• Delaying pigs from the normal production flow is associated with health problems and poorer performance

      Calderón Díaz, Julia A.; Diana, Alessia; Boyle, Laura; Leonard, Nola; McElroy, Máire; McGettrick, Shane; Moriarty, John; Garcia Manzanilla, Edgar; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; et al. (Biomed Central, 2017-07-05)
      Background Delaying pigs from advancing through the production stages could have a negative impact on their health and performance. The objective of this study was to investigate the possible implications of delaying pigs from the normal production flow on pig health and performance in a farrow-to-finish commercial farm with a self-declared All-In/All-Out (AIAO) management. Results Three flows of pigs were defined, flow 1 (i.e. pigs that followed the normal production flow; 8 weeks in the nursery stage, 4 weeks in the growing stage and 8 weeks in the finisher stage), flow 2 (i.e. pigs delayed 1 week from advancing to the next production stage) and flow 3 (i.e. pigs delayed >1 week from advancing to the next production stage). Flow 3 included higher proportions of pigs from first parity sows and of lighter birth weights. When the 3 flows were matched by parity and birth weight, pigs in flow 2 were 3.8 times more likely to be lame prior to slaughter compared with pigs in flow 1. Similarly, pigs in flow 3 were more likely to be lame prior to slaughter, 4.5 times more likely to present pleurisy, 3.3 times more like to present pericarditis and 4.3 times more likely to have their heart condemned at slaughter compared with pigs in flow 1. Additionally, carcasses from pigs in flow 3 were 10 kg lighter compared with carcasses from pigs in flow 1. Conclusion Delayed pigs were more affected by disease and were lighter at slaughter. Besides animal welfare issues, these findings could represent considerable economic loses for pig producers. In practice, delaying pigs from the normal production flow translates into higher feeding costs, increase number of days to slaughter and increased labour requirements reducing production efficiency for the pig operation. In farrow-to-finish farms an ‘all-forward’ policy (i.e. no pig is left behind from stage to stage and a split marketing approach is applied when sending pigs to slaughter) might be more easily adhered to.
    • Ear, tail and skin lesions vary according to different production flows in a farrow-to-finish pig farm

      Diana, Alessia; Boyle, Laura; García Manzanilla, Edgar; Leonard, Finola C; Calderón Díaz, Julia A; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 14/S/832 (Biomed Central, 2019-07-15)
      Background Pig performance and risk of disease are associated with production flow. Given the link between health and welfare, it is likely that animal welfare indicators are also associated with production flow. This study investigated the association between production flow and tail, ear and skin lesions on a farm with a purported ‘all-in/all-out’ policy. This was an observational study whereby pigs were managed according to routine farm practice. A total of 1,016 pigs born within 1 week from the same batch were followed through the production stages and the presence or absence of welfare indicators was recorded at 4, 7, 9, 12, 16 and 24 weeks of age. Three production flows were retrospectively identified: flow 1 = ‘normal’ pigs that advanced through the production stages together ‘on time’, flow 2 = pigs delayed from advancing from the 1st to the 2nd nursery stage by 1 week and flow 3 = pigs delayed from advancing through the production stages by > 1 week. A nested case control design was applied by matching pigs by sow parity, number of born alive and birth weight. Results The presence of ear lesions was 4.5 less likely in pigs in flow 2 and 2.9 times less likely in pigs in flow 3 (P < 0.001) compared to pigs in flow 1. Pigs in flow 3 were 2.2 more likely to have tail and 1.6 times more likely to have ear lesions (P < 0.001) compared to pigs in flow 2. Pigs in flow 2 were less likely to have tail lesions compared with pigs in flow 1 (P < 0.05). Differences between production flows for the risk of skin lesions varied according to age (P < 0.05). Conclusion All production flows were associated with a high risk of lesions which raises concerns for pig welfare. However, risks for ear, tail and skin lesions varied according to each production flow likely due to the specific management practices inherent to each flow. Results from this study could be used to modify existing management practices, thus leading to improvements in animal welfare and possibly performance in intensive pig systems.
    • Identifying challenges to manage body weight variation in pig farms implementing all-in-all-out management practices and their possible implications for animal health: a case study

      Rodrigues da Costa, Maria; García Manzanilla, Edgar; Diana, Alessia; van Staaveren, Nienke; Torres-Pitarch, Alberto; Boyle, Laura A; Calderón Díaz, Julia A; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; 14/S/832; et al. (Biomed Central, 2021-01-11)
      Background Managing body weight (BW) variation is a challenge in farrow-to-finish farms implementing all-in/all-out (AIAO) production systems due to the lack of “off-site” facilities to segregate slow growing pigs (SGP). This case study investigated different approaches to managing BW variation in a farrow-to-finish commercial pig farm with a self-declared AIAO management and the possible implications for animal health. Case presentation A total of 1096 pigs (1047 pigs born within 1 week plus 49 pigs born 1 week later) were tracked until slaughter as they moved through the production stages. Piglets were individually tagged at birth and their location on the farm was recorded on a weekly basis. In total, 10.3% of pigs died during lactation. Four main cohorts of pigs were created at weaning and retrospectively identified: cohort 1 = pigs weaned at 21 days (4.5%); cohort 2 = pigs weaned at 28 days (81.0%), which was sub-divided at the end of the first nursery stage into sub-cohort 2a = pigs split at 3 weeks post-weaning (29.7%); sub-cohort 2b = pigs split at 3 weeks post-weaning from cohort 2a and split again 5 weeks post-weaning (35.5%) and sub-cohort 2c = remaining smaller size pigs from cohort 2b (10.9%); cohort 3 = pigs weaned at 35 days (2.7%) and cohort 4 = pigs weaned at 49 days (1.5%) that were later mixed with SPG, delayed pigs from other cohorts and sick/injured pigs that recovered. Four strategies to manage BW variation were identified: i) earlier weaning (cohort 1); ii) delayed weaning of SGP (cohort 3 and 4); iii) re-grading pens by BW (sub-cohorts 2a, 2b and 2c) and, iv) delayed movement of SGP to the next production stage (several pigs from all cohorts). A higher percentage of delayed pigs presented pericarditis, pleurisy and enzootic pneumonia like lesions at slaughter compared with pigs under other strategies. Conclusion A variety of management practices were implemented to minimise BW variation during the production cycle. However, several cohorts of pigs were created disrupting AIAO management. Earlier weaning should only be practiced under specific circumstances where optimal animal health and welfare are guaranteed. Delayed weaning of SGP and delaying pigs to move to the next production stage could negatively affect animal health and should be avoided.