A practical checklist for the successful management of diarrhea in nursing piglets.

Preweaning mortality represents a cost to the swine producer; it is a lost financial opportunity and is considered a welfare concern in commercial pig production. preweaning mortality ranges between 10% and 20% in pig-producing countries, with diarrhea being one of the leading causes (Muns et al., 2016).


feeding piglets


Diarrhea: what makes it so problematic?

Neonatal diarrhea increases morbidity and mortality, decreases growth rates, and causes a more significant variation in piglet weights at weaning. Several factors influence the occurrence of diarrhea, such as infectious agents, host immunity, and poor management practices (Wittum et al., 1995). When there is a high sticking density, an environment that is not regularly cleaned or maintained, or when the immune activity of the suckling piglet is impaired, the risk of an infectious outbreak is considerably increased (Cho & Kim, 2011).


Managing diarrhea in nursing piglets 

There are many techniques available to producers to help reduce the occurrence of diarrhea in farrowing units. Most of these strategies are regularly implemented and widely known to pig farm managers. However, to identify potential opportunities, for improvement, it’s always critical to review standard practices performed on the farm. 


A practical checklist for the successful management of diarrhea in nursing piglets is listed below: 


Pre-farrow (before sows enter the room)

  • Sows selected for breeding should have a minimum of 14 functional teats. 
  • Vaccinate sows before farrowing, specifically with vaccines that protect the litter against microorganisms that may cause diarrhea, such as Escherichia coli, Rotavirus, and Clostridium sp. 
  • The farrowing room should be power washed an disinfected before sows enter (Dvorak, 2008; Taylor & Roese, 2006).


Pre-farrow (before sows enter the room)

  • Provide a supplemental heat source for piglets (heat lamp, creep area, heated floor). The temperature for a newborn piglet should be approximately 90°F (32.2°C). 
  • Ensure the piglet and sow waterers are working correctly. 
  • Check for high airflow areas in the farrowing room (Dawson, 2021; Towers, 2012).


Post-farrow (up until 24 hours after farrowing)

  • Dry piglets right after farrowing using a high-quality drying agent. 
  • Assist piglets with colostrum intake (min. 220g per piglet).
  • Piglets should ingest colostrum only from their mother, not from another sow. 
  • Split suckle large litters; this involves dividing the litter into two groups and letting the small piglets ingest colostrum for 30 to 60 minutes. 
  • Utilize cross-fostering following a strict protocol. 
  • All piglets should suckle on the sow until weaning (This may require nurse sows). 
  • The number of piglets per sow should not be greater than the number of functional teats. If this is not the case, consider cross-fostering. 
  • Clean the pen right after farrowing (remove the placenta, fetal remains, blood, and feces from the pen) (Rea, 2018; Vansickle, 2013). 


Lactation (from 24 hours after farrowing to weaning)

  • Clean pen frequently (do not share cleaning objects between litters with and without diarrhea). 
  • Perform the daily care of non-infected litters before attending to the infected litters. 
  • Adjust the heat source daily by watching how the piglets lay; increase the temperature if piglets are piled up. Under ideal conditions, piglets should be lying on their side with their legs extended. 
  • Use a high-quality dry disinfectant safe for piglets’ skin and mucosa (Stalosan Ⓡ F) at least once a week in a pen or in the entire farrowing house to reduce moisture, improve animal welfare, and eliminate many pathogens.


The effect of Stalosan F application on mortality and scour treatments 15 days after farrowing (Vilofoss, 1994)

Vilofoss, 1994
Vilofoss, 1994


  • Require barn staff to dip their boots in a disinfecting solution before entering the farrowing rooms. 
  • Disinfect boots between pens and rooms by spreading Stalosan Ⓡ F on the aisles and between pens.
  • Limit stepping into farrowing crates. If someone needs to step into a pen, make sure they disinfect their boots in a disinfection/germicide powder in the aisle before entering a crate.
  • Use a positive pressure filtration system to prevent airborne pathogens from entering the barn (Rea, 2018. Reese et al., 2019).


