What Causes Hemorrhagic Bowel Syndrome in Pigs?


What Causes Hemorrhagic Bowel Syndrome in Pigs?

A common culprit of animal loss in the pork industry is hemorrhagic bowel syndrome (HBS). Though commonly found in finishing pigs, it is possible for all ages.


Phil Olsen, Swine Health Specialist for Ralco Swine Nutrition, says the cause of HBS is a mystery to the pork industry. “It’s known to hit even the biggest, healthiest pigs, and to this day, we still do not have a deep understanding of what is causing HBS.”


While there isn’t a patented cure for HBS, there are ways in which producers can lessen the risk in their herd by alleviating everyday stressors.


Off-feed Events

According to Olsen, one of the most common stressors for grow-finish pigs is off-feed events. If a feed bin runs out in the middle of the night and pigs are without feed for a couple of hours, they rush to eat and potentially gorge themselves once their feeders are filled.


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.


Optimal Animal Spacing

Much like in an empty bin situation, load-out time in finishing barns causes pigs to rush to the feeder for an extra helping or two when given a chance.


For example, in a 1,000-head finishing barn, the first 200 market-ready pigs are loaded out by taking a couple from each pen. Once those animals are gone, there is more room for the less aggressive pigs to get to the feeder. Now that they’re in control, they eat all the feed they want. Most likely, they’ll overeat, which turns on stress signals.


Common Stressors

The same gorging effect can happen due to heat and water. When temperatures rise, pigs don’t eat as much during the middle of the day. Once night comes and the temperature drops significantly, their appetite returns. Then, they hit the feeders at full force.


There are a multitude of stressors that can cause pigs to temporarily not eat or drink, making their guts more susceptible to pathogens and disease. Once infected, it can be hard to treat the animal before it’s too late.


Preventative Measures

Dried distillers grains (DDGs) are a feed ingredient that positively affects pigs. It adds roughage into the diet, slowing digestion so that the animals can’t consume feed as fast as they might like.


Regano EX®, a Ralco product containing oregano, white thyme essential oils and prebiotics that, support pigs’ overall gut health and immunity . When added to the pigs’ diet ahead of an expected outbreak, it gears up the gut’s defense mechanism.


Olsen suggests watching for patterns in your barns to be able to predict when a gut issue or even HBS might occur. Suppose a producer had an outbreak in early August last year when the temperature got hot. In that case, he says to prepare your herd in early July of the following year with Regano as a precautionary measure.


Let the Ralco Team Help You Stay Ahead of Animal Stress

Let the team at Ralco help build a custom recommendation for your farm. Our team of swine experts and nutritionists develop tools using essential oils and prebiotics and diets formulations hat can be customized to help improve the health of your pigs in many situations.


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!