OAHN Swine Network Project: Swine Smallholder Postmortem Project

Project Lead: Drs. Josepha DeLay, Tim Pasma

To view the project presentation from the April 2023 meeting of the Ontario Association of Swine Veterinarians, please download the PDF here: https://www.oahn.ca/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/OAHN-Swine-Small-Scale-Herd-Postmortem-Project-April-2023.pdf

Executive Summary

The goals of the project were threefold:

  • Identify disease problems in Ontario small scale swine herds
  • Establish and maintain communications between small scale producers, vets, and OAHN
  • Increase awareness among small scale producers and vets about zoonotic and foreign animal diseases (FADs)

Small scale producers with a valid Ontario premises ID (PID) who met qualifying criteria for herd size, had a herd veterinarian, and completed a required survey could submit postmortem (PM) cases for testing free of charge.  Both field PMs and those conducted at the Animal Health Laboratory, University of Guelph were accepted.  A combination of standardized and problem-specific tests were carried for each case.

A total of 28 cases from 19 herds were submitted, and involved 12 vet clinics. Cases originated from a broad geographic area of Ontario.  The average herd size was 40 pigs, with a range of 2 to 230 pigs.  The majority of cases were from Kunekune herds.  Systemic, respiratory, and gastrointestinal diseases contributed to the majority of diagnoses.  Conditions common to larger commercial herds as well as less common disease entities were identified.  Many small herds had infectious or management-associated diseases that are no longer common in larger herds.  Influenza A virus was not detected in any of the cases, and PRRSV was detected in only 1 of 28 cases.

Reaching the target group of small scale producers with information about the project was a challenge.  Some subsets of producers were very connected and informed, including those providing pet and small breed stock, and interest in the project spread among those groups.  Smallholders who participated in the project were committed to solving disease problems in their herds.  Restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic brought an additional challenge to in-person and retail outlet-based dissemination of information about the project.

Based on the knowledge gained through this project, future work could concentrate on follow-up distribution of information on FADs and zoonotic diseases, such as the OAHN small herd infographic, to participating vets; exploration of ways to initiate contact and communication with other small herd subsets; establishment of similar projects funding clinical (live animal) testing and herd investigations (such as the Ontario Pig Health Check-Up program); and provision of ongoing swine education for veterinarians not routinely involved in the swine industry (eg ruminant or small animal vets).