Novatek on piggeries: Improve animal health to improve profits

by Wiehan Visagie

Pig farming is becoming increasingly popular in Zambia and can be a profitable business. As any pig farmer knows, the long-term success of the farm depends on the pigs multiplying and being able to reach the desired slaughter weight as efficiently as possible. A breeding sow can produce up to twenty-four piglets per year. These piglets need careful management to ensure their survival and to support their health so they can grow to maturity for the farm to maximize yields.

This article highlights some of the common diseases that could put the animals’ health at risk and tells farmers the early symptoms to look out for, and the possible options for treatment. Following these simple practices can ensure the animals’ health and ultimately the farm’s success.

Sows can farrow up to twice per year, producing on average of 8 to 12 piglets in a litter. A new born piglet is physiologically the most vulnerable of all the animals on a pig farm. To ensure their health and survival and to secure their optimum growth, the pig farmer’s main responsibility is to provide these fragile piglets with good housing and to oversee good management practices and proper feeding.

The best way to prevent potential mortalities is to plan properly and to prepare for the well-being of the sow before, during and after farrowing. Each piglet requires at least six to ten millilitres of colostrum within the fi rst two hours after birth. Colostrum is the first milk secreted from the sow after farrowing. It contains antibodies that help to boost the piglets’ immunity during the first few weeks of their lives.

Keeping the animals healthy is the key to the success of any pig farm. To achieve this, it is essential to be aware of potential diseases that may occur in the herd. All staff working with the sows and piglets should be able to spot the early symptoms of common diseases, so they can alert the manager or veterinarian, as appropriate, to ensure early treatment is given. The main issues to look out for include:

Iron deficiency

Piglets are born with low iron reserves and the sow’s milk also contains low levels of this mineral. In nature, piglets obtain iron from the soil, but since most pigs are housed indoors they need to be provided with supplementary iron. Livestock Services stock a registered injectable iron (Iron inject 20% + B12) that can be administered to piglets at three or five days of age. If the piglets do not receive enough iron, it will lead to a deficiency. Symptoms include anaemia (pale piglets), poor growth, coarse, hard hair and listlessness.

Escherichia coli

Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria are normal inhabitants of the intestines of pigs. However, under certain conditions, this bacterium can grow excessively and can multiply throughout the intestinal tract and cause disease. Factors that can contribute to this are insufficient or no colostrum and a poor milk intake, with additional contributing factors being exposure to cold and unhygienic environments. Clinical signs are usually seen within twenty-one days after birth. Affected piglets tend to display a yellow-white type of diarrhea and if not treated, this may well result in a higher mortality rate. It is important to test bacterial cultures to confirm the diagnosis, as there are no post-mortem indications specific to this disease. Correct diagnosis is important, as other organisms can cause similar symptoms. The type of bacteria strain can be verified at Vetlab in Lusaka.


Coccidiosis in pigs is caused by a protozoan called Isospora suis. It causes diarrhoea in suckling piglets. Affected piglets start to show signs of diarrhoea between one and three weeks of age. The diarrhoea is easy recognizable as it is creamy in colour and has a pasty texture. It will cause the piglets to become dehydrated and they will start to lose weight. This protozoan is very resistant to environmental conditions and can stay on the farm for long periods, spreading from one litter to the next in the faeces and as such subclinical infections can cause huge economic losses to a farm, therefore treatment is essential.

Treatment programmes should involve good management systems, hygiene principles and the proper use of a coccidial drug such as Toltrazuril. Toltrazuril can be given at three to five days before the onset of the disease. This drug does not inhibit the development of lifelong immunity and does not promote resistance to re-infection. You can order Toltrazuril from Agrivet in Lusaka.

Greasy pig disease

Greasy pig disease is caused by a bacterium called Staphylococcus hyicus. It can affect multiple piglets at once. The piglets usually show signs of inflamed skin combined with oozing fluid. As the disease progresses, the skin becomes hard and the oozing fluid becomes brown-black, which causes the skin to dry out and crack. If treatment with a penicillin-based antibiotic is started early, the piglets normally respond well. All penicillin-based products can be found at Livestock Services in Lusaka.

In terms of disease prevention, re-occurring themes include good husbandry practices, sanitary settings, and proper feeding to increase immunity in the piglets. Zambian pig producers need to provide an environment that is optimal for the animal and unwelcoming for disease causing agents.

You can contact Wiehan Visagie at or Marné Meyer at for any information on feeding and feeds.

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