Lesson 4: Health

One of the keys to managing any livestock operation is the ability to identify sick animals very early. However, in order to find illnesses, you should first understand what a normal animal is. Successful livestock producers frequently spend time simply observing their animals. This may be at feeding time or perhaps at some other point during the day where time is available to do it. Taking the time to observe animals is critical to achieving your goal of profitable livestock production.

If your pigs ever do get sick, it’s important to know a little bit about what could be wrong so you can have an intelligent conversation with your veterinarian. Like humans, pigs can contact a wide variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Any of them can impede performance.

It’s important to keep pigs healthy from both a management and economic standpoint. Sick pigs don’t grow or produce very efficiently. In addition, veterinary and antibiotic costs can quickly consume any profit you might have made from your pig production enterprise.

If done incorrectly the management of mortalities can become an environmental liability. Professionals in animal agricultural production must be aware of proper mortality disposal methods.

Raising pigs for home use or local markets is a fairly safe operation. Potential health effects are much more likely to come just from handling large animals or using farm equipment compared to micro-organisms that might come from the pigs. However, there are a few significant diseases that can be shared between animals and people. Diseases shared between people and animals are termed zoonotic infections. Small farm operators who raise pigs can take a few precautions and ensure that they, their families and those who consume their products are not at risk for swine associated zoonotic infections.