Environmental sanitation and hygiene are essential

Any discussion on farrowing room management begins with excellent sanitation and hygiene of the environment, as most of the infectious agents that cause diarrhea can arise from environmental contamination. In this context, StalosanⓇ F can play a vital role in a farm’s sanitation program. Before sow entry into the farrowing house and during the lactation period, StalosanⓇ F can be used to prevent bacterial growth and minimize disease challenges. 


When applied once a week, StalosanⓇ F helps to create a dry environment, which: 

  • Reduces diarrhea and pneumonia cases by more than 50% in swine operations, which leads to fewer antibiotic treatments (Morrison, 2007; Goyal, 2015).
  • Reduces mortality rates in farrowing barns (Morrison, 2007; Goyal, 2015)
  • Helps prevent scours in farrowing houses and service areas (Skodborg, 2004; Wattanaphansak et al. 2009).


StalosanⓇ F provides quick and effective drying when used directly on newborn piglets. In addition, it aids in protecting them from excessive heat loss that may lead to diarrhea or even death. 


Furthermore, StalosanⓇ F is the only EPA-registered dry disinfectant that is safe to use in the presence of animals and humans. With a pH of 3.5, StalosanⓇ F will not harm the eyes, lungs, or skin. In addition, its’ high concentration of antimicrobial mineral acids helps to: 

  • Significantly decrease moisture in the animal laying area and of the air to prevent bacterial growth. 
  • Lowers pH to help prevent infection. 
  • Kill bacteria, pathogens, fungi, viruses, parasites, and fly larvae to prevent infection. 


Final thoughts

It is well known that piglet diarrhea and mortality demand effective strategies to mitigate their effects in commercial facilities. However, those strategies involve a multifaceted approach and must be well-executed, considering each farm’s particular circumstances. StalosanⓇ F is one strategy available to help maintain a higher standard of environmental sanitation and proper early piglet care in farrowing rooms.


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Cho, J.H, Kim, I.H. (2011). Effect of stocking density on pig production. African Journal of Biotechnology, v. 10 (1), p.13688-13692. https://doi.org/10.5897/AJB11.1691

Dawson, S. (2021). Water: The forgotten nutrient for pigs. Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development. https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/water/water-forgotten-nutrient-pigs. 

Dvorak, G. (2008). Disinfection 101, https://www.coursehero.com/file/10125880/Disinfection101/

Goyal, S. (2015). Virucidal efficacy of powder Stalosan F against PEDV. University of Minnesota. 

Koketsu, Y., Takenobu, S., Nakamura, R. (2006). Preweaning mortality risks and recorded causes of death associated with production factors in swine breeding in Japan. Journal of Veterinary Medicine Science, v. 68, p. 821-826. https://doi.org/10.1292/jvms.68.821

Morrison, R. (2007). QAF Meat Industries Pty Ltd. The evaluation of Stalosan F in farrowing accommodations. Australia. 

Muns, R., Nuntapaitoon, M., Tummaruk, P. (2016). Non-infectious causes of pre-weaning mortality in piglets. Livestock Science, v. 184, p. 46-57. https://doi.org/10.1016/-j.livesci.2015.11.025

National Hog Farmer. (2017). Positive pressure filtration promises better pig health. https://www.nationalhogfarmer.com/animal-health/positive-pressure-filtration-promises-better-pig-health

Rea, J.C. (2018). Care of Pigs From Farrowing to Weaning. https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/g2500

Reese, D.E., Hartsock, T.G., Morrow, M. (2019). Baby pig Management – Birth to Weaning. https://swine.extension.org/baby-pig-managmement-birth-to-weaning/

Skodborg, J. (2004). Salmonella Farm Trial. Vilofoss, Denmark. unpublished internal company document. 

Taylor, G., & Roese, G. (2006). Basic Pig Husbandry – Gilts and Sows. The Pig Site. https://www.thepigsite.com/articles/basic-pig-husbandry-gilts-sows. 

Towers, L. (2012). The Importance of Proper Heat Placement in Farrowing. The Pig Site. https://www.thepigsite.com/news/2012/12/the-importance-of-proper-heat-placement-in-farrowing-1. 

