The evolution of milk fever mitigation

Rod Martin knows how efforts to mitigate milk fever have evolved over the years. He shared his decades of experiences in a recent Dairy Herd Management article and offered advice for the future.

Rod, a Protekta dairy nutritionist with more than 35 years of experience and unparalleled insights into managing hypocalcemia, says that back in the ‘80s the focus was on minimizing dietary calcium levels to address milk fever. But the daily calcium limits suggested by the research were not practical in the field.

In the early ‘90s, the correlation between high potassium diets and increased milk fever rates was discovered. Consequently, producers and nutritionists quickly adapted low-potassium diets utilizing forages such as grass hay and corn silage. As hypocalcemia research continued to advance through the next two decades, negative dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) diets evolved. They not only incorporated potassium but also added sodium, chloride and sulfur to the dietary analysis.

Fast forward to the 2020s. Milk fever and subclinical hypocalcemia mitigation is focused on dietary phosphorus and practical strategies to minimize daily phosphorus intake.

All this progress over the years has led to a low incidence of clinical milk fever, but subclinical hypocalcemia is still unacceptably high. To continue on the right path to controlling this metabolic disorder, more attention needs to be paid to excess phosphorus, Rod says.

Read the full story about the evolution of milk fever mitigation in Dairy Herd Management.

After that, read our summary of the science behind the role of dietary phosphorus in improving blood calcium and preventing hypocalcemia. It details a recent presentation by Pat Hoffman, Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin.

Rod Martin’s article first appeared in Dairy Herd Management. A presentation on the science behind the role of dietary phosphorus in improving blood calcium and preventing hypocalcemia was given by Pat Hoffman, Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin.

dairy cows eating at bunk in a freestall

Dairy Global: A cost-effective approach to stamping out milk fever

Milk fever is still a common dairy cow health issue around the world, but the use of new preventative products, especially synthetic zeolite, is now turning the tide thanks to US research.

Zeolite is a specific family of ‘hydrated aluminosilicate’ minerals that can be produced in synthetic form and is commercially available to feed to pre-fresh dairy cows.

“We are still seeing milk fever on dairy farms in Wisconsin and beyond,” says Patrick Hoffman, Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “However, at this point in time, we now have an alternative way of preventing milk fever and subclinical hypocalcemia by feeding synthetic zeolite 2-3 weeks before calving. As its use spreads, we should see a reduced incidence of hypocalcemia. Zeolite is a very interesting entry into the milk fever prevention market.”

Hoffman notes that in the US and Canada in particular, knowledge about this product is already at a high level. “Most dairy nutrition consultants are aware of feeding zeolite to pre-fresh cows and are working with it to some degree,” he says. “Adoption has happened relatively quickly. Feeding zeolite to prevent milk fever started with a group of researchers in Europe experimenting with natural and synthetic zeolite about 20 years ago. About a decade ago zeolite was introduced in Canada and then into the US.”

Knowledge building

Researchers have known for a long time that feeding excessive levels of phosphorus (P) pre-calving was causing an increase in milk fever (calcium, CA, deficiency) at calving. However, for many years the reasons for this observation were unclear. Scientists now also understand that a peptide hormone active in bone tissue (called fibroblast growth factor 23) can regulate bone resorption of Ca and P (and urinary retention of P).

“About 20 years ago in Europe, they observed that feeding synthetic zeolite before calving elevated levels of blood Ca at calving,” says Hoffman. “They thought zeolite was directly working to cause the release of Ca from the bone (mobilisation) and improved intestinal absorption of Ca before calving, but that wasn’t exactly correct.”

That early research (and research since) has also shown that feeding zeolite before calving consistently reduces blood P levels, which induces bone mobilisation of Ca and P.

However, recently a University of Wisconsin-Madison team led by Dr Laura Hernandez figured out how zeolite was affecting the binding of P and not Ca per se. In their study, feeding zeolite to pre-fresh cows decreased blood and salivary P levels and increased faecal excretion of P. The cows responded to the lower blood P levels by mobilising bone.

These insights into P metabolism, says Hoffman, have made it easier to figure out how to use zeolite and balance the diet of a pre-fresh cow.

Other ways of mitigating milk fever

The team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison continues to study zeolite, but Hoffman says Hernandez and her colleagues have also been studying a compound called 5-HTP, a form of the amino acid tryptophan.

“They’ve discovered that the mammary gland itself can send signals to the rest of the body that it is in need of calcium,” Hoffman explains. “A supplement form of 5-HTP is now being commercialised and it’s very exciting. The team speculates that it may work in concert with zeolite, but that needs to be studied. Whatever is simplest and most effective at the farm level will be implemented on farms.”

