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Focus on big 3 health concerns for swine

A swine veterinarian answered top health questions from producers at a recent Nebraska Pork Expo event.

Elizabeth Hodges, Staff Writer

August 28, 2023

4 Min Read
Dr. Tom Petznick fields questions from pork producers
ANSWERS FOR ALL: Dr. Tom Petznick fields questions from pork producers about various swine diseases that producers have seen or are anticipating hitting Nebraska. Elizabeth Hodges

“Talk to three different veterinarians and you will get 10 different opinions,” says Dr. Tom Petznick, a Nebraska-based swine veterinarian. At the 2023 Nebraska Pork Expo, an audience of pork producers was all ears to hear this veterinarian’s knowledge on swine health.

Graduating with his DVM from Kansas State University in 1995 allowed Petznick to gain a diverse background in his education. While he specializes in swine health, he still offers services to goats, sheep and cattle.

Out of college, he headed to Nebraska to work in Plymouth as a dairy veterinarian. He likes working with populations, so it was only natural that he transitioned to the swine industry. He went on to work at Pillen Family Farms up until 2010 when he went out as an independent veterinarian, now covering about 60,000 sows in southeast Nebraska. He will receive the 2023 Science in Practice award at the Allen D. Leman Swine Conference in September.

The producers attending the Pork Expo led the conversation with Petznick to get answers to the most urgent swine health questions. Here is what he has to say about the top three health issues affecting the swine industry:

Pork producer: What are you currently seeing with porcine epidemic diarrhea?

Petznick: Fortunately, I have been able to go a full year without seeing PED. But I also group Delta coronavirus in with it because it is similar. I got a call from a fellow veterinarian, and he said that he was dealing with a coronavirus outbreak and that shouldn’t happen in July. It has been cool, but not cool enough where we should see that emerging. I am starting to think that we will see coronavirus turn into a year-round disease instead of just seasonal. PED might also be shifting to be that way.

It seems to be that there is a little bit of noise out there regarding PED, but thankfully we haven’t seen as much here in Nebraska. PED is alive and well, but the good news is that we can get rid of it with a combination of management practices and vaccines.

Pork producer: Sapovirus is an up-and-coming virus. How does a producer with a trained eye diagnose sapovirus and where did it come from?

Petznick: Sapovirus was reported in the states back in the ‘80s as being here. We knew it was here, but it never caught prominence. I am not sure if this is something new, or it has evolved into a setting where we put the right pressures on it for it to become a big problem.

It is indistinguishable in my eyes to identify it in the crate. Looking at it from weaning to day seven, it can look like coccidia, rotavirus, sapovirus or a combination of them. But if you are still fighting it from day seven to 21, signs point to it being sapovirus.

When most producers see the stool, they say they see that all the time. It is worth the diagnostic, and it is easy to collect a sample. Take a paper towel or something similar and smear the diarrhea with it and send it on for a sapovirus PCR test. The best part is when we know we are up against sapovirus, we can vaccinate for it.

Pork producer: Can you walk us through how you manage a porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome outbreak?

Petznick: It is variable because each operation is different based on size of the herd, herd flows and level of co-infections. There are two ways you can go about it. Either eradicate or depopulate the outbreak. My goal is usually to eradicate it rather than manage it here in Nebraska. But it is important to focus on not getting it back after an eradication. In my mind. you must live without PRRS for three years to pay for eradication.

My choice of eradication today would be LVI, or live virus inoculation, and give it to all the pigs on the farm. They will inevitably have to see it sometime in their life on the farm. Doing it this way can be problematic at times. Some people are not willing to take that risk, so they would rather use a commercial vaccine.

That is fine but there is one non-negotiable either way and that is to close the farm. Load the farm as full as you can of gilts and get them exposed either to the live virus or the vaccine and, in some cases, it might be both.

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth Hodges

Staff Writer, Farm Progress

Growing up on a third-generation purebred Berkshire hog operation, Elizabeth Hodges of Julian, Neb., credits her farm background as showing her what it takes to be involved in the ag industry. She began her journalism career while in high school, reporting on producer progress for the Midwest Messenger newspaper.

While a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she became a Husker Harvest Days intern at Nebraska Farmer in 2022. The next year, she was hired full time as a staff writer for Farm Progress. She plans to graduate in 2024 with a double major in ag and environmental sciences communications, as well as animal science.

Being on the 2022 Meat Judging team at UNL led her to be on the 2023 Livestock Judging team, where she saw all aspects of the livestock industry. She is also in Block and Bridle and has held different leadership positions within the club.

Hodges’ father, Michael, raises hogs, and her mother, Christy, is an ag education teacher and FFA advisor at Johnson County Central. Hodges is the oldest sibling of four.

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