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

According to reports from the Sioux County sheriff, controls to an indoor hog barn airflow system were tampered with, causing the animals to suffocate. The feeder hogs weighed approximately 55 pounds each, and the loss of livestock 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. He notes that officers can file a suspicious activity report, which can be shared with other law enforcement officials. “Farmers need to get away from the mindset of not wanting to bother us. The public’s input is one of our best tools for solving crimes.”

Becton and Fitzgerald offer the following tips to help you protect your farm against vandalism:
• Don’t become an easy target. Lock barns, sheds and other important buildings on the farm. Take your keys out of your vehicle when the vehicle is unattended. Also, 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,” says Fitzgerald.

• Remove obstructions. Keep a clear view of your barns and other key locations around the farm. Avoid parking equipment in areas that blocks 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 probably enter and exit if they trespassed?

• 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 at the farm. Extra lighting will also help your security cameras capture images better.

• 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. This evidence could become vital in case of a disaster.
• Ensure that key phone numbers are easily accessible. Think about the primary people you might need to contact in the event of an emergency. Make sure this information is readily available, Becton says.
• Be aware of inside jobs. If a former employee seems to be disgruntled and could pose a threat to your operation, consider changing the locks on your barn doors and installing deadbolts. Also, alert your neighbors to pay extra attention to your farm, when possible, and encourage them to let you or law enforcement know if something doesn’t look right. “Make farm security a neighborhood effort,” Becton says.
• Take additional security steps. To get a more comprehensive look at things you can do to protect your farm and animals, review the protocols in Security Guide for Pork Producers.

Source: National Pork Board