Vansickle, J. (2013). National Hog Farmer. Day One Pig Care. https://www.nationalhogfarmer.com/day-one-pig-care

Wattanaphansak, S., Singer, R.S., Isaccson, R.E., Deen, J., Gramm, B.R., Gebhart, C.J. (2009). In vitro assessment of the effectiveness of powder disinfectant (Stalosan F) against Lawsonia intracellularis during two different assays. Veterinary Microbiology, 136, 403-407. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vetmic.2018.12.002

Wittum, T.E., Dewey, C.E., Hurd, H.S., Dargatz, D.A., Hill. G.W. (1995). Herd and litter-level factors associated with the incidence morbidity and mortality in piglets 1-3 day so age. Journal of Swine Health and Production, v. 3, p. 99-104. https://www.aasv.org/shap/issues/v3n3/v3n3p105.pdf

Vilofoss, Denmark. (1994). Pig Breeders/Rearer Stalosan Trial, Lincolnshire – U.K. Unpublished internal company document. 

The contribution of Stalsoan F toward decreased per-weaning mortality and diarrhea

The vigorous genetic selection for increased litter size has raised pig production to a higher level. The greater number of piglets reduces the cost per housed sow, increasing the system’s profitability. However, prolificacy is also associated with higher pre-weaning mortality rates, one of the most significant challenges for swine producers. As large litters provide substantial challenges for sows and litter management, new technologies are required to reduce pre-weaning mortality.


sow feeding piglets 2

Pre-weaning mortality

Pre-weaning mortality represents a cost to the swine producer: it is a lost opportunity to profit and is considered a significant economic loss and welfare concern in commercial pig production. Pre-weaning mortality might range between 10% and 20% in pig-producing countries (Muns et al., 2016).

The birth is arguably the most critical event in the piglet’s life. The neonate must cope with a harsh cold environment where they must: learn: pulmonary breathing and compete for food. Indeed, 50-80% of piglet deaths occur during the first week after birth, with the most critical period being the most 72 hours of life (Koketsu et al., 2006). In addition, piglets are also born physiologically and immunologically immature, making them reliant on proper management and optimal sanitary conditions.



Diseases that affect the suckling piglet are well known to swine producers, especially those that cause diarrhea. Neonatal diarrhea increases morbidity and mortality, resulting in increased pre-weaning mortality, poor growth rates, and variations in weight at weaning.

Diarrhea occurrences result from several factors, including infectious agents, host immunity, and management procedures (Wittum et alk., 1995). When the infection pressure is excessively high or when the immune activity of the suckling piglet is impaired, the risk of outbreaks is considerably higher. Therefore, among the most critical management for control and prevention of diarrhea in suckling piglets are sows’ vaccination before farrowing, proper stimulation of colostrum intake, adequate environmental temperatures for sows and piglets, prevention of heat loss by piglets immediately after birth, and elevated environmental sanitation (Shankar et al., 2009).


Prevention and control of diarrhea using Stalosan F

Any discussion on farrowing room management begins with sanitation and the excellent hygiene of the environment, as most of the infectious agents that cause diarrhea may arise from environmental contamination. In this context, Stalosan F plays a vital role in a farm’s sanitation program. It can be used after disinfection before sow entry to the farrowing house and during the lactation period to prevent bacterial growth and minimize disease challenges.

When applied once a week, Stalosan F maintains a dry environment, reducing the incidence and severity of neonatal diarrhea. In addition, Stalosan F may reduce pre-weaning mortality and increase the performance of piglets during the suckling period. Moreover, Stalosan F can reduce diarrhea in piglets by over 50%, which leads to fewer antibiotic treatments.

Furthermore, Stalosan F provides quick and effective drying when used directly on newborn piglets, protecting them from excessive heat loss that may lead to diarrhea or even death.



It’s nothing new that piglet mortality and diarrhea demand effective strategies to mitigate their effects in commercial facilities. Those strategies involve a multifactorial approach and must be conducted, considering each farm’s particular circumstances However, in all cases, Stalosan F is a decisive contribution to maintaining high environmental sanitation standards and proper early care in farrowing rooms.



