Medical Knowledge for Swine Caretakers

Here are some things I suggest you learn about now as you are likely to encounter them, if you haven’t yet.

Know how to give injections. Some medication must be given intramuscular, some must be given subcutaneously. Know how to give each type and where they should be administered.

Know which needle size to use with each common medication you are likely to use. Which is larger, 18 gauge or 22 gauge? How do you give an IM injection to a new piglet that has very little muscle? How do you restrain a mature hog for injections?

Know the different common sizes of syringes and which should be used for different dosages. Can you reuse a syringe for multiple hogs? If so, when? If not, why not? Can you use one syringe but change needles for each hog? How do you disinfect multiple dose syringes between uses?

Know about anaphylaxis and why you should have epinephrine on hand and ready to use when you give injections. Where can you get epinephrine? How do you administer it?

Know how to store different medications and how long they can be stored.

Why might Dectomax be better than other anthelmintics? Should you have a regular worming schedule? Why or why not? What choice do you have if you don’t want to use an injectable anthelmintic? What can you do to lessen the possibility of your hogs being overloaded with internal parasites (therefore not requiring anthelmintics)?

What is the difference between LA200 and Biomycin 200? Why does the difference matter? What symptoms might indicate their use?

What is “Scour Halt”? When and why is it used?

What is “Excede”? Why might it be a better choice than others?

What is the difference between bacterial and viral infections? Which is e-coli? What infections can be transmissible to humans?

What are the benefits and downsides of clipping needle teeth, docking tails, castrating boars? Does your farm operation require any of these practices?

Why do industrial farms provide antibiotics in their hog feed? Is that appropriate for your farm? What could the negative effects be if you followed this practice?

What is the normal temperature for a piglet / hog? How do you find out the temp of your pigs? What do you do if your piglet’s temp is 95.5° F? How about 105.5° F? Which might indicate a bacterial infection? Does either indicate the possible need for an antibacterial? How do you raise or lower the temp of a piglet?

How do you treat a tear to a piglet’s ear? A deep cut to its leg? A dislocated hip? A broken tooth? A prolapsed rectum? A scratch on it’s back that bleeds but has not gone through the skin? Which can you handle and which need a vet?

How do you bottle feed piglets? What conditions require that? How do you tube feed a piglet? What equipment is needed for each?

How long does a sow produce colostrum? How long after birth can a piglet get the benefit from colostrum? What do you do for an orphan piglet? Will a lactating sow accept and feed an orphan from another litter? What do you do if there is no sow available that is producing colostrum? What is the difference between powdered or paste colostrum and colostrum supplement?

How do you wean a bottle baby piglet? When does this start and how do you know a piglet is weaned?

What is a biosecurity plan? Why does it matter? What are the specific procedures for your farm? How long do you quarantine swine? Is there any difference between that period and one for cattle? If so, why?

This is a very long list of questions and topics; you may be able to answer these right now; but if you can correctly answer all of these then I would consider you ready to take care of swine. And you would know more than perhaps 90 percent of swine caretakers.

Where do you find answers to these questions? Of course, there is the Internet. But there are also some very good books out there. I highly recommend these:

Large Animal Clinical Procedures for Veterinary Technicians. Elizabeth A. Hanie.

Handbook of Pig Medicine. Peter GG Jackson and Peter D Cockcroft.

Pig Ailments Recognition and Treatment. Mark White.

IMO, the best thing that these books can do is to let a newbie understand just how important knowledge is and how to see when they are in over their heads. One of the common things that I have seen is that newbies (and veterans) assume they know more than they do. It happened to me and a lot of pigs died due to my hubris. Now I know when to call the vet.

Best of luck.

– by Brian Wright
Copyright © 2010 Homegrown Acres. Used with permission.