Using Natural Tools to Fight Health Challenges in Your Pig Barns


When it comes to herd health, many things can impact how healthy your pigs are, ultimately affecting your bottom line because of lost productivity. Nutrition and formulated diets can go a long way in keeping pigs healthy, but often, your pigs may have issues or health concerns to address.


Natural remedies, such as essential oils, can be an excellent way to improve your overall herd health and reduce the need for other interventions that may have withdrawal periods and other unwanted side effects.


Using Natural Tools to Fight Health Challenges in Your Pig Barns


It Starts With Sow Health

Improved genetics and production practices continue to increase the number of pigs per sow per year. Today, that number is around 27. At the same time, sow mortality has risen by about half a percent per year, with 39% of sow deaths being from unknown causes. With this information in mind, producers continue to look for ways to improve sow lifetime productivity


Body condition is a critical factor in overall sow lifetime productivity. Making sure sows are on the appropriate feed formulation can help to reduce stress during farrowing. In addition, adding fiber can help prevent enteric events. Producers should also work to reduce off-feed events that can happen after farrowing. These events can cause sows to overeat, damaging their gut and exposing them to bacteria that can cause gut issues.

Adding supplements, such as Ralco’s Dual Defender™, can help improve sows’ overall health by supporting feed integrity and freshness and enhancing immune system efficiency.


Sow Health Matters in Colostrum Quality

A sow’s body condition directly correlates to her ability to produce a healthy litter. Part of that ability involves the colostrum she provides for the piglets in the first 24 hours after birth. Colostrum is an extremely rich source of antibodies essential for the piglet’s defense against infection. In the same 24-hour period, their gut mechanism starts evolving, and they quickly lose the ability to absorb the antibodies. The higher the quality of early colostrum, the higher chance of a piglet’s overall success.


While sow colostrum is vital for piglet success, many sows do not produce enough — in amount or quality — for every pig in the litter. Sows produce the same amount of colostrum, no matter how many piglets they have. However, by improving sows’ overall health, producers can increase the quality of colostrum shared among the litter.


Based on a study conducted at the University of Minnesota (Ariza-Nieto, 2005), sows given Ralco’s Regano EX® showed 21% higher immunoglobulin G (IgG) in their colostrum. IgGs are vital in the process of protecting the body from infection. While there was no difference in IgG level in the piglets pre-suckling, there was an increase in IgG post-suckling due to the improvement in the colostrum.


Nursery Pigs Need a Nutritional Boost

Using Natural Tools to Fight Health Challenges in Your Pig Barns

Piglets can endure many stressors in the early period of their lives — the time during which their gut is most vulnerable. Improving overall piglet health has the potential to impact health up to market. Stress caused by weaning, transitioning to a grain diet and placing in a new barn can cause gut issues.


When pigs move from one location to another, they must get back on feed and water to ensure their stomach stays on track and weight increases. Producers should separate pigs not eating and drinking well. Lessened competition for resources helps them get back up to their prime health within a few days.


Helping pigs quickly and efficiently transition to a starter diet after weaning and placement in a nursery or wean-to-finish barn is essential for gut health and rate of gain. If pigs are falling behind, producers should separate those pigs to lessen competition for resources. Producers should also plan to spend a little more time with pigs after weaning to help them with the transition.


The Right Diet Matters

The ingredients in nursery feed directly impact animal performance. The most critical factor in an early diet is high digestibility and the essential nutrients needed to succeed after weaning.


As pigs age, the enzyme production in their gut shifts. Ralco’s Tactical Start™ nursery program matches ingredients to pigs’ digestive capabilities according to their age, not weight.


It’s Okay to Add the Additive

Additives can be an excellent way to protect a young pig’s gut as it matures. Additives create a healthy gut environment and encourage feed intake. They can be given through dry feed or mixed in the watering system.


ProsperEO™ is a natural feed additive containing patented Microfused® oregano, thyme white and cinnamon essential oils with Actifibe® prebiotic and supports a broad range of potential health challenges. These additive products help pigs overcome stress events, support immunity and improve piglet growth from wean to finish, all by boosting pigs’ gut strength.


It’s Not Over Till They’re Finished

Using Natural Tools to Fight Health Challenges in Your Pig Barns

One of the significant concerns that finish producers face is hemorrhagic bowel syndrome (HBS). While HBS can appear in any age pig, experts still aren't sure exactly what causes it. While there isn't a cure, there are ways that producers can lessen their risk by removing stress points, such as:

  1. Off-feed events — This is one of the most common stressors for pigs. If the animals run out of feed, they will often gorge themselves once feed becomes readily available again. When pigs overeat too quickly on an empty stomach, the risk of enteric gut issues arises. When their gut is empty, pathogens flourish, which can kick off an outbreak, such as HBS.

  2. Optimal animal spacing — Load-out time in finishing barns can cause pigs to rush to the feeder when they have the chance to reach it again. As the first market-ready pigs leave, the less aggressive pigs see an opportunity to take advantage, which often means they overeat, turning on their body’s stress signal and impacting their gut health.

  3. Heat — When pigs get hot, they don't eat during the middle of the day. When the temperatures drop, their appetite returns, causing them to overeat.

All of these issues make pigs more susceptible to gut pathogens. It can be hard to see the problem until it is too late to address it.


Preventing Gut Stress in Finishing Pigs

Noticing patterns in the barn can help producers predict when a gut issue or even HBS might occur. This effort allows producers to preventatively treat animals with an additive such as Regano, which helps improve the animal’s immune system.


Dried distillers grains (DDGs) can also positively impact pigs. DDGs add roughage into the diet, slowing digestion so that the animals can’t consume feed as fast as they might like.


Feed Efficiency is the Name of the Game

Some pigs grow better than others, usually based on their natural enzymes. An efficient pig can produce more protease, amylase and other enzymes than the other pig. The poorest performing pigs have fewer digestive enzymes and therefore don't utilize feed as well.


High feed efficiency is the goal for grow-finish pigs, especially as feed prices continue to rise. Here are a few key ideas for improving efficiency in grow-finish pigs.

  • Fine ground corn is a cheap way to improve feed efficiency. Grind size is key in finishing pigs because they eat more, chew less and can absorb all the nutrition and energy the corn has to offer. Data suggests an optimal range of 300-600 microns, with 450-500 microns an ideal target for finishing pigs.

  • Accurately set feeders can also help efficiency. Too tight can limit gain and too loose can lead to feed waste through the slats.

  • Flexibility with the diet can be helpful as cost and availability can lead to some insecurity. By understanding the energy value and need of swine diets, producers can maximize synthetics without buying fat, lower the heat increment and improve the amount of starch.

Ralco’s EnMAX® nutrition program is a proprietary enzyme cocktail that maximizes ingredients while producing more uniform pigs. Instead of making the best pig grow better, this enzyme cocktail helps the bottom-end pigs improve their performance, reach uniformity and improve feed efficiency.


Ralco Understands Nutritional Efficiency - From Start to Finish

Whether you’re looking at supplements to address and help avoid health challenges or a diet formulation to maximize efficient performance, let the team at Ralco help build a custom recommendation for your farm.


Swine producers working with Ralco typically see:

  • Less mortality

  • Less outbreaks and severity

  • Reduced antibiotic use

  • Overall higher health status of animals

  • Greater gain

  • Less fall-behind animals

Click here to get your custom recommendation started!