Koketsu, Y., Takenobu, S., Nakamura, R. Preweaning mortality risks and recorded causes of death associated with production factors in swine breeding in Japan. Journal of Veterinary Medicine Science, v. 68, p. 821-826, 2006. https://doi.org/10.1292/jvms.68.821

Muns, R., Nuntapaitoon, M., Tummaruk, P. Non-infectious causes of pre-weaning mortality in piglets. Livestock Science, v. 184, p. 46-57, 2016. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.livsci.2015.11.025

Shankar, B. P., Madhusudhan, H.S., Harish. D. B. Pre-weaning mortality in pigs causes and management. Veterinary World, v. 2, p. 234-236.

Wittum T. E., Dewey C. E., Hurd H.S., Dargatz D.A., Hill G.W. Herd and litter-level factors associated with the incidence of diarrhea morbidity and mortality in piglets 1-3 days of age. Journal of Swine Health and Production, v. 3, 99-104, 1995.

Learn how ammonia emissions negatively impact pig performance and how to mitigate them

The most common complaint producers hear when people drive past or visit a pig barn is the smell. Ammonia, a gas released when manure decomposes, can be easily recognized by its pungent odor. Ammonia can be detrimental to the health and welfare of animals and employees, when at low concentrations. Livestock production is responsible for almost 64% (Dopelt et al., 2019) of global ammonia emissions. The global swine industry is responsible for about 15% of ammonia emissions associated with livestock. The swine industry’s contribution varies by region due to the concentration of animals and can be as high as 60% in areas of China and 25% in Europe (Olivier et al., 1998; Philippe et al., 2011; Xu et al., 2014).

Considering the scenario, many swine producers must ask: how can we control ammonia in grow-finish operations? First, it’s necessary to understand where ammonia originates. In swine operations, ammonia is a byproduct of microbial decomposition of urine and feces in the manure storage pit below the floor.

A simple explanation for this complex process is:

  • Urea, from urine, is converted to ammonia and carbon dioxide by the microbial enzyme urease (from microbes excreted in feces).
  • Once formed, free ammonia can take two forms, depending on the pH of the manure: NH3 (ammonia) or the ammonium ion (NH4+)
  • At low pH, most of the ammonia remains in the liquid as NH4+
  • At pH greater than 7, the ammonium ion is converted to ammonia (NH3) and can escape as gas.




Strategies to control ammonia production

Ammonia volatilization is a process that depends on many factors such as relative humidity, animal density and activity, amount of manure and urine on the floor, airspeed in the building, and dry matter content in the manure (Blanes-Vidal et al., 2008; Fabbri et al., 2007). Throughout all stages of pig production, ammonia production is a concern, but most specifically in grow-finish operations, which account for 60-70% of the total nitrogen excretion (Jongbloed and Lenis, 1993). Considering the above, efforts to reduce ammonia production are necessary.

Environmental and nutritional management practices are necessary to reduce ammonia levels in pig production significantly. Environment control, especially ventilation, is one strategy to reduce ammonia emissions. According to Tabase et al. (2018), managing the NH3 emission from livestock buildings requires introducing fresh air into the units while avoiding over-ventilation above the manure-covered surfaces. Another way of introducing fresh air is to adjust inlet openings, promoting constant airflow into the building. Biofilters and scrubbers can also be used in mechanically ventilated systems, as they encourage air purification.

Manure management is also crucial when it comes to reducing ammonia emissions. Removal of manure is recommended 1-2 times per day from pig stalls. Storing manure for an extended period increases ammonia production within a facility. For example, a storage period of 3 days can result in a 40% increase in NH3 (Botermans et al., 2010) Therefore, under ideal circumstances emptying the pit frequently is advised. Additionally, methods for reducing microbial activity in manure may be helpful, such as using additives to lower the pH.

Pen design and hygiene are also essential factors to consider. Cleaning the slats the lying area should be the primary objective. Botermans et al. (2010) suggested a slope with an incline between 2% and 3% on the floor to help drain uring. Furthermore, the excretion area should account for at least 25% of the lying area. Keeping pigs clean and dry is also critical, especially in the summer, when heat-stressed animals change their behavior and start lying on the slatted floor.

Dietary manipulation can also aid in the control of ammonia emissions by minimizing the crude protein level within the diet. Le et al. (2009) demonstrated that reducing crude protein in pig diets can significantly reduce ammonia emission from manure. Portejoie et al (2014) reported that dietary protein reduction from 20% to 12% resulted in a 63% reduction of ammonia emissions.


