PWD is caused by enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC). It reduces animal welfare and causes huge economic losses due to the high costs associated with slower growth rates, increased veterinary treatments, and higher mortality. And all this during one of the most important phases of a piglet’s growth cycle, the weaning phase.
Several factors make weaning the most challenging stage in the pig’s life, including:
- Extreme stress caused by separation from the sow
- Change to a new environment
- Increased handling
- Social factors like new pen mates
- Dietary changes
These changes take place at a moment when the lactogenic immunity provided by maternal antibodies has declined, but the adaptive immunity of the piglets is not yet fully developed. The piglet immune system is only fully developed around 2-3 weeks after weaning.
These interconnected factors can compromise the animal’s health status and natural defenses, providing an ideal environment for ETEC to grow and eventually cause PWD.
Any solution against PWD should be accompanied by holistic strategies that include optimal practices in management, nutrition, biosecurity, and health.