Research is critical to any industry’s sustainability and success, and this is certainly true in the pork industry. Collaboration between producers, veterinarians, university, industry groups and companies have helped the industry learn more about disease, nutrition, housing, and a multitude of other topics that impact producers.
A case in point is oral fluid testing, which is being implemented by veterinarians and producers. Along with funding from the National Pork Board, the PRRS Research Awards, sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. played a vital role in the development of this research.
PORK Network interviewed Dr. Jeff Zimmerman, professor in Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University, who was instrumental in developing oral fluid testing, or “the rope test,” as it’s more commonly known. Although the technology is now a few years old, it is now utilized by veterinarians and producers as a cost-savings on the farm.
Dr. Dennis Villani, DVM, owner of All About Swine, LLC, in Oldenburg, Ind., is the veterinarian for Great Lakes Pork and Joel Phelps is manager of Great Lakes Pork, headquartered in Allendale, Mich. Pigs from this operation are finished in Michigan and Indiana, while sows are located in Ontario and Michigan. Dr. Villani and Joel discussed their use of the rope test recently in this video.
Veterinarians See Value
“It’s been a very useful tool for us because we’re able to monitor pigs over a wide geographical area and know exactly what might be affecting those pigs from a disease standpoint,” said Dr. Villani. He notes that the rope test helps him determine management protocols for finishing barns based on the health status that has been identified through oral fluid testing. In addition, the test helps him monitor vaccine efficacy.
“We can cover a lot of pigs with a very simple technology like oral fluids,” he added.
Producers Gather Important Data
From a producer standpoint, Phelps said he’s used the oral fluid “rope test” for several years. “We’re able to monitor all of our finishing spaces throughout the whole system and get information about what’s going on,” he said.
“It allows us to monitor our vaccination protocols and programs. We’ve changed timing based on the results we’ve found and it allows us to make adjustments after we’ve marketed a group of pigs.”
The test has been beneficial from a cost perspective too, explained Phelps. He’s able to measure the value of the vaccines used in the herd, which helps establish the cost/benefit ratio.
“The data we’ve collected and the database we have provides us with all kinds of information to do lots of things with as we move forward,” said Phelps.