How does ammonia affect grow-finish operations without proper control?

The negative impact of ammonia emissions goes far beyond its irritating odor. High concentrations of ammonia are detrimental to the health of both pigs and the people working in the facilities. Ammonia levels of 7 ppm can reduce pulmonary function in swine farm workers (Donham et al., 1989; Donham et al., 1995), and concentrations above 35 ppm promote inflammatory changes in the wall of the respiratory tract and reduce bacterial clearance from lungs in young pigs (Drummond et al., 1978). High levels of ammonia within the barn can also cause an increase in pig restless, and ear, tail, and flank biting. In addition, ammonia concentrations of 50 ppm or above can cause inflammation of the respiratory tract, increasing susceptibility to respiratory infections by reducing the rate of bacterial clearance (Gustin et al., 1994; Urbain et al., 1994). High levels also affect animal performance, reducing growth rates up to 12% during prolonged periods of exposure (Drummond et al., 1980).



Ammonia emission is a constant challenge for all swine producers since high concentrations of this gas have harmful effects on pig health and performance. This article has provided an overview of ammonia volatilization, how grow-finish pigs are affected, and practical strategies for reducing its concentration in swine building. If a single ammonia mitigation method doesn’t work, farms should consider using several approaches to control ammonia in grom-finishing operations.

Find more information at protekta.com for ammonia mitigation solutions, including Stalosan F: a valuable tool when it comes to ammonia control. Stalosan F acts as a buffer that chemically controls manure moisture and pH. Furthermore, Stalsoan F inhibits urease enzyme activity, decreasing the conversion of urea to ammonia.



Blanes-Vidal, V., Hansen, M. N., Pedersen, S., & Rom, H.B. (2008). Emissions of ammonia, methane and nitrous oxide from pig houses and slurry: Effects of rooting material, animal activity, and ventilation floe. Agriculture, Ecosystems, & Environment, 124(3-4), 237-244. DOI: https://doi.org/10/1016/j.agee.2007.10.002

Botermans, J., Gustafsson, G., Jeppsson, K.H., Brown, N., & Rodhe, L. (2010). Measures to reduce ammonia emissions in pig production (No. 2010: 1).

Donham, K., Haglind, P., Peterson, Y., Rylander, R., & Belin, L. (1989). Environmental and health studies of farm workers in Swedish swine confinement buildings. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 46(1), 31-37.

Donham, K. J., Reynolds, S. J., Whitten, P., Merchant, J.A., Burmerister, L., & Popendorf, W.J. (1995). Respiratory dysfunction in swine production facility workers: Dose-response relationships of environmental exposures and pulmonary function. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 27(3), 405-418. DOI: 10.1002/ajim.4700270309

Dopelt, K., Radon, P., & Davidovitch, N. (2019), Environmental effects of livestock industry: the relationship between knowledge, attitudes, and behavior among students in Isreal. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(8), 1359. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16081359

Drummonds, J. G., Curtis, S. E., Simon, J., & Norton, H. W. (1980). Effects of aerial ammonia on growth and health of young pigs. Journal of Animal Science, 50(6), 1085-1091. https://doi.org/10.2527/jas1980.5061085x

Drummonds, J. G., Curtis, S. E., Simon, J. (1978). Effects of atmospheric ammonia on pulmonary bacterial clearance in the young pig. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 39(2), 211-212.

Fabbri, C., Valli, L., Guarino, M., Costa, A., & Mazzotta, V. (2007). Ammonia, methane, nitrous oxide, and particulate matter emissions from two different buildings for laying hens. Biosystems Engineering, 97(4), 441-455. DOI: 10.1016/j.biosystemseng.2007.03.036

Gustin, P., Urbain, B. R. U. N. O., Prouvost, J. F., & Ansay, M. (1994). Effects of atmospheric ammonia on pulmonary hemodynamics and vascular permeability in pigs: interaction with endotoxins. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, 125(1), 17-26. DOI: 10.1006/taap.1994.1044

Jongbloed, A. W. and N. P. Lenis (1993). Excretion of nitrogen and some minerals by livestock. In: M.W.A. Verstegen, L.A. Den Harog, G.J.M. van Kempen, and J.H.M. Metx (Eds). Nitrogen Flow in Pig Production and Environmental Consequences. EAAP Publ. Pudoc, Wageningen, The Netherlands. 69:22-36.

