Herd Health

Mulberry heart disease makes a comeback

Once virtually pushed aside as a major disease in pigs, MHD is now resurgent and indications are that distillers dried grains with solubles may be the culprit


Over the last 18 to 24 months I’ve been hearing of a growing number of outbreaks of mulberry heart disease (MHD). Reports are mainly from locations in the United States, but more recently also from Canadian sources.

MHD was very common in herds throughout the major pig-rearing areas worldwide in the 1960s and ’70s. By the 1980s, researchers had nailed down the cause of MHD as being due to vitamin E and selenium deficiency, and these two micronutrients were widely incorporated into pigs’ rations.

Ways we can simplify diagnostic sampling for infectious diseases

FTA® cards and collection of oral (saliva) fluids with ropes hung in pens both have the potential to simplify collection and transportation and storage of samples, while reducing cost and maintaining accuracy



Techniques are being developed to speed up the collection and transportation of samples to the laboratory for diagnostic tests, at less cost, while still maintaining accuracy for diagnostic testing. These include the collection of oral fluids (saliva) using ropes hung in pens and FTA® cards for transport and storage of samples.

Herd Health: The PRRS eradication campaign is finally underway!

A number of U.S. jurisdictions are launching area regional control projects which offer the hope of eliminating this hugely costly disease. And Canadian provinces are expected to follow suit


The countdown to eradication of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome from the United States, and indeed all of North America, has started. Plans are being laid out, details organized and the momentum is growing. The industry is gearing up for action against PRRS.

Herd Health: What you should know about salmonellosis, leptospirosis and other herd infections

A short primer on several diseases that can infect your herd and the people who work with it


Salmonellosis is an infection caused by a group of bacteria called salmonella. There are many different types of salmonella bacteria, but the most common ones found in North America are salmonella typhimurium and salmonella enteriditis.

HERD HEALTH: Can we finally keep PRRS out of our pig barns?

The answer is that we’re close, but only time will tell if we’ve really closed all the holes



At the most recent Leman Swine Conference held in St. Paul, Minn., last September, University of Minnesota PRRS researcher Dr. Scott Dee gave an overview of just how far we have come in keeping PRRS virus (PRRSV) from re-infecting our sow herds.

It was about 10 years ago that we finally became confident that we could successfully eliminate PRRSV from individual herds. We had developed the skills, the know-how and the overall technical ability to systematically eliminate the PRRSV from virtually any swine herd.

Herd Health: New, advanced tools for diagnosing erysipelas

Erysipelas diagnostics are catching up to the advances in molecular diagnostics, resulting in delivery of markedly more positive and quicker results


Erysipelas is a bacterial disease, primarily found in pigs, caused by Erysipelas rhusiopathiae. The disease occurs wherever pigs are raised worldwide and causes acute systemic and chronic infections. Severe outbreaks can induce substantial morbidity and mortality within days in a susceptible pig population.

Herd Health: Clostridial enteritis in neonatal pigs – the causes and treatment

By the end of the 1990s, another cause of baby pig scours was emerging. At first Clostridium difficile took the lead, but C. difficile was quickly overtaken by Clostridium perfringens type A


I can’t pinpoint exactly when I realized E. coli scours in baby pigs had decreased to such an extent that it was much less a major problem in the farrowing room in most of our barns. 

Herd Health: The facts about H1N1 Influenza A virus

Apart from one Alberta herd, this new virus is not found in our pig population, but rather is circulating among humans. And even if pigs did catch it, it is not present in pork


I  was well into preparation of an article for this issue of Better Pork when the H1N1 Influenza A virus epidemic erupted in Mexico and spilled out across North America, threatening a pandemic as it spread to distant continents. When the virus was incorrectly named “swine flu,” it had an immediate and devastating impact on our industry just at the exact time that market hog prices were expected to start recovering.

HERD HEALTH: Oral fluids for diagnostic tests – a progress report

Research suggests that, while they may not be suitable for an accurate, immediate diagnosis of an acute or new infection, they seem well suited for disease surveillance and field studies


Since I made my initial report on using oral fluids (saliva) to replace or reduce the dependence on blood samples for diagnostic tests (Better Pork, October 2006), this technique has progressed. It is now at the point where it is being tested and tried in the field by veterinarians, who hope eventually to use it as a routine tool.

HERD HEALTH: What you should know about swine flu

How does it affect pigs and humans and what can be done to prevent it spreading?



Swine influenza, also known as swine flu, is a respiratory disease caused by the type A influenza virus. This classical H1N1 swine influenza virus is common in Canadian swine herds and may cause outbreaks of clinical disease, in the fall and winter.

Swine flu viruses do not normally infect people, but occasional human infections with the classical H1N1 swine influenza have been reported. These cases happen in people who have had direct exposure to pigs. There are 50 reported cases world-wide since the early 1970s.