Growing pressure to curb the use of antibiotics is prompting hog farmers to look for solutions.
The Ontario Pork Industry Council has conducted a huge study of how and why hog farmers use antibiotics and concludes that there are some alternatives.
It helps if farmers follow protocols to eliminate porcine respiratory and reproductive syndrome (PRRS) virus and mycoplasma and implement strict biosecurity protocols.
They could also counter diseases with vaccines, raising the acid content of feeds, incorporating potato starch and adding some essential oils.
Ileitis tops the list of disease challenges experienced by herds involved in the study, followed by strep suis, circoviruses and PRRS. All were challenges at or above the 50 per cent level.
The most important factors in reducing reliance on antibiotics were found to be better herd health, better alternatives for coping with diseases, the availability of effective vaccines, marketing incentives and regulations.
The study involved 36 farms, 105 sites, 34,647 sows, 867,329 piglets of which 839,913 survived to weaning, and 688.831 market hogs.