Swine Well-Being During Flood Recovery

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Hurricane Florence in 2018 has resulted in record levels of flooding in much of North Carolina. Many swine producers have taken extraordinary measures to provide animal care. That preparedness was in large part due to the National Pork Board We Care initiative as well as the requirement of an emergency action plan as part of PQA Plus® on-farm assessment. As producers start to get back to normal operations after the storm, it’s important to assess many factors in and around swine facilities to ensure proper well-being of the animals. The following practices can ensure all pigs make a full recovery.

Inventory all animals: As soon as possible attempt to inventory all animals and locate any missing animals. Inform neighbors and other producers about lost animals. If you find any displaced animals that are not yours, attempt to pen those animals in an area away from your own stock. You cannot be sure of disease status of other herds. It is also important to move any mortalities away from live animals as quickly as possible to prevent potential disease spread.

Repair or remove damaged equipment: Building structure as well as pens, crates, feeders, etc. should be inspected for damage. Damaged equipment can result in cuts and other injuries to pigs but also people. It is important that everyone stays safe in the facility while working. This is also a good time to check that water nipples are flowing correctly and that any wet feed is removed from feeders and proper adjustments are made for feed flow. Take into consideration that some pigs may have been restricted from feed during the flooding and co-mingling in new pens will change feeding behavior. It may be useful to open feeder adjustments to account for increased meals in the days following flooding.

Observe all animals for wounds and health: All pigs should be visually inspected and any wounds should be treated immediately. This may include euthanasia for severe injuries that cannot be treated. Pigs that need treatment should be isolated into treatment pens away from the other population. Pay close attention to the pigs’ hooves, especially breeding animals. Prolonged exposure to standing water and wet environments can increase infections of the foot and damage to the hoof. Lastly, it may be necessary to increase the amount of fly traps and repellents as it is common to see increased insect activity after flooding occurs.

Inspect feed and water: Wet feed and water-damaged grain can become moldy and cause digestive problems. Mold can also lead to problems associated with mycotoxins. Furthermore, feed and grain that has been subjected to flooding could be contaminated with other harmful chemicals. Pigs should not be forced to consume potentially contaminated feeds. Observe the pigs and if feed refusal is noticed, the feed should be replaced. Severe flooding can also contaminate the water supply used for your pigs with chemicals or harmful bacteria. It is important to observe pigs for gastro-intestinal issues that may be associated with contaminated water and have your water tested if a problem is suspected.

While swine producers in North Carolina are recovering from Hurricane Florence, the suggestions given can be used during any natural disaster which may occur. Part of being prepared is knowing what steps to take after the problem has passed. Contact your local Extension agent for more information or any questions you may have.