Diarrhea in neonatal piglets: cleaning and disinfection
The problem with not having enough pens in the farrowing room

Diarrhea in neonatal piglets is one of the most common problems on sow farms. However, the origin of diarrhea has a multifactorial cause, with many other factors to be considered related to the environment, management and nutrition. One of them is the importance of cleaning and disinfection.

The proper procedure

• Completely empty the room

• Take out all materials and equipment (thoroughly cleaned) such as heat lamps, piglet feeders, etc.

• Wet the room and spray with a biodegradable detergent. It is best to use one with a degreasing agent in order to remove biofilms

• Pressure wash (using hot water is highly recommended) and let dry

• Disinfect and let dry again before filling with new animals

• On occasion, we add drying powder to the room before the new animals enter to eliminate remaining moisture

The problem with not having enough pens in the farrowing room

Cleaning and disinfection should always be in conjunction with all-in all-out by batches. In order to maximise the use of each farrowing crate, it’s common to have some batches with more sows than there are farrowing pens, so the whole room cannot be emptied. If this is not possible, at minimum, partitions must be made to clean the rooms. It is important that the pigs don’t get wet, that the room is dry, and that it is neither cold nor damp.

A similar problem has been observed in Spain as a result of seasonal infertility, during Summer, resulting in fewer farrowings at the beginning of the Winter. Due to the compensatory effect in the number of matings in Autumn, the farrowing rooms are not large enough to house an entire batch, with the number of farrowings increasing 20-25%. This leads to a worse cleaning procedure and a lack of down time in the rooms. As a consequence, the incidence of diarrhea increases in neonatal piglets and even at the end of lactation, being more persistent and difficult to treat.

However, when the sows enter the room three to four days before farrowing, with a day or two of down time and when a good cleaning, disinfection, and drying protocol has been carried out, the situation improves considerably: incidence decreases, severity decreases, and response to treatments improves. Many times in these farrowing rooms that are in good condition, rehydration and oral antibiotics solve the problem and it does not appear again.

Another reason for the increase in diarrhea problems in recent years has to do with the lack of adequate down time between batches. Having an empty farrowing room is seen as an expense, but it has to be seen as an investment. It is difficult to prove it numerically, but three days of down time reduces the problem of neonatal diarrhea by reducing the infection pressure and improves profitability. Washing with hot water and three days of down time are also effective in reducing the oocyst load in the environment.

In summary, reducing infection pressure through proper cleaning, disinfection, and down time is one of the indispensable tools for reducing neonatal diarrhea. Although this topic has been known for a long time, in practice, many production models still do not give it the importance it deserves.

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