Question: My pigs spend a lot of time rubbing against the sides of the pen, and the skin becomes red and sore. Some of them aren’t gaining weight or growing well, although they’re still eating. What causes this problem?
- Pigs rub against solid objects to relieve itchiness, which is caused by very small parasites called mange mites.
- They are too small to be seen with the naked eye.
- They feed on skin cells and tunnel into the skin where they lay their eggs, causing irritation and itching.
- Sores and hair loss result from the rubbing, and the pigs do not grow well or put on weight because they are spending so much time and energy trying to relieve the itch.
- The condition is called mange.
- It is one of the most important causes of economic losses in pig herds worldwide, and can be fatal in young pigs that are heavily infested.
- The pigs can be treated with dips or sprays that are registered as effective against mange mites.
- Oral and injectable preparations are also available, and very effective, but are more expensive.
- Piglets become infested by mites from their mothers, and sows are often infected by the boar, so it is important to treat the adult pigs regularly and to make sure, if using a dip, that the ears are also treated.
NOTE: Some people try to treat mange by smearing the pigs with old motor oil, but this is not advisable as it does not kill the mites and can cause further skin damage.
- This article was written by Dr. Mary-Louise Penrith and first appeared in Farming SA.