Isolating incoming gilts offers you two advantages.
It lets you make sure the incoming animals don’t break with diseases they’ve been exposed to before reaching your farm. It also lets you acclimatize them to the pathogens they will face when they enter your herd. Typically, that can be done in a combination isolation/acclimatization building located away from your farrowing and gestation units.
But some large operations are adding yet another stage, notes Tim Loula, a St. Peter, Minn., veterinarian.
Some large units with difficult porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome or other nagging disease challenges need to do a better job of acclimatizing their incoming animals, contends Loula. That goes for farms that commingle early-weaned pigs as well.
To acclimatize new gilts, he suggests starting with a 21-day isolation unit to make sure the incoming animals don’t break with a disease. Then begin an intensive acclimatization process.
This often occurs in a separate, continuous-flow facility that harbors all of the farm’s organisms. Cull sows and gilts and “seeder pigs” from nurseries or grow/finish units all go into the facility to ensure exposure to the farm’s pathogens. This period lasts 21 days.
Finally the gilts go to a recovery or second isolation unit. They remain there as they “cool down,” until they are sufficiently immune to the farm’s diseases and are not shedding pathogens.
Loula notes that this isolation protocol takes longer than the normal one-unit wait, but it can add greater assurance that the incoming animals will be immunologically stable when they enter the breeding herd.
It also means they won’t be shedding active pathogens to the existing breeding herd and stirring up new and more severe health problems. Another benefit is that all farrowing females should pass similar antibodies on to their piglets.