Le, P.D., Aarnink, A. J. A., & Jonjbloed, A. W. (2009). Odor and ammonia emissions from pig manure as affected by dietary crude protein level. Livestock Science, 121(2-3), 267-274. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.livsci.2008.06.021

Olivier, J. G. J., Bouwma, A. F., Van der Hoek, K. W., & Berdowski, J. J. M. (1998). Global air emission inventories for anthropogenic sources of NOx, NH3, and N2O in 1990. Environmental Pollution, 102(1), 135-148. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0269-7491(98)80026-2

Philippe, F. X., Cabaraux, J. F., & Nicks, B. (2011). Ammonia emissions from pig houses: Influencing factors and mitigation techniques. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 141(3-4), 245-260. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2011.03.012

Portejoie, S., Dourmad, J. Y., Martinez, J., & Lebreton, Y. (2004). Effect of lowering dietary crude protein on nitrogen excretion, manure composition, and ammonia emission from fattening pigs. Livestock Production Science, 91(1-2), 45-55. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.livprodsci.2004.06.013

Tabase, R. K., Millet, S., Brusselman, E., Ampe, B., Sonck, B., & Demeyer, P. (2008). Effect of ventilation setting on ammonia emission in an experimental pig house equipped with artificial pigs. Biosystems Engineering, 176, 125-139. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biosystemseng.2018.10.010.

Urbain, B., Gustin, P., Prouvost, J. F., & Ansay, M. (1994). Quantitive assessment of aerial ammonia toxicity to the nasal mucosa by use of the nasal lavage method in pigs. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 55(9), 1335-1340.

Xu, W., Zheng, K., Liu, X., Meng, L., Huaitialla, R. M., Shen., … & Zhang, F. (2014). Atmospheric NH3 dynamics at a typical pig farm in China and their implications. Atmospheric Pollution Research, 5(3), 455-463. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5094/APR.2014.053



The health status of swineherds has significant implications on animal welfare and production efficiency, including growth rate, feed conversion, and profitability. Therefore, swine producers and veterinarians work daily to improve and maintain the health of their herd through critical biosecurity practices. There are many definitions of biosecurity. Simply put, biosecurity is practices implemented to prevent the introduction or prevent the further spread of pathogens capable of causing disease.


The classic form of biosecurity is bioexclusion – practices put into place to prevent the introduction of pathogens into a farm or population of animals from an outside source. Standard bioexclusion methods include downtime for personnel entering the facility, cross-over entry benches, and shower-in shower-out procedures. Another concept of biosecurity often overlooked is biocontainment. Biocontainment is the concept of keeping pathogens from spreading off a farm and to other facilities or even preventing spread with groups of animals within a single farm. Both bioexclusion and biocontainment are necessary to consider when developing a biosecurity program.

A successful biosecurity program has several key components. First and foremost, for any plan to be successful, the organization must embrace a culture of biosecurity which includes consistent expectations and accountability at all levels of the organization. If an organization lacks an appropriate biosecurity culture, it is difficult to consistently implement the plan as a whole, which can lead to an undesirable level of success.

A second key component of biosecurity is the training of employees with a specific focus on WHY the procedures are essential and HOW those practices can maintain the high herd health of the animals they are involved in raising. Furthermore, biosecurity generally requires additional time, effort, and expense compared to no biosecurity measures. Thus, resources and protocols are necessary to simplify the biosecurity process. Proper infrastructure is also vital for employees to implement any biosecurity program. Features that help employees perform the daily tasks in a more biosecure way dramatically increase the success of these practices. The final component of a biosecurity program is continuous improvement and resources, such as routine audits and diagnostic testing. These programs can help identify potential inconsistencies within a biosecurity program before there is a problem.

