Biosecurity protocols are crucial to preserving the health of your pigs and that of your business. But are you paying attention to executing it day in and day out?

While you may have diligent biosecurity measures in place, reviewing your program’s implementation is always time well spent. 

Consistently evaluating biosecurity guidelines is required to keep facilities and employees functioning at a high level of awareness, according to Elizabeth Ferry, Michigan State University Extension.

She starts with all-in/all-out pig flow. Not only does it help keep pig groups uniform, but it reduces the disease flow from older pigs to more susceptible younger animals. It also accommodates cleaning and disinfecting between pig groups.

Pay close attention to ensuring that all organic material is removed from all surfaces before disinfection begins. Review disinfectants to select products that are most effective against disease organisms specific to your facility. Follow label recommendations and ensure that the chemical has sufficient contact time on surface areas. Allowing adequate drying time is equally important, as inactivation of a virus is directly related to drying time.

“From the breeding herd perspective, blocking the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus is the main disease we focus on,” says Joel Nerem, DVM, health director for the Pipestone Veterinary Clinic. “Mechanical transmission of PRRS is a risk at every farm.”

He estimates the cost of a PRRS break on a 3,000-sow farm at $500,000.

Establishing a “clean/dirty” line provides the basis for a successful biosecurity plan. The line represents a protective barrier around the pig space to prevent pathogen introduction. “Strict protocols and staff training are essential to preserve the integrity of this line,” Nerem says.

Biosecurity training should begin on an employee’s first day. “All training should be documented and the manager and employee should both sign off,” Nerem adds. Always observe proper facility-entry procedures, apparel requirements and steps for bringing equipment or tools across the line.

Eventually everyone must enter the pig space, and you can improve your success by having as few entry points as possible. “All critical access points must be kept clean and dry,” Nerem says. “If they are not, you increase the risk of mechanical transmission of pathogens. We focus closely on these areas.”                     

He recommends providing biosecurity requirements to all outside contractors, including electricians, carpenters and plumbers, before coming out to the facility. “We found that by formalizing this procedure and then going through it when the contractor arrives, we do a better job of communicating our expectations and we get better compliance,” Nerem says. The rules apply to personnel as well as tools and building materials.

To block pathogen transmission from inanimate objects, he recommends that all items be inspected carefully, disinfected and placed in quarantine for one hour to allow complete drying. “We focus very closely on this,” Nerem says.

Contractors’ tool belts present a particular challenge since they are difficult to clean and disinfect properly. “We do not allow them in our units and instead provide as many tools as we can inside the facility,” he says.

 Documentation is wise. While all items that enter a breeding herd facility are documented, Nerem recommends documenting visitors and supplies entering all production sites. This should include date, time, what the person brought in and where he/she went inside the facility. “It helps us track down any disease event that may occur and helps us spot deficits and make improvements,” he adds.

“All production units should work to assess their biosecurity protocols and practices on a regular basis but especially after a disease break,” Ferry says. You’re looking for weaknesses and solutions.

Pig transport vehicles present a particular threat to any facility’s biosecurity plan. Nerem focuses closely on the biosecurity between the truck and the facility. The PRRS virus, transmissible gastroenteritis and brachyspira pose a high risk, especially at a finishing site. “Assume that all transport vehicles are contaminated,” he says.

Nerem recommends a two-stage loading process with a transition area to ensure that once an animal is on a trailer there is no way it can return to the facility. Once the loading process is complete, the transition area is washed and disinfected. “We view this as a critical component in reducing the risk of introducing pathogens from transport vehicles,” he notes.

Mortality removal is another area for concern. A special rendering pickup location situated away from the production unit is recommended. After mortality removal, the pickup location is washed and disinfected.

Maintaining an effective biosecurity plan depends on compliance. “Our protocols are science-based, but they are effective only if full compliance is observed by employees as well as non-unit personnel,” Nerem says.

For that you need communication. As Nerem concludes, “communication is vital to make certain everyone is doing what they’re supposed to do.”

Involve Your Veterinarian

Since biosecurity risks are unique to each farm, the best plans are developed by working with a swine veterinarian who knows your system, the workers and local risk factors.

A biosecurity plan must be farm-specific, according to Don Levis, swine specialist, University of Nebraska Extension, and Rodney “Butch” Baker, DVM, Iowa State University.

They point out that biosecurity is made up of three separate but often blended sets of actions — bio-exclusion, bio-containment and bio-management. A swine veterinarian can be invaluable in determining a unit’s biosecurity priorities and how these components are blended into an effective program.

The duo has developed an extensive swine production biosecurity publication, which details critical areas that must be addressed when developing farm biosecurity protocols.

The document covers many priorities, such as:

  • Farm location (and presence of other nearby swine farms)
  • How swine diseases are spread
  • Bringing in replacement animals and isolating new arrivals
  • Pig flows
  • Controlling visitor access
  • Feed delivery and storage
  • Water supply
  • Air filtration and facility maintenance
  • Hygiene, building sanitation, boot baths, rodent and bird control
  • Personnel training