Managing biosecurity protocols during pig transportation should be part of a pork production system’s comprehensive biosecurity plan.

Managing biosecurity protocols during pig transportation needs to be part of a comprehensive biosecurity plan.

This plan should entail health assurance testing, biosecurity protocols for facilities and personnel, education/training, implementation and audit of practices aimed at minimizing the introduction of disease risk, says Hans Rotto, DVM, MS, swine veterinarian with Christensen Family Farms, Sleepy Eye, Minn.

“The economics of the introduction of disease risk are weighed against the costs of infrastructure, protocols and possibly less efficient or more expensive processes,” he says. “The decisions around the expenditures are based in the context of the role of the pigs (such as multiplication gilts versus market hogs) within the production system and their health status.”

Rotto says that transportation biosecurity can be defined as “the prevention of exposure/infection with ‘foreign’ disease agents during the process of pig movements from one location to another.

Nine pertinent areas
According to Rotto, the following nine areas of risk management should be included when looking at managing biosecurity risks in pig transportation:

1. Disease agents

The viruses and bacteria that biosecurity practices are protecting against are generally highly infectious, highly survivable and pose the greatest economic risk upon introduction. By focusing on these, many other disease risks can be minimized.

Rotto says that PRRS, TGE, Salmo-nella and E. coli are common agents to target. This list includes agents with increased survivability in cold and warm weather, plus they can be difficult to clean and sanitize when they have contaminated an environment, he says.

2. Exposure risks

Rotto emphasizes the need to identify exposure risks to determine how to educate, train and audit personnel and where to spend capital. “Some primary places of exposure are areas where pigs come into direct contact. These include trailers, chutes/load‑out areas, sort boards, boots, panels, other equipment and farm personnel or drivers who are handling them.”

 

Chutes/load-out areas can be primary places of disease agent exposure.

Potential contact points can also occur during transit, adds Rotto. These contact points can include other pigs, manure, rendering and others.

Further, says Rotto, the exposure to trucks at truck wash facilities needs to be considered. “A truck wash can be a collection point for disease agents.”

3. Trailers

“The interior of the truck is the number one area of risk because it has intimate contact with the pigs,” says Rotto. “The ability to clean the trailer interior is paramount to prevention of disease exposure.”

Rotto says that the last loads, especially, can be the exposure potential for the next loads. Biosecurity practices for trailers include completely cleaning all surfaces, equipment and panels so they are visually clean of all organic matter, according to Rotto. “This should be followed with disinfection and complete drying.”

He points to recent work by University of Minnesota swine veterinary researcher Scott Dee and his research team that tested disinfection against PRRS virus and found that the disinfectant Synergize® provided the best kill of PRRS virus.

Drying also is a critical biosecurity step for helping to eliminate many agents, Rotto says. “A third‑party
inspection creates accountability, improves wash quality and should be a requirement for authorizing trailer use.”

4. Trailer setup

A trailer that is easy to clean helps in the efficiency, costs and success of cleaning trailers, Rotto says. “Caulking or closing up seams where agents can lodge assists the cleaning process.

“A trailer with proper drainage or a slanted area to wash and dry provides ease of cleaning. A few small holes drilled in strategic locations can provide drainage at collection points and decrease drying time.”

5. Truck/trailer wash

Facility design that helps to enable the proper washing of trucks and trailers can provide the  opportunity for the wash crew to successfully meet expectations, says Rotto. Design considerations should include:

  • Slanted floors to allow for drainage and drying.
  • Dry bays for seasonal drying with extra fans and heat to provide desiccation as a means of killing potential disease agents.
  • Properly directed lighting in the wash bay to allow workers to see the cleaning in progress.
  • The right equipment, such as wash tips and hose sizes, to achieve the rough wash and more detailed work.
  • A place to hang panels and other equipment to wash and dry to help keep the truck wash clean and uncluttered.
 

Farm personnel or truck drivers who handle pigs can also be primary places of exposure.

Other biosecurity factors to consider at the truck include: Who else is using the wash and what level in the biosecurity pyramid are the pigs hauled by the other trailers? Is the water at the truck wash recycled? What is the process for authorizing the truck wash to be clean for washing?

“These questions should be asked and answers known as part of the risk management process,” Rotto says.

6. Trailer use

Since the last pigs on the trailer and the agents they potentially carried are the greatest risk to the next pigs on the trailer, the source of pigs or their relative health status in the system should be considered to minimize risks to subsequent loads, Rotto says.

This consideration includes the production type, such as gilts versus feeder pigs. It also takes into account the destination, such as a sow farm versus a terminal market, according to Rotto.

“Designated trailers working in a production type within the health pyramid should be considered in risk management,” says Rotto. “For example, trailers that have never hauled PRRS-positive pigs should be the only trailers to carry PRRS-negative pigs in the flows. These trailers may never touch a terminal market and have controlled exposure to chutes and load outs outside of their production flow.

“Dependent on the system, it may warrant consideration to dedicate truck wash facilities by these same criteria. Load scheduling and wash scheduling can follow the health pyramid to minimize risks to higher health pigs.”

7. Drivers/personnel

Drivers and all other personnel should be utilized much like trailers are used in respective flows in the production system of variable health status. “This helps to prevent crossover of exposure up and down the system’s health pyramid. Proper education and understanding of protocols are essential to attain compliance.

“The ability of the system to provide cross‑accountability will facilitate a type of audit and maintenance of compliance. A driver and site manager should share similar expectations of clean/dirty trailers.”

 

Properly designed wash facilities for trucks and trailers can help in keeping disease agents out of pork production systems.

8. Chutes and load outs

Drivers and other personnel need clarity of where the “point of no return” is on the chute or load out, says Rotto.

“The load out can be an extension of the barn to the edge of the trailer,” Rotto says. “This can be difficult if the chute is not enclosed and the door leading to the chute from the barn may be the line between dirty and clean.

“Depending on the facility (multiplication or sow farm) and its role in the system, upgrades in the chutes may be required to enclose them and make them easier to clean throughout the year. Meanwhile, the cost to upgrade may not be relevant to the risk in commercial wean‑to‑finish production and open chutes should then be cleaned when possible.”

9. In-transit

Rotto says that the risk in-transit is very difficult to quantify and one of the most challenging to control.

“Minimizing this risk involves avoidance of potential risks and notification that potential exposure occurred. Specific truck routes can be established to avoid other livestock or herds in route. Setting up routes based on known concentration points, such as packing plants or cull markets, will minimize some exposure.

“Moving pigs at certain times of the day also can minimize the risk of exposure. Not moving pigs on rainy, slushy days where splash up could create exposure may be considered.

“Finally, personnel should be educated and rules should be implemented about stopping for gas, lunch or other uncontrolled events that could present possible exposure. All of this needs to take into context the production type of the animal you are hauling.”

Rotto concludes that biosecurity management of transportation takes planning, education and execution. “It costs money for infrastructure and potential downtime of capital investments. It must fit the producer’s needs in the context of their role and the type of the pigs. A process of ongoing training, education and audit is essential to ensure ongoing risk management. The equipment and written protocols by themselves are insufficient to get the needed return on investment. It is the execution on a daily basis and buy-in of personnel that truly manages the risks of foreign disease introduction.”

Editor’s note: Information in this article is based on a presentation at last fall’s Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine Swine Disease Conference for Swine Practitioners.