Biosecurity advances in the swine industry have been abundant in recent decades, greatly expanding our knowledge of infectious disease transmissions such as PRRSV, PEDV, and other common diseases. By pinpointing the most common risks of diseases transmission, swine producers have put practices into place to further improve against infectious diseases. One of the most common risks emphasized in biosecurity research is the movement of people, animals, and fomites, within the swine production system (Gebhardt et al., 2021; Greiner, 2016). Several practices have helped control these biosecurity risks, such as limiting farm visitors, using farm sign-in books, documenting animal movements, and on-farm sanitation. Most farms also are supplied with facility-only clothing and tools necessary for daily tasks, minimizing, cross-contamination from outside the farm. In addition, equipment like autoclaves and sterilizers are becoming more common at farm entrances to reduce the risk of pathogen entry through supplies and equipment brought onto the farm. Air filtration units are also being installed on most swine farms, minimizing the risk of virus introduction through aerosol particles.

Production facilities with multiple locations and ones that practice an all-in-all-out approach are also essential to reducing prevalences of growth-suppressing disease. Multi-site production systems are standard in commercial swine production, where breeding, gestation, and farrowing are separate from the other production phases. Separating the different stages of production minimizes newborn piglets’ exposure to infectious agents that may decrease their growth performance down the line. These facilities also usually follow an all-in-all-out protocol when moving animals between farms or rooms. By transporting pigs of similar age, weight, and production stage, farmers can further reduce disease transmission, improve management, and provide better environmental control. With these advances, knowledge is available regarding best practices for farm implementation (Levis and Baker, 2011; FAO, 2010).

While many of these concepts are relatively intuitive and have been around for some time, consistent implementation remains a challenge, and we continue to face difficulties to swine health daily. Biosecurity is always ongoing and contains a series of hurdles; there is no silver bullet. However, organizations can continue developing and refining their programs by focusing on the four fundamental concepts of swine biosecurity. The four concepts: 1) culture, 2) training, 3) infrastructure, and 4) continuous improvement are critical components of a successful biosecurity program in swine production.



Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/World Organisation for Animal Health/World Bank. 2010. Good practices for biosecurity in the pig sector – Issues and options in developing and transition countries. FAO Animal Production and Health Paper No. 169. Rome, FAO. http://www.fao.org/3/i1435e/i1435e.pdf.

Gebhardt, J.T., Dritz, S.S., Elijah, C.G., Jones, C.K., Paulk, C.B., and Woodworth, J.C. 2021. Sampling and detection of African swine fever virus within a feed manufacturing and swine production system. Transbound. Emerg. Dis. DOI: 10.1111/tbed.14335.

Greiner, L.L. Evaluation of the likelihood of detection of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus or porcine delta coronavirus ribonucleic acid in areas within feed mills. J Swine Health Prod. 2016. 24(4):198-204. https://www.aasv.org/shap/issues/v24n4/v24n4p198.html

Levis, D.G., and Baker, R.B. 2011. Biosecurity of pigs and farm security. University of Nebraska, Lincoln. https://www.porkgateway.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/biosecurity-of-pigs-and-farm-secuiryt.pdf.

Rod Martin - Dairy Nutritionist, Protekta

July 2021

Managing and achieving a successful fresh cow transition has been and continues to be a challenge on many dairy farms. 


Despite significant strides made through research and improved management strategies, there are numerous on-farm and individual cow risk factors that come into play resulting in a fine line between achieving a successful transition of one that always seems to be a work in progress. As Dr. Rick says in the clever Progressive Insurance commercials, do we really need a sign that says “No Fussin, No Cussin, No Back Talk”? In the transition cow pens, that answer would be “Yes”. We see considerable farm staff frustration and anxiety in this area; consequently, there is a lot of fussin, cussin and back talkin going on. It is a constant battle! 

Clinical and subclinical hypocalcemia has been established as the gateway disease leading to a higher probability of metabolic disease(s), lower milk production, reduced reproductive efficiency, compromised immune function, and a subsequently higher cull rate. Clinical hypocalcemia (down cows) affects 2-5% of second lactation and older cows. Subclinical hypocalcemia affects 50-70% of second lactation and older cows. Symptoms of subclinical hypocalcemia (SCH) may not be visually apparent, but borderline low blood calcium levels have been shown to be an important predictor of fresh cow problems. The effects of clinical hypocalcemia are financially significant; however subclinical hypocalcemia is more costly because it affects a higher percent of fresh cows. In the understatement of the year, a successful transition period is one of the most important areas for a profitable dairy business. 

