Pork production: Vaccines for pigs and how they work

Vaccination involves exposing animal (or a person) to disease-causing agents (vaccines) in such a way that the animal will not get sick but will be protected in future against infection by that germ.

Vaccines contain germs that have been made harmless in the laboratory. After receiving a particular vaccine, the immune system of the animal will recognise those germs and won’t allow them to cause disease. A vaccine only works for the germs it contains, but some vaccines contain more than one germ and will therefore work for more than one disease. Only healthy pigs should be vaccinated.

  • The most important vaccines for small pig herds are erysipelas and parvovirus, and these are often combined in a single vaccine.
  • Pigs are vaccinated for the first time at 6 months old and then every 6 months after that.
  • Sows are usually vaccinated soon after their piglets are born.
  • For small pig herds, other vaccines are often unnecessary, but if your suckling piglets or weaners have serious diarrhoea problems, you could try vaccinating against colibacillosis (E coli).
  • Pregnant pigs are vaccinated as follows: 6 to 8 weeks for the first inoculation, and again 2 or 3 weeks before farrowing, and after that 2 to 3 weeks before each litter is born.
  • The piglets will be protected by the mother’s colostrum (the first milk).
  • If your pigs have any particular health problems, ask your vet about vaccination and treatment

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