You work hard to keep your hog buildings clean, but do you take the same precautions with your farm’s shower facility?

“The person isn’t so much the  biosecurity risk, it’s the pig feces on the person,” says John Carr, DVM, Extension veterinarian, Iowa State University. “It’s possible that material (such as dirt or pig feces) could go through the shower from the off-farm side to the on-farm side, particularly in the winter.”

While pig-to-pig transmission is the primary cause of disease, pig feces are the most common carriers. “When you talk about biosecurity; pigs are 96 percent of the problem,” adds Carr. “If you have pig feces on your pants from delivering hogs to the packing plant and you travel 100 miles back to your farm, it’s the same as returning a pig to the farm.”

While most farms today have some type of showering protocol, few have tackled hand-washing, which also is affective in preventing disease.

“For example, hand washing can lower the dose of viruses and bacteria on you,” says Sandy Amass, DVM, Purdue University. “Of course, the more time you take getting the manure off you, the better off you are.” 

Her hand-washing rule of thumb is wash until you can’t see or smell anything anymore. Although there are guidelines for hospital employees, there are no set rules for farm situations in terms of how long to wash, water temperature or type of soap to use. She advises making sure there’s no visible dirt anywhere, including under your fingernails.

If you already have a shower facility or are thinking about building a new one, Carr recommends that you implement a set of basic rules for biosecurity purposes. Here are some of his tips:

  • All visitors must sign a visitor’s book, including name, place of business, time of entering and exiting the facility, date of last pig contact and reason for entering the facility.
  • Provide separate male and female entrances to separate shower areas.
  • Shoes are a big culprit in transmitting diseases, so Carr recommends removing them before entering the shower area.
  • All clothing items and jewelry, including watches, must be removed and remain in the “off-farm” side. This means you need to provide secure storage spaces. Have people wash items such as glasses before entering the building.
  • Ensure that there will be warm water for the shower and that there’s adequate water pressure.  
  • Make sure air temperature in the showering area is relatively warm.
  • Have plenty of soap and shampoo available.
  • The person needs to shower for at least three minutes, so it can be helpful to provide a timer. A complete shower means washing his/her hair, body and under fingernails.
  • Provide different towels for the “on-farm” and the “off-farm” sides. This is as easy as using different colored towels, such as red for on-farm and blue for off-farm. 

Another option is to towel yourself dry within the shower when you come off the farm, leaving the towel on the on-farm side. “At some point it comes down to trust that employees are doing things correctly,” adds Carr.

The point is to keep the on-farm towels on that side of the facility and the off-farm towels separate, including washing them separately.

If Carr had his druthers, you wouldn’t shower as you leave the farm. A couple of his boar-stud clients follow this rule, and it’s something commercial operations should consider. “There’s really no benefit to your farm to have people shower when they leave the site,” he says.

  • At this point of the process you can towel off on the on-farm side and put on clean clothing. Provide a selection of sizes of clean boots and clean clothes for the person on the shower’s on-farm side. Write names on all staff boots, to avoid confusion.

Carr notes that one of his boar studs uses disposable underwear, socks and pants for all visitors. If this seems too extreme, at least provide the necessary clean clothing in a variety of sizes for both male and female visitors.

Upon exiting a facility:

  • Provide a dirty-clothes hamper to collect towels and clothing. Make sure clothing is laundered before it’s worn again. Make sure people use a clean towel for each shower.
  • People should put shoes on outside of the shower block.
  • Thoroughly clean all boots with the boot cleaner provided, including the soles and heels.
  • Repair all damaged clothing before re-use.

Biosecurity needs to be a priority. This includes your shower facility. You don’t want a seemingly minor breakdown in your protocols to cause a major problem for your herd. 

You Can Prevent Disease Transmission

Can people transmit swine diseases? Researchers are still trying to answer that question. Sandy Amass, DVM, Purdue University, says with diseases that can affect both people and animals, such as Salmonella or influenza, there’s a chance it could spread to pigs if you’re infected and have a fever. 

As for other diseases, Amass has compiled biosecurity
research on people’s ability to mechanically transmit swine pathogens. Here are the findings on four diseases:

  • Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome: Two studies found evidence that people became contaminated after exposure to PRRS-infected pigs, but neither study effectively examined whether people could then transmit PRRS to susceptible pigs. So, researchers haven’t yet been able to determine the effectiveness of intervention strategies.
  • Transmissible gastroenteritis: Washing hands or showering and changing into clean outerwear after coming in contact with TGE-infected pigs, did prevent mechanical transmission to susceptible pigs.
  • Escherichia coli: Hand washing and wearing clean outerwear might not be sufficient biosecurity measures to prevent the transmission of E. coli in all cases. Therefore, shower-in facilities should be used on production units that are using other biosecurity measures such as animal isolation and acclimatization facilities, hand washing and boot changing, but are still experiencing controllable losses due to E. coli.
  • Foot-and-mouth disease: After contaminated personnel showered and changed into clean outerwear, they did not transmit FMD (the United Kingdom or Taiwan outbreak strains) to susceptible pigs.

  For information on these studies, go to or contact Amass at (765) 494-8052.

Keep it Clean

Shower facilities won’t stay clean without attention and work on your part. Here John Carr, DVM, Iowa State University, has compiled handy checklists for daily and weekly inspections.

Daily Checks

   Shower block

  • The shower floor should be wiped with disinfectant. The type will be farm-specific; get a recommendation from your herd veterinarian.
  • body soap and hair shampoo quantities.

Restroom area (off-farm and on-farm toilets)

  • Wipe the toilet seats clean.
  • Disinfect the toilet bowl.
  • All toilets must have sterilizing tablets.
  • Small wastebaskets should be wiped clean with a disinfectant and emptied each day.
  • Check toilet paper quantity.

Restroom sink

  • Check soap levels and hand towels. Paper towels are preferred because they’re disposable.

  Restroom floor

  • Clean with disinfectant.

  Weekly Checks

  • Clothing supplies: Make sure there are suitable quantities and sizes.
  • Dispose of all damaged clothing.
  • Check boots for condition and hygiene.
  • Shower curtains: Clean or replace as needed.
  • Make sure the overall shower works well. Specifically check the water temperature and the quantity of warm water, also the water pressure.
  • It’s wise to have a doorbell located at the farm or office entrance. Check to make sure it actually rings — and that you get a reply.