Insect bites can do more than create itchy sensations for pigs. Iowa Pork Industry Center associate director James McKean says that too many bites on a carcass can lead to a higher trim loss and lower payment for producers.
"Bug bites are a common summer problem at packing plants," McKean says. "They don't show prominently on the live animal but are very discernible after the scalding and dehairing steps. Excessive bites will lead to USDA requiring trim of the affected skin and loss of carcass weight."
Producers can decrease the incidence of bug bites and corresponding economic trim loss by taking preventative measures around their facilities now.
For example, curtains on finishing buildings offer great hiding places for mosquitoes when water collects in folds and creases. Although curtains frequently are left down during summer months, McKean encourages producers to raise them periodically. In addition to draining water from rain and sprinkler systems, this action also decreases availability of hiding and nesting places for rodents.
"Producers need to be proactive, and treat the facility rather than the pigs," McKean says. "Potential sources of insect infestation are easy to find, such as standing water, tall weeds around swine facilities, poor summer maintenance of hog housing, and misuse or incorrect application of insecticides."
McKean, who also is Iowa State University Extension swine veterinarian, says recommendations on reducing favorable mosquito breeding conditions include looking for and eliminating any areas of standing water, such as tires, birdbaths, and pails or buckets. Also, keeping grass and weeds mowed around buildings and carefully using appropriate insecticides are important preventative measures that all producers should do.
"Insecticides containing permethrin will repel mosquitoes and biting flies before they bite, in addition to killing those that do successfully feed on swine," McKean says. "It is imperative that producers use only those products labeled for use on swine or in swine buildings and that they follow the pre-slaughter withdrawal periods listed for the product."
Producers with questions should contact their veterinarian. They also can contact McKean at IPIC by phone at 800-808-7675.