Breaking Down Biosecurity: Youth Exhibitors Know Their Role Matters

What does biosecurity mean to you?
( Jennifer Shike )

Biosecurity. It can be an overwhelming word, especially when you’re a kid. As county fair and state fair season approaches for many across the country, it’s more important than ever to consider what you can do before, during and after a pig show to keep your animals healthy while protecting pigs across the country from getting sick. 

For 18-year-old Makenna Green of Arthur, Ill., the first time she learned about biosecurity was from youth PQA training and skillathon preparation.

Dr. Lisa Becton, director of swine health information and research at the National Pork Board, says biosecurity doesn’t have to be expensive and complicated. It comes down to a few basics and an overall understanding of your pig.

“If your pig is sick or beginning to show signs of sickness, call your veterinarian and do not attend a fair or exhibition,” Becton says. 

Caleigh Lewis, 9, of Center Point, Iowa, says biosecurity is important to their family as they run a 100-sow operation. 

“It’s hard when a pig gets sick and you have to treat it,” Lewis says. “It’s just better if you can stop them from getting sick.”

Becton says one step youth exhibitors can take is to consider what they do before the show, during the show and after the show to help protect their pig and the other pigs at the show.

1. Before the show
Start with clean equipment. Before you go to a show, clean and disinfect your show box, equipment and truck and trailer. Not only is it easier to show out of a clean showbox, but most importantly you are helping make sure that you do not accidentally bring a disease with you. Follow the label when using the disinfectant, Becton says.

2. During the show
Keep your pen area clean during the show, she advises. Don’t share equipment with other exhibitors. When you are working with your pigs, wash your hands often. Use soap and running water before and after you have contact with animals. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. 

When you are at the show, be diligent in monitoring your pig’s health. Report any signs of illness to the show veterinarian.
Finally, be sure to clean your equipment, especially feeders, before you pack up to head home. The more you stay on top of keeping your equipment clean, the more likely you will keep disease away.

3. After the show
Quarantine your pigs and continue watching for signs of illness when you return home, Becton says. Make time to clean and disinfect your trailer and all equipment when you get home, too.

“Following the basic steps of biosecurity goes a long way,” Becton says. “Whether you have two pigs or 20,000, keeping disease out is important for everyone.”

Eric Schafer, a 17-year-old exhibitor from Owaneco, Ill., says biosecurity is very important to him, even though he doesn’t own very many sows.

“I run a few sows on the farm so making sure that every animal has a chance to make it to the show is important to me,” Schafer says. “That’s what drives biosecurity for me – that the process goes uninterrupted and the pig is happy and healthy throughout its entire life.”

Biosecurity is everyone's job, Green says. 

"Livestock at fairs and shows may be the only exposure some consumers have to production agriculture," Green says. "This is our opportunity to share about animal health and bring awareness of what the pork industry is doing to produce a safe, quality food. At the same time, it's up to us to continually be cautious in our biosecurity practices, especially when we come home from the shows, to ensure safety for herds across the country."

More from Farm Journal's PORK:

Perspectives in Progress Panel Takes a Stand on Biosecurity

It Takes All of Us

Biosecurity: Best Line of Defense Against African Swine Fever