On Farm Investigation of

Diarrhoea in the first 3 weeks post-weaning


Area of concern


Note the timing of the diarrhoea

Many cases of diarrhoea actually start 5-7 days previously.


Note the type of  diarrhoea and appearance of the anal ring

Blood   Water    Yellow/pasty   Mucoid.  Alkaline faeces E. coli: acid viral


Post-mortem examination of weaner.  Euthanasia of acutely affected pigs should be examined rather than looking only at chronically affected pigs with secondary problems.

Environmental and management checks



Post-weaning feeding routines.  Poor feed intake in the first week encourages gorging in the second with protein overload of the gut and diarrhoea.  Gruel feeding is essential combined with little and often feeding routines



Hygiene of feeder – especially between batches



Feeder space.  Inadequate feeder space increases aggression.  Note behaviour in first 3 days



Creep feeding and hygiene in the farrowing house



Mycotoxins in feed and feed storage.  Note mycotoxins damage vitamins such as Vit E and can affect the palatability of the feed



Feed ingredients – Zinc Oxide presence for example



Is diarrhoea associated with a recent feed type change?



Water hygiene, especially between batches.



Almost any air movement is undesirable >0.2 m/sec (> 50 feet/min)  is  a draught in the sleeping area



Chilling of the weaners, check lying patterns sleeping area temperatures (initially ideally >27•C) and defecation patterns.



Variable temperatures and high humidity in the sleeping area



Damp floors/bedding particularly in the sleeping area



Degree of cross-fostering pre-weaning



Number of sows farrowing each week, application of all-in all out and pig flow



Age of piglets at weaning and the variability in age and weight





Poor room cleaning between batches



Infection transfer - is there a separate brush and scrape for each batch, foot baths, personnel hygiene



Review vermin and fly control



Weaner treatments not been clean enough,  Check cross-contamination between healthy and sick pigs



Type of iron injection utilised. Lack of sufficient iron may encourage more diarrhoea



Medication issues.  Vaccine storage protocols.  Note maternal colostrum transfer post-weaning is poor for E. coli vaccines



Review presence of other pathogens, PRRSv and PMWS for example



Is a feed-back programme in place?



Check parity profile of the mother of weaners with diarrhoea


Treatment protocols to control post-weaning diarrhoea




Enhance pig’s resistance to pathogens – or at least do nothing to reduce the pig’s resistance

Reduce pathogen load

Note most of the “pathogenic” organisms are “normal” in the environment

Treatment and control protocols

Reduce susceptible pigs


Remove bottom 10% (smalls) from the main group and house and manage differently

Review pig flow and ensure over and under-stocking removed

Review weaner age and weights and enhance

Review pre-weaning management to maximise health at weaning – review cross-fostering regimes in particular

Ensure iron administration pre-weaning adequate

Ensure all pigs are eating within 12 hours post-weaning

Ensure adequate feed space available – note newly weaned pigs eat as a group – automatic restrict feeding even if feed available “ad-lib”

Ensure a warm, draught free sleeping area is available for all pigs

Provide warmer sleeping flooring – use of comfort boards etc

Enhance pig’s resistance


Presence of Zinc Oxide 2500 g/tonne for first 2-3 weeks post-weaning

Use acidifiers for the diet and water supplies

Use of probiotics – ensure they are alive – milk and yogurt products

Consider use of sterilised peat products to act as an antitoxin/absorbant

Increase Vit E concentration in feed – to 250 ppm

Use suitable antimicrobial therapy

Ensure that compliance with dose rate and treatment protocols.  It may be necessary to treat whole groups of animals, including those not sick

Change genetics in cases of Bowel Oedema – E. coli K18

Consider vaccines to Bowel Oedema



If creep feeding is practiced pre-weaning: stop and review situation

Feed-back programmes using  weaner faeces, including the diarrhoea, to gilts and sows 6 weeks pre-farrowing.  Discuss this aspect with your veterinarian

If gilt litter weaner’s are more prone review management of gilt – note particularly feed-back and immunity protocols

Review and possibly change creep/weaner feed type –meal, pellets, wet or dry size of pellets

Reduce pathogen load


Separate sick animals from main group as soon as possible – hospital area

Provide electrolytes in water supply to sick pigs

Do not move sick pigs back into previous week groups

Do not move recovered sick pigs back into main group until over 30kg bodyweight

Practice rigid All-in/all-out

Adequate hygiene between batches – use of lime-washing

Ensure water lines are properly disinfected between batches

Ensure feeders are properly cleaned between batches

Ensure that there is no cross-contamination between batches through foot wear, brushes, scrapes or needles/syringes

Note hygiene of lying pads and comfort boards

Enhance vermin and fly controls

Monitor weaner’s rate and evenness of growth