Researchers are also testing the supplementation of a plant called Solanum glaucophyllum, which contains the metabolically-active form of Vitamin D, D3. Giving small amounts of this plant in a bolus has been shown to increase blood Ca levels, but Hoffman says that form of application may be labour-intensive and so commercialisation of another format may be a better way forward. Still, other researchers are working on other products that increase Ca absorption from the intestine, such as difructose anhydride.

Zeolite use

Preventing milk fever around the world through giving synthetic zeolite will require education, says Hoffman. “We need to build an infrastructure of nutritionists, veterinarians and farmers who understand the mechanism is new and different.”

He explains that when zeolite is fed, blood P values are going to decrease at calving, which is what needs to happen, and after calving blood P levels will rise quickly to 4 to 6 mg per decilitre (within 24-48 hours).

“Almost all dairy cows experience a transient phase in which blood P decreases at calving then increases quickly after calving,” says Hoffman. “It’s nothing new, but feeding zeolite induces this earlier. So it’s a paradigm shift in thinking about how blood P levels influence milk fever.”

Zeolite should also be fed at the right amount and for the right length of time. Because zeolite binds P, feeding it for too long might cause a P depletion. “Zeolite is fast-acting and is needed only for about 2 weeks, at least a week before calving,” Hoffman explains, “but since we don’t know exactly when calving will occur, we can start 2-3 weeks before.” Zeolite must also be mixed properly into the diet.

Another benefit to feeding zeolite before calving is that the cost is reasonably comparable to other milk fever prevention programs.

Hoffman explains that by feeding zeolite, farmers have to worry less about excess potassium going into the cow (and don’t have to monitor urine pH). This means farmers can feed their own higher-quality forages (alfalfa silage or grass silage) containing more protein and potassium. The need for purchasing low-potassium forages is avoided, protein supplementation costs may go down and that helps pay for the zeolite.

Hoffman adds that many dairy farmers who use zeolite also report that they don’t use as many calcium boluses, which also saves costs.

However, feeding synthetic zeolite is difficult to use in a 1-group dry cow situation, if cows are in the pre-fresh pen for long periods of time (greater than 28 days) and in overcrowded pre-fresh pens.

Worldwide use

Used correctly, zeolite represents a significant advancement in the prevention of milk fever.

Hoffman notes that Ca deficiencies at calving have many negative effects on cow performance, in addition to costing money and requiring more labour. While the second phase is easy to recognise due to clear symptoms, the consequences of early calcium deficiency are not easily detectable and can often be underestimated. In addition, cows that suffer from Ca deficiency have been shown to be more susceptible to other diseases.


This article was written by Treena Hein and first appeared in Dairy Global on Sept. 7, 2023.

Improving Animal Health

Dietary Phosphorus Implications in Transition Cows

Dietary management strategies to improve blood calcium and reduce the risk of milk fever in dairy cows has been extensively studied over the decades. While research has looked at products, work has also focused on evaluating various levels of individual macro-minerals in pre-fresh diets and the impact on a cow’s risk for milk fever. More recently, research has focused on how reducing dietary phosphorus concentrations could help improve blood calcium and reduce the risk of hypocalcemia.

At the 2023 Tri-State Conference, Walter Grünberg, a German researcher, discussed his recent work on restricting prepartum dietary phosphorus content. One of the main highlights was a study that restricted dietary phosphorus (0.16% DM) in close-up dry cows for the four weeks prior to calving. Cows that were fed the restricted phosphorus diet prepartum had decreased blood phosphorus concentrations, while also having significantly greater blood calcium concentrations relative to their counterparts fed a diet adequate in dietary phosphorus (0.30% DM).

Cows fed the restricted phosphorus diet prepartum also had increased markers of bone mobilization. Mobilizing bone is a crucial part of a cow’s physiology to maintain blood calcium as she starts to synthesize colostrum and milk. Bone is a major supplier of calcium during times of extreme demand, such as lactation, due to the large stores of calcium (and phosphorus) found within bone. These signals to mobilize bone in the current study appear to be induced through the presence of low blood phosphorus concentrations, a result of the restricted dietary phosphorus intake. Grünberg’s results indicate that restricting dietary phosphorus content in the close-up dry cow can improve blood calcium status primarily by driving bone resorption.

Grünberg’s research is not the first to show the relationship between dietary phosphorus and blood calcium in the dairy cow. Historically, research has demonstrated that increasing levels of dietary phosphorus results in lower blood calcium concentrations and increased risk of milk fever. This same concept holds true in other species, with work demonstrating that high blood phosphorus concentrations can inhibit vitamin D synthesis. However, a dietary phosphorus restriction large enough to robustly decrease blood phosphorus concentrations and induce bone mobilization to support calcium demand and improve blood calcium at calving had not been studied in the dairy cow until now.

Stay tuned for more on phosphorus restriction pre-fresh and implications on blood calcium —don’t hit the snooze button!


