Is your farm as biosecure as possible? Do you promote a culture of biosecurity among staff members and suppliers? If you answered “no” to either question, you may discover the costly consequences of a disease break. Joe Connor, DVM, who serves as chairman of the Carthage System and as a consultant to Carthage (Illinois) Veterinary Service, says biosecurity has risen in importance and is constantly evolving.
“As an industry, we have gained momentum over the last 10 years in understanding the risks, but concerns remain,” Connor says.
Connor thinks of risk in terms of contact points on the farm, including live animal removal or introduction, semen introduction and feed introduction. Staff members entering and leaving the operation would be another frequent primary contact. He thinks about all these contact points on a daily basis but says there are ways to minimize the risks.
“The frequency of animal introductions is very low, but gilts coming into an operation are managed through a pre-entrance diagnostic surveillance program,” Connor says. “They are then quarantined, and have post-entry diagnostic surveillance during quarantine as well.”
The second point of contact is live animal transport from the farm. As farms get larger, the frequency of animal movement from the farm also increases.
“We manage this movement through transportation biosecurity,” he says. “A step the industry has taken – and needs to continue to implement even more – is washing, bio-drying and disinfection of all trailers to create the barrier of live animal transfer going out.”
The Carthage System is responsible for consultancy and/or management of about 500,000 sows, which means a lot of staff members go into and out of facilities every day. Whether a unit is breed-to-wean or wean-to-finish, shower-in and shower-out procedures are common. Additionally, Connor recommends the “Danish change” system. This involves shoe removal, handwashing, and placing boots or shoes on one side of a bench, then putting on clean coveralls and other clothing on the “clean” side of the bench.
When thinking of live animals, one-way movement of weaned pigs or slaughter pigs out of the building is important, Connor says. The same theory applies to any manure or shavings that might be in a transport vehicle: they should be quickly contained and dropped below the floor.
Connor says it’s helpful for delivery drivers to put on a set of boots or shoe covers that are dedicated to that farm, and the cab should be wiped down and disinfected.
“If the risk is high, a procedure or process to spray and wash down the tires as trucks enter the farm is a good idea,” Connor says. “Lastly, that driver does not enter the farm office, but stays near the feed bins.”
Check the Boxes
People who work inside the farm buildings have a biosecurity checklist that they use daily, Connor points out.
“The technicians on the farm and the farm staff are the first eyes and ears of the farm,” he says. “They have to know what is important in protecting that farm, recognize when there’s a potential break in biosecurity and take the necessary steps to mitigate or control that risk.”
There’s no silver bullet when it comes to biosecurity. Rather, it’s a methodical, thoughtful series of processes that when used together, can help protect farms from a biosecurity breach. Connor says it’s important to prioritize high risks from low risks. High risks include:
- Clean/dirty lines: Keep this in mind when moving live animals or when disposing of mortalities. “Sometimes we paint a line on the floor, or we make a definite barrier where pigs can only move in one direction,” Connor says.
- Lunches or other items brought to the farm: Most large farms use UV light chambers, but new research has shown these chambers are not as protective as once thought.
- Farm supplies: Connor suggests managing this risk by bringing supplies in through fogging chambers, but again, more research is needed. “Chambers that heat items to room temperature for a specific time period may be more effective than fogging,” Connor says.
- Consistency is key: “When you work through protocols, you have to determine if they meet the objectives you’ve established, and if they can be done consistently,” Connor stresses.
Understanding Leads to Solutions
Connor believes the industry has come a long way with respect to disease transmission. “The work Scott Dee and the University of Minnesota did with respect to PRRS aerosol risk transmission clearly led us to filtration in pig-dense areas as a strong barrier,” he says. “More recently, the introduction of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus and porcine deltacoronavirus made us look at feed as a risk factor or as a cluster of herd contaminations.”
The ever-present risk of African swine fever (ASF) or another foreign animal disease entering the country is on producers’ minds, but Connor says the industry has the tools to protect U.S. herds against ASF if we can execute all those tools in the right way.
“If we compare our industry to 10 years ago, we have to be extremely satisfied with the progress we’ve made,” he says. “Biosecurity is always a balance between what’s effective and what’s practical. We need to continue to work on live animal transport of finishing animals. We have to continue to push and we have to work with practical steps that are audited. Old procedures can be changed or altered, and that becomes an important part of what we [meaning producers, veterinarians and farm staff] need to do every day.”