Three key lessons in battling SRD bacteria

Use these tips when eliminating mycoplasma to reduce coinfection costs in swine operations.

The truck is coming in two weeks. Just two weeks before a necessary payment comes in. Something seems slightly off with this set of finishing pigs, but oral fluid tests haven’t shown anything conclusive.

Deep barking coughs start the following week. Many pigs are going off feed. The pigs have all been treated and are feeling better, but your stomach sinks at the pounds quickly lost so close to the finish line. All the time and care that went into this load of pigs may be a net loss thanks to this late illness.

What if it was possible to prevent that pit in your stomach? In an industry where health challenges can determine the difference between profitability and loss, why not eliminate a challenge when you can?

Coinfections cause issues and costs to rise. Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae (M. hyo) is a repeat offender of coinfections and sinking stomachs.

Yet M. hyo can be eliminated.

Dr. Amy Maschhoff, director of health and animal care for The Maschhoffs LLC, shares the three key lessons learned from eliminating M. hyo from their system.

1. Choose a strong Day 0

Establish a Day 0 when you start your elimination process and keep this day in mind for your elimination timelines. You should also determine what Day 0 means for you.

“In our case, it means every animal, when we close the door, has been exposed and we have pretty high confidence that every single one of those animals has had mycoplasma or been exposed to it,” Dr. Maschhoff says.

Measuring exposure can be difficult because not every mycoplasma strain is the same. Dr. Maschhoff says their strain aerosolized easily, so they used aerosolized exposure on their Day 0. This let them know every animal had seen the pathogen.

“In areas where we weren’t successful at the front end, we didn’t have a good Day 0, or there were subpopulations within the herds or different barns that didn’t see it at the same time. So, they started the clock to count down the 240 days at the wrong time,” she warned.

If the exposure times don’t line up, that can mean group exposure times could throw off the success of the whole-herd elimination. Efficiencies are lost because symptoms from later exposures show up after group treatments. Without a strong Day 0, it’s impossible to truly know if the whole herd has eliminated the pathogen by the end of the 240 days.

2. Select antimicrobials for efficiency

Timing your mycoplasma control with other pathogens can create efficiencies when care and effort are already increasing. For instance, it might make sense to close the herd against porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) at the same time as an M. hyo elimination.

Dr. Maschhoff says it’s important to be flexible with the types of antimicrobials depending on certain situations. For instance, if a PRRS closure is at the same time, you likely won’t want to use needles. PRRS is a bloodborne pathogen, so needles would have to be exchanged for each animal. In those cases, a water-soluble or feed-grade product might be more effective and efficient.

Having some type of antimicrobial applied to the whole herd at a specific amount of time during the closure was extremely important to The Maschhoffs’ elimination.

3. Determine how to confirm pathology

How are you going to officially confirm that you’ve got the correct pathogen you’re trying to treat? How do you protect against it leaving the barn if you do?

New gilt entries can’t bring something new into the herd either, so how do you test a gilt to know whether she’s been exposed before or if she’s negative?

There are a few unique options.

Mycoplasma lives in the trachea, so the trachea needs to be swabbed in some form or fashion, either antemortem or postmortem. Postmortem samples include lung tissues, tracheal swabs or bronchial lavage.

“You can take samples more easily postmortem, but there are some ways to take samples from a living pig. When a person has strep throat, the swab has to go really far back into the throat, but a mycoplasma swab has to go even further. In the grand scheme of things, it’s quick and you can get a high probability of detection,” Dr. Maschhoff says.

Oral fluids are noninvasive, but unfortunately, mycoplasma doesn’t play by the rules and can’t be detected from oral fluids. Serology can be tricky if animals have been vaccinated, but it’s another tool to help make decisions.

The youngest animals at your Day 0 are a key sampling group because they were the last group that was potentially exposed before the elimination began.

System-side benefits

Since eliminating mycoplasma, finishing pig mortalities in The Maschhoffs’ system have gone from being consistently in the red to consistently in the green. Feed conversion and growth rates have improved and antibiotic use has declined.

Dr. Maschhoff says, “In our system, the older pigs don’t cough. I like to joke that if I hear a cough in a sow farm or finishing site, I’m really taken aback. It just doesn’t happen in our system anymore.”

If employees do hear coughing, they know it’s caused by a different pathogen, helping their team be more in tune with the pigs and recognize the signs.

Employees also have had higher morale since eliminating the pathogen because they get to work with healthier pigs. They know their work contributes to turning a profit.

Dr. Maschhoff discussed these lessons and more in an episode of the Swine Healthline podcast series sponsored by Pharmgate Animal Health. Tune into the episode to learn what to do when the plan doesn’t work, the future of mycoplasma control and other ways to control costs.

If you’re considering eliminating M. Hyo. from your operation, contact the Pharmgate team to learn about how its broad portfolio can fit into that goal.