Q - I’ve heard that you should never allow chickens to range with pigs. Is this true?
BEN SOUTH SAYS: I suspect the reason that you’ve heard this is due to the bacterium Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, commonly known as Erysipelas. This bacterium can cause sudden high mortalityin chickens and is often shed in faeces by infected animals, such as pigs or even sheep.
Classic outbreaks of Erysipelas are often seen in backyard, free-ranging flocks that use pasture where pig manure has been employed as a fertiliser. The bacteria are highly resistant and can live in the soil for years. The bacterium will enter the bird via abrasions or minor cuts to the skin and lead to acute septicaemia and often death. It is best to reduce the risk of this occurring by not ranging birds on land where pigs or sheep have been or are currently grazing. If you know Erysipelas to be a problem on your site, there is a commercial vaccine available, which isgiven to young birds in rear before they come into lay.