Iowa pig farmers realize benefits from ISU-led euthanasia research

Iowa pig farmers realize benefits from ISU-led euthanasia research

Interactive tools like these can be part of future euthanasia educational modules.
Interactive tools like these can be part of future euthanasia educational modules.

Timely, appropriate on-farm euthanasia is a vital component of today’s pork operations and Iowa hog farmers are realizing the benefits of some long-term work in this area led by Iowa State University researchers Suzanne Millman (College of Veterinary Medicine) and Anna Johnson (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.)

“Euthanasia should not be considered a failure, but rather another important management tool that enables us to maintain excellent swine welfare,” Johnson said. “For those of us involved in swine production, we understand how challenging it can be to make and conduct that important euthanasia decision.”

Research in Millman’s lab continues to add value by filling gaps in current scientific literature on humane euthanasia methods. Check out these recent and current projects:

  • Former ISU doctoral student and postdoctoral researcher Dr. Larry Sadler examined gas flow rates using different combinations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and argon gases. He discovered inhalant euthanasia methods are equally effective when applied to moribund (terminally ill) pigs and pigs with respiratory disease.
  • Graduate student Kara Fiedler expanded on Sadler’s findings by examining effects of stocking density within the box. She found piglets displayed greater distress when euthanized singly rather than in small groups.
  • Doctoral student Luna Kc is using a preference chamber to “ask” piglets about the concentrations of CO2 and O2 they find aversive and choose to avoid.

With an increasing emphasis on the Common Swine Industry Audit (CSIA) and the importance of these husbandry procedures within the CSIA audit tool, euthanasia decisions, protocols and equipment will receive even greater focus. Humane euthanasia is among the critical criteria associated with automatic audit failure; and points are awarded for having a written euthanasia plan, readily available euthanasia equipment and euthanasia training for caretakers.

The Iowa Pork Industry Center (IPIC) at ISU is working closely with the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association and the National Pork Board to help position Iowa as a leader in this area, and IPIC director Jason Ross said eventual education modules will provide IPIC field specialists with timely tools tailored to client needs.

“It’s important for producers to have and use accurate information to effectively implement best practices for their production system,” he said.

During 2016, the IPIC team will refine and beta test on-farm swine euthanasia training materials with Iowa producers. The material subject matter ranges from discussions and decisions on when to euthanize, euthanasia methodologies, signs of insensibility, and confirmation of death. Several pieces of euthanasia equipment can safely be part of future producer sessions for attendee interaction and opportunity to ask questions.

Early session feedback will be incorporated into the final materials that eventually will be available to all Iowa pork producers through training sessions. Following successful completion of these modules, producers will receive a certification of completion at the end of the course modules that helpful documentation of training received. Look for information on future producer training sessions and materials availability later this year on the IPIC website