Veterinary researchers at Iowa State University are refining a method of collecting diagnostic samples from swine that both the pigs and the producers are happy about.
ISU Professor Jeff Zimmerman says they’ve been developing and perfecting the process over the past decade. Zimmerman says, “The total objective is for us to be able to collect infectious disease information on populations of pigs more easily, more quickly and more cheaply.” Taking individual blood samples from pigs to monitor infections imposes cost and time constraints on veterinarians and on pork producers.
“The traditional approach was to bleed pigs, which means restraining the pigs, collecting the blood, processing the blood and getting it tested at the diagnostic labs,” Zimmerman says. “In this case, we can collect oral fluid samples, they’re easy to collect, and then test those either for direct testing for the pathogen or you can test for antibody.” Those oral fluid samples are obtained simply by hanging a length of rope in the pig’s pen.
“For them, it’s a game,” Zimmerman says. “They like to have new things in their pens, they like to explore new things. If you hang a rope in the corner of a pen, they’re very happy to come over and investigate it and once they find out they can chew on it and tug on it, they’re very happy about it.” The alternative for the pig is getting roped, restrained and stuck with a needle.
For the farmer, too, it’s a much easier process than trying to wrestle a pig. Oral fluid samples collected with rope can help veterinarians detect a wide variety of infections, including foot and mouth disease and classical swine fever. Zimmerman says the new technique is gaining wide acceptance among veterinarians and producers.
(Reporting by Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)