Daniel Linhares, assistant professor at Iowa State University, said there are three things hog farmers can do to catch disease outbreaks early:
1. On a weekly or monthly basis, collect biological samples, submit to the laboratory and screen for specific pathogens of concern.
2. Monitor production records every few days. Check the number of abortions, number of dead pigs, number of mummies or stillbirth and the number of sows off feed. Whenever the system detects a significant change in production records compared to the baseline, send more biological samples for testing. It's also important at this stage to contact the veterinarian and discuss which samples are needed and the possible diseases to investigate.
3. Evaluation of clinical signs. On-farm staff must be trained and aware of what to look for. Clinical signs should be monitored on an hourly basis by the staff who work with the herd every day. Ensure they understand what's normal behaviour and the need to call their supervisor or veterinarian whenever they see something that's not normal. For example, increased coughing, a change in cough pattern, the type of cough or diarrhoea. Behaviour changes might include if pigs are not up, active and eating or drinking regularly.
"Those three things combined are really powerful," he said. "Screening of clinical signs is critical and is usually the first sign of the onset of diseases.”