The dry period and more importantly the 21-days pre-fresh period sets the stage for achieving the following transition goals assuming the essential environmental, management, and nutritional boxes are checked. 


These fresh cow goals really have not changed much over time…just a few more fancier terms. When I first started making farm calls some 35 years ago, providing practical nutritional strategies to minimize clinical hypocalcemia/down cows and achieving fresh cow success was a high priority. Today, it still is.

Through many years of on-going research, nutritional strategies to prevent hypocalcemia have been extensively studied. From a nutritionist perspective, I have seen numerous nutritional strategies implemented to minimize hypocalcemia, but results have been inconsistent. Initially, the focus was on minimizing dietary calcium to “turn on” the calcium regulating mechanisms to prepare the fresh cow to meet the high metabolic calcium demand on calving. However, it was impossible to achieve a low enough dietary calcium level with conventional feedstuffs available Later, it was determined that dietary potassium played a significant role in minimiing hypocalcemia. Consequently, the nutritional focus has been on sourcing low potassium forages and feeding negative DCAD (Dietary Cation Anion Difference) diets.

Recently, a calcium binder approach has come to the market. The idea of minimizing dietary calcium is not new and was initially recommended in the 1980’s. The difference today is this calcium-binding technology allows us to truly minimize dietary calcium absorption, creating a negative calcium balance. The negative calcium balance then activates the calcium regulating mechanism. When the machinery is fully functioning at calving, fresh cows are better able to meet the high metabolic calcium demands and achieve a more seamless transition. Research results and field experience has been positive. In the 48 to 72-hour window following calving, consistently higher blood calcium levels have been achieved. This is showcased in a recently published research trial at Cornell University.   



In contrast to the negative DCAD approach, the calcium-binding strategy allows producers to grow and feed more home-grown forages instead of sourcing low potassium forages and routinely monitoring urine pH. In addition, higher blood calcium levels should reduce the need for supplemental calcium boluses, minimizing fresh cow touches. Calcium boluses should still be available for high-risk cows as part of a standard treatment program. Overall, a calcium binder strategy may simplify the implementation and management of your pre-fresh feeding program. 

Extensive DCAD research has continued since its introduction, but research also continues evaluating the calcium-binding approach to fully understand mode of action and fine tune its application. This strategy results in lower blood phosphorus levels at calving, but blood levels rebound quickly by day 2 and 3 post-calving and no negative health outcomes have been observed. Regardless, a better understanding of the role of dietary phosphorus and phosphorus absorption is needed. It is interesting to note that there is published university research from many years ago correlating lower dietary phosphorus pre-fresh to higher blood calcium levels post-fresh. In simple terms, the lower the dietary phosphorus fed during the pre-fresh period, the higher blood calcium achieved at calving. In spite of this, a lower dietary phosphorus recommendation is in the contract of what we may typically see at the farm level. With the producer’s concern for potential “low phosphorus” milk fevers and the common inclusion of high phosphorus byproducts, we have seen much higher dietary phosphorus levels being fed. Regardless of the type of pre-fresh strategy used, the data strongly suggest that lower dietary phosphorus (<.35%) should be targeted. As with a winning football program, blocking and tackling fundamentals need to be in place to succeed. Without these finely tuned skills, the playbook will not be successful and will be a long season. By the same token, the following transition cow fundamentals need to be in place.



Consistently meeting these on-farm fundamentals 24/7 is not easy. But it is worth the effort since these fundamentals play such a critical role in transition cow success. Without these fundamentals, increased fresh cow issues are more likely to occur regardless of the pre-fresh nutritional strategy implemented. 

Achieving transition cow success is challenging for both the cows and the producers. A seamless transition into lactation is essential to maintain health and achieve expected production and financial goals. In addition to the negative DCAD approach, a calcium-binding strategy provides a viable option for minimizing hypocalcemia. Regardless of the nutritional strategy being considered, a farm-specific analysis is necessary to determine which approach is the best fit based on the unique properties and health challenges specific to that farm. Work closely with your nutritionist and veterinarian to check those boxes that will lower risk and increase your chances for transition cow success.  

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