2015-07-23   facebook twitter rss

Lowering Salmonella Infection on UK Pig Farms

Salmonella infection in pigs isn’t a new issue for pig producers, but the level of incidence is a cause for concern.

International research conducted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has identified that the UK prevalence of Salmonella in both breeding and finishing pigs is higher than the EU average level, posing food safety concerns for consumers. A four year Defra funded study is attempting to find out how Salmonella can be effectively and practically controlled on a range of UK pig farms, including both indoor and outdoor production systems.


With more rigorous testing procedures introduced at abattoirs, the challenge is to reduce the level of ‘upstream’ infection of Salmonella at farm level. With most strains of Salmonella, pigs approaching slaughter can be carriers and shed the organism without showing any symptoms of disease themselves. Infection can be transmitted quickly to pen mates. Rodents, particularly mice, are a major source of transmission of Salmonella hence effective rodent control is essential in lowering disease risk to pigs. Any steps that can be taken on farm to reduce Salmonella infection will help reduce the level of contamination entering the lairage facility and subsequently during processing at the abattoir.

When it comes to controlling Salmonella there is no single measure that works successfully on all farms. Therefore, the project focuses on developing a toolbox of validated control measures that will work together to reduce Salmonella infection levels on farm. Although the project is principally based around Salmonella prevention measures, it is widely recognised that effective control will have additional on-farm benefits, such as improved growth and feed conversion from healthier pigs. This is because Salmonella is a good indicator species for other pig health concerns, therefore, enhanced farm biosecurity (which is consistent with good Salmonella control) will also have beneficial effects on the control of other enteric bacterial diseases. Given current industry concerns about Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PEDv) and African Swine Fever, this is a good time for farmers to act on issues of biosecurity and disease prevention.

Farms with historically low levels of infection are being studied to identify those features that may be protective against Salmonella, such as type of feed system, feed ingredients used, effectiveness of biosecurity, health background, rodent control, background medication use. Three intervention methods are being studied in detail. ADAS is recording and monitoring production, cost and herd health data from the study to enable a cost: benefit assessment to be made for the following interventions:

  1. Outdoor production- to what extent does moving site every year rather than every other year result in less disease challenge to incoming stock?

  2. Vaccination- how effectively does vaccinating sows provide immunity to piglets via colostrum?

  3. Can enhanced cleaning and disinfection of finisher housing result in lower disease prevalence especially when allied to effective on-farm rodent control?


With a further 9 months to go before all studies are completed on the three described interventions, it is too early to give an indication of outcomes. Any production benefits or cost savings identified, such as faster growth and improved feed conversion, will be of great interest to producers at a time when pig prices are under great pressure. Effective control measures at farm level and lower prevalence of Salmonella infection is likely to lead to a reduction in cross-contamination of carcasses processed at the slaughterhouse and in turn to a reduction in the risk of human cases of Salmonellosis.


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