RED DEER — When pigs unexpectedly die, the diagnosis might determine it was something they ate.
“Feed quality issues can cause a big impact on performance and costs, so it is extremely important we are diligent at our mills and manage ingredients coming in and do a top notch job to avoid feed quality problems,” Malachy Young of Gowan’s Feed Consulting in Wainwright, Alta., told a recent hog technology workshop in Red Deer.
Young said feed represents 70 percent of costs on a hog farm, so good quality product is important whether the feed is manufactured at home or bought from a commercial supplier.
It is important to call the herd veterinarian to determine whether it’s illness or a batch of bad feed that is at fault when pigs are refusing to eat, sows cannot make milk and abortions, scours or deaths are occurring.
Feed problems could be linked to mechanical problems on the farm. For example, feed that isn’t properly delivered through augers to the feeders could result in coarse grind, poor pellet quality and poor digestion.
Limited water intake also reduces feed intake.
On-farm record keeping is critical.
Records should include the time and date when symptoms were observed as well as the number and age of animals affected.
A daily record of the change in symptoms and the number of animals off feed should also be logged. Record the type of feed and when it was last delivered to the bins.
Mistakes at the feed mill can require considerable investigation.
“It is extremely important that there is a quality control program at the mill, and make sure there is cross checking to make sure the right ingredients go into the right bins,” Young said.
“It is important to meet with the farm manager and understand what the problem is and understand their feeding system.”
He described several cases where pigs started to die when ration mixes were incorrect.
One farm received a load of feed that contained Monessen and the antimicrobial tiamulin. These two products are incompatible, and pigs started to die.
In another case, a high level of wheat infected with ergot was delivered to a feed mill.
Ergot causes a restriction of blood flow to the extremities and affected the sows’ milk production within 24 hours. About 1,200 sows were affected.
Contamination of this type can be visually spotted.
“It is really important to check every load going out for that. Procedures are in place for grain coming in,” he said.
In another case, sows were off feed and could not make milk and piglets starved to death. An investigation discovered that 19 percent limestone had gone into a soybean meal bin by mistake.