Goff, J. P. 2006. Macromineral physiology and application to the feeding of the dairy cow for prevention of milk fever and other periparturient mineral disorders. Animal Feed Science and Technology. 126:237-257.

Lean, I.J., P.J. DeGaris, D.M. McNeil, and E. Block. 2006. Hypocalcemia in Dairy Cows: Meta-analysis and Dietary Cation Anion Difference Theory Revisited. Journal of Dairy Science 89:669–684.

Rader, J. I., Baylink, D. J., Hughes, M. R., Safilian, E. F., and M. R. Haussler. 1979. American Journal of Physiology. Calcium and Phosphorus Deficiency in Rats: Effects on PTH and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3. 236:118-122.

Wächter, S., I. Cohrs, L. Golbeck, M.R. Wilkens, and W. Grünberg. 2022. Effects of restricted dietary phosphorus supply to dry cows on periparturient calcium status. Journal of Dairy Science 105:748–760.

Is your Biosecurity ready for Avian Influenza?

Biosecurity plays a vital role in protecting farms against disease outbreaks. With the recent surge of Avian Influenza (AI) cases across flocks in North America, the need for effective biosecurity measures has never been more evident.

Components of Effective Biosecurity
In a recent article composed by the Poultry Industry Council, three key components of biosecurity were highlighted. Isolation, Traffic Control, and Sanitation. In addition to these three components, a biosecurity program must be practical and scientifically sound.

Isolation. The containment of your flock within a controlled environment. A controlled environment is important as the AI virus is easily spread through mechanical transmission.

Traffic Control. Knowing who and what is entering and leaving your environment. Controlled access points. Visitor logs.

Sanitation. The implementation of products is effective in mitigating the risk of contagious diseases.

Diarrhea in Nursery Piglets: How to Manage it



The implementation of Stalosan®F as a part of your biosecurity measures is an effective way to mitigate the risk of Avian Influenza.

Effective. Stalosan®F’s unique, multi-action germicidal powder kills bacteria and pathogens on contact. Fine dust particles in Stalosan®F are designed to maximize surface contact, increase effectiveness, and optimize dispersion for more complete coverage.

Safe and easy to use. Stalosan®F is the only EPA-registered dry germicide that’s safe to use in the presence of animals and humans. This gives farmers flexible management options because they can apply the powder at any time and can be applied while animals are in the barn. Stalosan®F is safe to use continuously with no need to alternate products.

Research Proven. Studies have shown Stalosan®F helps significantly improve drying in the animal environment to prevent bacterial growth. It provides a high antiviral effect and kills bacteria on contact. A study conducted in 2008 conducted with Stalosan®F and the Avian Flu virus H5N1. After 8 minutes of contact with Stalosan®F, the virus was completely inactivated (see the full study in the attached Pdf.)

Diarrhea in Nursery Piglets: How to Manage it


Stalosan®F can be implemented using dry footbaths at all entry points. It can be dusted in driveways and around the perimeter of the barn so anything entering the barn is met with a barrier of protection. Additionally, the product can be applied within the barn, even while animals are present, to help kill harmful pathogens.

Diarrhea in Nursery Piglets: How to Manage it


What biosecurity measures have you implemented to protect your flock from the threat of Avian Influenza? Stalosan®F is proven effective in eliminating Avian Influenza (H5N1). It is the solution you need.

PDF Links:

Prop 12: How will it affect the swine industry?

Prop 12: How will it affect the swine industry?

Important considerations for swine producers

What is proposition 12?

The formal name of Proposition 12 is the Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act. This California ballot proposition was passed on November 6 ,2018, and established new minimum requirement for farmers to provide more space for egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and calves raised for veal.

When is it going to be implemented?

January 1, 2022.

Who is going to be affected in the swine industry?

Prop 12 applies to all the pork sold in California, regardless of its origin. Swine producers, slaughterhouses, and retail plants that sell pork for consumption in California will have to adapt to it if they want to continue selling to California.

P.S.: It applies to all pork meat, but not to combination food products like hamburgers, pizza, or hot dogs.

Will it cause reproductive losses?

Yes. It’s estimated that there will be a 3-5% loss in farrowing rate when sows are housed following the new pen size requirement.

Did the swine industry oppose it?

Yes. The North American Meat Institute filed its lawsuit in October 2019. It argued that Proposition 12 violates the Constitution’s Commerce Clause because it imposes restrictions on other states and interferes in free trade among the states guaranteed by U.S. law. However, this lawsuit was ineffective, and Prop 12 will enter into effect on January 1, 2022.

Why should I adapt to it?

California comprises 12% of the U.S. population, but the state has only about nine thousand sows. Its estimates that only 4% of U.S. sow farms are currently adapted to Proposition 12. This could present an opportunity for producers to sell pork at a higher price since few farmers have made the necessary changes to sell to the California market. In turn, this could also cause a short-term pork shortage within the state.

