A recent farm vandalism case, resulting in the loss of nearly 4,000 hogs on a northwest Iowa farm, highlights the need for all pork producers to remain vigilant in protecting their personal safety, livestock and livelihood.

According to reports from the Sioux County sheriff, controls to a hog facility’s ventilation system were tampered with, causing the animals to suffocate. Weighing about 55 pounds each, the loss of pigs was estimated at more than $200,000.

“Unfortunately, there are people out there who may try to harm your animals and your livelihood,” says Lisa Becton, director of swine health information and research for the National Pork Board. “That’s why it’s so important to be alert and take simple steps to be prepared for the unexpected.”  

Don’t be afraid to call local law enforcement to report suspicious activity, stresses Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald, who serves Story County, Iowa. “Farmers need to get away from the mindset of not wanting to bother us. The public’s input is one of our best tools to solve crimes.”

Becton and Fitzgerald offer these tips to help you protect your farm:

  • Don’t become an easy target. Lock barns, sheds and other important buildings, and don’t simply hang the keys in a public location, as anyone can grab and use them. Remove keys from any unattended vehicle.
  • Consider locking your electric control panel. “Even if criminals are undeterred and try to pry open the locked panel, they tend to get sloppy and leave evidence at the scene,” Fitzgerald says.
  • Remove obstructions. Keep a clear view of your barns and other key locations around the farm. Avoid parking equipment in areas that block a clear view of the buildings. “The fewer places criminals can hide behind, the better,” Fitzgerald says.
  • Keep an eye out. As security technology becomes more affordable, consider installing motion-activated cameras at your farm. Even inexpensive, motion-activated wildlife cameras from a sporting goods store can work, Becton says.
  • To determine where to put the cameras, think like a criminal. Where would vandals likely enter your farm at night, what buildings might they target and what doors would they likely enter and exit?
  • Let there be light. Keep all areas of your farm as well lit as possible, Fitzgerald says. Since criminals like to prowl in the shadows, consider installing motion-activated floodlights in strategic locations.
  • Test equipment. Check security cameras and emergency backup systems periodically to make sure the equipment runs properly.
  • Take an inventory. Walk through your barns with a video camera to create an inventory of the buildings’ contents.
  • Ensure that key phone numbers are accessible. Think about the primary people you will need to contact in the event of an emergency and store telephone numbers in cell phones. Also post this information in several locations.
  • Be aware of inside jobs. If a former employee seems to be disgruntled and could pose a threat to your operation, consider changing facility locks and installing deadbolts. Also, alert your neighbors to pay extra attention to your farm and the general area. Encourage them to inform you or law enforcement if something doesn’t look right. “Make farm security a neighborhood effort,” Becton says.
  • Take additional security steps.