The value proposition for precision livestock farming applied to swine disease management

Dr. Derald Holtkamp, MS, DVM, Professor of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine, Iowa State Univ. (USA)

The Value of Knowledge

In the context of animal health input decisions, a swine producer has nearly perfect knowledge if they know exactly:

How much disease is occurring

How much disease is occurring.

How much disease costs the business

How much disease costs the business.

How much animal health interventions (vaccines, antimicrobials,…) reduce the cost of disease

How much animal health interventions (vaccines, antimicrobials,…) reduce the cost of disease.

But producers and their veterinarians may have an approximate view of the total cost of the disease and, consequently, an incomplete basis on which to make profit-maximizing decisions.

Why? The information to characterize the disease status is rarely collected consistently:

  • By routinely observing clinical signs or conducting necropsies the disease status could be estimated.
  • Diagnostics provide the most objective information but may not be sufficient to characterize populations’ disease status fully.

Precision Livestock Farming is About Making Decisions with Better Knowledge

Technologies such as remote monitoring can help producers get better data about the disease status of pigs to move closer to that perfect knowledge.

These, combined with artificial intelligence and strategic use of diagnostics, allow to characterize the disease status of pigs over time more precisely.

With that, what decisions could be made better?


Implementation of timely interventions (adjustments to the environment, water medications, or individual pig treatments) when changes in a herd’s disease status occur.


Tracking the productivity improvements in order to determine if the benefit of the interventions exceeds the cost.


For decisions involving antimicrobials, it provides a justification for prudent use.


Knowing when viruses are introduced into groups of growing pigs would help identify events that are more frequently associated with the introduction of virus so that biosecurity resources can be allocated strategically to improve control measures for those events”.

Opportunities Will be Plentiful

New technologies are coming that will make acquiring data and analyzing it easier, cheaper, and more valuable.

Like all technologies, adoption will occur slowly at first and it will have wide-ranging implications. It will require, for example:

Veterinarians and other specialists

Veterinarians and other specialists with a new set of skills.

Higher education

Higher education: to adapt programs to train the next generation
of young professionals.

Adaptation of animal health companies

Adaptation of animal health companies in order to help producers and veterinarians.