A swine disease can find its way into your herd in any number of ways.

Awareness and constant vigilance pay off through healthy hogs, believes Mary Battrell, DVM. As senior veterinarian for Murphy-Brown, she takes a special interest in biosecurity.

“The threat of foreign animal diseases hangs over the United States,” she says. “However, the danger of costly domestic diseases also are great.” She points to research findings that porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus transmission is easier than originally suspected. Swine flu, TGE and other enteric diseases have always been easily transmitted from farm to farm.

“Nowadays, with people so mobile,” Batrell continues, “it’s easy for a disease to get spread around. Within this country, the biggest risk is from breeding stock or other hogs entering a farm from a contaminated herd.”

To help Pork readers check some too often overlooked biosecurity practices, Battrell lists ways that disease may enter a herd, as well as some protective measures.

“I’m not saying it’s feasible to adopt all of these precautions – but they’re worth considering,” she notes.

  • Purchasing animals: Before closing the deal, obtain a detailed health history. Ask to have animals checked by a veterinarian before they leave the source farm. Before introducing into your herd, quarantine them for at least 30 days.
  • Purchasing semen: Be sure the source maintains a complete animal-health program and a strict monitoring program. It is appropriate to ask for details and/or a copy of the monitoring results.
  • Washing hands: Before you enter or leave any swine building, scrub your hands and arms with soap and warm water. This sounds basic, but research is showing this to be a critical step.
  • Footwear: Have separate boots to wear inside each building.
  • Food: Do not bring any imported animal products into the pork operation.
  • Visitors: Limit to essential personnel. Take special precautions with individuals who have been around hogs, other livestock, at a fair, zoo or sale barn. Provide farm-specific clean clothing and footwear. Shower-in facilities are best, but if they’re not available, visitors should wash their hands or put on disposable gloves.
  • Visitors from overseas: Strict precautions should be taken, whether or not they’ve had direct contact with swine. Remember that all cloven-hooved animals can be infected with foot-and-mouth disease. Under the right conditions, a human can harbor the virus. If you have a question, contact your veterinarian, Extension swine specialist, state department of agriculture or college of veterinary medicine.
  • Trucks: Inspect them before coming in contact with your loading chute, and turn away if dirty. As an added precaution, consider meeting a truck at a main road with your truck or trailer to exchange animals or products.
  • When scheduling a delivery of feed, equipment or supplies, insist that the vehicle be washed, disinfected and dried before entering your farm.
  • Buildings: If they are located some distance from a residence, lock them at the end of the workday. This is a wise practice whenever there’s no one around.
  • Entrance driveway: Post a “no-trespassing” and/or biosecurity warning sign with instructions on what to do or where to go. If you don’t have a gate that you can lock, install a cable with a sturdy padlock to close off the entrance when no one is around.
  • Equipment: Before bringing in an item to be used with animals – such as a herding board  – clean, disinfect and dry the item.
  • Disinfectant: Before disinfecting equipment, a room or building, be sure that all manure, dirt and dust are removed. Allow the surface to dry. When using a detergent, make sure it’s compatible with the disinfectant.
  • Flies: They can spread diseases, so use insecticides and traps to keep the fly population down.
  • Birds: They also spread diseases, so bird-proof windows, walkways between buildings and behind side-wall curtains.
  • Dogs and wildlife: A chain-link perimeter fence around buildings is the best way to keep out four-footed animals that may carry diseases.
  • Rodents: Because mice and rats are great disease carriers, adopt a rodent-control program. This includes keeping the grass mowed, feed pads clean, trash picked up and routine baiting.
  • Cockroaches: They can serve as mechanical vectors, transmitting diseases around the farm. They especially like the warm farrowing-house and nursery environments. For roach control assistance, contact your state Extension entomologist or area insecticide dealer.
  • Game birds: Do not keep or work with them.
  • Carcasses: Use a disposal method that’s approved in your state.

“On a hog farm, the attention paid to countless details can make the difference between mediocre and magnificent results,” says Batrell. “With our growers, attention to detail separates the average from the exceptional.”