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Clinical and pathological responses of weaned pigs to atmospheric ammonia and dust
  1. S. H. Done, BA, DVetMed, PhD, DipECVP, FRCPath, FRCVS1,
  2. D. J. Chennells, MA, VetMB, CertPM, MRCVS2,
  3. A. C. J. Gresham, MA, VetMB, CertPM, MRCVS3,
  4. S. Williamson, BVetMed, PhD, MRCVS3,
  5. B. Hunt, FIBMS3,
  6. L. L. Taylor4,
  7. V. Bland, BSc, MSc4,
  8. P. Jones, BSc4,
  9. D. Armstrong, MVB, MRCVS5,
  10. R. P. White, BSc6,
  11. T. G. M. Demmers, MSc, PhD6,
  12. N. Teer6 and
  13. C. M. Wathes, Bsc, PhD, FIAgrE6
  1. 1VLA – Weybridge, Woodham Lane, New Haw, Addlestone, Surrey KT15 3NB
  2. 2Acorn House Veterinary Surgery, Linnet Way, Brickhill, Bedford MK40 2TX
  3. 3VLA – Bury St Edmunds, Rougham Hill, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP33 2RX
  4. 4Meat and Livestock Commission, Hitchin Road, Stotfold, Hitchin, Hertfordshire SG5 4JG
  5. 5Meat and Livestock Commission, PO Box 44, Winterhill, Milton Keynes MK6 1AX
  6. 6Silsoe Research Institute, Wrest Park, Silsoe, Bedford MK45 1AH


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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