing needles between litters or management groups reduces the spread of disease.

Even good-quality needles become less sharp with use and that increases the risk of pain and muscle-damage to livestock. Always dispose of needles safely.

Maureen explained: “It may seem like common sense, but it’s worth checking the process regularly at farm level and making sure that new staff are trained fully – for your sake, the pigs’ well-being and staff safety.”

It’s reported that over 80% of farm workers have accidentally stuck themselves while vaccinating, and although thankfully most needlestick injuries are minor, they can be serious.

If the product contains mineral oil it can cause intense swelling that if left untreated could lead to severe pain and damage, or even the loss of a finger.

“As farms become more safety-aware, we’re seeing more and more interest in needle-free vaccination with new technology allowing the vaccines to be applied to the skin of the sows or piglets without a reduction in efficacy,” Maureen added.

A growing awareness of pig welfare and supermarket concern about broken needles entering in the food chain has caused many farms to consider using the IDAL vaccination gun. The gun can be used with compatible vaccines and allows single-handed vaccination of sows and piglets.

MSD Animal Health has created a useful poster outlining some key vaccination tips for farmers as a handy reminder. Speak to your vet or MSD Animal Health sales manager to order a copy.

More information

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

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