Linden Olson
Linden Olson

In the second of this two-part series, Linden Olson recalls other preparations that needed to be done before pigs were moved outdoors in the spring. You’ll learn how modern production has minimized much of the physical work associated with raising pigs.

There was a lot of other work that had to be done in addition to getting the lots ready so pigs could be moved to pasture. The veterinarian was called to vaccinate all the pigs for hog cholera and erysipelas. In the 1940s and into the 1960s, a fair amount of a veterinarians work was vaccinating pigs against those diseases.

It took at least two and usually three able-bodied men and/or boys to corner the 30 to 80-lb. pigs, catch them one-at-a-time, and hold them up by the front legs while the vet gave them three shots: MLV (modified live virus) vaccine for hog cholera, hog cholera serum, and erysipelas vaccine. 

Another job was to treat the pigs for parasites before they were moved to pasture. Many kinds of parasitic worms live part of their life cycle in the soil and were always a problem because the breeding herd was allowed access to ground at some stage, even if they were housed in a building with a concrete floor. Most breeding herds had a dirt lot to exercise in, had a pasture area in the summer and were allowed access to corn fields after harvest to glean any fallen ears.

As they rooted around they inevitably picked up some of the worm eggs from the soil and later passed some worm eggs to their piglets. Piperazine in the water was the first treatment for round worms that I can remember. It had limited action on worms other than round worms. Then came levimasol in the late 60s, and it was commonly sold as Tramisol. It could be administered either in the water or in the feed.

Fenbendazole came in the ‘70s, which was widely sold as Safe-Guard and was used in feed. Another feed-based product used to deworm all ages of swine that came later was diclorvos, sold as Atgard. Pyrantel tartrate sold as Banmith was also a feed-based dewormer. The last drug was ivermectin, sold as Ivomec, and it could be used in the feed or injected. 

It is interesting that when it was time to use one of these products, people would refer to it as “worming the pigs.” While the proper term is “deworming,” many still refer to the action as “worming.”

One of my early recollections was the spring routine of getting a 50-gallon barrel filled with water, heating it a little and adding lime sulphur to make a solution in which all the pigs we had previously vaccinated (not the same day) were caught again and dipped one-at-a-time into the barrel. This was the treatment for mange and lice that the pigs had picked up from their mothers. 

The lime sulphur was a smelly yellowish liquid that, despite wearing rubber gloves, would get on you and your clothes. When that job was done, all the clothes needed a washing of two and the men needed baths or showers. It was a great improvement when Benzene Hexachloride and Lindane came along and pigs could be sprayed rather than dipped. It took two or three treatments several weeks apart to get most mange and lice problems under control.

A further advancement that made mange and lice control easier was the development of the pour-on treatments, some of which controlled many kinds of worms as well. The latest, easiest to use and most effective are the injectables that, when used properly, have virtually eliminated parasites as a problem in modern pork production systems. 

As I look back on 60-plus years of pork production, there have been a lot of innovations that made raising pigs a whole lot easier. I wonder what the next idea will be to cut the amount of physical work needed.