You’ve heard it time and again — the U.S. livestock industry’s security is vulnerable. It seems, however, that message can’t be sent out often enough.

In terms of what poses a risk, several highly contagious foreign-animal diseases that could be introduced into herds and flocks top the list. Examples for swine include foot-and-mouth disease, hog cholera and African swine fever.

“Disease introduction at key locations and natural spread through the U.S. livestock industry would have a major impact on the nation’s livestock and economy,” says Nolan Hartwig, DVM, Iowa State University Extension veterinary diagnostic and production-animal medicine. Not to mention the uncertainty it would raise in consumers’ minds about the safety of their food supply.

The vast amount of livestock movement in the United States greatly enhances the disease risk. Livestock producers and all others associated with the industry should be alert to unusual activities and take all possible precautions, including the physical security of operations whenever possible, he says.

Hartwig offers this to-do list for securing livestock facilities as well as related agri-businesses.

Implement Physical Security

Mathematically, the risk to individual producers in terms of infectious disease spread is much higher than from actions such as a direct physical attack, exposure to a toxic agent or chemical contamination of a herd or flock. Nonetheless, producers should limit access to their operations to responsible individuals that they know well.

  • Make sure all people entering any livestock operation or agri-business that serves livestock operations are well identified.
  • Post a sign forbidding entrance without permission.
  • Have a sign-in sheet for all individuals entering a livestock operation or agri-business if you must allow visitors.
  • As much as possible, secure all feed and other supplies used in livestock production.
  • Keep a record of all livestock, feed and supply purchases.
  • Call local law enforcement if any unusual activity is encountered or suspected.

Implement Fundamental Biosecurity 

While biosecurity has become part of pork production’s daily life, its importance has only increased from a national-herd-security standpoint. Regardless of the level of your biosecurity program, there’s always room for improvement. Hartwig offers this advice.

  • Purchase feed and all other supplies from known, reputable firms and individuals.  
  • Maintain a closed herd if possible or practical. 
  • When purchasing and bringing in any animals to the operation, insist that health papers signed by the veterinarian serving the herd of origin are provided. A copy or discussion of the herds’ health history is not too much to ask.  
  • Quarantine (isolate) all herd additions for 30 days, 45 to 60 days if possible. Those purchasing weaned or feeder pigs should observe the replacement pigs closely for at least 30 days. 
  • Observe all livestock at least once a day for signs of disease, including lameness, loss of appetite, salivation, lethargy or sudden death. Observe means exactly that — really look at the animals, don’t just walk through the building. It would be wise to develop a checklist for employees that spells out what specific details they should look for as they look over the animals.
  • Establish review and reporting protocols for the information. For example, have a veterinarian examine individual animals and the entire herd if signs of disease are noted or suspected. 
  • It’s especially important that a post-mortem examination be performed if any unexplained livestock death occurs. 
  • Biological specimens should be submitted to a diagnostic laboratory if the cause of a disease is not obvious.  
  • People entering livestock operations should wear clean clothing, ideally provided by the operator. They should wear rubber footwear and walk through a disinfectant before and after visiting the operation. Shower-in requirements and hand washing are additional precautions.
  • All vehicles coming on the farm should be clean, as should all equipment and utensils that are used in or near the operation.  
  • Pay special attention to equipment such as trucks and trailers, manure loaders and spreaders, tractors, portable livestock chutes and other fomites that could easily spread disease from one operation to another. 
  • Control rodents and birds. You can tackle this task internally or farm it out to professionals. 
  • Immediately dispose of all dead livestock after examination. Provide a secure place where vehicles picking up carcasses do not have to enter or come near livestock facilities. 
  • Livestock exhibitions, other than terminal shows, should be avoided if possible. 
  • Don’t allow anyone who has been on a farm in a foreign country to enter livestock units for seven days after returning to the United States. 
  • Biological materials, including animal-health products, should be used only after the herd veterinarian has approved them.
  • Don’t allow any human food products to be brought into the production facilities. 

While these checklists are not the complete answer to securing the U.S. livestock herd from intentional or accidental tampering, they offer a place to start. It’s certainly worth initiating a planning process for your business today. 

Learn to S.C.A.N. for Tampering

Most people think of terrorists as someone from another country. But some activist groups fit into that category. Increasingly these groups will do just about anything to gain access to your pork operation and find a way to hinder your business.

For instance, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has had its members pose as employees to take photos on pork operations. Certainly you’ve heard about their actions at some packing/processing plants.

Now, The Law Enforcement Academic Research Network offers the S.C.A.N. (See, Contact, Ask, Notify) method to prepare for intruders. Take a look at what you can do to help ensure your pork operation’s security.

See:  Train all managers and employees about what to look for in terms of suspicious people or behaviors.

Contact: When anyone observes strange behaviors, you need to take steps to confirm or deny the observation’s accuracy. Approach the person or persons in question, and tell them you’d like to talk with them.

Of course, you have to determine whether you think it’s safe to approach the person. If it appears risky, then document and photograph your observations. Notify the operation’s or company’s designated contact person, as well as the local law enforcement agency.

Ask: If you have made contact with the person in question, ask for his name and his supervior’s name. Politely ask to see some identification, and tell him that you are going to write down the information. Ask if he has permission to be where he is within the operation; and who gave him permission.

You may also ask him to explain what he is doing, and if he knows why that might draw attention.

The goal is to acquire information from the person and evaluate his reaction. If the person is unreasonably agitated by your questions, make a note of it. Remember, you also are trying to confirm your initial observation.

Thank the person for his time and courtesy. If he has questions, refer him to security personnel or management. By now, you should have evaluated whether or not the person should be escorted from the property.

Notify: After the person has left, quickly organize your information and pass it along to your designated contact. It’s essential to have one central person to contact when something happens. You also may report the information to your immediate supervisor.

The biggest error would be to not report the situation or to assume that your observation wasn’t important. Remember, the business’ security depends on everyone, not
just the owner.

Editor’s Note: For more information go to www.vetmed.iastate.edu/faculty_staff/user/rdavis/publichealth/tempplates/bioterrorism.html