Nine hundred and sixty weaned pigs were exposed for five weeks to controlled concentrations of atmospheric ammonia and dust in a single, multifactorial experiment. The treatments were a mean dust concentration of either 1·2, 2·7, 5·1 or 9·9 mg/m3 (inhalable fraction) and a mean ammonia concentration of either 0·6, 10·0, 18·8 or 37·0 ppm, concentrations representative of commercial conditions. The experiment was carried out over two years and the pigs were used in eight batches, each consisting of five lots of 24 pigs. Each treatment combination was replicated once, and an additional control lot (nominally 0 mg/m3 dust and 0 ppm ammonia) was included in each batch. The dust concentration was the same in the other four lots in each batch in which the four concentrations of ammonia were used; thus, the split-plot design was more sensitive to the effects of ammonia than dust. The groups of pigs were kept separately in five rooms in a purpose-built facility, and the pollutants were injected continuously into the air supply. Ammonia was supplied from a pressurised cylinder, and the endogenous dust in each room was supplemented by an artificial dust manufactured from feed, barley straw and faeces, mixed by weight in the proportions 5:1:4; its ingredients were oven-dried, milled and mixed, and then resuspended in the air supply. The health of the pigs was assessed in terms of general pathology, respiratory tract pathology, and the microbiology of the nasal cavity, trachea and lung. In each batch, postmortem examinations were carried out on 40 pigs after five weeks’ exposure to the pollutants and on 30 pigs two weeks later to test for carryover and recovery – a total of 560 pigs. These examinations revealed minimal gross pathology and widespread minor pathological changes of little significance. The pigs’ turbinate and lung scores were low and unaffected by exposure to pollutants. All the putative bacterial pathogens, with the exception of toxigenic Pasteurella multocida type D, were isolated from the respiratory tract of the pigs of both ages, but there were no differences between the effects of the different concentrations of pollutants.
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