Putting a dollar value on biosecurity is tough. Yet it’s a fact that developing and implementing a biosecurity program is not only valuable to your own herd, but also to the industry.

As important as your biosecurity program is, it’s dependent on human beings, and that often means that details get over looked, procedures slip and attention shifts.

As a veterinarian and pork producer from Minnesota, Al Carlson, offers some of his experiences and lessons involving current disease challenges. “Any idea that biosecurity is not worth the cost or the effort, needs to be thrown out,” he says.

If you figure the real cost of disease, including treatments, labor and production losses, it’s clear that avoiding a disease is the wisest option. Measures such as organizing pig flow, acclimatizing new stock, using isolation units or supplying coveralls and boots for visitors, may seem minor on their own, but combined they’re powerful elements.

Never knowingly buy a disease. By this he emphasizes that you need to know and review replacement stock’s disease status. Decisions will depend on your herd’s health status, as well as the seedstock’s availability and cost. The point is to make sure you know what you’re buying, and the costs of the consequences.

Isolation facility needs can vary greatly and so can their costs. He sites an example where renting an isolation facility to acclimatize replacement stock for 60 days, for a 500-head sow farm can cost as little as 66 cents per market pig produced. Even then you have to test for relevant diseases before releasing animals into a herd.

Related to boar studs, those that he works with take blood samples twice a week for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus. That’s to ensure that infected semen isn’t spreading the virus. Testing is not a luxury, he says.

Even with the best possible efforts, it’s still possible for disease to enter your herd—especially in the case of PRRS, because definitive answers don’t exist.

Knowing how to deal with it is key. Carlson says that systematic typing of PRRS virus across an area is the only way to track the movement of strains. This helps to know what strain infected a herd, decide how it may have entered and consider what counter-measures to take.

Regardless of the disease, in order to make the best decisions on biosecurity procedures, you need to know what diseases you are currently dealing with, and have a solid relationship with a knowledgeable swine veterinarian.

Biosecurity is not free, but is it worth the cost, says Carlson. Think of it as an informed risk-management plan that not only works to safeguard your business, but also the welfare of your animals.