The Economic Impact of Different Strategies to Control Diseases in Swine Populations

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Maintaining or achieving a high health status in swine herds is highly desirable across all sectors of the swine industry. A high health status will lower feed conversion ratios, decrease the incidence of mortality, and result in pigs consuming fewer resources. Achieving these key performance indicators are necessary for maintaining a sustainable production system. However, all farms face distinct challenges against various pathogens, or numerous strains of the same pathogen, and may have multiple diseases causing interacting effects that need to be understood and managed. With all this complexity, it is not surprising that numerous methods and strategies to control diseases are currently available, but choosing the most effective way is not always straightforward.

Costs of having endemic diseases

Different studies have estimated the economic losses associated with disease outbreaks in swine farms, which vary depending on the pathogen in question. In naïve farms affected by Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae (Mhyo), Gillespie et al. (2013) estimated a loss of $7.92 per marketed pig. However, this associated cost could be higher if other respiratory agents are present (Haden et al., 2012). For farms endemic with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSv), disease cost was estimated to be at least $10.50 per pig produced (Dee et al., 1997). Therefore, it is clear that the cost of not controlling diseases can have a high economic impact.

Disease control measures and economic impacts

Disease elimination protocols and other types of interventions have been prepared for controlling several diseases. Depopulation/repopulation (D/R) is perhaps the least complicated and most effective disease elimination method. However, it is the most expensive (Nathues et al., 2018; Silva et al., 2019) since the farm needs to be emptied and, in the case of breeding herds, a whole year may pass before weaning of piglets can be resumed.  Another widespread method involves stopping the introduction of replacement animals until no susceptible pigs are present on the farm, ceasing virus transmission. This method, known as close and roll-over (C/R), can also be used to eradicate pathogens with the benefit of minimizing production disruptions. However, gilt management and other concomitant interventions must be considered to guarantee success while reducing losses. Other alternative methods involve mass vaccinations, whole-herd medications, and biosecurity improvements.

Economic models can determine how a disease is managed, usually through partial budget modeling. One study developed an economic model and estimated a gain of $616,121 after one year of a successful herd closure intervention for eliminating Mhyo, compared to $323,177 for herd medication without closure for a 5,000 sow breed-to-finish operation (Silva et al., 2019). The payback period was 2.18 and 6.90 months for herd closure and medication-only interventions respectively, but these estimates may change according to individual farm and market situations. Another study, assessing similar interventions in breeding herds moderately affected by PRRSv, estimated an expected value over five years of €1,126,807 ($1,277,885) for the C/R method and €1,114,649 ($1,264,097) when mass vaccinating sows and piglets (Nathues et al., 2018). Despite being the most effective method, D/R had the lowest expected values for all situations considered in this study. However, the D/R method can become more economically attractive when implemented with measures to shorten the length of time without production or if multiple diseases are eliminated at the same time.

Conclusion

Endemic diseases in swine populations can be very expensive while also being socially and environmentally detrimental. Currently, several strategies to control diseases are available and well described in the published literature. Farmers and veterinarians need to have a thorough understanding of the health status of their farms and the complexities of managing different pathogens to maintain a healthy and competitive swine production system.

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References

Dee, S. A., Joo, H. S., Polson, D. D., Park, B. K., Pijoan, C., Molitor, T. W., … & King, V. (1997). Evaluation of the effects of nursery depopulation on the persistence of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus and the productivity of 34 farms. Veterinary record, 140(10), 247-248. doi:  https://doi.org/10.1136/vr.140.10.247

Gillespie, T. (2013). Mycoplasma infection costs in a naïve population. In Allen D. Leman Swine Conference (No. 40, p. 51).

Haden, C., Painter, T., Fangman, T., & Holtkamp, D. (2012). Assessing production parameters and economic impact of swine influenza, PRRS and Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae on finishing pigs in a large production system. In Proceedings of AASV annual meeting (pp. 75-76).

Nathues, H., Alarcon, P., Rushton, J., Jolie, R., Fiebig, K., Jimenez, M., … & Nathues, C. (2018). Modelling the economic efficiency of using different strategies to control Porcine Reproductive & Respiratory Syndrome at herd level. Preventive veterinary medicine, 152, 89-102. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2018.02.005

Silva, G. S., Yeske, P., Morrison, R. B., & Linhares, D. C. (2019). Benefit-cost analysis to estimate the payback time and the economic value of two Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae elimination methods in breeding herds. Preventive veterinary medicine, 168, 95-102. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2019.04.008