Discussion created on 08/02/2011

Ear necrosis syndrome in weaning pigs

Forum: Ear tip necrosis in weaned piglets

Weaned piglets on a diet with in-feed antibiotics still exhibit ear tip necrosis. Is it possible that endotoxins play an important role in this? Please let me know what you do to prevent or cure ear tip necrosis in weaned piglets. Thank you!

Erik Laeremans
Pig farmer
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Noni Noni
August 24, 2011
Tail Biting and other Vices

Causal agent: None specifically

Age group: The demonstration of vices can occur in all age groups

Clinical signs:

Facial necrosis
Tail biting - grow/finishing pig, rarely in adults
Flank biting – grow/finish
Vulva biting - adult females when loosed housed
Ear sucking/ear biting – in nursery pigs
Penile sucking – newly weaned pigs
Bar biting and other stereotypy’s
Tail biting
Flank biting
Vulva biting
Ear biting
Ear sucking
Penile sucking

Causes: Stressed and deprived pigs

Check the following:
Check stocking density. Check tail length, in particular variability. Check feed particle size (target> 500 µm). Check salt (NaCl) concentration in feed. Check water supplies. Check for evidence of a draught at pig heights (draught air speed > 0.2 m/sec). Check air quality (target - NH3 < 20 ppm H2S < 10 ppm and CO2 < 3000 ppm). Check humidity (target between 50 and 75%. Check light intensity. Check water supplies. Check feeder space availability. Check 24 hour temperature fluctuations. Mixing pigs. Moving pigs. Facial necrosis is associated with lactation failure.


Find offending pig – this may be difficult
Look for the gaunt smaller middle order pig, often with chronic mild diarrhea
Remove affected pigs to a hospital pen
Treat with sprays/wound dressings
Consider euthanasia if pig severely affected, lame or has other abscesses


Increase salt (NaCl) concentration to 0.9% - ensure the water supply is excellent

Review environmental factors:

Air: in particular draughts – 90% association with tail biting
Gasses – in particular NH3, CO2, CO
Weather changes – high pressure
Inappropriate/variable temperatures
Check lying and defecation patterns of the pigs
Water: Fighting over inadequate water

Urine concentrated in sows makes vulva biting more likely

Water trough placement in sows

Feed: Check for mycotoxins

Fighting over feed availability

Floor: Check stocking density – both under and overstocking

Inadequate sleeping area

Stock: Some genetics may be more aggressive in some environments

Provide distractions through toys – chains for example

Improve pig flow – remove under and over stocking

Check tail docking principles – pigs do not like variable pig tail lengths

Chains can provide great distraction for pigs

Tires should be avoided as they contain metal parts and may block parts of the pen

Facial necrosis: Enhance lactation output – three major areas to examine:

Overfeeding in gestation, poor water intake in lactation and too high a farrowing house room temperature.

Post-mortem findings: Injury to the skin. Sequelae to vices include – pulmonary millary abscesses, vegetative endocarditis, bacteriaemia, spinal abscessation and single or multiple discrete abscesses throughout the body

Areas of Vice

Tail biting
Flank biting
Ear biting
Vulva biting
Penile or naval sucking
Ear sucking
Facial necrosis
Broes Broes
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
August 25, 2011
Even if the role of PCV2 in the development of weaner ear necrosis is debatable, PCV2 vaccination of sows seems to help controlling (at least in some situations)

André Broes, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Ear necrosis reduction in pigs after vaccination against PCV2
Z. Pejsaka, I. Markowska-Daniela, M. Pomorska-Móla, M. Porowskib and R. Kolaczc
The influence of sows vaccination against PCV2 on the prevalence of ear necrosis syndrome (ENS) reduction among weaners was analyzed using 12,931 piglets from 45 consecutive batches, born to both, vaccinated and non-vaccinated sows. The results were statistically tested with a nonparametric Kruskal–Wallis and Chi-square tests.
The results show that vaccination against PCV2 significantly reduced the prevalence of ENS (p < 0.05). The percentage of affected pigs born to vaccinated sows was about over two times lower than in both groups of pigs born to non-vaccinated females (before the vaccination implementation and after its withdrawing). Even more distinct were the differences in the intensity of the lesions (p < 0.05). In the group of pigs born to vaccinated sows, the percentage of severe lesions was three times lower than in the pigs born to non-vaccinated sows.
In conclusion, it could statement that vaccination against PCV2 might be effective in reduction of ENS.