How much will it cost swine producers to adapt?

Analysts estimate it will cost around $1,600 to $2,500 per sow.

Some essential considerations swine producers should consider when adapting to Proposition 12 are listed below:

For sow farms:

  • All reproductive females 180 days of age or older are impacted.
  • Each female pig of sow must have at least 24 ft 2 of usable floor space (either in a crate system or a group sow housing – pens).
  • Females must be able to turn around freely without touching the sides of their enclosure.

Exceptions – when a sow can be housed in a non-prop 12 gestation stall:

  • When a sow undergoes individual treatment of recovering from injury.
  • During transportation.
  • At exhibitions.
  • For specific husbandry proposes, such as artificial insemination (AI) and pregnancy check with an ultrasound, but for no more than 6 hours in a day.
  • Five days before the expected farrowing date.
  • Sows can be housed in farrowing crates during lactation while nursing piglets.

Specialists cite 3 options that will allow producers to adapt:

  1. Reduce the sow herd (providing more space to each sow during gestation reduces the total number of sows in the barn).
  2. Expand gestation facilities (build more area in a barn or convert to an on-sire GDU (gilt development unit) and bring gilts in late).
  3. Convert part of the farrowing crates to gestation space.

Other specialists’ recommendations:

  • 2 to 4% of non-prop 12 gestation crates should be kept in the barn for individual treatment.
  • Maintain pen integrity. Avoid mixing sows in pens as much as possible to avoid fights.
  • Install free access crates to minimize fighting, and increase the ease of AI and pregnancy checks.
  • Although prop 12 doesn’t regulate farrowing crates, producers should continue to think ahead and anticipate what might be coming next, such as farrowing crates that allow sows to turn around.

For finishing farms, slaughterhouses, and retail plants:

  • If selling to the California market make sure to only purchase pigs from sow farms that comply with Prop 12.
  • If selling pork to other states within the U.S., buy a portion of your pigs from farms that are in accordance with Proposition 12.
  • Slaughterhouse sow pens must be 24ft2.
  • Exception: Immediately before slaughter.

Although highly criticized, Proposition 12 is a reality, and producers must adapt to continue selling pork to the California market. The European Union, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada have already banned – or are in the process of prohibiting – gestation crates. Also, large pork producers (Smithfields, Cargill, and Hormell) and fast food companies (McDonald’s, Burger King) made public compromises only to sell or distribute gestation crate-free pork. The topic of gestation crates will continue within the swine industry for years to come. Although it has come by way of imposition, swine producers will probably have to eventually adapt to this new reality.

Do you want to know more about the topic?

Watch #88 Episode of the Swine It Podcast – Prop 12: now what? with Dr. Hyatt Frobose


California Department of Food and Agriculture. Proposition 12 Implementation. https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/ahfss
/Prop12.html NAMI – North America Meat Institute. North American Meat Institute Asks Supreme Court to Review Case Against California’s Prop 12. February 26, 2021. https://www.meatinstitute.ord/ht
/display/ReleaseDetails/i/188651 The New York Times. McDonald’s Set to Phase Out Suppliers’ Use of Sow Crates. February 13, 2012. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/
02/14/business/mcdonalds-vows-to-help-end-use-of-sow-crates.html Los Angeles Times. Burger King promises to use cage-free eggs and pork. October 11, 2012. https://www.latimes.com/
business/la-fi-mo-burger-king-cage-free-20120425-story.html Cargill. Cargill moves to group housing for company’s sows; firm’s sow facilities to be completed by end of 2015. June 9, 2014. https://www.cargill.com/news
/releases/2014/NA31657661.jsp Smithfield Foods. Smithfield Foods Achieves Industry-Leading Animal Care Commitment, Unveils New Virtual Reality Video of its Group Housing Systems. January 8, 2018. https://www.smithfieldfoods.com
/press-room/company-news/smithfield-foods-achieves-industry-leading-animal-care-committment-unveils-new-virtual-reality-video-of-its-group-housing-systems National Hog Farmer. Hormel Plans Phase-Out of Gestation Crates by 2017. February 02, 2012. https://www.nationalhogfarmer
.com/animal-well-being/hormel-plans-phase-out-gestation-crates-2017 Swine it Podcast Show. Episode 88, Dr. Hyatt Frobose – Prop 12: now what?. April 12, 2021. https://youtu.be/wxnm5Yag4hc
Modern biosecurity in the swine industry

Modern biosecurity in the swine industry

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
Diarrhea in Nursery Piglets: How to Manage it

Diarrhea in Nursery Piglets: How to Manage it

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).



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)


  • 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.


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.nationalhog
farmer.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.
re-weaning mortality: why is that an issue?

Pre-weaning mortality: why is that an issue?

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.




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.
re-weaning mortality: why is that an issue?

Controlling ammonia emissions in finishing barns

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.


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