- He said about four weeks earlier, two pigs started limping on their hind legs. He found the hooves had cracked and the lowest foot joint was hot, painful and swollen.
- Footrot is caused by many factors. The common culprit is fusiformis bacterial infection. The bacteria take advantage of cracks in the hoof, which may be caused by rough floors, wet floors or foot injuries.
- Footrot is prevented through good piggery hygiene. The floors should be kept dry and free of sharp or broken surfaces.
- Bio-security, through disinfection footbaths and washing hands, helps to minimise the chances of germs being introduced on the farm or being spread into the various farmhouses.
John is a successful farmer rearing pigs and cattle on the outskirts of Nairobi. He is meticulous about his farm operations run by his skilled farm manager, a diploma graduate of animal health.
Though I have known John for a few years, I had never served him until four weeks ago when he gave me a call.
The level of organisation and cleanliness on John’s farm was impressive but there was one stubborn problem that had emerged.
Many pigs appeared to be squatting and preferred to rest, lying on their sides. I noticed the ones lying down and those squatting all appeared to have “sky blue socks”. Some pigs had abscesses.
John said he was concerned because the pigs were eating poorly, the boars were having difficulties mating and the females could not withstand a boar mount due to the pain in the feet.
“At this rate, I’m afraid I’ll go into serious losses because I’ll have no piglets or pigs to sell,” John concluded.
“We have been washing the pigs with copper sulphate solution for the last two weeks. It has caused the blue stains. Antibiotic injections have not helped,” Wafula, the farm manager explained.
He said about four weeks earlier, two pigs started limping on their hind legs. He found the hooves had cracked and the lowest foot joint was hot, painful and swollen.
Some pigs developed abscesses higher up the affected legs and on the shoulders.
He had washed the feet with copper sulphate solution and given antibiotic injections for three consecutive days but the condition had deteriorated.
BOTH FRONT AND HIND FEET
He also opened ripe abscesses and flushed them with hydrogen peroxide and iodine.
The affected pigs had increased to 15 out of 60 adult pigs. The disease now affected both front and hind feet. A few pigs were barely able to stand.
I examined all the 15 pigs and confirmed Wafula’s findings. I explained the pigs were suffering from footrot. The disease can be economically devastating to a pig farmer because it reduces breeding and weight gains, thereby disrupting the pig sale programme.
Footrot is caused by many factors. The common culprit is fusiformis bacterial infection. The bacteria take advantage of cracks in the hoof, which may be caused by rough floors, wet floors or foot injuries.
Hoof cracks may also be caused by deficiency of calcium, phosphorus and the vitamin biotin. In cases where the cause of lameness in pigs is not clinically clear to the vet, extensive investigations are required to make a proper diagnosis.
The investigations can be expensive especially where the pig feeds have to be analysed in the laboratory for their vitamin and mineral content.
Footrot is prevented through good piggery hygiene. The floors should be kept dry and free of sharp or broken surfaces.
The pigs should be given a well-balanced diet. Prompt diagnosis and treatment of footrot should be practised to avoid spread of the disease in the piggery.
If you leave footrot untreated or inadequately treated, the bacteria travel up the leg and cause abscesses in soft tissues.
When a severely affected pig lies on a hard surface for long, the tissues around the shoulders and upper thighs develop pressure sores and easily get infected. This explained the abscesses on John’s pigs.