Pig health and reducing the need for antimicrobials on pig farms was the main theme for this year’s ‘Pigs R Us’ Conference organised by the Parklands Veterinary Group.
Held at the Glenavon House Hotel in Cookstown on March 29 and attracting an audience of more than 200 delegates the Conference was supported by a trade exhibition which featured 32 trade stands from across all sectors of the pig industry.
Recognised as a major event in the annual pig farming calendar, this year’s conference boasted a number of international speakers including Dr Alberto Morillo Alujas from Spain, Rutger Jansen, MRCVS from the Netherlands and Fran Baird, MRCVS from England. Chaired by George Tice, MRCVS from Ireland other speakers included Gary Anderson from the Northern Ireland Pig Health Initiative and event organiser, John Grant, MRCVS from the Parklands Veterinary Group.
Topics covered ranged from disease prevention and biosecurity to strategies looking at ways of limiting the use of antibiotics amongst pig producers.
“The future of the industry is changing and it will be with less antibiotic usage,” said Fran Baird who took a detailed look at the control and elimination of production diseases in pig herds.
He showcased data from research and fieldwork carried out on the subject and outlined the cost of disease when health issues are not controlled.
He also demonstrated that tried and tested programmes can maintain and improve performance as well as reduce antibiotic usage.
In his opening address conference chairman, George Tice said that anti-microbial resistance (AMR) was an increasing concern and that there was a need for the industry to accurately record “what it was using and why?”
He added that transparency was a key issue that would drive the reduction of antibiotic usage.
Dr Alberto Morillo Alujas in his address also called for the responsible use of veterinary medicines saying that the industry as a whole had an important role to play in all of this.
The life cycle of pig production was also on the agenda and Rutger Jansen in his address looked at feeding strategies, colostrum management and best practice.
Gary Anderson in his speech outlined the progress being made by the NI Pig Health Initiative, a collaborative network formed with the help of Invest NI.
Its membership includes marketing groups, processors, the animal feed sector, NI Pork and Bacon Forum, the Farmers Union and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, (DAERA).
According to Gary, education, monitoring and surveillance are amongst the key areas that the membership are keen to develop.
The importance of this was underlined as the Conference concluded that “there isn’t one single answer to reducing antibiotic usage in pig farms with every farm being difference and solutions bespoke for each site”.
Commenting on the Conference John Grant of Parklands Veterinary Group said: “As organisers of the Pigs Conference we are delighted with the interest that was shown and the numbers that attended on the night.
“The numbers here tonight speaks volumes for the industry. In recent years we have witnessed tremendous gains by the pig industry in terms of .production parameters.
“However, in what is a global industry your health is your wealth, the emphasis ongoing will be on management, health planning, housing, water and feed systems to improve health performance, and while there is a role to allow the use of antibiotics, this will be a responsible targeted use with as little as possible but as much as necessary.”