Dan L. McDermott Dan L. McDermott
Bachelor of Science ANIMAL SCIENCE
August 25, 2011
Dr. Broes,

It would make sense that if the virus is reduced, the secondary opportunistic bacterial invaders such as salmonella will also be reduced. I don't believe that the pcv is the reason for ear necrosis.


Have amino acid and mineral levels been reviewed? As deficiencies in several of theses have been associated with tail and ear biting. allowing injury access points for pathogens which may cause the necrosis. What kind of waterers are being used? bowl or nipple?
Broes Broes
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
August 25, 2011
Dear Erik or Dan (???),

You have certainly noted my WARNING as introduction : " Even if the ROLE OF PCV2 in the development of weaner ear necrosis is DEBATABLE, PCV2 vaccination of sows SEEMS TO HELP controlling (at least in SOME situations)

Further readings:




André Broes

Dan L. McDermott Dan L. McDermott
Bachelor of Science ANIMAL SCIENCE
August 27, 2011
Dr. Broes,

Thank you for the references.

Erik Laeremans Erik Laeremans
Pig farmer
August 29, 2011
Mr. Broes, thank you for the references. In this particular case sows are not vaccinated against PCV2. The weaned piglets on the other hand, are vaccinated against PCV2 at the time of weaning. That is at the age of 3 weeks (18 - 21 days of age).
Regarding climate control, I think conditions are quite optimal (no draughts, no high gas concentrations, temperature is good).
The piglets stay in a 1st stage nursery room for 3,5 weeks. After 3,5 weeks stocking density is not really a problem either. They stay for 10 weeks in a second stage nursery (wean / grower room). The problems with Ear Tip Necrosis begin approximately 14 days after entering the second stage room.
It is in the first stage that they receive a good balanced diet with in-feed antibiotics (amoxicillin, colistin, tylosin). No problems during that time. In second stage they receive feed without in-feed antibiotics.
To Mr. Mcdermott, at the time problems arise they receive a crumled pellet in a wet/dry feeder with 2 drinking nipples in the feed through. Water flow rate has been checked and is within recommended ranges.

Could it be possible that endotoxins (from the killed bacteria in the animal because of the in-feed antibiotica) are that high in amount that they cause necrosis in the small blood vessels, in other words the ear tips of the piglet?
Gerard Mccutcheon Gerard Mccutcheon
Pig farmer
September 5, 2011
One comment here was tha the inclusion of soya hulls in the diet at 0.7% ie 70kg/tonne helped reduce the problem greatlyin Ireland.
Noni Noni
September 21, 2011
Ear necrosis has got a lot to do with blood flow, and if that fails the a ears begin to disappear like gangreen. How s to stop. I have a sow that has this for some time, and the ears don´t regrow. Best to sell. Had the vet in for a look and this is what he tells me.
John Melissaris John Melissaris
Pig farmer
September 26, 2011
Necrosis results as an obstruction to small blood vessels, so blood to these vessels does not circulate.
Why does necrosis happen then? One explanation is because of the immune response of the animal to intruder organisms, bacteria, viruses etc forming big immunocomplexes that is, complexes of antibodies with these organisms which some times are very big so they occlude blood vessels, especially antibodies of type M (IgM) which form huge complexes especially at the first 3-4 days of invasion-start of disease.
This is a suggestion of ear tip necrosis and probably there could be another explanation.

John Melissaris, Pig farmer, Biologist, Greece
Analía Göttig Analía Göttig
Community Manager
September 26, 2012

Dear members,

This has been a very interesting discussion so far! Find more info about Ear necrosis syndrome, clicking on this link:

Ear necrosis syndrome in weaning pigs associated with PCV2 infection: A case report 

Hope this helps!

Mirjam Lechner Mirjam Lechner
Agricultural Engineer
July 18, 2014
Dear Eric,

im very sure your right with the endotoxin-theory. I´m "hunting" the problem over 3 years consulting farmers. There are not so much helpful researches, because the vet studies didn´t regard the housing/feedings systems and in some times ear necrosis are mixed up with ear biting.

Please if you still want some help - let me know your housing system (plastik or metall floor, drinking system, food supply) and the feeding and water ingerdients. mirjam.lechner@web.de

In germany we are about to get the "long" tail - if you have ear necrosis - you will find tail necrosis IF you let the long tail stay (because the blood flow disturbance starts at the end of a intact tail).

There are some good and helpflull measures to get down the endotoxin pressure in the enviroment when you improve the drinking supply (clean open water), the food supply and food ingerdients (keep a close eye to XP, MJ (wheat, maize!) and the Fibre (like it was meantioned bevore).

with warm regards from frankonia in germany

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