UNISTRAIN® PRRS in the control of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome in piglets and fatteners

Until relatively recently, in some countries control of the Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome focussed almost exclusively on breeders (gilts and pregnant and lactating sows). However, for technical and economic reasons, there is a growing tendency on many markets to move towards integrated control of the disease, which includes not only sows, but also piglets and even in some cases fatteners.

Control of the Porcine Respiratory and Reproductive Syndrome is an obsession for anyone who is involved in the business of pork production. PRRS is the most costly disease , the most complicated, the most common and the one that in many companies remains unresolved. PRRS control strategies are manifold, have been mentioned on many occasions and are very well documented. It must be assumed that control of this disease involves the development of different strategies as there is not one single one that can be used in every type of situation:

As those responsible for health control on the farms with which we collaborate, whenever we carry out a programme for the control of any disease, we have to ask ourselves a series of key questions, such as, for example:

  • What is the cost of this action? Or even better… What is the return on the investment in the implementation of this strategy?
  • Is it applicable to the whole structure?
  • Are other measures necessary?
  • Which is the best vaccination programme?… In this case, do I have to vaccinate all the animals?

It is no different in the case of Porcine Respiratory and Reproductive Syndrome, of course controlling this syndrome is much more complicated than controlling an outbreak of ‘flu, but the questions we have to ask are similar:

  • Will I obtain a return on the investment in vaccinating against PRRS?
  • Do I have to vaccinate only sows, only piglets, or do I have to think about vaccinating both sows and piglets?
  • Is this strategy useful for all farms?
  • Apart from vaccination, in terms of biosecurity… Do I need to make any changes?

In the case in hand, the answers to all these questions are given below. Intensification of the vaccination programme not only in sows (4 mass vaccinations) and the vaccination of all piglets at the age of two weeks resulted in a significant improvement in the production results in piglets and fatteners.

The results after 12 months of implementation of the new programme and the new vaccine were:

  • A 0.5% reduction in mortality during lactation.
  • An increase of 150 grams on average at the time of weaning.
  • A 5% reduction in mortality in the post-weaning phase.
  • A 1.1% reduction in mortality in the fattening phase.
  • An increase in average daily gain of 20 g/day, combined with a reduction of 60 grams in the feed conversion rate.

On the other hand, compared to the vaccine used previously, there was a reduction in medication costs of:

  • €1.5 per piglet per year, which leads us to concluded that in this case there is no doubt that the return on investment in this campaign was positive, not only in economic terms, as demonstrated by the results, but also in terms of all those technical parameters that are difficult to quantify economically.

One of the key elements in the control of the Porcine Respiratory and Reproductive Syndrome is the stabilization of the virus at farm level, the reduction of its transmission within the farm and between farms and the reduction in viraemia. Whenever control of the most significant disease in pork production appears in our health protection plans, we have to ask ourselves:

Why not vaccinate piglets if this is where the virus mainly replicates and as we have seen in this example, it is economically profitable?

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